Last week I took a 5 day trip up to the BWCA, entry point 22/23, just north of Ely, Minnesota. I was lucky enough to get an invite from a friend on my team at work. I am very grateful he brought me and very fortunate to live so close to such a natural beauty. The Boundary Waters are about 4 hours from my home in Uptown Minneapolis.
The trip was a success, we made a 36 mile loop up into Canada over 5 days without any layovers. This meant that each day we canoed and portaged to our camp site, set up camp, spent the night, packed up camp the next morning and headed out towards our next camp site. At first I was a little worried about this, but after the first day it just seemed natural.
Along the way I learned a lot… a lot about camping, canoeing, portaging, Minnesota, and about people in general. I took note of some of the things I learned while there. I will probably continue to add to this as I remember them. These are in no particular order.
- Farmers are hard workers, they won’t stop until the work is done
- Pick up trash even if it isn’t yours
- Birch bark is great fire starter, even when it’s raining
- Iodine to treat your water doesn’t taste all that bad
- Yoke pads on canoes for portaging are a must
- Use the time when it’s not raining wisely for setting up and breaking down camp
- Northern Pike are vicious, never stick you fingers in their mouth
- Check your feet for leeches and ticks after the last portage of the day
- Only bring what you need, the rest is unneeded weight
- Bring a machete or something that can chop or cut wood
- Leave fire wood for the next hikers that visit the campsite (“Minnesota Nice”)
- Beavers do an awesome tail slap when you get too close to them
- Syrup on grilled fish tastes great
- Northern Pike taste great grilled
- Walleye are probably the best tasting fish
- Jigging isn’t as boring as I thought
- Do not bring any cotton, it takes too long to dry after it gets wet
- Wool socks aren’t just for warmth, they dry faster than cotton socks.
- Wear sunscreen even if its cloudy and you already have a tan
- Drysacks/Drybags are a must – otherwise everything must be in a bag that’s in a bag that’s in a bag.
- Keens sandals are worth their weight in gold when portaging and stomping through mud/creeks/rivers/lakes
- Keep your shoes dry so that you can warm your feet at night
- Bring plenty of carabiners, bungee straps, and tie downs
- Leatherman’s are the only tool you need, besides maybe pliers for fish hooks
- Tuna pouches with flat bread is a great lunch, but pack one PBJ, you will look forward to it all week.
- Bring chapstick with SPF, burnt lips suck
- Strap everything down on your canoe to make portaging easier
- Keep your camera out and handy, otherwise you won’t take any pictures
- A 6 man tent can fit 6 men, if one doesn’t mind laying horizontally below everyone’s feet
- Make sure you put everything with a smell in a bear bag and hang it, even the dishes.
- Identifying bird calls while paddling is fun and can help pass the time
- Rain gear is a must have
- Keep your toilet paper in a Ziploc bag
- Biting flies suck
- If you are tall use long paddles
- Fill up your water bottle as soon as it’s empty, purification tablets take time
- A Crazy Creek chair is the La-Z-Boy of canoe seats
- Titanium utensil work great for eating and cooking
- Leave your deodorant, you don’t need it
- Bring enough salt and pepper (or Montreal seasoning)
- Bring an extra lunch just in case
- Have a well defined route and stick to it, it helps to have a good navigator
- Bring an extra paddle
- A watch with an alarm is great for waking up early to go fishing or to get out of camp in time
- Use a checklist from someone who has experience (I have included one in this post at the bottom)
- Swiss Miss hot cocoa in your coffee makes a great sweetener/creamer
- People who work for the DNR or other outdoor organizations are awesome to have along
- Challenge yourself while up there, there are many opportunities in the wilderness
Feel free to post some other tips in the comments section below.
The BWCA epic loop we traveled.
Here is the awesome list I mentioned earlier. This can be used as a general camping/backpacking list as well (thanks Ross).
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