BWCA Newbie gear help Boundary Waters Gear Forum
Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* BWCA is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Gear Forum
      Newbie gear help     
 Forum Sponsor



04/23/2024 07:29AM  
Total newbie here. I’m sure this question has come up a lot on here, but with prices always changing, I’d like current answers.

My main question is, what are the necessities of gear and approximately how much is it going to run me? I will be going with a group that has gone before so all of the shared equipment will be provided.

I’m looking for help and recommendations of what personal gear I’ll need to buy. Any help and tips are appreciated.

Thanks in advance!
      Print Top Bottom Previous Next
distinguished member (142)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/23/2024 07:47AM  
Sorry, I misread your post. Really the only technical clothing you need is footwear, socks, and raingear. Chances are you already have everything else.

Footwear - search the forums for guidance here. Wet foot with amphibious paddling shoes or waterproof hiking boots...$100-200. But you can certainly manage with an old pair of sneakers that you don't mind getting wet.

Socks - Smartwool and Polypropylene Liners...$40 per set and you'll want two. These will keep your feet warm no matter what footwear you choose.

Raingear - if you don't already have a quality rain jacket, you can find advice on the boards. I take a NorthFace waterproof shell and rain pants I bought off Amazon. A disposable poncho isn't enough. If you are really on a budget check your local used clothing shop.

You'll want a synthetic fleece or wool sweater if you don't have one.

A lot of campers take nylon pants with zip off legs ("convertible" pants) but they aren't a necessity.

You can rent sleeping bags and thermarests from the outfitters (if your trip partners don't have extras) or you can buy used ones on FB Marketplace for a good bargain.

Check the outfitters' websites for their recommended "what to bring" lists. Most of it is already in your closet.

Have a great trip!
04/23/2024 08:03AM  
If your trip is in the summer don't bother with keeping your feet dry while traveling. The portage landings aren't very dry foot friendly plus the portages themselves can have stand water that you'll have to walk through. Often waterproof foootware will make you sweat making your feet wet anyway . For traveling have some trail running shoes or light weight boots like Keen Voyager and smart wool socks. Then have some light weight shoe and dry socks for camp. Most people bring way too many clothes. Have traveling clothes and a set of camp clothes . Your camp clothes can include 2 pair of underwear and socks, a shirt, one pair of pants and fleece, Your rain coat can be your wind breaker. As far a pants are concerned avoid jeans, and have nylon type hiking pants. If the forecast is calling for cooler weather. a polypro base layer is handy. Don't forget a hat and bug head net. Sure glad I had a head net on a May trip because of the flies.
04/23/2024 08:41AM  
Good advice already given, I will just add a few things.

Try to stick to synthetic clothes, they dry fast compared to cotton which soaks up water. If you are wet, you will be cold.

You really only need 2-3 changes of clothes and one hooded sweatshirt and rain suit.

Crocs, some people love em, some hate em. Despite their looks, I find them to be the near perfect camp and fishing shoe. They don't soak up any water so they dry off fast and they provide some cushion. A sandal may work too if it has some toe protection. Bring another pair of shoes or boots for portaging.

I prefer button down LONG sleeve shirts, or LONG sleeve fishing/swimming type shirts. The LONG sleeves reduce the amount of sunscreen and bug spray needed. Likewise, I don't pack shorts for the same reasons. I have been the newbie with sunburned knees, not fun.

I usually pack two hats, something with a wide brim, think Indiana Jones, but a bucket or straw hat also works to keep the sun/rain off your ears. I also bring a baseball hat, which I wear some days. If the weather is forecast to be really cold, I bring a winter hat.

Don't forget to pack a lightweight belt and sunglasses(polarized if fishing).
04/23/2024 08:44AM  
This is a loaded question because you can spend as little or as much as you want. Advice is going to depend on how long you are going to be out there, how much paddling and portaging you are doing, the difficulty of your route, time of year, and how much you are willing to pay for a certain level of comfort. Plenty of people have been there in jeans and tennis shoes and $3 ponchos. But most people prefer to make things more comfortable.

