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Cramwich
member (6)member
  
02/09/2024 07:29AM  
Hi All,

I'm dusting off this account as I plan my first trip into the Boundary Waters in fifteen years. Took thirteen trips in BW/Q between 1994 and 2009 and haven't been there since.
My sons are now 11 and 13 and I'm happy that we have a permit going in at EP#14 LIS mid-July. Looking to spend three or, more likely, four nights.

We have always planned and outfitted our own trips and while I didn't post so much, this board was a great resource. My questions to the esteemed community is what has changed in the last fifteen years that I should be planning for or adjusting my expectations as we make our plans?

Obviously the permits are in much higher demand. How has this impacted camp site availability or have the reduced number of permits helped to balance finding a site?

Bears certainly seem to be more of a concern than 20 years ago. We always hung our food, but admittedly probably not well. In more recent years, for our much more limited adventures locally in Wisconsin, we typically use a gamma-sealed 5gal tied to a tree. More concerned about mini and micro bears than black bears. I'm thinking that we'd upgrade that approach to a bear vault or ursack, but I've got to do some more online research.

We always used to use either Fisher or McKenzie maps. Are those still the go-to or are there other navigation-quality maps recommended?

These are just some of the questions that I have, and I appreciate any insight.

 
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02/09/2024 10:18AM  
Well, you got over the first new hurdle by getting your permit for where and when you wanted it. Yes and no on campsite availability. I think the pandemic brought in new, less experienced paddlers who put on less miles and camp closer to entry points....so it can be tougher to find sites on those lakes. If your willing to do some portaging and put some miles in, you'll be ok.
I use to hang but have moved to bear vaults. Seems easier, quicker and may be more effective if done right. Proper hang or vaults are the recommendation now.
I use to use Fisher maps but now use Voyageur and am happy with them. Buy them off this site.
Other than that, its the same trees, rocks and water.
02/09/2024 10:56AM  
After 15 years of trips I took a hiatus from 2016 until 2023. The biggest change for me was having a garmin InReach to connect with wife and kids and using my cellphone. My cellphone acts as a camera, book, light, clock and more. Previous to my hiatus my cellphone was left in the glovebox. Now it’s a multitool.

I still bring and use maps, but also use OnX to help navigate.
KawnipiKid
distinguished member (191)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/09/2024 02:01PM  
cowdoc:

I use to use Fisher maps but now use Voyageur and am happy with them. Buy them off this site.


+1!
pleflar
member (49)member
  
02/09/2024 02:56PM  
As others have noted, Voyageur maps are a step or two above McKenzie or Fisher maps. I'm a bit of a map nerd and I find that Voyageur are more up to date and detailed (e.g. PMA and fire boundaries, more recent/accurate portage info).

Truenorth's cloth maps are nice too but they are at larger scale (more like Fisher maps) and I have noticed a few mistakes (length of Thomas/Cacabic portage for example). I carry and use both as needed.
Deeznuts
distinguished member (496)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/09/2024 05:11PM  
Voyaguers for sure. I find the others don't have the desired detail.
We spent a week in ep 14 last summer and never had a problem finding a campsite. Shell was the busiest lake we saw, with most campsites being taken, but it was a Friday and a torrential downpour so that was to be expected. But in general, most sites we passed were open, which was a surprise as the EP was almost completely sold out for days before and during our trip. I think in total we saw maybe 10 other groups in that entire week. The groups we did see were not large, mostly 4-6 people. There was a few day stretch we only saw 1 other group.

I would not be worried about bears if you keep a clean camp and hang your pack. The ground squirrels were particularly persistent, though.
02/10/2024 09:11AM  
When you arrive at the BW after your 15 year hiatus...the waters will be bluer, the skies brighter, the smells more fresh and the fish at the end of your line will tug a little harder. Welcome back and enjoy the trip!

p.s. The portages might also be a little longer.
Cramwich
member (6)member
  
02/10/2024 10:31AM  
I haven't thought about an InReach. Cost/size/utility does seem to offer a pretty good value proposition. Maybe for a future trip if I were solo/only adult or if we were planning to be further into the interior. My buddy who is the other adult for our trip loves new tech/gear/gadgets so maybe he'll want to get one for this trip!
YetiJedi
distinguished member(1440)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/10/2024 10:36AM  
Congrats on pulling a great permit! I hope you and your boys have an awesome adventure! Welcome back. :)

Regarding bear options: the bear vault and ursacks are both quality products and make it so you don't have to hang anymore. I have and use both and you can read about lots of preferences/pros/cons for each. When I'm tripping with my daughters I usually bring both.

