BWCA Any tips for first solo!? Boundary Waters Listening Point - General Discussion
Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* For the benefit of the community, commercial posting is not allowed.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Listening Point - General Discussion
      Any tips for first solo!?     
 Forum Sponsor



member (34)member
05/17/2022 10:55AM  
First solo in 6days. 7 day trip entering at moose-knife-kek-Fraser-Thomas-ima-ensign-tow out. I’ve been to the BW multiple times but being my first solo I’m reaching out to see if anyone can offer any last minute tips to consider before departure.

Happy voyaging

      Print Top Bottom Previous Next
member (10)member
05/17/2022 01:13PM  
I took my first solo last Sept. and had a blast. Here's a few tips in no particular order:

-- Trimming the canoe can be a bit more difficult. I'm assuming you are using a solo canoe? I found that placing my main pack just behind me and a smaller food pack in the bow helped level it out.
-- Going into the wind is much trickier in a solo. I had to readjust my plans on a particular blustery day. A kayak paddle probably would have helped.
-- Time at camp can seem longer. I'm always fine lounging in a hammock with a book, fishing, or doing camp chores, but you might want to bring something to keep you occupied if you aren't traveling long distances.
-- Camp chores take longer with only one person. I'd recommend bringing easy to cook meals. Decide whether you really want a fire or not.
-- Portaging can take longer too. I packed light so I could single portage. If you have to triple portage, account for the increased time in your travel plans.
-- If you get spooked easily, some people recommend bringing earplugs so you don't jump at every animal scratching around the campsite at night.
-- An inreach or other satellite communicator can give peace of mind for you and those at home.
-- Be more careful on slippery rocks. A twisted ankle is harder to deal with if nobody else is around.

If you haven't already, join the solo tripping subforum. Lots more tips there.
Have a great trip!
05/17/2022 01:25PM  
Make sure your spare paddle is easily accessible. If you have to make camp early bring some reading material. Otherwise take a longer break for lunch and make camp as late as possible. The trimming advise you got is spot on. If you have a slider seat utilize that to your benefit. In a stiff headwind shorten you paddle stroke and increase your cadence.
05/17/2022 01:27PM  
The transition from group to solo tripping is, I believe, mostly mental. It takes some time to adjust to being completely alone.
It is easy to get bored (so much of our time is social time) plan some activities to keep busy if you're stuck in camp.
You really need to be safety conscious and remember you are your only backup.
Solo tripping can be addicting you will need to budget time for an extra trip or two each year.
Read all the solo trip reports, tons of good advice and info there.
distinguished member(1051)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/17/2022 04:30PM  
1. Always know where you are. Always. Learn to use a map and compass if you don't know already. Don't rely solely on electronics.

2. Use the lee of points, bays, and islands to your advantage in big water or heavy winds.

3. Use the time alone to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it, on your schedule. Like others have said, bring a book. I try to buy books that interest me (obviously) with a lot of pages and very small print. The number of pages you can get through in a day may astonish you. I also tear out crossword puzzles from the newspaper and put them in the book. Sometimes gas station magazine racks have puzzle books with crossword, logic puzzles, and other enjoyable activities.

4. Consider bringing a small radio, shortwave is best in my opinion. Sometimes it's nice to listen to the world if only for a few minutes. I do want to keep up with the news. At nighttime, listening to radio stations across the country can be fun. You will also get weather reports.

5. Do your very best to think before executing a move like exiting the canoe, or walking on wet rocks. It gets slippery out there in a hurry. I have injured myself on two previous solos: once I was jumping on rocks on the shore of Spalding Lake. Before I knew it, I was on my back lying on a sharp rock perpendicular to my spine and just narrowly missed hitting my head. My body would not have been found for quite some time. More recently, I got pretty banged up slipping on multiple rocks on a solo to Fourtown. On the day I put in, I fell four times. My legs were very bruised and swollen. Not a good way to start a trip.

6. Please wear your pfd.

Lastly, be prepared that you most likely will become quickly addicted to soloing. Fortunately, there is no cure!

distinguished member (196)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/17/2022 05:02PM  
Go slow. Enjoy the quiet. Do what you want each day. Be flexible on your plan - wind and weather affect you greater when solo.

Don't bring a radio.

