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Guest Paddler
10/08/2018 10:03AM
My first BWCA trip is quickly approaching. We're going for 3 days, 2 nights, 2 canoes, 6 people. Only two of which have prior experience up there. Weather looks cold and wet as of now. Can anyone offer up advice for those of us who are inexperienced while camping up there at this time of year? Also recommendations for locations/routes near Ely? Our tentative plan is to start at EP #14 and head over to Lynx Lake depending on feasibility.
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10/08/2018 10:32AM
You don't say exactly what days, but the forecast isn't great on any of the days. If it's not cold and wet, it's cold. It will probably be windy, which will make it feel even colder. Wind will increase the chance of a capsize, which at this time of year presents a real risk of hypothermia. Do not take unnecessary risks, paddle close to shore, be adequately dressed, have a "ditch kit" and a plan just in case. I wouldn't really travel far given the forecast. The general level of experience of your crew to deal with the conditions is unclear. You'll need good tents, sleeping bags and pads, and plenty of warm clothing in synthetic and wool materials (not cotton). Good rain gear is essential. Daylight hours are short this time of year. I hope that the 2 canoes are good, stable 3-man canoes, and that you won't be overloading canoes that aren't designed for it. If anything needs clarification, please ask.
distinguished member(1651)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/08/2018 10:32AM
1. Register here on the forum and read as much as you can.
2. Paddle close to shore, especially with any winds.
3. Read the recent thread about tipping over so you know why to paddle close to shore.
4. Get several Luci Lights. They are cheap.
5. Watch this short video, just in case. Video
6. Wear wool.
7. Paddle 5 minutes away from camp to find better fire wood.
8. Have a great time!
distinguished member(2301)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/08/2018 10:46AM
Lots of good points Jaywalker made.

Additional points
1. You're on a canoe trip not an all expenses paid resort trip so help out on portages and around camp and when cooking.
2. If you can't make it to Lynx then stop on Shell no need to push it with the lack of available daylight this time of year.
3. I bring a lightweight down coat for around camp if I get cold. Some people bring down vests but I like my coat since it has a hood that I can use when things are really cold.
4. If you can't tolerate wool then make sure you bring extra insulation layers on top of your base layer and make sure your raincoat will fit over all the layers you may have on!
5. I bring mittens that are fleece with a semi waterproof shell. Gloves just don't cut it for me when paddling in rainy, windy and cold days.
6. Make sure you have a plan if one canoe dumps in the lake.
7. Make sure everyone has survival gear ON them in case you dump in the lake.
8. If ever you want to use two forms of water protection to keep your clothing and gear dry it is on a Fall trip so pack your stuff appropriately. I use a contractors leaf bag for inside my pack as well as waterproof stuff sacks.
distinguished member(2968)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/08/2018 11:31AM
Bring a couple more layers of clothing than you think you'll need. There are a lot of great, non-bulky synthetics.

Have a good tarp - or two - to set up right way. And chairs.

Bring what you need as far as getting fires started.

Hot beverages.

Attitude - crappy weather shouldn't make it a crappy trip!

Footwear - everyone should have something dry, for just in camp wear.

Knit/fleece hat to wear while sleeping. Might have a very warm bag but can lose heat through head.

Be sure to tell us about the trip when you return!

10/08/2018 11:58AM
Rent a large 6 person tent to use as a evening gathering area , bring a coleman lantern, not just for light , it will heat up the space quite nicely. Don’t forget to vent the tent some. I camped up there last week when it got down in the low 20’s, and we were very content. Tarps are great, but if it’s windy you will appreciate the enclosed shelter.
distinguished member (126)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/08/2018 12:02PM
Lynx can be made in 4 hours moving at a good pace, i would plan on at least 5, however I would skip #14 and do a moose lake put-in with a tow up to splash, then hit Ensign lake, i think the wind on LIS can be a pain, i hit it both ways this year and it wasn't fun. Also, the portage to Shell is not exactly a short one, no real portages getting to Ensign, the portage from the trailhead at LIS is harder than getting to Ensign.

