Boundary Waters canoe trip planning should be stress-free and fun. Here are some step to help you with that.
- 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.
- What are the goals and interest of the trip. Here are a few examples: Fishing, relaxing, photography, solitude, wildlife, base camping or traveling.
- 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.
- How many days for you trip? We can accommodate canoe trips of any length. We will make your trip anyway you want it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
It’s simple. Reduce the air exposure, keep water out and your dry goods will last longer. You also keep the rodents at bay unless they can smell through tough polyethylene, sealed plastic. While some rodents are pretty determined, I figure if a bear can’t smell through this stuff, then neither can rodents. We’ve been using these barrels for Boundary Waters canoe camping since the early 90’s. they are nice because around the camp, they can be used to sit on or as a work surface. At night or when you leave camp during the day, you simply stash them by laying them 50 feet away from your campfire , in a slump in the ground. They you throw some sticks and brush over the top of them to break up their appearance and off you go. Bears and rodents walk right by. Pouring down rain is meaningless and short of a flood carrying them away, they are impenetrable. Bears can get into them, but they have to wail on them for a long time because they are slippery even on rocks.
OK, that is the camping use. But, what about the overlooked uses for these barrels that REALLY make them worth owning? They are a ridiculously simple design. They stack. They do not retain any odors. So, why can’t you have a half a dozen of these in your basement or one in each closet of your home as a “go bag” with food, clean-dry-warm clothes, a medical kit, water, and everything you’d need for a catastrophe. Heck, at 60 liters in size, you could pack food for a family of 4 for 7 days with no effort. You could also have another with clothing and one more with a medical kit. Lock up a pistol and ammo. Bugspray. Rope, a small ax, duct tape, a screwdriver, hunting knife, batteries, small radio, small saw, footwear, and stuff that you need to grab quickly and all in one, durable, waterproof, airtight spot. Need to go fast? Grab the barrels and throw them in the box of the truck in the blinding rain. Need to stash them? Bury them in the garden or in a ditch. Come back later for them.
I know this sounds a little extreme, but depending on where you live, a wildfire could wipe you out in a half an hour. You see it on the news all the time. People all over the country being mandated to evacuate NOW. Just think if you had four barrels with everything you need to survive for 7 days all ready to go. Run down in the basement, grab ’em, throw them in the back of the car and get going, now. Given just the wildfires in California of the last few years, is this that crazy sounding or is having a little bit of preparedness, the responsible thing to do? And, I’m not talking about really knocking yourself out doing it. Put the stuff that you would need to get by in a barrel, lock it up, set it somewhere you can find it fast. How hard is that to do, really?
It’s just a thought.
The other thing you could do is have your travel gear all locked up in one spot. If you come to Minnesota every year for a vacation, what if everything you needed to do your trip was replenished and airtight at the end of your trip. Next year, when the time comes, your tackle, reels, travel rod, plus specific clothing and gear are all in an airtight container. Time to go? Grab your barrel and head north or south if you are from Canada.
The point is, these barrels are really, really useful and they don’t cost a lot. And, unless they are filled with gold bullion, they float like a duck.
Who would have thought that something so simple could be so handy, eh?
What is this funny looking thing?
I don’t care where you go or what the season, you need hot water. You need hot water for everything. Making hot water when you are out in the brush in -35 below F or 70 above, you will want hot water for re-hydrating food, washing a booboo, doing the dishes, etc. When you are away from modern plumbing and if you’ve ever camped before, making hot water is not an easy task. Using wood, requires a fireplace, some way to prop up a pot, and fuel. In an open air fire, usually, you need a lot of wood and therein lies the difficulty. If it’s raining, a time when you’d need the hot water more so, your available wood supply might be soaking wet. You get around that by using smaller twigs to bigger…
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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.
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.
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.
- You can use chemicals (bleach) which work if used correctly but make the water taste like crap
- 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.
- 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.
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: Recreation.gov
This link goes right to the BWCA permit part.
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:
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; TTY
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