Bring books.
05/17/2022 06:23PM  
Solo trips are very individualistic in the way people do them. You already have experience in the BW so probably know a lot of the basic stuff - navigation, etc. If you haven't paddled a solo canoe, you'll need to watch trim. I always take 2 paddles (spare) - a double blade and single blade. The spare is strapped to the canoe. I don't go up there to do camp chores, so have simplified meals and rarely have a fire. I don't fish anymore. I have no desire to listen to a radio. I do take a notebook and pen, camera, sometimes a book. Boredom is not a worry for me. I was used to doing things alone, being alone, so that wasn't an adjustment for me.

Having that much alone time free of the pressures of the outside world is a rare opportunity these days. Enjoy it.

Be careful, watch your step, take your time, don't push your luck in wind, water will still be cold - have a plan.
05/17/2022 09:05PM  
Assess your "must-have" critical gear and bring an extra if practical. For example, you might want an extra pair of sunglasses or a second tube of suntan lotion or extra socks or a hat with a brim that folds up and stashes in your pack. Remember that 2 is 1 and 1 is none.

You'll do fine. I always enjoy my solos with the peace and quiet and the rhythm of any lake that I'm on. :)
05/17/2022 09:22PM  
All great advice from those above. One big thing I learned is resist the temptation to exit earlier than your original plan. I've done it twice and have regretted it.

Don't be afraid to talk out loud to yourself.

Get on your knees and lower your center of gravity if you get a tough wind.

distinguished member (196)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/17/2022 09:53PM  
One more thing:

Five star campsites are usually rated high with the assumption of a larger group and the need for extra tent pads, etc. Some of the lower rated sites are fantastic for solo travel, especially in a hammock.
05/18/2022 12:31PM  
I agree with CoffeeInTheWoods on campsites. Solo you just need one decent tent pad. You're not going to have "social hour" around the kitchen/fire area. It's a whole different vibe staying at a small, lesser-used campsite. Less likelihood of "messy" campers recently too.
distinguished member (211)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/18/2022 06:06PM  
boonie: "It's a whole different vibe staying at a small, lesser-used campsite."

Hear, hear!
05/18/2022 06:16PM  
Great advice from all. The only piece I can add is that on my first two solos I had way, way too much food. I find when alone I do not eat as much; not as much ritualistic enjoyment cooking for self as for a group.

You are going to have a blast! Be safe and let us know how it goes!
distinguished member(1439)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
05/18/2022 07:08PM  
I started solo tripping a couple years ago. Here are some things from my experience:

1) Bring both a single bladed paddle and a kayak paddle (break-apart style). The kayak paddle really helped if I had wind or current to deal with.
2) Entertainment was important. For me this means a journal, a camera, a book, and a deck of cards for solitaire. I find that when on a solo I get up really early, travel hard for about 5 hours before camping. This means I have a full afternoon to entertain myself around camp.
3) Like many others, I tend to eat a bit less when solo.
4) Have a backup map. Lost my map on a portage once and it was terrifying to think about how I would get out if I was unable to find it again.
5) Tie off your canoe whenever it is unattended. All it takes is a sudden puff of wind and you are stranded.
6) Travel light even if you plan to double portage. You will appreciate light loads if you are tired, hit bad weather, or get an injury.
7) Like others, I have had the best success trimming the boat by tucking my bigger pack directly behind my seat and using a smaller pack in front of me, and using it to make smaller trim adjustments.
8) Carry a ditch kit in your PFD pocket or in a fanny pack you never take off: matches/lighter, water purification tablets, knife, emergency blanket, energy bar, permit.
9) I always wear my PFD when I swim on a solo trip (and obviously when I am in my boat). I am extra safety conscious when alone.

HAVE FUN!! I look forward to my solo every year. You have a beautiful route planned.
member (45)member
05/19/2022 08:16AM  
I did a solo last sept which started much like your plan of moose, knife. Be aware that a fall on a portage will change everything in the blink of an eye. I don’t think you’ll have much down time cause everything takes longer. I did take a little to much gear but it didn’t hurt my trip. Personally I couldn’t do your route in the time you’ve got planned but I’m older and traveling fast is not my goal. I hope you have a great trip.
member (34)member
05/19/2022 06:52PM  
Thanks for all these great tips, it’s good to know I’m on the right track.
      Print Top Bottom Previous Next
Listening Point - General Discussion Sponsor:
Sawbill Canoe Outfitters