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pileofleaves
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01/17/2022 03:23PM  
Hey! I am an avid backpacker who had his first taste of canoeing the BWCA this fall. (I hike Powwow a few years back and loved the challenge of it.) Last October, three buddies and I entered Snowbank (#27) and did 50-some miles through Knife, Kekekabic, Frasier, Thomas, Ima, & Disappointment. Loved it all - but Knife stole my heart.

Anyway, I'm a youth pastor by vocation and I have kids in my youth group who are begging to go to the BWCA. Now that I'm got some miles of canoeing under my belt (by no means an expert, but combined with my leading of backpacking groups), I feel confident enough to lead a group there.

What do I need to know when leading a "larger" group? I know group size is limited to 9 per campsite. And, honestly, 9 per site at some has gotta be tight! We will split campsites guy/gal (again, church youth group), getting campsites in close proximity. But what tips/tricks do you have?

Would their be any recommendations from you all regarding trips/locations? (Keeping green middle-schoolers in mind.) I think we would probably paddle in a ways and base camp for a few nights before heading back.
 
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ockycamper
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01/17/2022 04:07PM  
I am the men's director at our church and take up 12-18 men every fall to BWCA, split into 3 groups. Here is what we did:

15 years ago when we made our first trip we used an outfitter in Ely and purchased an all inclusive package. We just brought our clothes, the outfitter furnished everything else including food, food storage, cooking supplies, tents, sleeping bags, mats, and water filtration. That was our learning trip

The next year just rented canoes and brought our own gear. Over the next 13 years every year we do a "debrief" on what worked and what didn't.

If this is your first trip, I would recommend a good outitter and ask them for an inclusive trip so you can learn the ropes. That said, rent the kevlar canoes as they are much easier to portage. After that, the most important items that I won't leave home without is first aid kits for each camp, and water filtration. Third, keep the food simple. Go with dehydrated meals like you buy at Academy Sports or Cabelas, and bring single burner backpacking style stoves like a jet boil. You boil the water, put in the bag and just wait.

Lots of good ideas on the forums but the real pros are the outfitters. Pick a highly rated one and be honest with them about your experience and have them guide you.
01/17/2022 05:49PM  
It's not clear if you are aware of the rule that all members of a permit group must camp together at one site.
billconner
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01/17/2022 06:10PM  
boonie: "It's not clear if you are aware of the rule that all members of a permit group must camp together at one site."

I see boonie's take, mine was the other way - more than 9 cannot meet up or travel together. So 9 or less total and two campsites - 2 permits. More than 9, different routes and 2 permits.

Gaidin53
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01/17/2022 11:05PM  
Lots of good advice so far. You’ve done a trip so you have experience and you’ve covered some water. You’ll get a different price as a not for profit at pretty much all the outfitters.

I would say and I’m sure it varies but movement during the day meaning moving camps traveling helps to keep the kids from getting bored. We had one layover day this year on my family trip and my 16 year old son didn’t mind too much since we were in an amazing spot but His preference is to move. In fairness though on his first trip we did 75 miles in 6 days with NT so he’s grown to love the traveling. Something in between that striking a balance with a layover day in a nice spot would be a good balance.

The big thing I’ll say that I would never have believed prior to my learning trip with Northern Tier is plan on using three person canoes. If you have a group of 9 people in my opinion especially for groups like you are talking about you should be in 3 canoes. If you’ve got six people you should be in 2 canoes. Three people 1 canoe. Makes a huge difference portaging. Two people take packs and the third carries the canoe.

I know it was addressed but if you have two groups they need to be separate and not travel together or mix. Each group has its own permit. If it’s one group they should travel together and stay in one campsite.

Other big thing is on days we moved on youth type trip when we got up in the morning everything had to be packed and out of tent prior to breakfast. I feel like we might have had to have the tents down as well but I’m not as sure on that since sometimes you want to give them a little more drying time. It gets the crew moving and an early start on the water is critical in the BWCA or on any canoe trip.

Ryan
Gaidin53
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01/17/2022 11:33PM  
Also NO whittling! They can whittle at home and need bandaids. No whittling on canoe trips!

Don’t bring an axe or hatchet. Good to have a foldable saw with but I’d be thoughtful and give instruction on how to use it, You should have 1 pair of heavy work gloves with and they have to be worn when using the saw.

I’m also a huge believer in ankle high boots preferably draining. Ankle high boots or the wet boots should be worn while swimming. Lots of feet get cut or injured on the hard sharp rocks. No one should walk around in camp barefoot. Wet boots or dry shoes should be on if you are walking anywhere in camp. I was watching a Kevin’s outdoor video for Quetico falls chain. They had worked hard to get in from a weird spot not normal for Canadians during covid. His buddy was cooking by the fire pit and ended up with a huge treble hook stuck in his foot. Luckily it came out easy but could have ruined the trip on day one for them!

