How many packs for a Week?

I been readin’ Jacobson, and he seems to carry a lot of extra/heavy stuff. How many duluth packs do you carry? And, what do you think of Frost packs?

Depends on your camping style …
If you’re planning on single portaging, three packs is the absolute max. Two of them must be relatively small because you’ll be carrying them in addition to a big pack or the canoe. Not hard to do if you think like a backpacker, but I cheerfully admit to be a double-portage type of person.

When we go with 2 adults, 2 kids we take 2 canoes, 4 big packs (one #4 with sleeping bags and other lightweight stuff, 3 #3s with the rest of the gear) and a couple of day packs with fishing gear, lunch, and miscellaneous stuff. This gives us a roomy tent, a screen-room tarp (VCS16), good cooking gear (I enjoy outdoor cooking), 2" thick thermarests, 2 small folding chairs (hey, I said I wasn’t a backpacker any more ), etc. There isn’t any “best” way; it depends on your style.


Lemme get this straight…
on a single portage, you would carry a #3 AND the canoe? Or do you both wear a pack, and carry the canoe together? On a double portage, I assume you carry the canoe and one pack up, then just backtrack and pick up the other packs. Sounds like three packs to me, unless I could carry a pack AND the canoe.

‘Frost’ packs = ‘Frost River’ packs?
Do you mean Frost River Packs? Cliff Jacobson has a review of portage packs in the March 2004 issue of Canoe & Kayak, and it included a description of Frost River’s “Lewis and Clark” pack (I think it’s the same as a Duluth #4 pack). He liked it and thought it was very well made.

I have two ‘Frost River’ packs. Jacobson says Frost River used to be known as ‘Field Station’, but the brand name on my packs is ‘American Outdoorsman’. I’m sure it’s the same brand, however, because the company was founded by a former top dog at ‘Duluth Pack’, just as is true for ‘Frost River’. Also, they still sell these packs at Rutabaga and the name on them now is ‘Frost River’. I have a #2 and a #3, and they are basically identical to the #2 and #3 Duluth packs, so they should last a lifetime. This may be irrelevant, but I must admit I really do like the old-fashioned appearance of the new ‘Frost River’ packs. They look like something your grandfather might have been comfortable with (only my smaller pack has this traditional look; the other is basic green canvas).

2 people; 2 packs
We pack to single portage. My wife and I will get our sleeping bags and pads, spare clothing, toiletries, camp shoes, first aid kit, rain suits, fleece jackets, dining fly, stove, and the cook kit in a #3 Duluth pack and this pack will weigh roughly 45 lbs. I usually have to sit on the top of the pack to buckle the flap. I carry this pack and the canoe. She prefers a frame pack for carrying the food, with plenty of outside pockets for rope, fuel bottles, saw, wind screen, head lamp, water filter, collapsable pail, and other small camp items. The tent is also bungeed to the bottom part of the frame. With a weeks worth of food, this pack will weigh in at about 65 lbs. Life jackets, fishing gear, crazy creeks, and spare paddle are all lashed securely inside the canoe and ride there when portaging.

we take 3
The two of us in one canoe take three packs. I figure we will double portage so that is a canoe for one person and pack for the other on the first portage trip and a pack for each person on the second trip. Given it is a canoe trip we take a few extras (as opposed to backpacking) so that calls for three packs. In our hands when carrying packs are the fishing rods, paddles (unless I strap them in), and camp chairs. Life jackets are zipped around the canoe seats. We figure we have empty hands so why not take the chairs.

I do it exactly the same. I figure double portaging. For two people that works out to 3 packs and a canoe. There have been occasions when we have had fewer, say a daypack in place of one of the larger packs. Then the canoe carrier takes the daypack as well. In that case we simply take turns on who has to go back for the other pack.

When portaging, try to eliminate the loose stuff. Try to get everything in a pack. Fishing poles and paddles we lash (velcro or bungie) to the inside of the canoe.

Frost River packs are great. Every bit as good as Duluth only they are brown instead of green.

Do not carry the canoe together
Using two people to carry a canoe on a BWCA portage will be 100 X harder than one person doing it. Some folks do indeed carry the canoe and a #3 pack … young strong folks (which doesn’t describe me). It is not so much the actual weight but the terrain. I could probably carry a canoe and pack down a park trail without much difficulty. But BWCA portages are not park trails. They are rooty, rocky, muddy, slippery, steep, … You gotta be careful out there! Still, if you find you’re OK carrying a canoe and pack, go for it.

For the same reason, don’t carry a pack on your back and front. Some folks do that, but then you can’t see your feet and there are just too many tripping hazards. If you feel you have to carry two packs at once, but the second pack on top of the one you’re wearing.

Usually 1 Food, Two Gear
I used to “Single Portage” with two packs or 1 pack and a canoe, but as my back, legs, and knees get older I find “Double portaging” more to my liking. Takes longer, but as KenE said, many of the portages are very rough and/or slippery. An injury out there could turn into more than just an inconvenience! As for the Frost River packs, I’ve never seen one up close. I understand that some of the employees were at one time employed with the Duluth Pack company, so I would expect quality. Another fine pack is made by Superior Pack Company, you might check them out. Also, if you take fishing rods and tackle, get a case for rod and reels and small tackle pack (mine is nylon) and carry the gear in your pack to eliminate the chance of leaving it at the portage. And, if your tackle pack smells “Fishy,” carry it in the food pack. WW

No Good Way
I agree with the late Bill Mason: “Portaging is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. It feels so good when you stop.”

We’re of the “double carry” school…and I always get stuck with our 70 lb Prospector. I carry this all the way while my wife takes one pack half way, drops it, then goes back for the second. I get the first pack while she finishes the trip with the second. So instead of doubling, we do 1.5 trips each.

Camp gear is kept in a frame pack, for all the resons stated in an earlier posting…with the “must stay dry” stuff in a Cascade Designs bag.

Several folks have told me it’s time to get a wheeled canoe cart…but Ive watched too many people struggle with them, trying to get over rocks & roots. I just carry slower, rest more and enjoy the bug feeding frenzy.

Just say no to carts
Unless you spend a LOT of time in areas that have well worn portage paths, leave the portage carts at home . Better yet, avoid such areas in the first place. Rocks, roots, sharp turns , and steep hills all conspire to make them of dubious value in most tripping areas IMO .

And if you’re talkin’ about the BWCA, carts (with extremely few exceptions) are illegal. But even if they were, as others have stated, they’d be pretty useless anyway.

This question is difficult to answer in that it depends on where you are going, what you plan on doing when you get there, and who your partner is, if you have one.

When I pack for my wife and I, I need to think light. A pack should not weight more than 1/3 of your body weight. Since my wife weights 130, she can carry two 43lb packs (double portaging).

I weight 205, I carry a 70 pound pack solo and a 40 pound pack with the canoe.

(I am using extreme/measured amounts to aid in explanation although our packs are a little lighter typically and usually we just use a fit to comfort approach to weight)

If I go with a buddy, who lets say is my weight. We can bring 55 pounds more gear. What we want to do with that is up to us. If it’s warm and we plan on doing a lot of paddling and checking out lots of lakes, we won’t even approach our maximum weight limits. If its spring and we are taking a fishing trip, limited portaging, we will have lots of gear and lots of good food.

It all depends on what you want to do and how you want to pack. Generally speaking, the 3-pack rule is pretty good. 1 food pack, 1 gear pack, 1 clothes/gear pack. The size/weight of these packs depends on the factors listed above.