Ten BWCA Gadget List" Revisited by
This is the time of year when, on occasion,
the temperatures rise for a day or two and get
all of our minds yearning for spring and that
first canoe trip. Of course, we know that Mother
Nature is just playing with us and that we're
still due for some winter-like weather and
another sixty days before the waters of the
Canoe Country become liquid again.
What, then, do we do? How do we survive those
last sixty days? Easy! We shop! Cruising the
aisles of our favorite outdoor stores, surfing
online, and dreamily flipping the pages of that
stack of mail-order catalogs in our dens.
It's a time for contemplation. Printing out
our canoe trip checklist, recalling those chores
we'd like to make easier on our next trip, and
thinking of gadgets to make our camping trip
much more enjoyable.
Some time ago I wrote a top-ten gadget list
for the Boundary Waters Journal magazine.
And that list was a big hit and generated some
great Christmas wish lists for readers (and
their lucky spouses). Since it's been a few
years I thought it might be time to revisit that
list and see how those gadgets have held up and
what else might be out there for your next trip.
Finders - A few years ago I thought that the
hottest thing going in depth finders and fish
locators was the Bottom Line Fishing Buddy. And
it is still a pretty good unit for Canoe Country
travel and fishing. However, many readers have
been proclaiming the virtues of the new
Boundary Waters LC-10. It is powered by eight AA
batteries, which will power it easily for a week
or more, and weighs less than 3 pounds!
socks - I can't say enough about these! They
make any footwear completely waterproof, keeping
your feet warmer and more comfortable. You can
wear them inside a pair of old tennis shoes and
be able to wade in water as deep as you want.
For those of you who don't know, this is the way
to properly load and unload your canoe. It's
easier on the shoreline, infinitely easier on
your back, and will save the bottom of your
There are simply hundreds of these new
on the market. You can pick up a
cheap pair at any discount store or buy a good
pair from most of the major shoe manufacturers.
Since the Canoe Country is full of rocks,
sticks, roots, and the like I'd recommend a pair
that offers full protection of your toes and
ankles. Sandals, while extremely popular, don't
offer that protection and you are vulnerable for
a foot injury which can really impact your trip.
- As you already know, or should, is that COTTON
IS ROTTEN and your wardrobe should contain no
cotton of any kind. This is especially true of
your socks. Socks should be wool, synthetic, or
some combination of the above. If you haven't
discovered the new
brand of socks
you're missing out on some great products. Most
good outdoor stores carry them now and they are
worth the slightly higher price. Warm,
comfortable, and they stay up!
- Many summer-time paddlers have already
discovered the new, ultra-lightweight "
Officio " style of pants and shirts. Many
companies make such apparel now and it is light,
dries in minutes, keeps the sun off your skin,
and keeps the mosquitoes away from your precious
blood supply. The pants come in zip-off versions
which means you can take a week-long summer
canoe trip with a single pair of pants! You
simply zip-off the legs and you're in shorts!
Voila'! The long-sleeve shirts have sleeves that
are made to roll up and stay put with the help
of buttons and straps. They also come in
short-sleeved versions, of course. All I can say
is that I now practically live in this type of
clothing. After a sweaty portage you are dry in
a matter of minutes.
- It wasn't that long ago that we were all in
awe of polypropylene underwear. And it was great
stuff. With one great exception. It absorbed
odors! Badly. The new Capilene
Patagonia, come in various weights, does not
absorb any odors, and does not absorb any
moisture so it dries in minutes. No more clammy
undershorts! Plus, they can double as a swimsuit
for an impromptu swim on a warm day. With Capilene under your Ex Officio
clothing you will
always be dry; after a rain squall or a sweaty
portage. And, very importantly, you can lighten
the weight of your clothing pack by 10 pounds or
more! If you don't believe me just weigh your
blue jeans against a pair of style
pants! (Ladies, sport-bras are made with the
same materials now, too. Instant wilderness
- A good pair of protective sunglasses, with a
strap to prevent loss, is an essential piece of
equipment on a canoe trip. I'm convinced that
the bottom of our Canoe Country lakes is
literally littered with thousands of pairs of
And, if you are a fisherman, and haven't
tried polarized sunglasses you are in for a real
treat! They cut all the glare from the water and
allow you to look into the water. You can see
the rocks, trees, weeds, and other clues you
need to find more fish. Fish, of all species,
are always relating to some sort of structure
and the more you know about it the more fish you
can find. You'll spend your time more
effectively, fishing where the fish are likely
If you are a prescription eye-glass wearer
you can buy polarized clip-ons to put over your
glasses or have your glasses made with polarized
lenses. This is worth every penny! Trust me!
and caps - The dangers of too much sun are
written about every day in newspapers and
magazines. And, truth be told, most of us ignore
those warnings. If we wear a hat at all it is
usually just a good old baseball style cap.