Ryan
OMGitsKa
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01/18/2022 08:53AM  
Don't be the double permit group that takes up an entire portage filled with 2 groups of 9. Sure have two groups but for everyones sake split up and don't form one giant party...
ockycamper
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01/18/2022 09:20AM  
Have fun taking your group up there. There is some pushback on larger groups you will get. However, I can tell you without some of the larger groups using the outfitters they would not be in business. Our group is the largest group our outfitter gets in September, as well as one of the largest groups they get all season and the check I bring up is several thousand dollars. Keep the group broke down by the guidelines, stage when you "shove off" and have a great time!
Gaidin53
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01/18/2022 09:28AM  
I love seeing the youth groups out tripping. It’s definitely the only way some of them will get that exposure.

Did I run into an obvious 3 permits youth group with like 10 to 12 canoes traveling together coming out of Knife lake on the portages last year. Yup sure did and they shouldn’t be doing that. That being said though I was glad they were out having a trip and looked to be coming out safely. We just figured out a way to get through them keeping our gear organized for the 2nd portage trip well away from the mess they had and portaged through. My eyes did open pretty wide though when I saw the herd with more and more coming onto the portage.

I think it’s great that you are trying to plan some youth trips!

Ryan
ockycamper
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01/18/2022 09:44AM  
I really appreciate your comment! Our group is made up of men, youth and young boys, typically 7 year old and up. If we don't take some larger groups up of youth and boys like that, they will grow up tethered to their phones and tablets like the rest of society.
01/18/2022 10:08AM  
Gaidin53: "

I know it was addressed but if you have two groups they need to be separate and not travel together or mix. Each group has its own permit. If it’s one group they should travel together and stay in one campsite.

Ryan"


Having coordinated multiple groups traveling at the same time, I suggest planning two separate trips and entry points. Otherwise, the natural tendency is to have the two groups morph into one in spite of the best intentions.
ockycamper
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01/18/2022 10:40AM  
This is what we do. Our groups end up on Red Rock Lake but take different routes and entry points. Our sites are also on opposite ends of the lake for this reason.
01/18/2022 11:01AM  
Following your idea of paddling in, staying awhile then paddling out a destination lake with several daytrip options might work well. Alice might work for that with daytrips to swim on the sandy beaches and to Fishdance to see the pictos and maybe sense a spirit about. Jumping cliffs are found on Fishdance. I find loop routes with stay overs and day trips also works well. The Moose to Knife then south through Kekekabic/Frasier and out though Ima to Moose is an easy five-day loop I have used to introduce newcomers. We stay on Knife, Frazier, and Ima. Revisiting areas you have travelled will help with confidence in planning and give you the special experience of how the same place can be different.
As mentioned, hanging around camp all day is not good. Group plan the trip and activities as you likely well understand. It is great to introduce newcomers.
ockycamper
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01/18/2022 12:20PM  
Having brought up lots of young people in the past, I would advise against the following activities:

cliff jumping or jumping off ledges into any water

walking around camp, canoeing, or swimming with no shoes on

wearing crocs or any type of loose fitting shoes on portages

allowing any young people without adult supervision to use a knife

leave all hatchets at home

And bring a fish hook extractor kit

(been there with first aid kits on all of these).
pileofleaves
member (5)member
 
01/18/2022 03:22PM  
Thanks for all the advice! So great to have a place like this to bounce ideas/suggestions/comments off of one another.

boonie: "It's not clear if you are aware of the rule that all members of a permit group must camp together at one site."

Bonnie, yes, you are correct. I know I will need different permits for the groups. Different campsites goes hand-in-hand with different permits. Thank you for spelling that out when I didn’t!

Gaidin: I sometimes forget about the not-for-profit status, so I will be nice to be able to use that! I’d be curious to hear more about the advantages/disadvantages to moving/traveling everyday (with all the set up/tear down) vs. base camping with activities/locations to hit each day. I suppose you ask 15 people, you’ll get 30 different opinions as to what is right!

As bhouse mentioned, sitting around camp is not good, so (if we base camped), I would have specific destinations for each group to visit each day.

And yes – knives/saws to a minimum with youth groups.

Ocky: My goal is to get students un-tethered from their devices for a few days.

And as OMGitsKa, TomP, and others have mentioned, no, I don’t want to be “that guy” or “that group”. I love solitude, too! Ocky, I like your suggestion of meeting a certain lake, but with different entry points and routes.