If you didnt want to pay for a tow to splash, then just be sure to get an early start on moose, if your against the wind it can be work.
distinguished member(658)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/08/2018 12:22PM
I'm a little torn on the 6 guys in 2 canoes idea when taking first-timers in colder weather. I would probably suggest 3 canoes in hopes of greater stability on the water. Plus if anything does happen then 2 canoes coming to the rescue is better than 1. The problem with that idea is that you said that only 2 have prior experience. If anyone else has experience paddling then 3 canoes would probably be better. I know some don't always agree with me on this topic but I am not a huge fan of 3 people per canoe. After all, if something happened to one canoe, the other is already at max capacity.

For the colder weather, remember that cotton is rotten and wool is so much better. Jeans are comfortable and warm, but if you get them wet then they will likely be wet all day. Wear synthetics and wool whenever possible. The only cotton I bring is my underwear and sleepwear. The sleepwear is fine because it goes in a dry bag and would stay dry even if submerged in water. Speaking of which, I recommend a dry bag for both your clothes and sleeping bag.

Remember the basics of summer camping as well. They are more important when the cold is a factor. You want camp shoes incase your main boots/shoes get wet. You want a sleeping pad that will insulate you from the ground. Starting a fire is harder, not easier in the cold so plan ahead and have back-ups. It gets darker earlier so have extra batteries for lamps/flashlights, and enough lights for everyone. You are going to want to have something to do for everyone after it gets dark too. You might be sitting in the tent taking shelter from the rain so cards and stories are a great idea.

Just make sure you guys are prepared so you can focus on enjoying yourselves. It's not like you can swing by the gas station to pick up something you forgot or thought you wouldn't need. On my first trip, I was the only one with real rain gear. Everyone else had ponchos, and they were a disaster. The 99 cent ponchos are decent for watching you kid play sports during a summer sprinkle. 2 guys had those and they were torn to shreds by the end of the first day of rain. The second day they were half duct tape and worse. I talked my buddy, the 3rd guy, into a $6 poncho and at least that stayed in one piece, but was almost worthless in the canoe. The thing was flapping around in the wind like a cape, we were on Beth lake at the time so we called him Beth-man. So get things that you know will work instead of the cheap option, which probably won't work and be a waste of money, and plan ahead for every possibility.

So long story short, dress warm in wool, down, or synthetics. Pack everything so that it is waterproof (you can't count on drying anything out). Don't under pack or buy cheap because you can't run to the store and cheap is just another word for flimsy. Plan on getting wet, because it is probably going to rain and you might fall in the lake. And do everything you can to stay safe. Falls, drowning and exposure are more likely to kill you than a bear or moose (rutting season) is, but that doesn't mean you don't plan for everything.
distinguished member(1143)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/08/2018 02:39PM
If you can get three (3) Wenonah Boundary Waters model canoes I would go that route. They carry big loads and are extremely stable empty or loaded. Going 4 - 5 hours in means that if it is miserable you have 4 - 5 hours back out which will seem like a lot longer. When you are tired and miserable mistakes are made and accidents happen because you aren't thinking about the task at hand and safety, you are thinking about it being over and what you are going to do when you get back to civilization. The other ideas so far have been spot on.

This time of year you will have the place to yourselves. You won't have to go far from the EP to find solitude or to get the experience. Base camp for those two nights. Do you want to prove that you can do it, or do you want these 4 newcomers to want to return again next year? Expect the worst, hope for the best, and have an easy exit/escape plan. Make sure that everyone is wearing their PFD's when on the water - NO EXCEPTIONS!

Cold is uncomfortable. Wet is miserable. Wind is deadly. Enjoy your trip and be safe.
10/08/2018 03:54PM
Lots already said. I just spent the last four days in the BW. It snowed, rained and was quite chilly. Make sure you have good rain gear. My muck boots were essential; I wouldn’t wear hiking boots. Bring wool type socks. A couple pair of gloves. My gloves got wet and thankfully I had a spare. Trees are still turning colors. Enjoy!
distinguished member (310)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/08/2018 05:44PM
Lots of extra hot beverages and soups.

Extra fuel to make them.

If you were planning on cooking on a fire, bring a stove anyway. You can get away with missing hot meals because of real wet weather in the summer, but not October.

