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 Hittin' the Road by Roger Hahn

Hey, it's time to get serious about the upcoming canoe trip! Suddenly it's May and time to paddle!

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 enjoyable.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 a hurry
  4. 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 freeway.

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 today.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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 protection.
  4. 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 have to.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Fishing Gear:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 darn either.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 electronics.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.


  1. BWCA or Quetico permits should be reserved ASAP. Always.
  2. Fishing licenses must be on your person so be sure you have yours with you.
  3. 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.
  4. RABC's are a MUST to get into the Quetico and they take several weeks to obtain so get crackin' on this right away.
  5. 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 with you.
  6. 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 allowed.
  7. 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 vet.
  8. 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.

       --article courtesy of BoundaryWatersMagazine


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