Are you ready for your Boundary Waters Canoe Trip?

Red Rock Oufitters

Boundary Waters canoe trip planning should be stress-free and fun.  Here are some step to help you with that.

  1. Who’s going?  Your group make up will help us determine which canoe route is best for your group.  Things to keep in mind: Age of the group, outdoor experience and fitness level.  The maximum group size is 9.
  2. What are the goals and interest of the trip.  Here are a few examples: Fishing, relaxing, photography, solitude, wildlife, base camping or traveling.
  3. Your Canoe Trip Dates.  Entry permits are limited so it is important to plan in advance.  We can help you with that to if your dates are already fixed the is great or we will find you the best canoe route based on the permits that are available for your date.  Each season has different things to offer on a canoe trip.  If you are looking for fewer bugs and more swimming opportunities July and August would be a good time of year.  If fishing is the reason for you trip, May, June, and August would be best.
  4. How many days for you trip?  We can accommodate canoe trips of any length.  We will make your trip anyway you want it.
  5. What do you need to rent?  We will help you out with our partial outfitting gear.  Available to you are the essentials: Canoes, packs, life jackets, and paddles.
  6. Trip Logistics:  You drive to Ely, some people fly into MPLS or Duluth and then rent a car, and if you need tow service into Boundary Waters Canoe Area entry point,  we can set it up for you.
  7. Additional Services needed: Do you need a guide? It is not necessary to take a guide into the wilderness but we can help you find the right one for your trip if you book a trip early enough.

Call us to book your next Boundary Waters Canoe trip at 218-365-5489 or just fill out our reservation form.


We Quit Hanging Packs in 1999

At 12:15, July 4, 1999 disaster struck.  Straight line winds hit our area and obliterated most of our neighbors.  It just missed us by about a 1/4 mile.  In its path, every tree taller than 40 feet snapped off have way up.  Power line poles went as well and the just after Northwind Lodge went dark.  I went over to the Moose Lake road to check on my mother-in-law Edith and her husband Bob Cary to see what happened.  There were trees and exploded electrical transformers on the ground.  Good thing I put a chainsaw in my truck because when I got there, Bob Cary was in his early 80’s and sawing on the pavement trying to open the road.  Trees were twisted and under load so you had to be careful to watch so you wouldn’t get whacked when you poked the chain bar in there.  It was truly surreal and the damage hard to believe. Fortunately, all the houses seemed to survive I think because the trees ate up the force of the wind.  Now, where there once was brush, you had a scenic view of Moose lake as you drove down the road.

Well, as a result of the big wind, our outfitting customers had nowhere to hang their food packs.   Everything snapped off.    I had experimented with barrels and harnesses before and was not a huge fan of the one big barrel because it hits me on the tailbone.  After a day of portaging, my tailbone is not a happy camper.  So, I abandoned those in the mid 90’s.  I really wanted to be able to carry 2 barrels but nothing existed to do so.  Two barrels would allow two people a place to sit.  They also allow one to separate out supplies better.  Hiding two barrels makes it far more likely that a bear won’t find both and smaller barrels are easier to stash.   The one big barrel has to be dumped out on the ground because everything you want ends up on the bottom.  Also, the big barrel likes to roll around in the canoe which irritates me to no end.  I hate stuff clunking around.  I actually took one out on a long, 7-portage, day-trip to see how it would work.  Well, it worked I guess, and comparatively, it’s cheap to own, but I was not a big fan.

I wanted a custom-made pack that would haul two 30 liter barrels so I headed over to Kondos Outdoors and met with Dan Kondos about my idea.  In about 45 minutes, the Super Pack was born.  I was going to make those little labels to sew onto the pack but I figured I would only sell 3 or 4 of these and at the time, I had to buy 5,000 labels so I held off.  I should have had them made.  We sold hundreds of Super Packs over the years to all sorts of  happy campers.  The only people who ever had a problem with it was a group of Boyscouts in a different state who borrowed a Super Pack from a guy who bought one from us, and a US Forest Service clean-up crew.    In both cases, the scouts and the USFS did exactly the opposite of what you do with a Super Pack.  They left the barrels inside the pack and hung it from a branch only to show the bears that the big pinãta  at the end of the rope might have something good in it.   Then they left camp for the day.  When the USFS returned, a momma bear and two cubs were wailing on that nice, grounded pack which was holding those two barrels together resulting in their not sliding around which normally makes them hard to handle for a bear.  In this case they were easy to hold down, jump on, and pummel.  The bears managed to completely shred the pack into a garbage heap and tear a 6″ hole in the side of one barrel.  Both barrels were completely flattened but they only got into one.  That USFS worker who told me about the bears complained that these were not bearproof barrels to which I responded, “Well, who ever told you that they were bear proof and why the hell are you hanging in the first place?”

