A couple of summers ago, my son and I took a trip to Northern Tier Canoe Base in Bissett, Manitoba, Canada. It was the trip of a lifetime for both of us. We canoed over 80 miles in ten days. Outfitting ourselves for this trip took months of research and planning. The following will include an explanation of the planning process for the trip itself including the gear we outfitted ourselves with for the trip.
Our troop had previously taken a trip to Northern Tier and canoed the boundary waters. We decided to venture a little further north and take the canoe trip out of Bissett. One thing different about this trip than the other canoe trips at Northern Tier is the fact that you have to take a float plane from Bissett to reach the Boy Scouts canoe cache located on the appropriately named Scout Lake. The flight from Bissett to Scout Lake is about thirty to forty minutes long.
The float planes are not operated by the Boy Scouts of America, so you have to reserve your own float plane to make the short trip to Scout Lake. We chartered our float plane through Blue Water Aviation. They fly hundreds of scouts each summer to Scout Lake and pick them up for the trip back to Bissett when their days on the water have concluded. Because a lot of their business in June, July and August is dedicated to shuttling scouts, we found them to be very accommodating.
If you decide to make the trip into Canada, you are now required to have a valid U.S. Passport. You'll want to make sure everyone in the crew takes care of this early as it can sometimes take a couple of months to have a passport issued. One things for sure, if you don't have a passport, you don't go on the trip.
Since our troop is located in Texas, driving was not an option. We flew from Houston to Minneapolis/St. Paul and caught a connecting flight to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. We spent the night in Winnipeg at a local hotel and then caught a shuttle the next morning for the three hour driver to Bissett where the Canoe Base is located. When making arrangements for the shuttle service, shop around because prices vary. Make sure you coordinate your departure time from Winnipeg with the check in time at the base so you are not late. Also, keep in mind your return flight schedule and make sure you coordinate your departure time from the base to Winnipeg so you have plenty of time to catch your flight back home. So, when making flight arrangements for your trip and reservations for the shuttle, make sure your have plenty of time for both.
Once we had our trip booked with the BSA Canoe Base, we made all of our travel arrangements, flights, shuttle, and hotel reservations. It's best to make all of these arrangements as early as possible so you don't have to worry about any conflicts with any of these three critical components of your trip.
The next thing we focused on was the gear for the trip. You need to keep in mind when planning what gear to take that it is critical that you only take what is necessary and the necessary gear is the right gear. Each scouts gear for the trip, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothing and personal items should all be able to fit into a five gallon bucket. So you know right off the bat that some of the sleeping bags that some scouts have are going to be way too bulky for this trip. I found this to be the most labor intensive part of the trip for me as I like to research everything before I make a purchase.
One of the first and most critical items to purchase was footwear for the trip. I did a lot of research on the type of footwear that would be best suited. Some recommend jungle boots and some hiking boots. Prices start at about $40.00 and go up. One thing you want to steer clear of is a cheap pair of footwear as it will likely not hold up for the duration of the trip. I found a pair of boots at Cabelas that I purchased for me and my son. The boots I purchased were Cabela's Bone Sneaker. They are reasonably priced and they held up very well as they are designed to be in the water. They have good ankle support and tread that works well with the terrain. Below are the boots we wore. If you click on the picture, you can read all of the specifics and even place an order if you would like. Order them in your regular shoe size.
With your shoes, you can either wear wool socks or some type of neoprene socks. I purchased a pair of SealSkinz Water Blocker socks. They are a waterproof sock that is no thicker than a regular cotton sock. I wore these socks during the day while canoeing. I was skeptical at first but found them to work extremely well. They kept my feet warm and dry over the entire ten day trip. You can click on the picture below to read all specifications and purchase.
You will need to take a shoe to wear after you get off the water for the day. Some of us took tennis shoes and others took Crocks. I believe the Crocks work best as they allow your feet to breath. They are especially good if you choose to not wear some type of waterproof sock during the day. Boy Scout rules apply at canoe base....no sandals or open toe shoes.
For your clothing during the canoe trip, you will need two shirts, two pair of zip off pants, two pair of compression shorts/underwear and a wide brim hat. The two pair of each provide you with a set of wet clothes to wear while on the water and a dry set for after you come off of the water at the end of the day. I would recommend wearing some type of quick dry clothing for both the shirts and pants. Cabelas has a nice selection of those both in name brand and Cabela's brand. I purchased the Cabela's brand as they were less expensive than some of the name brands. I would recommend that the shirts be long sleeved as they help keep the mosquitoes and black flies from biting as much. Trust me when I say you need something to keep the bugs away. I would also recommend some type of head net to wear that will cover your whole face when not on the water. Since your in bear country, repellent is not allowed on the trip as it is a smellable.
For your sleeping gear, you will need a sleeping bag and sleeping pad the compresses very small. I used a mummy bag that weighed no more that 1.5 lbs and rolled up to about 12" long and 8" wide. For the sleeping mat, I purchased an REI brand mat that you would fold in half length wise and roll up. Remember, all your gear, clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and personals should fit in a five gallon bucket.
To keep everything dry, we used medium waterproof compression sacks. We bought these big enough to stuff our sleeping bag and dry set of clothes in. These made the packing of gear very convenient in the mornings while packing up. If you decide not to purchase one of these, you can use gallon zip lock bags for your clothes and line your sleeping bag stuff sack with a small trash bag to keep them dry.
That about does it for the gear each individual will need to bring. As a crew, you can share personal items like tooth past, so everyone does not need their own tube. Each scout will need his own tooth brush, medication etc. I would also recommend sunglasses to wear during the day as the sun reflecting off of the water is bright.
All of us on the trip brought our own rod and reel for fishing. We had rods that broke down into two pieces and spinning reels. We would take the reels off of the rods while canoeing and pack them in the packs and then used broke all the rods down and tied them together for easy carrying. Make sure all who want to fish, bring a rod and reel. Once one person catches a fish, all want to catch a fish. The two types of fish you will encounter the most are pike and walleye. Any type of spinner bait that is flashy will work for the pike. Fish along grass lines near the bank for them. For the walleye, we used 1/4 oz jig heads with small plastic grub worms. The regulations in Canada require the use of barbless hooks. All you have to do is take a pair of pliers and squeeze the barb closed. Fishing in Canada, does require a Canadian fishing license. All parties over the age of 16 will need one if they intend to fish. Those under 17, can fish off of the adults license, but the number of fish that you can keep is limited to one limit per license regardless of the number of people fishing under that one license. Before we went on the trip, I purchased a book on how to catch Walley!, it was well worth the investment and paid off handsomely. We enjoyed a couple of fried fish meals on our trip which was a welcome change from the dehydrated food.
If you have all of these items, you will have all you need. I promise, it will be one of the most memorable trips you will have. For the adults going, make sure you get about six months of exercise before you go as this trip is a very physical trip and is not for someone who is out of shape.