First time BWCA trip questions

Best insect repellant?

Bear repellant(ie. bear mace)-really needed?

Any soap/shampoo acceptable for use there?

This forum is THE best source for tried and true info, so thanks inadvance for the help with some pretty basic questions, I’m sure we’ll have more.

Answers to questions
The best insect repellent, IMHO, is any brand that is 100% Deet. The stuff will actually make anything plastic become sticky, so be careful. Use it only as needed. I find that I only need to apply insect repellent if I am going to be out fishing in the evening and I only apply it to exposed areas. I do not use it during the day.

Bear repellent (mace) is not needed and unless it is expressly labeled as bear repellent, it is illegal to bring it into Canada if you plan to go into the Quetico. Hang your food packs, keep a clean campsite, and do not take any food into your tent.

I am not aware of any ban on types of soap/shampoo, but I take Camp Soap which is biodegradable. I use it as both soap and shampoo.


"Best insect repellant?"

3M Ultrathon for skin. Spray clothes with pemthrin.

“Bear repellant(ie. bear mace)-really needed?”


“Any soap/shampoo acceptable for use there?”

Most are OK but use 150 feet from the waters edge. Do not use in the water!


– Last Updated: Mar-23-05 8:38 PM EST –

Best insect repellant? DEET at least 22 plus %, also, long sleeves and pants help. Also, some use a head net. Fall = few bugs. June early is black fly (like gnats that bite) season during the day light, Mid June into August is mosquito season with fewer later in July (find a breezy point to camp on). Deer flies can be a hassle in the summer on the ankles. Don't worry about bugs and enjoy the trip.
Bear repellant(ie. bear mace)-really needed? Not needed although there was a bad situation south of Alton a couple of years ago. Personally, I have had relatively close encounters twice and neither warrented spray. Just clapping/noise.
Any soap/shampoo acceptable for use there? Don't wash in the lakes. Be on shore where the run-off will not get in the lakes when washing yourself or dishes.

Bear mace, sorta
On our last trip a few year back we ran into an older couple at the end of a portage. They were on thier way out and us on our way in, so they gave us some up-to-the-minute info on the local bear situation and which sites to avoid. Anyhow, he told me that he always carries some “inchers” (you now the little firecrackers), he said they work great at chasing the bears away, said he had to use them twice on reluctant to leave bears. The bears left in a hurry and didn’t come back. Not sure about the legalities, but it seemed like a good idea.


Black bear deterrent
At the recent Canoecopia gathering in Madison, Cliff Jacobson recommended a Surefire flashlight with a 65 lumen focused beam or greater as an effective black bear deterrent. He described an incident that happened to his group last summer with a bear that kept hanging around camp. Evening came and one of the group pulled out a surefire and shined it into the bear’s eyes from more than 100 feet away and the bear took off running and did not come back. Apparently the light is brite enough to hurt if you look at it directly.

Never had to deal with bears. However, stinking really helps with the bugs. After that I just keep covered up. I really do not use bug spray too often.

The best bug dope is anything w/ DEET. The concentration is up to you but the lesser the concetration the more often you will need to reapply. In regards to bears, you will need to take the necessary precautions: CLEAN camp, and hang your food at night and when you are not in camp, NO food in your tent. visit our website page about BWCA safety for more info. any questions feel free to contact me.

bug nets
I use deet but prefer head nets or bug shirts. Bug baffler makes a great product that my wife loves. I have those nylon long sleeved shirts that work great with a head net. Sometimes a little deet on the back of the hands. One buddy has some ankle nets to keep the ankle biters off.

Never had a bear problem. I echo other comments about keeping soap away from the water and I also bring only biodegradable soap.

Bears & Soap
I use No Rinse Body Bath and No Rinse Shampoo available at REI. Great stuff. Would not go on a trip with out it. Don’t worry about bears. I don’t even hang my food packs in trees. But I do place them outside of the camp site about 100 feet and away from any trails.

thanks all for your great ideas!