He answered that it was “government policy” to always hang your food pack, to which I replied by pointing out how asinine that was given that these packs are supposed to have the barrels removed and stashed in two opposite directions after they’ve been sealed shut.  Then you hang that completely empty pack on any tree branch.  If the bear smells no food, he won’t touch it and you won’t have a destroyed pack.   I don’t think I was able to get through to that government worker about the error in his ways.  Nobody really knew what the scouts did on their adventure, but I’m guessing it was equi-dumb.  Those were the only two instances of which I’m aware regarding the destruction of a Super Pack going on 16 years of outfitting them now.


Order your Red Rock Super Pack Here

Now, when you get to camp, take the Super Pack up to the site and pull the two 30 liter, air & water tight barrels out of the pack. Use them to keep your food and it’s associated odors sealed off from the outside world.  Use the two barrels as two chairs while in camp.  When you leave camp and/or at nightfall, standing at your fireplace, stash one barrel 50 feet to the left and the other barrel 50 feet to the right, in the brush. Throw a couple of rocks and/or sticks, maybe an old downed log over the barrels to break up their appearance as they lay in the brush.  You don’t need to bury them but if you can find a slump in the ground to lay a barrel in so they are harder to see, that is  even better.   And, while thse two 30 liter barrels are great to sit on in camp while you are there, make sure you don’t fry fish next to them.   Don’t smear grape jelly on the outside.   Also, don’t leave them unattended on a trail or the path to the biffy – bears walk on paths, too.    What you are trying to do is minimize exposure to bears.   You don’t have to go crazy in camouflaging them.   If they are clean and odor free on the outside, they are not a target.

If you have the misfortune of getting the last campsite on the lake and it’s laden with bear signs including fresh scat, a ring of bark at the base of the hangin’ tree from where the bear has been running up and down the previous night, do this:   Tie a rope around the necks of your two barrels, take them 15 feet offshore and anchor them floating in the lake.   It’s pretty unlikely that a land animal like a bear will swim out and go “bobbing for apples” to see what’s in those barrels.

Contrary to myth and various internet bulletin boards, these barrels are incredibly tough, but not “bear proof”.   Bears just don’t want them because a sealed up barrel smells like food-grade polyethylene which is a very clean, inedible plastic.

While portaging, remember to get the pack on your shoulders and then reach behind your head and pull each of the cover straps snug for a great fit up against your back.   For short-torsoed folks, pull out the hip belt, flip it over and re-install it back in its slot.   Easy to do and requires no tools.   This puts the belt up about 1.5 inches higher for women’s torsos generally allowing the waist belt to be on the hips.

Each Red Rock Super Pack is custom built for Red Rock by Kondos Outdoors of Ely.   Our Red Rock Super Pack holds both barrels beautifully and allows an extra 6″ of space on top for things you may need quick access such as raingear, lunch, a 2-3 man tent, etc.   It’s easy to carry with a built-in foam-padded back,  2 contoured padded shoulder straps complete with sternum strap and hip belt.   Made out of 1000 Denier Cordura Nylon containing 2-8 gal/30 liter barrels (20″ H x 12″ W) with tough dependable “V” channel lock band.   Pack is 6684 cu in. Too much room for your food?   Put the food in one barrel and your clothing or other things you want to protect and keep dry in the other barrel.   Just don’t put the your clothes in a barrel with hard German salami or something truly ridiculous to bring on a canoe trip:  cantaloupes.  You might end up with a bear licking your ear on the portage…

This is a picture of a used Super Pack.  You always see the shiny new gear, not the one that’s been out in the woods and actually used by real people.   This one was on many canoe trips.  I just shot some quick pics to show the straps, the barrels in the pack.  Then I had to move because a truck was coming down the driveway, so I didn’t get the top zipped shut, but you get the idea.

Red Rock Super Pack
Red Rock Super Pack

Order your Red Rock Super Pack Here

Red Rock Super Pack
Red Rock Super Pack

Don’t want to play with the bears at night?  Come stay in our of cozy cabins and take day trip all over the place in the BWCA – Click here

Good Drinking Water for your Next Wilderness Trip

You need water.  Clean water free from Giardia Lamblia and Cryptosporidium.  The first one is NOT an airport out east and the second one is not Superman’s nemesis, but they’ll sure make you get all funky if you pick them up.   There are ways to reduce your exposure to these two gastrointestinal terrorists without filtering the water.

