Canoe Trip Planning
While the transition into spring and summer comes easily for nearly all Minnesotans eager to have more than a few hours of daylight, and to actually be able to feel the intensity of the sun against our skin, the process of beginning to plan for a summer trip into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) or Quetico can be a little more daunting. While it is overwhelming to think about all of the aspects of a trip that need to be planned at the same time, by breaking down the planning process into manageable segments, you can be ready to strap down your Hoigaard's bought or rented canoe, fill your coffee mug and merge onto I35 north on your way to a much needed respite from the Urban Jungle in no time.
Even though most of my trip planning experience has been in the form of leading canoe and backpacking trips for teens through YMCA Camp Widjiwagan, the basics are still the same whether you're a family looking to instill your love of the woods within your kids, or a group of friends in search of dinner on the end of a hook. The three basic areas of planning that will need to be addressed are route (including permit), meals, and gear/equipment.
Choosing a route is going to be determined by a couple of factors: what type of group you have, what your goals are for the trip, and of course your entry permit. Common options include planning a loop, setting up a base-camp and doing day-trips/spending time fishing, or if you'll have two vehicles, setting up a shuttle so that you don't have to backtrack at all. In terms of planning for the number of portages that are reasonable in a day, I've found that more than 5 portages gets pretty tough, especially with kids (remember that it's the unloading and loading that tends to be the difficult and time-consuming part). Deciding how many miles to travel in a day tends to vary based on how much portaging is interspersed, but a good day is probably in the 8-15 mile range. If planning a loop, try to leave yourself an "out" so that if you need to shorten you've got the option.
Permits for the BWCA are available online or by calling 218-626-4300. For Quetico Provincial Park (the BWCA's friendly northern neighbor) you can reserve by calling 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275).
Over the years, what people eat on trail has changed substantially. With the ban of cans and glass in the BWCA in the late 70's came the rise of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. While at first mention, freeze-dried and dehydrated may not seem particularly appetizing, the brands we carry have created flavorful, hearty and healthy full meal options. While it may be tempting to bank on eating fish, we recommend that you bring enough meals to feed your group, and supplement with the fish you've caught.
In my experience, the best way to make sure you've got it all is a comprehensive checklist. Luckily, on our website we've got a couple of 'em for you to choose from. Also, like in most sports/outdoor activities there is a bunch of gear you need in order to partake, but there are certain pieces that we recommend you invest more into as a matter of your comfort. In my mind, the most valuable pieces of gear I have are my rain jacket and rain pants. Waterproof and breathable is a must, and while it costs a bit more, it is worth every penny. Not only do I use my raingear during rainstorms, but also as a windproof layer, a fall jacket, a ski jacket, and everything in-between. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention that Hoigaard's rents canoes (comes with PFD's, paddles, and straps and foam blocks to attach to your car) as well as packs.
As usual, this advice is far from complete, and the expert staff at Hoigaard's would love to help you by sharing our knowledge of trip planning and enthusiasm for wilderness travel, so please stop in with your questions! Also, continue to check the Camp Shop's website for more comprehensive trip planning info and links to helpful resources.
Happy Trails, and don't forget to Leave No Trace.
- Chris Johnson