I think others covered the basics pretty well. Wool socks, good fitting footwear, lightweight clothing that dries quickly, sun and bug and rain protection. I love the pants that convert into shorts, though they have limited sizes available. For bugs Permethrin and Picaridin make for a lot less stink and mess than Deet. Rent a sleeping bag and pack and air mattress if you need to. Decent sunglasses that are comfortable to wear all day and a hat that covers your ears and neck. A waterproof floating bag for your phone and any other personal items. This is probably obvious for a canoe trip, but get into physical shape for it. You don't necessarily need a dedicated training regimen, but you should at least be able to easily walk several miles and have some upper body fitness, particularly your shoulders and core.

I spent quite a bit of money on my wife and kids last year to ensure their first time was as enjoyable as possible. I was only partially successful. Everybody had a good time but only one is going back with me this year. The others still prefer car camping.
senior member (77)senior membersenior member
04/23/2024 08:55AM  
You should be able to buy almost everything you'll need on sale or at discount. A few of my recommendations are:

Sierra - Online has a wide selection, but so do the stores at times. You'll find a lot of Klymit sleeping pads, dehydrated meals, sun-shirts, smart wool socks, sleeping bags, ENO hammocks, and small odds/ends.

Costco Next - Klymit brand is available on discount. They also carry cheap hammocks.

Outlet Malls - North Face and Columbia can be had at various outlet malls if any are nearby. A lot is specifically made for those stores, but sometimes there are nicer items available.

REI/Backcountry/Campmor - Browse the outlet sections or wait for the upcoming spring or memorial day sales.

Focus on the personal essentials already mentioned. Wool socks, pants, shirts, rain coat & pants, headlamp, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, chair, and drybags. You should be able to rent or rely on shared for most everything else.
distinguished member (330)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/23/2024 10:17AM  
You didn't indicate if this is a one-off trip or if think it is the first of hopefully many or if you do other types of outdoor tripping. If this is just the beginning of many for you I would put a sleeping bag on the list. A decent synthetic bag in the 30 degree range can be had for $100-$150. Won't be ultra-light for backpacking but fine for BWCA. I would add a set of dedicated poly long underwear for sleeping. Keeps the bag cleaner and eliminates some of the slick feel of many bags. The other item, a cheapie, is a billed cap that you can soak the bill with 100% deet. I find it works to keep bugs off your face well and can eliminate the need for repellant on your face.

If you do find yourself being a BWCA regular get a good personal light weight paddle.
Just consider the number of strokes you will be making and a few ounces less weight makes a difference. It will be an investment, but I am still using a paddle I bought almost 50 years ago.
04/23/2024 11:18AM  
Lot of different answers and idea's that is like a Ford or Chevy.
Yes people talk about going synthetic to stay dry. I for 50 years stuck with jeans. Why? More versatile and around a campfire your synthetic will be full of fire burns from sparks etc..
Raingear-all depends time of year, Shoulder season you need better quality. I like rubber 14-18 inch aprox. boots -Lacrosse. There is some off neoprenes work good.
Goretex hiking boots-no in my opinion you will be going over the top and yes goretex keeeps moisture out until you go over,but once wet they hold moisture in for a very long time. Cheap pair of tennis shoes around camp. Yes if it is July or August maybe wet foot.
You said your going with veterans,well there is your best source of info.
04/23/2024 12:24PM  
Thanks for all the excellent info. This will hone the first of many trips so i don’t mind spending a bit more for quality gear. I already have a super light weight hiking backpack and i was thinking of buying a hammock. I really like all the clothing recommendations for sure! Thanks!
04/23/2024 01:03PM  
Churst: "... I will be going with a group that has gone before..."

Spend a couple evenings with your group leader to review plans, expectations, gear, etc. He/she will provide valueable insight to your questions.
distinguished member(1455)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/23/2024 01:19PM  
16 years ago I brought the guys from our men's group for the first trip to the BWCA. We had no idea what we were doing so we found an outfitter and did the "full outfitting" package. The outfitter provided everything including the food and all gear. We brought nothing but our clothes and fishing gear.

The second year we rented canoes and some miscellaneous gear. AFter that we brought all our own gear except for the canoes.

What we did was after that first trip we "de-briefed". What worked and what didn't. Every year since we have done the same. Now 16 years in we have as good or better gear then the outfitters we use.