  1. You can use chemicals (bleach) which work if used correctly but make the water taste like crap
  2. You can boil the water which takes far more effort and fuel than it sounds.  Plus, you always end up with hot water in the middle of a hot summer day.
  3. There is an ultraviolet system that works after you stir the light in the water for 90 seconds to expose everything to the disruptive UV radiation.  Sounds cool until you’ve stirred for 90 really, long seconds.  It feels like it takes forever.

Now, what is wrong with all three of the above?  What do they do that I really don’t like?  No matter which you choose, you will end up with “crunchy” water.  All those dead bacteria are floating around in there along with bug wings, bird poop, moose poop, fish poop, and soap from the moron down the shore who thinks she’s bathing in the Ganges River in India.  (Doesn’t everybody dump soap and scrub up right in the lake in the Boundary Waters?  Rather disgusting habit in my opinion and yet, I have seen it more times than I can count.  This is NOT India,  you campers-with-no-clue!)

If you use the right filter, you end up with clean, drinkable water and no bug parts, etc., floating around.  If you want to see which one I like the best and why,  CLICK HERE to Red Rock Outdoors.

How to Make a BWCA Permit Reservation – and then what?

To take a Boundary Waters Canoe Trip, you need a BWCA permit for overnight camping.  Here’s how you do it:

Read this page and then go to this site:

This link goes right to the BWCA permit part. landing page for BWCA permits landing page for BWCA permits

Select your entry point and indicate your date ranges for your trip and hit the “search” button.  You’ll see a window appear like this:

Making a BWCA Permit Reservation
Making a BWCA Permit Reservation

The number below the A is what is remaining open and you can reserve that date.   Make the reservation for the entry point you are seeking.  If you need help with selecting an entry point and will be renting a canoe from us, email us here .   Just let us know how many are going, the level of flat water canoe paddling experience – paddling down rivers doesn’t count for much.  Anybody can be a gravity slave and steer a canoe for 20 miles.  You won’t be doing any of that in the Boundary Waters. If we’re going to help plan a route for you, we need to know your flat water experience level.  If you don’t have a lot, no worries, we do this all the time and have done so for 30+ years.

So, make your permit reservation and have your credit card ready.  They will charge a deposit.  Then call us and reserve your canoe for those dates.  Then, show up either the day prior to or the day of your permit start day and pick up  your actual permit from the government workers at the USFS building on the eastern edge of Ely.

Here is their address and a map I whipped up.

Kawishiwi Ranger District
District Ranger: Gus Smith

1393 Highway 169, Ely, MN 55731
(218) 365-7600; (218) 365-7602 TTY

Pick Up your BWCA canoe trip permit here.
Pick Up your BWCA canoe trip permit here.

Pick up your permit and head out to us to do the quick paperwork on your canoe rental and down the road we’ll go.  We can haul your canoe or you can haul your canoe with foam blocks that we provide for no charge use your own roof rack.  In most cases, it is cost and time effective to simply pay us to haul and pick up your rental canoe because we are experts and have the right gear laying on the floor here at all times.  No head-scratching about if your tie-job is going to blow off the car at 50 mph with you becoming the proud owner of a $3300 kevlar canoe with severe road rash.   We can talk about that when doing your trip routing when you reserve your canoe.

So, if you’ve never been to the BWCA, you’re missing out.  Reserving a permit is not very hard.  Picking it up is easy.  And renting a canoe from us is easier still.  Give us a call!  218-365-4512

NEED to KNOW:  You must enter the BWCA on the date you’ve reserved.  If you miss that entry date, your permit is void and you can’t go in without getting a whole, new permit.  Entering the BWCA with your permit means that you CANNOT come and go freely in and out of the BWCA.  If you come out of the woods, get in your car and go into Ely for shopping or to check your email as people of today do, you are done with your canoe trip.  This is considered a wilderness canoe trip not a stay at a federal campground with an RV.  The rules are simple but strict and if you get caught going back and forth, you will be made to leave and you could be fined.

Want to stay in a nice cabin and take BWCA day trips all over the place?   No permits required, come and go freely.