For some reason people seem to think of fall as a dry season and maybe it is in the lower midwest and south. It is not my experience the further north you go.

Make sure all participants have good rain gear. Again, you can get away with marginal rain gear in the summer, but not October. It is also what will protect you from the wind, even if it isn't raining.

Warm layer for you legs. Maybe not to wear traveling, but for sitting around camp. Something warm and fleecey under rain pants is very comfy on a windy, cold day.
distinguished member(6817)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
10/08/2018 06:51PM
Good advice above.
Bring fresh meat. No problem in October.
I have not found it as risky as others have, but I have learned to never feel like I had to do something - like get across a lake.
I like the three tandems over two triples.
And I just plan so if it gets really cold, i wear all i brought. Has not come close.
And I still wet foot.
10/08/2018 09:35PM
Short days and long nights with without electronics can be tough on some people. Lots of time under the tarp and in the tent and when it is chilly and the wind blowing dressing right and having a good fire is important. Depending on how your group gets along you may want to discuss how the stress can bring out personalities. And alcohol can make things worse, there are no 911 services if someone falls down.
Finding dry wood this time of year can be an issue so plan on getting to camp in time to send out a crew to collect wood. A tarp to keep that wood dry and perhaps some good fire starter should be in the gear pack.
If you decide to go other than EP14 I would suggest Lake One or that area...the fire a few years ago left plenty of firewood.
Others have some great points, I wanted to emphasize the amount of darkness and planning to handle that. Some of my best memories come from huddling under a tarp in a chilly rain with friends, have a great trip.
distinguished member(9100)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
10/09/2018 08:56AM
So many great ideas. Apply them and have a fine trip.
Guest Paddler
10/09/2018 10:08PM
Thanks for the concern, but this isn't the first time camping without cell service for any of us, just our first time up in this particular wilderness area.
distinguished member(658)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/11/2018 10:46AM
Newcomer101: "Thanks for the concern, but this isn't the first time camping without cell service for any of us, just our first time up in this particular wilderness area. "

Do you have experience with canoe camping though? Being on the water with a fully loaded canoe in cold weather is a different sort of animal. Sitting down in a canoe while paddling is a bit different than hiking when it starts raining or the wind picks up. You are far more likely to get wet and you also have the possibility of falling in completely. It isn't that you don't know how to camp, though we did not know that before, it is that this time of year you need to be much more careful about everything because of the increased risk of being wet and exposed to the wind.

If you are aware of all the risks and know how to handle them then there shouldn't be too much to worry about. Just make sure you all know the proper procedures for paddling in a canoe. Learn the J stroke, how to get back in a canoe if you capsize, how to remove water from a swamped canoe and so on. I have been going to the BWCA for about 5 years now and I still refresh my memory on all that before going. You just don't want to have to try to figure out how to right the canoe while you are in cold water. This is another reason why 3 canoes are better than 2. Also tie up your rods when not fishing. It keeps them out of the way and if you do capsize then you don't lose them.
10/11/2018 01:01PM
Like A1t2o, it's not the camping beyond cell service or even the camping in cold weather, it's the paddling in cold water. I also find it useful to review Cold Weather Boot Camp from time to time.
Guest Wimp
Guest Paddler
10/11/2018 08:18PM
Good luck! My wife hates this kind of weather...and I must admit, this year even I have lost my taste for it, and it has never bothered me before. And I used to live in the Pacific Northwest! It's not only wet here right now, it's the worst possible temperature, right around freezing. I would prefer it from 10-20 degrees rather than 25-35 degrees.
distinguished member(849)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
10/12/2018 10:28AM
boonie: "Like A1t2o, it's not the camping beyond cell service or even the camping in cold weather, it's the paddling in cold water. I also find it useful to review Cold Weather Boot Camp from time to time. "

The link above is a must watch for anyone who trips when the water is cold. Thanks boonie.
10/12/2018 01:28PM
HayRiverDrifter: "boonie: "Like A1t2o, it's not the camping beyond cell service or even the camping in cold weather, it's the paddling in cold water. I also find it useful to review Cold Weather Boot Camp from time to time. "

The link above is a must watch for anyone who trips when the water is cold. Thanks boonie."

I thought the same thing when somebody first posted it.
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