I've got all kinds of paper maps and always bring a set for the area. I'll second the cloth maps for youth - they seem much more likely to use them in my experience.
The garmin inreach is cool as it tracks my trip for inclusion on my journal later. It also helps my family back home track my route. Seems like there are more options in just the last few years so I don't know what the latest and greatest is but my inreach has worked well for the last half dozen-ish years.

Enjoy planning for that route - lots of great options!
Cramwich
member (6)member
  
02/10/2024 10:59AM  
Thanks everyone for tips! I've got a Voyager map already on order through the store.

Another thing that crossed my mind is that with the general lack of snow this winter, I'd guess we'll have a better than even chance at a fire ban come mid summer, so we'll need to plan accordingly bringing stoves and fuel. Done most of my cooking on stoves for a long time, but fried fish over a fire. Since i've never done it, any tips for cooking fish over a camp stove? I do like a cioppino, and would like to make a BW version, but nothing like a traditional shore lunch. Do people prefer a frying pan or more of a walled pot as I use much more frequently with a stove?


Cramwich
member (6)member
  
02/10/2024 11:14AM  
L/U Pauness and Shell look like they could get crowded, so this is good to hear. Right now, I think that we are going to target Lynx for two nights and then come back out, but keep options open for Shell or Hustler. Lots of good looking routes from #14 though, I can see why it is popular.
Cramwich
member (6)member
  
02/10/2024 11:18AM  
This very true on all accounts, although I don't want to admit the portage part! There is a lot of meaning in this trip to me. As a dad I need to balance that personal part with the recognition that my kids are their own people and don't need to do and enjoy things in the same way I do. Gotta keep that inner Clark W. Griswold in check while sharing with them a place where I had many formative experiences.
scottiebaldwin
distinguished member (194)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/10/2024 02:20PM  
Don’t overlook the Nat Geo BWCA East and West maps. The two maps cover the entire BWCA and being a Gunflint side guy, I bring the East version on every trip and find it’s the best map for daydreaming in camp or to take to the thunderbox for light reading after my morning coffee.
WonderMonkey
distinguished member(848)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/11/2024 02:48PM  
Glad you mentioned the Voyageur maps and others chimed in. I was planning on getting new maps and will give them a try.
WonderMonkey
distinguished member(848)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/11/2024 03:03PM  
Ah dang, just BWCA, not Quetico.
gravelroad
distinguished member(991)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/12/2024 08:03AM  
Cramwich: "I haven't thought about an InReach. Cost/size/utility does seem to offer a pretty good value proposition. Maybe for a future trip if I were solo/only adult or if we were planning to be further into the interior. My buddy who is the other adult for our trip loves new tech/gear/gadgets so maybe he'll want to get one for this trip!
"


I’ve had one for seven years and use it almost weekly to keep my wife posted when paddling solo on Lake Superior (12 months) and hunting, skiing and snowshoeing in areas with poor cell coverage. But I probably wouldn’t spend the money unless I planned to use it more often than you describe. YMMV.
gravelroad
distinguished member(991)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/12/2024 08:08AM  
scottiebaldwin: "Don’t overlook the Nat Geo BWCA East and West maps. The two maps cover the entire BWCA and being a Gunflint side guy, I bring the East version on every trip and find it’s the best map for daydreaming in camp or to take to the thunderbox for light reading after my morning coffee."


That is some serious cartophilia. :-)

And you’re right in your assessment of these.
Michwall2
distinguished member(1442)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
  
02/15/2024 08:31AM  
There are now 3 videos from the FS to watch before you enter instead of the one. As the group leader, you will get emails from the FS asking you to make sure that everyone has watched all three. And you will get another chance to watch #3 before you get a permit.

No drones in the BWCAW. Doubt you had to worry about those in 2009.

There is undoubtedly more cell phone coverage than there was in 2009.


 
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