These keep the sun off our forehead and out of
our eyes but don't provide proper protection for
your face, ears, and neck.
Several companies have jumped on this idea
and have come out with some really neat hats.
They are usually nylon, making them light, cool,
and quick-drying. And, most importantly, they
sport very large brims and keep a great deal of
sun off your entire head. A quick walk down the
aisles of your favorite outdoor store will
introduce you to several manufacturers and
styles of hats. Do yourself a favor and try a
hat with a large brim. You'll be glad you did in
later years. Skin cancer should not be taken
lightly. And a week of sun in the Boundary
Waters will give you a year's worth of unhealthy
- The time has come for you to make the switch.
Let's face it, you're not getting any younger
(at least I'm not!) and you don't always have
the time to stay in good enough shape to tote a
70 pound canoe over a 100 rod portage! And why
should you? You don't drive a Model A car, do
you? You don't live in a sod-roofed house, do
you? So why use outdated technology on your
The difference between picking up and putting
down a 40 pound kevlar canoe and a 70 pound
plastic or aluminum canoe, hundreds of times, is
incredible. Over the course of a week-long canoe
trip you will lift over a ton of extra weight!
Sure, the kevlar canoes require a little more
care and are more expensive to rent, but they
are worth every penny. Scrimp on your budget
somewhere else. Trust me, you'll never go back.
And you can smile as you stroll merrily along on
your next portage.
(Editor's Note: Be sure to rent the right
style of kevlar canoe. They are made in
different hull styles; some are long and lean
and meant to go fast and straight, while others
are made along more traditional lines and are
better to fish and explore in. Also, kevlar can
be made in different weights; you can rent a
kevlar canoe weighing as much as 60-65 pounds!
You want the one weighing in the 40 pound range!
Be sure to ask!)
Building Your Kevlar Canoe (Book) by James Moran
bags and sleeping pads - Nothing ruins a
good canoe trip like a poor night's sleep. A new
sleeping bag, filled with modern synthetic
materials, will keep you warmer, period. Even if
it should get wet somehow it will dry quickly
and keep you warm even if damp. In a water
wilderness this is simply essential gear.
Sleeping pads have made enormous strides in
the past ten years or so. Thermarest Self Inflating Trail Sleeping
Pads are the standard by
which all others are judged. Lightweight,
compact, and comfortable! And they are now made
by several companies and in every conceivable
size and thickness imaginable. The ground in the
Canoe Country is hard so I'd recommend splurging
on your mattress. And be sure to buy one that
has the new non-skid surface so you can stay on
it all night.
know I said ''Top Ten'' but I couldn't leave out
the new style of camp chairs. As you
know, if you've been to the Boundary Waters or
Quetico, there is generally no place to sit.
And, after a week, this gets old. Really old.
A cruise down the aisle at Wal-Mart will show
you several new folding aluminum and nylon
camping chairs. While adding a bit of bulk to
your equipment pack I'd have to say that they
just might be worth the space. Sitting
comfortably, sipping your hot chocolate or tea,
after a hard day of paddling and portaging is a
real treat. A simple pleasure.
If you want a comfortable seat, without the
bulk, you can look at the "Crazy Creek" style of camp chairs. They are small and light and offer you a
warm, dry place to sit and some essential back
support. I've found they can also be used very
nicely inside your tent, on a rainy day. You can
also use them in your canoe, on a rock or log or
slab of granite, and some chairs even accept
mattress for additional comfort.
Buddies - Huh? Tired of squashed loaves of
bread? Well, go back to Wal-Mart and look for
Bread Buddy. They are plastic ''boxes'' made
to fit a standard loaf of bread. While adding a
bit of bulk to your food pack you can finally
have a sandwich that looks like a sandwich!
OK, so it turned in to my top twelve ... just
proves that there are no shortage of new,
innovative, lightweight and space-saving ideas
when it comes to the great outdoors. I hope you
enjoy these suggestions for making your next
trip more enjoyable.
Now, don't forget to call your favorite
outfitter to reserve that Kevlar canoe and get
your permit reserved. Those 60 days will be gone
before you know it!