Results 1 to 16 of 16

Thread: Expedition Canoeing, Cliff Jacobson

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    London, England
    Posts
    327

    Default Expedition Canoeing, Cliff Jacobson

    Cliff Jacobson
    Twentieth anniversary edition of
    Expedition Canoeing: a guide to canoeing wild rivers in North America
    (Falcon Guide, Globe Pequot Press, 2005)


    Every now and then I see mentions on SotP of Cliff Jacobson, by some fellow fans of this prolific American author of books and articles, but not many. So, having re-read the latest edition over the Christmas break, here are some of the reasons why every canoeist should borrow or purchase this excellent analysis of canoe journeying.

    First, do not be put off by the ‘wild rivers of the North’ in the sub-title. Although the book started off as Canoeing Wild Rivers back in 1984, and the author freely admits an obsession with the Barren Lands of Canada, it is clear that what will work in extreme arctic circle conditions also makes sense when canoe camping in the more moderate climes we enjoy in the UK.
    The great strength of the book is that Cliff Jacobson draws not only on his own extensive experience, but incorporates some superb contributions from fellow canoeists. It is Cliff Jacobson as conductor of a whole orchestra of paddling talent, all putting forward their best canoeing and camping tips. Chapter 21, entitled ‘Advice from the Experts’, is an outstanding compilation from some very familiar names of paddling authorship, including Toni Harting, Bob Henderson, Alan Kesselheim, Kent Ford, Laurie Gullion, Michael Peake, the late Verlen Kruger, and Gary and Joanie McGuffin. This chapter of distilled wisdom is practically worth the purchase price on its own.

    Secondly, Cliff Jacobson’s book is constantly evolving, determinedly trying to keep up-to-date. The relentless inquisitiveness is exemplary. Elsewhere on SotP I once suggested that many people would be put in mind of teachers they had known at school: Cliff Jacobson is incessantly enthusiastic, cheerfully obsessive, and on occasions mildly irritating. But he is clearly a great educationalist, always striving for meticulous accuracy. Now that he has retired from the day job as a teacher of environmental science in a ‘middle school’ in Minnesota (note the Jacobson precision!) I detect a slight mellowing. In the past it was, for example, a mandatory pre-requisite of wilderness exploration to have this or that item of equipment, in particular his beloved Optimus 111B stove. Now we are told ‘To each his own’, several stoves are listed, and it is clear that a whole lot of research has been going on with all sorts of camping gear. There is such a wealth of useful information in Expedition Paddling that you can after a time easily forgive the author his occasional pedantry and mild eccentricity, for example, the number of times that the author, less than modestly, indicates that he personally designed something which is now in commercial production but then primly indicates, as with a footnote on ‘cozies’, that they are ‘Very nice and reasonably priced. I receive no gratuities’. Surely only a teacher would have the unmitigated gall to spot a nearby novice camper washing his dishes in a lake and paddle over to subject him ‘for an hour [sic] … how organic wastes increased bacterial levels in the water; why soaps – biodegradable or not – kill essential micro organisms; how improperly disposed-of faeces leach into the water and pollute it …’ etc, etc, etc. While we should all applaud the ‘no trace camping’ approach, you do start to feel sorry for the hapless camper faced with this avalanche!