Thanks all for your great conversations! Keep it up!
MikeinMpls
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01/18/2022 04:22PM  
TomP: "Gaidin53: "


I know it was addressed but if you have two groups they need to be separate and not travel together or mix. Each group has its own permit. If it’s one group they should travel together and stay in one campsite.


Ryan"



Having coordinated multiple groups traveling at the same time, I suggest planning two separate trips and entry points. Otherwise, the natural tendency is to have the two groups morph into one in spite of the best intentions. "


This is an excellent suggestion. I can't see two groups being truly separated unless it is done this way.

Mike
schweady
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01/18/2022 05:20PM  
TomP: "Gaidin53: "


I know it was addressed but if you have two groups they need to be separate and not travel together or mix. Each group has its own permit. If it’s one group they should travel together and stay in one campsite.


Ryan"



Having coordinated multiple groups traveling at the same time, I suggest planning two separate trips and entry points. Otherwise, the natural tendency is to have the two groups morph into one in spite of the best intentions. "

Well said. Lots of church leaders don't immediately see the problems this can bring about. I was guilty of this more than once in the past.
01/18/2022 10:47PM  
schweady: "TomP: "Gaidin53: "

I know it was addressed but if you have two groups they need to be separate and not travel together or mix. Each group has its own permit. If it’s one group they should travel together and stay in one campsite.

Ryan"

Having coordinated multiple groups traveling at the same time, I suggest planning two separate trips and entry points. Otherwise, the natural tendency is to have the two groups morph into one in spite of the best intentions. "

Well said. Lots of church leaders don't immediately see the problems this can bring about. I was guilty of this more than once in the past.
"

Yeah, church group or not, if you have one group of teenage boys over here and another group of teenage girls over there, do you really think it will be easy to keep them apart? Either plan separate routes, or do a circle route with one group going clockwise and the other going counterclockwise. Then you will at least pass briefly once to say hello and can then move on.
JATFOMike
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01/19/2022 07:57AM  
Some outstanding advice so far!

As previously stated by several people, many outfitters offer "not for profit youth group rates". From my past experiences, the "rates" are competitively priced, however, the "amenities" included can vary greatly from one outfitter to another........make sure you find out what you are getting with the rate.......

A few other points to note with a "youth group" rate:
- rarely will they give you "ultra-lite" kevlar canoes.....you usually get aluminum, royalex/tuff stuff, or a heavy duty hybrid kevlar....kids are hard on boats....
- you will need a tax ID# for your not for profit youth group.....
- many outfitters require you to pay by check or credit card from the youth group account (church, school, scout group, etc.)....no personal checks or credit cards.
- youth vs. adult numbers must meet a certain ratio......in other words, you can't have more adults than youth in your group.....usually a 2-1 ratio or better is required......

Again, from my experience, if you can meet the outfitters requirements for the "not for profit youth group" rate, you will note a substantial savings on the trip!

Mike
pileofleaves
member (5)member
 
01/19/2022 11:21AM  
Do a circle route with one group going clockwise and the other going counterclockwise. Then you will at least pass briefly once to say hello and can then move on.

This is a fantastic suggestion! It separates the groups, but yet gives them interaction time.
pileofleaves
member (5)member
 
01/19/2022 11:25AM  
rarely will they give you "ultra-lite" kevlar canoes.....you usually get aluminum, royalex/tuff stuff, or a heavy duty hybrid kevlar....kids are hard on boats....

Absolutely! It's unwise to give kids nice toys! :) Aluminum is a great balance of lighter weight (compared to fiberglass) and durability.

youth vs. adult numbers must meet a certain ratio......in other words, you can't have more adults than youth in your group.....usually a 2-1 ratio or better is required......

Yes. For accountability sake, there would be at least 2 adults for a group, possibly 3.
ockycamper
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01/19/2022 12:33PM  
Several years ago an outfitter we used told us they had just bought new royalex canoes. A church youth group rented the canoes for a multi day trip. When they brought them back (not making this up) there were pans molded to the bottom of the canoes. Apparently them turned the canoes over, and put their hot pans on them like hot pads for a meal and couldn't get the pans back off without holing the boats.

Worst part of the story is that they didn't offer to pay for the canoes.
Gaidin53
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01/19/2022 07:15PM  
Oh my son and I are laughing pretty hard over the pans welded melted into the canoes. That was the entire crews fault though including any adults on that trip!

Kids are incredibly hard on gear. Tents especially!

