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Paddling Articles In the Same Boat

Our Readers Write

From Maps to Nuts (and Oatmeal, Too) Show Me the Way to Go Home

April 30, 2013

When "Our Readers Write" last appeared, winter had much of Canoe Country in thrall. Now winter's grip is loosening, and the land is waking from its long sleep. Soon even shaded mountain tarns will be wholly free of ice. Of course, canoeists and kayakers are already making the most of the high water on many rivers. It's a good time to be out and about.

But this is also the time when trip‑planning takes on a certain urgency. Summer will be here before we know it, and there's still a lot to do. There are routes to be studied, menus to prepare, and boats and gear to overhaul. So this edition of "Our Readers Write" will concentrate on two subjects of enduring interest — and no little importance — to backcountry explorers: maps and food. We need to know where we are and how to get where we want to go, and we all need to eat.

But that's enough by way of introduction. Now it's over you!

— Tamia Nelson and Farwell Forrest, In the Same Boat


Waterproofing Maps — The Question Posed

Tamia first wrote about ways to protect maps in "The Case for Maps," and she returned to the subject recently, in "The Paper Chase Continues." This led one reader to pose a question…

Dear Tamia,

I've enjoyed the two articles of yours I've read on this subject, but as an official "old fart," I have both an admission and a question. Many, many years ago, we used to waterproof paper maps for canoe trips by brushing them with a common substance, and now — here comes the "old fart" part and the admission — I can't remember what it was! And here comes the question: What was it?

Bill Lloyd

To which Tamia replied:

I wish I could help, Bill. But neither Farwell nor I know the answer. The nearest we could come was the following advice, taken from my 1962 edition of Compton's Manual of Field Geology:

Notepaper … can be dipped in a solution of paraffin and a volatile solvent. Paraffin should not be used on maps … because [it] cannot then be marked with ink.

That's not what you'd call helpful, is it? (Not to mention the fact that I don't have a clue which "volatile solvent" Compton had in mind.) But maybe a reader will come up with what you're looking for.

And sure enough, a reader did…

Waterproofing Maps — The Answer Found?

Dear Tamia,

We usually use Thompson's WaterSeal on maps for waterproofing. I think a generic water‑seal product would work as well. I just know that Thompson's works. The paraffin idea is probably OK, but lots messier. And the stuff would rub off.

I've used super‑hold hairspray to fix pencil sketches, and I think it would fix map annotations. But I would still treat with WaterSeal because the maps would be subjected to more moisture than my sketches. I wouldn't light a match too close to a map treated with either substance because they are probably equally flammable.

Do the waterproofing outside on the driveway or in the garage with the door open. Coat both sides of the map with waterproofing. I use a sponge brush for the Thompson's. And I make annotations in pencil or permanent marker, so after I annotate a trip, I redo the waterproofing.

Lynda Payne
President, Medicine River Canoe Club
Great Falls, Montana

Tamia replies:

Thanks, Lynda. Great idea!

But was this what Bill was looking for?

Waterproofing Maps — The Answer Found!

Dear Tamia,

THANK YOU SO MUCH! YES, it was Thompson's WaterSeal! I would never have thought of that without you, and this is something you might want to let everyone in on.

Thanks again!


Tamia replies:

You're welcome, Bill. I'm glad things have worked out. (I have plenty of "old fart" moments myself, after all.) But I can't take any of the credit. That belongs to Lynda.

And Lynda has some more good ideas, too…

Making Your Own River Trip Strip Maps

Hi, Tamia!

You're absolutely right about taking paper maps and compass along on paddling trips. I get good topo maps from the store, scan the parts we need, print them on good paper using a color printer, trim the edges, and tape or glue them together in sequential order. I note hazards, camps, portages, hike stops, etc. Then I lay the map out on the floor of the garage and brush or spray both sides with WaterSeal. After the strip map is dry, I fold it to the correct size to fit in my bag or map case.

Friends with whom I taught canoe classes turned me on to this idea years ago. And before they moved away, they gave my husband and me a gift of their old maps complete with notes of highlights of previous years' excursions. We still use their maps, adding notes from our trips, and we have passed copies along to any paddling friends who ask.

The GPS comes along and is valuable for locating position, planning stops and figuring out arrival times at camp — when it works. But the maps are my primary go‑to source for staying found on paddling trips. And the waterproofing trick has kept them clean and readable and dry.


Lynda Payne

Tamia replies:

Another great idea, Lynda. What a wonderful present your friends gave you!

And in a classic case of serendipity, another reader picked up the thread of a topic introduced in Lynda's second letter:

Printing Maps to Order at Home

Dear Tamia,

What I've been doing since I got my Epson 2200 (for photos mainly) is printing my maps as needed from National Geographic TOPO! CDs. That way I can make them as detailed as needed and focus in on particular areas of interest. National Geographic also sells waterproof Adventure Paper that works pretty well for me. … I think the largest size is 11 inches by 17 inches. That way, it's no big deal if, like me, you can't always find the map you need. Just reprint it.

The maps printed on Adventure Paper are very, very durable. I have never tried, but I don't think I could easily tear one. They have a satin sheen. I have some that I printed years ago, and I still carry them into the Cascades every summer and fall. The paper used to be available all over, but I don't see it that frequently now. I get mine from REI which is nearby. Also you can check the National Geographic store website.