    Thirdly, and most importantly, Cliff Jacobson’s book is just a fund of great ideas. He makes the telling point that ‘what works in wind, rain and thrashing rapids works even better when all is calm’. So this is a suitable book not just for what he terms ‘super-serious paddlers’, but also for relative beginners, even though Jacobson relegates basic strokes to a short Appendix. But beyond that initial stage of steering a canoe there is ample guidance on pretty well any conceivable paddling and camping topic. He also includes a superb Bibliography, and it is interesting to note the editorial balance: the basic paddling technique books he recommends are Bill Mason and the McGuffins (two), and these are outweighed by books on bear attacks (four), wilderness medicine (three), history (three), whitewater techniques (two), safety and rescue (two), etc. Some incredibly useful references to websites, magazine recommendations and paddling resources pepper the text, and are then gathered together in further Appendices for you to follow up.
    The overall structure of the book is excellent. Preparatory chapters deal with researching a river, picking a crew and another on ‘A compendium of unrelated things you need to do before the wheels roll north’. This is then followed by another section on choice of canoe, outfitting and customising (including the famous Jacobson aphorism on grab loops drilled at the cutwater, that ‘it takes some courage to bore a hole through the stems of an expensive canoe, but it only hurts for a second’), a whole chapter on splash covers, then ‘gearing up’, and on to ‘packing’ – with the typical North American insistence on tumplines and, as one would expect from Minnesota, Duluth packs. Not all of this torrent of information will necessarily be immediately relevant to European paddlers. At least hopefully not the appalling photos of thousands of blackflies on a tent, the Jacobson admonition to ‘always carry a spare head net’, and the Susie bug net, a ‘personal-sized bug armour’ designed by Jacobson’s wife which has, as just one of its uses, adapted ‘as a portable outhouse when bugs are bad’. Having myself survived mosquitoes in Africa, Asia and America, my personal view is that nothing is quite as horrendous as insect attack in Labrador, so it is useful to have as many practical tips on this potentially ruinous menace which so many authors attempt to brush off as ‘you just need to get used to them’.
    There is also an inspired chapter, ‘The Expert’s Edge’, dealing with such vital UK topics as rain, tarpology and fires. Subsequent chapters on topics such as knots, navigation and solo canoeing have become whole books authored by Cliff Jacobson, to be thoroughly recommended, so he deals with these matters in relatively truncated form here. Chapters on portaging (lengthy, Grand Portage on the Minnesota-Ontario border is nine miles long!) and trailers (able to withstand a hammering on thousands of miles of backcountry roads) hardly seem applicable in the UK, and further chapters on some of the medical and rescue extremities of the Barren Lands seem rather unlikely here – but actually there are constant insights on everyday canoe journeying, and many useful analogies and echoes for the UK in these chapters. It helps that there is serious input from Doug McKown (Canoeing Safety and Rescue) and William Forgey (Wilderness Medicine and Hypothermia). Even when Cliff Jacobson starts to go ‘over the top’ with his chapter on canoe repairs – does any UK paddler able to operate all year round spend any time on ‘oiling your brightwork’, removing scum from the keel, applying ‘ultraviolet protectant before every trip’ with Royalex, or indeed thinking of ‘winter storage’? – but you have the feeling that if you actually had to apply vinegar to an aluminium canoe this book would tell you how to do it!
    Oddly for such a perfectionist there are some blemishes; the book has, for example, at least a dozen serious proof-reading typos. In a book in its twentieth year you would also think that the author could sort out whether he recommends three hats or four hats for his expeditions: page 82 ‘though it may seem extravagant, I carry three hats’; page 224 ‘Hats: I bring four hats….’ For the record, the Jacobson four are a Tilley for hot days, an OR Sahale Sombrero for rain, a woolly hat for the cold, and a fleece balaclava for when it is really cold – a tip that has encouraged me to buy a balaclava for a prospective January bivvy coming up. But of course you can forgive any really good author the occasional howler; for example, Cliff Jacobson thinks that Trangias come from Switzerland, rather than Sweden.
    In summary, Cliff Jacobson’s book is masterly. If you take Mark Scriver’s recent book on Canoe Camping as the best introductory text to the subject; and Bill Mason’s Song of the Paddle as the core text for any course entitled Canoe Journeying 101; then Cliff Jacobson’s Expedition Canoeing has to be the required reading for the postgraduate advanced research seminar!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    inverness-shire
    Posts
    47

    Default

    Cliff Jacobson also has a very informative DVD called the forgotten skills which is worth a watch. Lots of camping and wilderness info.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Angus, Scotland
    Posts
    2,884

    Default

    I really like Cliff Jacobsons books .

    Very informative and full of stories and experiances over many years . I have a copy of his canoeing Wild Rivers book and have borrowed a few others and find them enjoyable and highly educational, though I'll agree that sometimes mildly irritating (in they way only someone you respect can be).