The aluminums are pretty heavy canoes and it can be pretty tough even for the 14 year olds to portage aluminum. Younger than that it would be especially hard. They are much tougher and cheaper to rent though. They would also have survived the hot pan incident! ;)

Ryan MHS Spud 88
4keys
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01/19/2022 11:13PM  
<
"
Yeah, church group or not, if you have one group of teenage boys over here and another group of teenage girls over there, do you really think it will be easy to keep them apart? Either plan separate routes, or do a circle route with one group going clockwise and the other going counterclockwise. Then you will at least pass briefly once to say hello and can then move on. "

Badger Trails used to coordinate a hike/ camp weekend at Devils Lake for scout and church groups. The last year I took my Girl Scout troop there a Boy Scout troop was at the next camp site. After the evening dance my girls were suddenly tired and didn't want a fire & smores...at 10 pm. Yes, 2 of the girls were boy crazy. What the girls didn't know was that I zip tied the rear tent door shut from the outside and the moms and I stayed up around the fire till 2am watching the front door.
papalambeau
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01/20/2022 07:20AM  
4keys: "<
"

Yeah, church group or not, if you have one group of teenage boys over here and another group of teenage girls over there, do you really think it will be easy to keep them apart? Either plan separate routes, or do a circle route with one group going clockwise and the other going counterclockwise. Then you will at least pass briefly once to say hello and can then move on. "


Badger Trails used to coordinate a hike/ camp weekend at Devils Lake for scout and church groups. The last year I took my Girl Scout troop there a Boy Scout troop was at the next camp site. After the evening dance my girls were suddenly tired and didn't want a fire & smores...at 10 pm. Yes, 2 of the girls were boy crazy. What the girls didn't know was that I zip tied the rear tent door shut from the outside and the moms and I stayed up around the fire till 2am watching the front door.
"

Good job Ruth! You can be a chaperone for me anytime!
01/20/2022 09:55AM  
+1 on the separation of groups. If you are going to plan a rendezvous between the groups, try to do so on the water and not near a campsite or in a lane of traffic. This will keep it brief and not bother others.

You also might want to stay away from big water. With people that don't know what they are doing, you don't want to test them on big open water first thing. Maybe at some point of the trip, you can risk it, but if you have any wind at all it can make some rough waves. If you do need to cross a big lake at some point, plan on it being as close to dawn as possible. This is when the wind tends to be the calmest.

You are also going to want to plan rotations for different paddling positions. Find out who your strong paddlers are and who is good at steering. You might need to mix and match paddlers and canoes to keep everyone going at the same general pace. Having one canoe that is faster is not a bad idea though if you want them to be able to scout ahead. There are plenty of times that you aren't sure if a spot on the shoreline is the portage or if a campsite is occupied so having a scout group that wants to paddle ahead is useful.

Plan ahead of forms of communication. Bring a whistle, but try not to use it. No one like to hear other groups on their trips so a whistle should be for emergencies only and each camper should have one. Maybe bring a flag you can raise both at camp and in the canoe to call people in or tell them it is time to stop fishing. It is hard to get people's attention and communicate a clear message on the water. They aren't always looking and often only glance in your direction for a second if at all. Shouting or blowing a whistle is annoying for others and disrespectful so a constant visual signal like a little red triangle flag is a great way of signaling to multiple canoes. Maybe even have a colored flag for each canoe so they can ask for help without blowing their emergency whistle. Kids with fishing gear are going to be asking for help and probably somewhat often so an option other than the whistle would be a nice gesture. You could attach a flag to a fishing rod or use a clamp and pole method, just make it quick and easy for your own benefit.
pileofleaves
member (5)member
 
01/24/2022 10:28AM  
A1t2o: "+1 on the separation of groups. If you are going to plan a rendezvous between the groups, try to do so on the water and not near a campsite or in a lane of traffic.
...
You also might want to stay away from big water.
...
You are also going to want to plan rotations for different paddling positions.
...
Plan ahead of forms of communication. Bring a whistle, but try not to use it. ... Maybe bring a flag you can raise both at camp and in the canoe to call people in or tell them it is time to stop fishing.


These are some fantastic insights! I am planning on smaller lakes - maybe not as scenic, but hopefully to acclimate students. For many of them, this will be their first time doing a trip of this nature.

And I love the thoughts on raising flags for communication purposes! Much better than trying to yell across the lake or trust students to return by a certain time. :)

Our students are getting excited for this summer! Thanks again for all your advice.
pswith5
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01/24/2022 04:00PM  
I might seem like a curmudgeon but I think if your group is too big, take two separate trips. Beyond the temptation to gather, there is also the logistical nightmare of planning or organizing a really large group. You will likely need chaperones so you will have to factor that into your count. There is also the likelihood of last minute cancellations. Just so many variables if taking so many people. Just my 2 cents worth.
 
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