Come stay at our wilderness resort!  Click Here

Great Lake Trout Lure for Boundary Waters Fishing

Man, somebody hand me a paper towel.  I started thinking about catching spring (May, June) lakers in the Boundary Waters and started drooling at the thought of fresh, fried laker fillets on an open fire.  You fillet out a 5 pound laker.  Then, take those delectable thick fillets and chunk them up in to 1.5 inch cubes.  Then, shake them in the breading of your choice and  put them in a hot fry pan with preferably corn oil, but any oil will do except sunflower oil (starts to smoke too soon).  Flip the chunks on all 8 sides until the laker cubes are done – probably 2 minutes on the top bottom and less on each side.  You are doing a bunch of them in the pan, so you prop them up against each other so they can brown.  When they are golden brown, remove from the pan and set on paper towels on an aluminum or other (non-plastic) plate.  You can eat these with your fingers like fish cakes.   My keyboard is getting blurry at the thought of one of my favorite northwoods delicacies.

In reality, before you can begin drooling over a plate of fresh fried lake trout on Kekekabic lake or on a point in Thomas, you gotta catch one or more.  In the spring time when the water is cold, they are cruising at shallower depths making the act of catching them an easier event.   Follow the shoreline with one of these Red Rock Spinner/Spoons.  Lakers love a good flash and they will come smokin’ in to investigate and attack.  That is what you want.  You want to rile them up and  make them try to devour whatever you are pulling behind the canoe.

Red Rock Spinner Spoon
Red Rock Spinner/Spoons

Our Spinner/Spoon was originally a lure designed for bass fishing in weeds – I don’t know when exactly, but you see that same style spoon (sans spinner and metal beads) in every grandfather’s tackle box in the attic or on some shelf in the garage.  We added the metal beads and hi-flash colorado-style spinner  to this old-fashioned spoon and now you have a Spinner/Spoon.  How’s that for a literal name for lack of a better one?  Who cares – it the end result that counts.

To effectively use these weedless spoons, you make sure you have a decent snap swivel tied to your line, attach the Spinner/Spoon.    Start paddling the canoe on your course along the shoreline – not too close to shore on a lake trout lake (Kek, Crane, Thomas, Ima, Knife, and many more).   Toss it out behind the canoe and let out about 100 to 150 feet to troll shallow behind you.  Secure your rod either with a rod holder or jamming it into the gunwale held down by your foot – whatever works.  You don’t want your rod popping out of the canoe on a strike.   Then, continue paddling forward.  If you are in a Souris River Canoe, you can do this all without losing your forward glide.  If you’re in  Wenonah, you are now dead in the water and need to begin paddling and developing new momentum while your lure is sinking and sinking.  Wenonahs won’t turn when you need them to turn and they crap out in about 20 feet after you stop paddling.  I don’t make this stuff up – no need – everybody who know canoes knows about the “crap out” of Wenonahs when you stop paddling.

You may want your reel’s drag to be set a tad lighter while trolling so it’s easier for your line to play out on a strike and harder to pull your rod over the side of the canoe.  You can always tighten it up when your are fighting the fish.

On a darker/cloudy/partially cloud day – use the gold color.  On a bright day with blue sky, use the silver.  This rule applies most of the time, but sometimes the fish change it up so don’t adhere to it super tightly.

Be aware that this lure will also attract killer northern pike.  Northerns like laker tackle just like lakers.  The cool thing about Spinner/Spoons is that you can use them for casting in the weeds with the weed guard.  Now, with the spinner flashing, they won’t be as completely weedless as they are without the spinner-bead part.  This makes a good reason for fishing  it along side of weed beds, especially cabbage weeds if you can find them.  Northerns like weeds but big northerns also hang out in the same places as lakers which is open deep water.  Northerns from the Boundary Waters are also delicious so don’t be bummed if you catch one.  Be bummed if you catch a 20 pounder.  That’s too big and too much for even a small army to eat.  Let him go and eat the smaller ones.   Find out about filleting northern pike and eating them here

So, this is an effective, easy to use lure for laker fishing in the pristine waters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  We sell them in two packs – one gold and one silver.  It will become your go-to lure for action and eating fish.  Make sure you put a couple in your box before you go!  You can only get these from Red Rock.

Order Red Rock Spinner/Spoons from Red Rock Here

Canoe Paddle Length – How Critical is it?

Measuring a Canoe Paddle
Measuring a Canoe Paddle

A lot of time is expended on sizing a canoe paddle properly.  Some paddlers get all excited if they don’t feel they have a precise paddle fit – on land.   Well, here’s a paddling perspective you may want to consider when picking the correct paddle size for you.