    Interested to hear he has a DVD out too.
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    London, England
    Posts
    327

    Default The Jacobson Video DVD

    Very interesting to see the DVD, which one of my children says very scornfully must have been a video first, because you finally then have a chance to see Cliff Jacobson and see how he squares with your image of him from all those books and articles.
    In the book there is a surprisingly short chapter on tents, which many of us get excited about. But the Video/DVD in 2002, The Forgotten Skills, illustrates exactly how Cliff Jacobson would take a lacklustre run-of-the-mill tent, and then ‘stormproof’ it for camping in the Far North.
    I have not yet dared to extend the fly walls of my favourite tent by cutting off the hem and sewing in a band of waterproof nylon, but I can see why it would make sense. Typical of Jacobson, he makes you think. Mine is an American tent, sold as so many of them are, with a ‘footprint’ groundsheet to go under it. But as soon as I read the Jacobson diktat to put the plastic sheet inside the tent to give ‘bathtub-style protection’ I have never returned to the manufacturer’s recommendations!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Eastern Canada
    Posts
    6,971

    Default

    I've had the book for a while but haven't read through it all yet. It is mostly a reference guide at this point and I have not gotten into the longer stories. So many books, so little time...
    Lloyd

    Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug...


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Northumberland
    Posts
    399

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by nancy View Post
    Cliff Jacobson also has a very informative DVD called the forgotten skills which is worth a watch. Lots of camping and wilderness info.
    For all who use tarps the section on his set up is particularly useful. I've prepared one of mine as he recommends and it works brilliantly as a cooking shelter for a small group.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Hunter Lake, Minnesota, USA
    Posts
    3,753

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bembe View Post
    ‘Hats: I bring four hats….’ For the record, the Jacobson four are a Tilley for hot days, an OR Sahale Sombrero for rain, a woolly hat for the cold, and a fleece balaclava for when it is really cold –!
    I enjoy his books, but the man always overpacks.
    The perfect canoe -
    Like a leaf on the water

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Angus, Scotland
    Posts
    2,884

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pierre girard View Post
    I enjoy his books, but the man always overpacks.
    So do I maybe that's why I find what he writes reassuring. Makes me feel I'm traveling light .
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Llanddarog Carmarthen
    Posts
    655

    Default Cliff Jacobson

    I can also recommend his DVD on The Forgotten Skills - some good tips.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    On the edge of a large city by a large loch
    Posts
    534

    Default Yup

    I borrowed this book n ended up buying my own copy. I think it is far more informative than many other canoe camping books ;-)

    Definitley a book to read in the bath and take with you on overnighters to read by the fire!
    Expand your mind there's plenty space for it...

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    3,936

    Default Prolific or what!!

    In looking through Amazon, I came across this one, Canoeing & Camping Beyond the Basics due out May 2007, looks as if it is one to look forward to. I'm having difficulty finding the Expedition Canoeing book, does anyone know of a supplier or is a new edition due out?
    Chris


  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Chesham in Bucks.
    Posts
    1,320

    Smile

    Quote Originally Posted by chrish View Post
    In looking through Amazon, I came across this one, Canoeing & Camping Beyond the Basics due out May 2007, looks as if it is one to look forward to. I'm having difficulty finding the Expedition Canoeing book, does anyone know of a supplier or is a new edition due out?
    Have another look at Amazon Chrish. I decided to order a copy a couple of days ago and there were several then - maybe you missed it somehow?

    I did get a used copy though - not sure if new are in stock.
    Happy paddling ,
    Rob.


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, Scotland
    Posts
    17,515

    Default

    I have not looked but www.abebooks.co.uk is usually really good prices. The books usually come from America but the postage is reasonable.
    John

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Angus, Scotland
    Posts
    2,884

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by chrish View Post
    In looking through Amazon, I came across this one, Canoeing & Camping Beyond the Basics due out May 2007, looks as if it is one to look forward to.
    Must be a revised edition as that is one I regularly borrow from our local library .
    'There is no wealth but life itself.'

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    East Midlands
    Posts
    505

    Default

    I found it on Amazon here but its expensive and on a long delivery time.

    Abe are usually brilliant, but I couldn't find this book.

    Will try my library

    edit: Not in my library but some on amazon marketplace quite cheap- not sure if latest edition though!
    Last edited by travellas; 13th-January-2007 at 08:29 AM. Reason: Updated information
    All of life is a journey ...

  16. #16
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Chesham in Bucks.
    Posts
    1,320

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by travellas View Post
    I found it on Amazon here but its expensive and on a long delivery time.

    Abe are usually brilliant, but I couldn't find this book.

    Will try my library

    edit: Not in my library but some on amazon marketplace quite cheap- not sure if latest edition though!
    On that page there is a 'used and new' link which lists a few copies at less than £6, plus postage of course. Mine was under a tenner all in which isn'tr bad although I have to wait for it to come over the pond of course.
    Happy paddling ,
    Rob.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •