When I first started camping with Ian in 2003, we went with one small cooler for perishable foods, one heavy canvas bag for dry goods, a tent, one backpack each and a canoe. We got to the campground in the afternoon, loaded up the canoe and headed out for the campsite ... all about 300 feet away. Sure, it was only accessible by water, but someone with a decent arm could have thrown a rock from the launch point to our tent. This setup, very basic and entirely reasonable, was what we carried with us for the first two years.
Then something dawned on us; we never portage, and we never have to carry everything all at once. I'm not sure this was such a good realization.
On year three we carried a few more items; I added a huge tarp for over the picnic table and poles to support it, and we added a second cooler and bag for dry goods. The year after that we added chairs and more tents and items for comfort, and I added a small Ham Radio setup, so I could get weather reports up where there's (thankfully) no cell service.
Then, we just started to get silly. We now have multiple coolers (gotta keep the beer cold, after all) and dry goods bags, as well as enough tents for all and folding chairs. But still, it doesn't matter right?
It didn't, until the trip of 2008, when we were dangerously overloaded. With smooth clear water it wouldn't have mattered, but while the forecast said winds 10 to 15 miles per hour, it was anything but. On the southern stretch of Umbagog, only a few miles long, the winds hadn't had a chance to really build up the waves, but once through the "narrows" heading north, we were hit with winds in the 30 to 35 range, and it was almost a disaster. Ian and I, on a thistle class sailboat, had the boom come free on us and start whipping around, and we had to dive for shelter behind a small island just to the northwest of the narrows. We were safe (safe being a rather relative description, but a story for another entry).
Joe and Eric, however, had the skiff, and it was dangerously overloaded. With the bow low from the weight of two adults plus all the gear and waves in the 18" to 24" range, they were taking on water fast. They also dove for shelter at the shore. It's been said that there's no better bailing system than a terrified man with a bucket, but even so Eric was having a difficult time keeping the water level below 6" deep. They went over many shallow rocks, hitting bottom with both the hull and the skeg on the motor. They made it to safety, and eventually to the campsite, but the experience was not the most comfortable they had ever had on the water. They were very close to sinking at more than one time.
This year we used the camp launch to take out the majority of the gear with two people while the others boated up. It was a good thing we did too, for when we woke up on Sunday morning the winds were pushing 20 MPH, evoking memories of 2008. The trip south would have been quite difficult without the park launch, as the two boats would have once again been dangerously overloaded.
With five to six people making the trip each year I'm not sure I see the pile of gear/food getting smaller, but we probably should attend to a little bit of optimization in packing. If nothing else, fewer containers, well packed, makes loading and unloading, both at camp and at the launch point, go more smoothly.