  Click Here for the blog post at Souris River Dealer

Kevlar Canoe Rentals

ouris river canoe with pack
Souris River Canoe Quetico 17

Kevlar  – yes kevlar canoes are what you want for your next BWCA wilderness canoe trip.   They are lighter on portages.  But remember that nobody ever drowns on a portage.  So don’t assume that all kevlar rental canoes in the BWCA  are created equal.   A lot of people are reticent to rent kevlar canoes for a whole host of reasons.  Here are a list of the top concerns that I’ve heard over the last 25 years of renting kevlar canoe for rugged boundary waters canoe trips:

  1. kevlar is too fragile and will puncture easily
  2. kevlar canoes are tippy
  3. they are fast but won’t turn in a wind
  4. don’t have much freeboard when loaded
  5. you have to “wet foot” canoe all the time.

Here is a list that corresponds with the above list to address each point:

  1. Not if it is made by Souris River.  Yes, Wenonah, Bell, and all other canoes are fairly fragile.
  2. Not if it is a Souris River Quetico 17 or 18.5.  Yes, Wenonah’s and Bell’s are tippier with the exception of Wenonah’s Boundary Waters which is stable but an odd canoe on the water.  Bell’s are always a little on the jittery side.
  3. Souris River’s are fast with a load and without a load plus their stability doesn’t change even when their load does.  They are properly designed to turn in the wind.  Wenonah’s (MNII) is a retired racing canoe with no rocker.  Wenonah, with their racing roots, doesn’t know how to make a canoe not go straight.  That’s great until you get caught in a crosswind with their associated low-freeboard.  Bells are much better handling than Wenonahs, but they feel jittery when empty and stabilize when loaded.  A truly great canoe never changes handling/performance characteristics.  – that’s the SR Quetico 17.
  4. Wenonah builds a bunch of different canoe models which tend to be somewhat obscure on the Boundary Waters front.  I don’t see those models and aren’t familiar with them by name, either.   But, they do build some high bow, low side and low stern design in the main of the models used by outfitters to the boundary waters.   The high bow is sharp and slices the waves.  It also maintains the straightest course from point A to point B which makes it fast, right?  Well, it also does the “A & B” thing in the “up and down”  line.  In rough water, it becomes a submairne because it’s skinny hull refuses to rise up and go over the top of the wave.  So, do the math:  You are  in a skinny canoe with a 20″ bow charging into a 24″ wave.  What’s going to happen?  You’re gonna get 4″ of water in your lap for every wave you dive into with your Wenonah.  Now add in the fact that your rental Wenonah has 7 days of gear in it and you at 200 lbs. are all wedged in the front of that canoe.  How high do the oncoming waves need to be to end up in you lap, now?   The answer is less than 24″ .   After loading up your loaded canoe with water that you really didn’t want, what happens when you get stuck in a crosswind with a canoe that fights you in turning in 24″ waves?  What happens when water comes over the side?  Does the canoe sit even lower at that point?   When do you begin bailing?   None of this is a problem with a sensible canoe like Souris River’s Quetico 17 or 18.5 three-man.  They rise up and over the waves due to their non-racing hull design.  High and dry is always better than fast and underwater.
  5. Souris Rivers are significantly tougher than Wenonahs and Bells.  Those two canoes are downright fragile in rugged country and the rule of thumb is that Souris Rivers rent four times more than Brand X kevlar canoes and Brand X requires 4 times more repairs after every trip out.  Now, we never want to see you ram shore with ANY canoe, but if you bump something with a Souris River kevlar,  oh, well.  Continue paddling, no need to dig out the duct tape.

If you think I’m making this up about Souris River Canoe, as an outfitter, what do I care if the canoe handles well in 3.5 foot whitecaps or treats my customers well?  I could VERY easily open up any other line of kevlar canoes for rentals and they would cost me less and get the job done well enough with less effort on my part.  Every year, I get the price sheets for Brand X kevlar canoes sent to me.   From a business standpoint, I would be best served to get the job of renting kevlar canoes done as cheaply as possible.  Souris Rivers cost me significantly more per canoe than any Brand X models and are a pain for me to get down from Canada.  Souris Rivers don’t have the marketing in the US that Brand X kevlars have.  In fact, because of brand recognition, it is easier to connect with a customer over Brand X kevlar canoes than it is with Souris River Canoes.  Sounds like a better business decision would be to switch brands of kevlar canoes.

And, yet…we stick with them exclusively.  Go figure, eh?

See our BWCA Canoe Rental Prices Here