|You're packing for a three-week expedition through the inside passage and must fit everything you'll need into your boat. But the thought of leaving behind the Outback Oven, the hand-crank coffee grinder, and the full-size Therm-a-Rest is too ghastly to contemplate. No worries—you're loading a roomy Dagger Sitka ($2,568). Toss in the sheepskin slippers, too.
The dimensions of the Sitka—18 feet by a svelte 22 inches—offer little clue to the vast spaces inside its glossy fiberglass hull (it's also available in Kevlar for $3,069). The secret lies in the wide bow and stern of this expedition rig, which carry high volume well into the ends of the boat. The bulbous bow does bounce in small chop, but the clever design makes the Sitka feel as stable as a boat two inches wider. It's quick in a straight line and responsive to a sweep stroke. The innovative rudder, built flush into the aft hull, flaps uselessly in the breeze every time the stern lifts over a wave, though it will help correct your course in a crosswind.
To fend off the water that inevitably seeps through the rubber hatch covers (as it does in all sea kayaks), stow your gear in dry bags. The Baja Bags from Cascade Designs—simple, roll-top PVC numbers—are cheap enough ($12–$32) that you can afford to bag everything. Keep the cockpit dry with a high-quality spray skirt, such as Snap Dragon Design's Sea Tour ($115). It combines a reinforced neoprene deck with a comfortable nylon chest tube. My original Sea Tour is eight years old and still in fine shape, if somewhat faded.
Load all you want in the boat, but remember that you must stroke with every extra ounce of your paddle ad infinitum. Aqua-Bound's two-pound Expedition AMT Carbon paddle ($195 for the two-piece; $225 for the four-piece) substitutes carbon fiber for fiberglass to allow all-day use with minimal fatigue.
Long tours in mercurial weather also demand a versatile clothing system (paddling jacket and pants in Seattle, neoprene farther north), but in any conditions, I like the traction of Five Ten's Nemo High neoprene booties ($89) and the four large pockets of the Palm Equipment Ocean PFD ($125). The back pocket holds a survival kit while the three in front swallow flares, mirrors, and the genuinely waterproof Icom IC-M1 VHF radio ($386). With this setup, I'd paddle to Ketchikan and back.