Larry West

Tamia replies:

Leave it to National Geographic to solve most of the problems that plague paper maps, Larry. Thanks for the heads‑up. Pinchpenny paddlers (I'm one) might also wish to take advantage of the US Geological Survey's free digital (PDF) quadrangles when making trip maps. (Not that I want to discourage anyone from purchasing National Geographic's excellent TOPO! software, however. In fact, I own it, and I use it regularly.)

So much for staying found. Now for something completely different: meeting the needs of the Inner Paddler, specifically …

Paddlers With Nut Allergies

Tamia introduced the topic in "I'd Better Nut," but her article wasn't the last word on the subject, as a reader's letter reminds us:

Dear Tamia,

Just read your article on nut allergy. My granddaughter is allergic to nuts. When at my house I had a 12‑grain bread that, according to the label, didn't contain any nuts. It did have seeds on top. My granddaughter had a mild reaction to that. So there may be some seeds that can stimulate a reaction also. Thanks for your article.


Tamia replies:

I'm in your debt for drawing attention to the need for great care where food allergies are concerned, Elaine. It's a point that can't be made too often. Which is why I'll repeat these cautionary words from my earlier article:

I'm not a physician, an allergist, or a licensed dietician. I'm just a canoeist (and hillwalker and cyclist) who likes to eat. So treat my suggestions with appropriate caution. Before you head off downriver with a food bag full of something I mention in this or any other column, talk to the doc. Then follow her advice. It trumps mine every time. And be sure to observe Test Kitchen Rule Number 1: Always try out new dishes and new foods at home before you make them part of your paddling menu. Whether it's just a transient itch or life‑threatening anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction is a lot easier to deal with when you can dial 911 than when you're windbound on a lakeshore 50 miles from your car, with no cell phone coverage and night closing in.


The bottom line? No food is safe for everyone. The only certain rule was articulated by Colin Fletcher, years ago, albeit in a different context: If in doubt, doubt. And leave the item in question off the menu.

It doesn't pay to be complacent. Even venerable camping staples like oatmeal can cause problems for some folks. But if you're not among them, and if oatmeal is your favorite breakfast fare, what would you say to …

Oatmeal to Go?

Tamia's article about the wonders of steel‑cut oats — "Have You Had Your Oats Today?" — inspired one reader to share a favorite recipe:

Dear Tamia,

I have enjoyed steel‑cut oats for some time. As you mentioned they do take a while to cook. But this recipe can be made ahead of time, and can be microwaved for a minute in the morning for a great hearty breakfast if you are doing a day trip. I suspect it could be dehydrated as well and taken on [a longer] trip. There is no sugar in this recipe, but the fruit and spices added make it sweet enough, and one could always change to sweetened applesauce if one's sweet tooth was not satisfied. Here's the recipe:

Make‑Ahead Steel‑Cut Oats
Yield: About 3 cups


  • 1 cup steel‑cut oats
  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (or apricots, or apples)
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Add all ingredients together in a medium‑sized pot. Bring to a boil and then let the oats simmer very slowly for 45 minutes, or until the oats are tender. Serve or chill and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.


For working folks who have limited time in the morning, this is a great recipe which allows them to enjoy steel‑cut oats, and it's really delicious.

By the way, I am hunting for a reliable recipe for steel‑cut oats that can be prepared in a slow cooker. Let me know if you (or perhaps your readers) can suggest a good one.

Thanks for sharing all your paddling recipes.


Tamia replies:

Sounds good, Edgehill. Mighty good, in fact. And the idea of making it ahead and banking it in the fridge as a hedge against future appetite inflation is a great timesaver. Needless to say, I lost no time in trying your recipe out, and yes — no surprise! — it is indeed delicious. The ginger is a particularly piquant touch. I added a chopped‑almond garnish, as well, and next time I might also add a pinch of salt to the pot along with the other ingredients before bringing the oats to a boil.

Bottom line? I've seldom reaped a higher return on my investment of cooking time. I only wish I could help with the slow‑cooker recipe.

Oatmeal, Anyone?


Edgehill gets the last word this time around — and a might tasty word it is, too. But it's certainly not the very last word on the subject. Can any reader help in the search for a way to prepare steel‑cut oats in a slow cooker? (The Crock‑Pot is probably the best known example of this handy appliance, at least in the States.) If so, please give us a shout, and we'll pass the word along. After all, it's "Our Readers Write"!



Referenced Articles From In the Same Boat

Want to know even more about what's on other paddlers' minds? Then check out the "Our Readers Write" archive, a index with links to all 50 earlier editions of this regular feature from In the Same Boat.


A little fine print: Although we often ask, just to be sure, we assume that it's OK to reprint any letter you send us, unless you tell us otherwise. (Just put "Not for Publication" at the head of your letter. That's all it takes.) We will never put your e‑mail address online unless you specifically ask us to, however. We also edit letters occasionally for length or clarity, and we add links to articles or other resources wherever and whenever appropriate.

Copyright © 2013 by Verloren Hoop Productions. All rights reserved.

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