Bug repellant
3M Ultrathon lotion was developed for the military. It has more DEET than the spray. It doesn’t sweat off as easily or wreck your skin like the 100% Deet liquid. Use it on all your exposed skin. Spray all your clothes (hat, shirt, pants socks and boots) with Permethrin before you leave home. This is the best combination I’ve found.

insect repellent clothing
The best stuff I have discovered is the new insect repellent clothing

Insect Repellent Clothing From BUZZ OFF - Your source for insect repellent clothing featuring Buzz Off !

reminds me
of my first trip to B Waters. I was an adult chaperone to a group of teenagers. The first day was tough paddling and the kids hit the sack early while I stayed up and watched a full moon rise over Loon Lake. When I slipped into the steaming tent later, my own body smell hit me…Bengay lotion. I lay awake for hours fearing a bear would rip his way through the tent looking for that 220-pound peppermint patty he smelled. We all lived, as do the good memories. Nix on the pretty smelling anything.

Clean Campsite
The best way to keep the bears away, is to keep you CAMP CLEAN. I`ve been going the BWCA for 20 years and have yet to have a bear in camp.

bug avoidance…
Spray your tent, clothes and gear with Permithrin (available at Wally world, among places)…

Use Deet…I go with 100%…usually on the back of my hands…watch out, it’ll melt the plastic on your wristwatch…

If you’re good at it, put mosquito coils around your campsite…I’ve been in areas so thick with mosquitoes that I had to wear my Bugsuit (I like the ones made by Bugbaffler, myself) until I could set up the incense coils around the campsite…then, I was able to comfortably hang out in my bathing suit…I’ve used these all over the world and they work if used properly.

As for bears, keep a clean campsite, hang your food and,if push comes to shove, blow your portable foghorn at them…the noise freaks them out…

warning on Permithrin
If this is the permethion that you spray on clothing, not the skin: MAKE SURE YOU LET THE CLOTHES DRY THOROUGHLY BEFORE WEARING.

At least overnite. I used it one time and didn’t leave enough time for drying (it was dry to the touch, but not completely). I must have absorbed some through the skin, I thought I was going to pass out. I was nausious, light headed and getting disoriented. Then I thought about the drying warning, took off the clothes and came around in a little bit. And I had let the clothes dry a couple hours before donning them. It was scary, kinda felt like I was back in the '60s again.

Have fun, go in the fall - no bug worries :slight_smile:

More questions
I don’t mean to hijack your thread Steve, but I’d like to ask a few BWCA questions of my own. I’ve heard that canoes need to be registered in BWCA, but my home state does not register canoes…how to handle this? Also, what other permits are needed? Remote border crossing? Park entry? Anything else?


Canoe Registration
The reason your canoe needs to be registered in the BWCA is not a National Forest Service rule but a Minnesota one. Minnesota will recognize other state’s registration, that is, if already registered in another state that is good enough for Minnesota.

If you state does not require registration, you can check to see if they allow voluntary registration. You might want your state to get your money rather than Minnesota. However, sometimes your state can be more expensive or may require large block letters to be placed on the hull. In which case you may choose to register your canoe in Minnesota. It is a fairly small sticker and costs $18 for three years.

Be advised, though, that while you can renew a registration online, the first time you register a boat/canoe it has to be in person. You need to check when the appropriate office is open. Most go to the same place that vehicles are registered.

For the BWCA you need an entry permit. They must be picked up in person and not more than 24 hours in advance. They can be gotten at the rangers’ station or at area outfitters. You can make a reservation. Go to for more info.

The only other permit needed is a Minnesota Fishing license if you are going to fish.

The Remote Border Crossing Permit is only needed if you are crossing into Canada, such as going to Quetico. If you do, even for the day, you need to pay a Provincial Park day use fee and get a permit. If you fish, you’ll need an Ontario Fishing license. BTW, a Remote Area Border Crossing (RABC) permit takes up to 6 months to receive and costs about $60.

If you go to Quetico to camp, you’ll need an entry permit similar to what is need for the BWCA only from Quetico Park.

RABC Permits
Our RABC permits were processed and returned in about 3 weeks.