1) Start out modestly. The Everglades and other South Florida wild places can be both  inviting yet challenging places to visit.  They bring a host of unique circumstances, including dramatic tides, high heat, intense mosquitoes  crocodiles,alligators, bears, sharks, poisonous snakes etc. Navigation can sometimes be tricky and weather can be an issue. None of these should dissuade you from venturing out and exploring.  With a little preparation and knowledge these do not have to be a serious threat or discomfort. NOTHING REPLACES EXPERIENCE.

 2) Visit in the winter time. I go year round but I hesitate to recommend that to others and I don't take my friends and family in the hot season. In addition to the heat and humidity bugs can be intense. January thru April is the best time to visit. Temps are usually pleasant and mosquitoes light. Be prepared for the occasional cold front that blows through in January and Feb though. Temps can dive into the 30s'.  

3) "Essential" is open to interpretation.  For some it's as simple as food and water; for other it includes air conditioning and wifi access. I've developed my own list. I try to strike a balance between traveling light and            having  a few creature comforts.

Here's my list:       

                         Water. Good water. Everglades National Park recommends at least 1 gallon per day per person. I find this to be a little on the short side. I carry 5 gallons in a hard plastic ( never used)  gas can plus I freeze a case of  small (16oz) water bottles. I pack the frozen bottles in coolers along with perishables like meat, butter, etc.  I can usually have a cool drink of water 3 days out and in an emergency I've got water for 6 or 7 days. Even on short trips I take the full amount of water. The extra is good for cooking and cleaning up. Don't put all your water in one container.  A loose cap and tipped over jug can be disastrous. 

                       Tent.  A quality tent is a must. It can be your only refuge. You don't have to spend  a lot of money  but it should be name brand and MUST have the smaller "noseeum"  netting.  What could be a pleasant nights sleep can turn into a nightmare if the sand fleas or noseeums find you. Be familiar with your tent and how to set it up. Don't forget the rain fly.

                      Rain Gear.  Nothing is more uncomfortable or more dangerous than being cold and wet. You might think that in sunny FLA it wouldn't be an issue: nothing is further from the truth. Hypothermia can be a real issue. I've had the same HellyHansen  rain gear for 32 years and it's in perfect shape so I guess quality is worth the price. Any descent set should do but avoid those cheap plastic sets. Many times I never use it but I always keep it handy. Keep an eye on the weather and try to put your gear on before the rain. It's easier to stay warm and dry then get warm and dry.


    Canoes vs. Kayaks      

                           Kayaks are hugely popular, and paddle boards are also gaining a lot of interest. I think this is great and am happy people are interested in paddling. When it comes to back country trekking though I'm sticking with canoes for several reasons

                                   Gear. You can put a lot of gear in a kayak. You can put more in a canoe; and perhaps more                                                  important you don't have to be as creative in how you stow it and access to your stuff is easier.

                                   View.  I spend a good amount of time standing. When your in among tall Cattails or Sawgrass  or                                      passing through thick mangrove a little bit of height can be the difference between knowing 

                                   what direction you should head and not having a clue. There are some Kayaks now that allow                                            standing but your movement around the boat is still restricted.


                                  Sleeping. This is not for everyone but I've spent many nights sleeping  (comfortably) in the canoe.                                     In much of the back country dry ground is difficult to find and if you want to explore the more                                           remote  areas your going to need some kind of option for overnight. At 5'9" and 160lbs the canoe                                     works for me.