the Road by
Hey, it's time to get serious about the
upcoming canoe trip! Suddenly it's May and time
As humans we have a propensity to
"re-invent the wheel" every time we do
something. So let me try to make your next trip
a little easier, a little safer and more
- The longer your drive the better
shape your vehicle needs to be in. Make
plans to get your car serviced now so it's
ready, and dependable, for a long trip up
the Gunflint or the end of the Echo Trail.
- I wish I had a dollar for every
person who showed up without a spare set of
keys to their vehicle! Get a set made today
and tuck it away someplace safe. In case you
feel compelled to reinvent the wheel here
just remember that keys do not float. The
bottoms of Boundary Waters lakes are
littered with them. While you're at it, make
sure those jumper cables are in the car; you
might be lucky enough to find someone to
give you a jump but not always lucky enough
to find that person AND a set of cables.
- Bearings on trailer wheels are
probably the cause of most road-side
troubles on the way to the woods. Get those
bearings checked and greased before you
start loading up. You'll be glad you did.
And check out those lights sometime other
than the night before the trip. Those things
can drive you crazy even when you're not in
- Straps and ropes probably need to
be replaced each spring. And, PLEASE, be
sure that whatever you use is strong enough
to hold your canoe on at highway speeds.
PLEASE NOTE: A properly secured canoe
should have have a minimum of three straps
or ropes on it; one bow, one stern and one
around the middle. And a back-up rope on the
bow is probably a good idea and could save
some serious damage, injury or death on the
- Theft is not unheard of in towns
and cities known to have paddlers staying
overnight. A canoe on your roof is a clear
sign that your vehicle is loaded with
expensive camping gear. Be sure to cover up,
lock up and park in a well lighted area
where you can see your vehicle.
- The canoe rack on your car needs
to be in good shape for traveling, too. It's
time to put it on, check the nuts and bolts,
spray a little WD on the moving parts, and
check the padding and the straps.
- If you are borrowing any
equipment of this nature please remember to
check and double check to make sure things
fit and are in good repair. For example, all
trailer hitches and balls are not made
alike; there are three common sizes used
- It pays to check out the canoe
you intend to use on your trip. Especially
if you're borrowing it or renting it in your
hometown area. I can't tell you how many
people showed up at my outfitting business
without any type of carrying yoke on their
canoe. Or what a terrible trip they had
trying to portage without one.
- Tents should be set up, checked
for quality and WATERPROOFED each and every
spring. Seam Sealer is the product to look
for and you'd be wise to seal the seams of
your tent on the inside and outside. This
even goes for a brand new tent. Stitching
makes holes and those holes can leak. Be
sure to triple check both zippers and
mosquito netting. (A good, modern tent has
no-see-um proof netting as well. In other
words, smaller mesh.)
- Buy a new piece of plastic for
your ground cloth each year, too. They get
pin holes in them, weak spots from folding
and can't be counted on in those downpours.
If your tent is older I'd recommend a cloth
on the inside and the outside for full
- Take your camp stove out in the
backyard, clean it up, fuel it with fresh
fuel and fire it up a couple of times. When
it's cold, windy and wet you want that baby
to fire up RIGHT NOW. I generally carry a
repair kit, from the manufacturer, for the
stove I'm using. And it's a good idea if you
know how to take your stove apart, clean it
and put it back together. Sometimes you just
- Air mattresses, "Therma-Rests"
and other sleeping pads should be unrolled
and inflated. It can be a very long week
without a comfortable pad to sleep on. Good
idea to have a patch kit along as well.
- Wooden paddles
should have little annual care, too.
Beginning with a light sanding, repairing
any cracks or nicks and ending with a couple
of fresh coats of varnish and polyurethane.
- Please remember that canoes must
be licensed in either your home state or in
Minnesota to be used in the BWCA side of the
wilderness! And it can be a real pain to
find a place to get a canoe licensed in the
boonies so plan ahead.
- Start by checking your rods for
damages and loose line guides and tips. Find
a replacement tip and stick it, along with a
tube of super glue, in your repair kit. It's
a rare trip that doesn't claim at least one
rod tip as a casualty.
- Reels should be tested, cleaned,
lubed and loaded with fresh line. Always
check the handle mechanism as they can
become loose and they don't float worth a
- Lures should be clean of dirt,
oil and scents and have newly sharpened
hooks. This is a tedious task but can make a
100% improvement in getting fish to the
canoe. Carry a small hook file in your box,
too, so you can touch them up on the trip.
- Filet knives generally get quite
a bit of use on a canoe trip so be sure
yours in razor sharp to begin with and carry
a sharpening tool on the trip. A small one,
with a couple of ceramic rods shaped in a
"V", is all you need. Carry a
pocket knife for camp chores so you don't
have to use your filet knife for anything
other than cleaning fish.
- If you're going to use a depth
finder of some sort it's time to get it out
and make sure it works properly. Hopefully
you took the batteries out last fall so it
isn't ruined. Load it up with some fresh
ones and fire it up. Repairs can take a
month or more so time is of the essence on
- Gore-tex rainwear (
Marmot Oracle Jacket - Mens
) needs quite a bit of TLC in my opinion. So
I wash and re-waterproof mine before each
trip. Clean fabric simply works better and a
fresh "coat" of waterproofing can
make all the difference in your comfort.
- Boots generally worn in the canoe
country may also need to be waterproofed.
Silicone, oil or wax-like products such as
Sno-Seal are just a few of the options. Give
'em a couple of coats and you'll be glad you
did. Check those laces, too, and replace
them if overly worn.
- BWCA or Quetico permits
should be reserved ASAP. Always.
- Fishing licenses must be on your
person so be sure you have yours with you.
- Maps can be purchased in many of
your favorite outdoor stores, online or upon
arrival in the Boundary Waters region. You
should at least know which ones you'll need
before you set out from home.
are a MUST to get into the Quetico and they
take several weeks to obtain so get crackin'
on this right away.
- ID should be carried, especially
if entering Canada, so make plans to have
something along for each person. This is
especially critical if you plan to drive
into Canada with children. You should be
prepared to prove that they belong to you or
- Firearms are not allowed in
Canada so make sure you don't bring yours.
As you well know, this is not time to
"fool around" at border crossings
so act accordingly. Fireworks, weapons,
drugs and other contraband are also not
- You should always travel with
both rabies TAGS and CERTIFICATES for your
pets. Be sure the certificate is current and
filled in completely and accurately by your
- Double check your travel plans;
motels, flights, outfitting, launches and
the like! It pays to re-check those plans.
As the Scouts have always liked to say, Be
Prepared. The best trips are generally the best
planned. And a little planning can eliminate a
host of potential problems on the road.
Have a good trip.