For a newbie, first time, find an outfitter where you want to enter and have them do a full outfitting deal. You won't regret it.
04/23/2024 02:27PM  
Churst: "Thanks for all the excellent info. This will hone the first of many trips so i don’t mind spending a bit more for quality gear. I already have a super light weight hiking backpack and i was thinking of buying a hammock. I really like all the clothing recommendations for sure! Thanks!"
Regarding your backpack. Sometimes Hiking backpacks with frames can be awkward in canoes
04/23/2024 04:49PM  
For $15.00 more or less, take a bug whacker for each tent. travel for it should include a plastic bag to keep it dry. Also, store in tent in that bag. When using in tent, come at mosquitoes from under them. No eyes under their wings. Best "cheap" investment I ever spent for trips.
04/23/2024 10:04PM  
Hey, Newb...Check your email.
And like pretty much everyone else says,
Don't wear cotton.
04/24/2024 09:38AM  
Gear link from the planning section

Here is a basic gear list from our planning section on this forum you may not need all the stuff and there is some group gear in that list.

If you're going to use a hammock for camping that's a whole new rabbit hole and may require a another thread on the forum.

distinguished member(1455)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/24/2024 10:18AM  
bwcadan: "For $15.00 more or less, take a bug whacker for each tent. travel for it should include a plastic bag to keep it dry. Also, store in tent in that bag. When using in tent, come at mosquitoes from under them. No eyes under their wings. Best "cheap" investment I ever spent for trips."

Or go in September
distinguished member (434)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/24/2024 01:25PM  
Lots of good info here. Items I bring that I wouldnt trip without:

Another Pocket Knife
Camp chair that folds up small
Canoe Seat
Crocs as a camp shoe (love them) and some sort of hiking sandal with a closed safe toe like Keens. Boots if you prefer.
Nylon hiking pants with legs that are removeable
Good HeadLamp
Small foldable camp saw
Good Fishing gear (if you fish)
Good Sunglasses
Bug net (ive only used it on like 3 out of 17 trips but on those 3, it would have been pretty miserable without it)

just my 2 cents based on 17 trips
04/24/2024 07:52PM  
Sent you an email with some general info I've sent to family and friends. Feel free to email me back if you have any questions or comments.
distinguished member (413)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/25/2024 09:54AM  
Buy a fanny pack that you can have quickly accessible stuff like sunscreen but also emergency gear like a compass, pocket knife, lifestraw, whistle, lighter, and more. If you dump you'll be wearing it.
distinguished member (163)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/25/2024 09:56AM  
If you are money conscious, as I was when I began, you can have an awesome camping experience without purchasing much. Some of my greatest memories were those early trips with heavy gear, cotton socks, and garage sale tents. I even built and portaged a 120 pound plywood canoe with paddles I made myself from 2x4's, because I already had the material and couldn't afford to rent! What a sight!

So don't sweat it too much. Get what you can afford and build your supply each time you go.

Start with your tent/hammock. If you get a used one, put a fresh coat of water proof spray on it. For 1 person, get a 2 person tent. For 2, get a 3 or 4 person tent.

Next is your pack. I now have an awesome CCS pack. I began with garbage bags stuffed under my seat! And then I got a garage sale pack. It's easy to pick something more than adequate up for 75 bucks on marketplace. I like a 70 liter.

Sleeping bag - whatever brand you get, I'd get a 20 degree for the summer and 0 degree for early spring or fall.

You'll need a mini cook stove. Walmart cheapo's do the trick. Rain gear. Pillow. Med kit (include finger nail clippers). Fishing gear if you fish. Shoes. One pair to get wet and one to keep dry. A pan to cook in and kitchenware to eat with. A knife. Clothes (Fancy stuff nice, but not necessary. I would get a pair or two of wool socks and pants other than blue jeans that dry quick. I bring two pairs of everything, including what I wear in.).

If you can afford to rent a kevlar canoe, that's great. If not, pick up a cheap canoe for $150 from marketplace and build your own portage pads for your shoulders. You'll need paddles and a life preserver too. I hauled a 90 pound canoe up to Iron Lake on a gorgeous trip just 8 or 9 years ago. I now own 2 kevlars.

If you have nothing, it can be pretty pricey to get all top quality gear immediately. Of course, if money is no object, go for it!
      Print Top Bottom Previous Next
Gear Sponsor:
Fishell Paddles