Grand Canyon Self-Support Kayaking


CraigTeam NRS kayaker Craig Kleckner shares the challenges and rewards of completing a mid-winter self-support kayaking trip through the Grand Canyon.


Well, it’s hard to come up with a fresh look at a river trip that’s been seen by so many people, but I believe self-support kayaking is just the way. The trip I’m referring to is the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Twelve friends and I were able to take this journey together this January.

Camp one
Photo: Dave Fusilli

We put on the river on January 8th with pretty typical winter weather and water. This would be my fifth trip down and I thought I knew what to expect, but I did not see what was coming. The first three days passed by in true Grand fashion – lots of good river miles with big rapids, great hikes, and even better camps. The following day started a trend that would continue for the next four days: we woke up with frozen shoes, skirts, pogies and PFDs. As trip leader I tried to keep the group moral high, which was an easy job since it was the Grand Canyon.

Photo: Ty Caldwell

The next four days were filled with lots of cold river miles, cold hikes, and even colder camps. For ten people, this was their first trip, so the cold did not damper anyone’s spirits as we pushed through the river miles with the water freezing on us as we paddled. Our first break in the weather was below Lava Falls where we took a layover day to dry out, warm up, and celebrate two birthdays and a great trip so far. The remaining part of the trip almost seemed to be a different trip entirely, as we had warm weather, shorter days on the water, and sunny camps.

Photo: Ty Caldwell

There was also another aspect that made this trip different – I took my girlfriend, Carly Fusilli. Coming into the trip with the least kayak, experience, I knew she would be challenged by the rapids of the Canyon, but I was not expecting the cold to play such a big factor. A few pieces of gear played a huge part in her comfort, survival, and ability to thrive. She ended up taking a few swims while trying to navigate the rapids, and without the NRS Women’s Inversion Drysuit she would not have made it.

Photo: Ty Caldwell

On some of the hikes a swim is required to keep going, and this would also not be possible without a drysuit.

Photo: Ty Caldwell

The next big issue was keeping hands warm, and I saw some folks with the NRS Toaster Mitts, while Carly and I enjoyed the NRS Mambas. She even used the NRS Glove Liners, about which she said, “I wouldn’t have survived without these gloves.” This was my first trip using an NRS PFD Hydration Pack, and I have to say that this was one of the coolest things to have, especially since it is the desert out there. Well, that being said, thank you NRS for making such a great trip possible. I always like to add, if you get a chance to do this trip, do not hesitate, take the journey.

Photo: Dave Fusilli

Here’s a video the group put together for Pyranha Kayaks after the trip: