First Trip to BWCA


I will be participating in my first ever trip to the BWCA. I will appreciate any advice offered.

The first item I am attempting to determine is what Kayak to bring.

Next on the list is footwear.

After that I know to take as little as possible. But what items do I take to get the most “bang for the buck.”

We are going as a group of 7. All but I will be using canoes.

Outside of a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, folding chair (the kind by ThermaRest that straps onto the canoe seat), flashlight and water filter what will I need? The other obvious is the dry bags.

Please advise.

Re:what to take
Do a search on “BWCA”.There are alot of good sites out there that have great gear check lists. Here’s one,

then you can decide what you’d use and what you wouldn’t.

have you
worked out a comfortable way of carrying your kayak across the portages?

Here’s a site to visit…
Go to You can read post or ask any question you like and get good answers. Also the site has maps, good trip information, and tons of other stuff… check it out.


Why a Kayak?
I think you will awe struck by the beauty and have a totally awesome trip!

Why are you taking a kayak when the others are taking canoes? A kayak is fine if you are on a big lake like Saganaga where there are no portages, but if portages are planned, a kayak can be a hassle.

Keep in mind that you more than likely will be portaging. The kayak you take will have to have a portage system. With the portages in the BWCA, a simple shoulder carry is not practical.

Portaging also means carrying your stuff. If it is all stored in smaller sacks in your kayak hatches, you’ll probably need a large packsack of some kind to transfer everything into for the portage. Of course, that means unpacking it at the end of the portage and putting it back in the hatches. With a canoe, you just lift the pack out; portage it; put it back in the canoe. No packing/re-packing everytime.

Another issue with a kayak is the portage landings. They are uneven, rocky, narrow. Getting in & out of a kayak is problematic on many portage landings.

Regarding footwear, I take 3 pair. One for portaging and paddling. These can be old sneakers, or hiking boots, or anything that has good traction for walking on slippery rocks, muddy trails, roots, hills, i.e., portages. These shoes will probably be wet. The second pair should be sneakers or mocasins, dry shoes to change into in camp. The third is for swimming, something like sandals or aqua socks. There is sharp granite and lost fishing lures in that water.

You said that you were in a group of seven and that the others were using canoes. I assume they are using tandem canoes because the limit is a total of 4 watercraft per group.

Aside from food you’ve got the basics, so you’ll survive. But to make it more comfortable I would suggest the following (not knowing what you already plan to bring):

fleece cap and gloves (even in summer)

Rain jacket

Bug spray (mandatory)


Good book for those rainy or rest days

Fishing gear

Compass and map (or copy of a map)

Kayak portage yoke

More bug spray

Personal first aid kit

Extra glasses, if necessary

It’s not complete, but gives you a start.

Have fun,


outfitter sites

– Last Updated: Apr-16-04 8:48 PM EST –

Like someone said above, go to an outfitter web site and see what they supply. That is a good guide on what to bring. Try Ely Outfitters or Sawbill Outfitters in the search bar. ASlso, given that youi will be in a yak and the others in canoes you will have something of a problem with portages and condensing what you are carrying in your yak into one pack. Of course, if the canoe people will carry your stuff .... I've seen some yaks with canoes on trips and all were having a great time. Finally, make sure all canoes and kayaks brought from home have a current registration. Either your states or get one before hand from Minnesota via the mail. All watercraft must be registered somewhere to be in MN waters. Heafty fine. If you need an address for MN let me know. I live in MO and just the other day registered my canoe with MN because they have relatively small stickers and no need for numbers on the boat.

so much
Bring Garlic to put in everything. The more you stink the less the bugs will bother you. Bring light weight button up shirts. You can roll them up open them up or cover yourself completely. Bring a dew rag or hankercheif. They have more uses than you will imagine. Bring a gerber multitool and a pocket knife. Bring a number of lighters to be sure you can get a fire going. Binoculars and a camera are great. Lotion for sunburns and lip balm for chapped lips. Nothing worse than cracking lips out where you cannot do anything about it. Sunglasses are a must. A good first aid kit obviously. Go to they are awsome and have some camping notes from Cliff Jacobson who is an expert on the BWCA.

While in the neighborhood
If your entry point is in the Ely area and not Gunflint I would be glad to loan you a Kayak portage Yoke . I live in Embarrass which is only 30 miles from Ely . Or if there is something else you need just give me a call while your up here. I’ll send you my phone number if you want it. Tony

Thanks to Everyone
I am considering everyone’s feedback.

I received some bad news though. One of the seven cannot make it on the trip. Now it would be unreasonable for me to bring my 'yak with an even # of travelers.


A week in paradise (in a canoe) will be worth it though.

Thanks again to everyone.