What to Expect
LOCAL TEMPERATURES AS MEASURED
AT ELY, MINNESOTA [Today's
What to Bring
The short answer is a sleeping bag, clothes, personal effects and academic
supplies sufficient for a couple of weeks in the North Woods in September.
Typical casual clothes (jeans and sweatshirts) will suffice around the
If your course includes an extended canoe trip, you will want gear to
keep you warm and dry when continuously exposed to the elements. I have
prepared the following list for canoe tripping based on advice for summer
visitors to the Field Station (adapted for September) and my own experience
in the BWCAW. --- Craig Allin
Necessary or Very Useful:
- Sleeping Bag: The weather data (see above) indicates
that frost is unlikely, but obviously you should be prepared for overnight
lows around 40. Most any down or synthetic fill sleeping bag should
do the trick, if you have a pad to keep you off the ground. Mummy style
bags give the highest warmth to weight ratio. If you have a non-mummy
bag, or don't like being mummified, you may want to wear your wool or
fleece stocking cap or balaclava.
- Sleeping Pad: Closed cell foam like ensolite or an
inflatable foam pad like a Therm-a-rest will soften your bed and provide
valuable insulation under your sleeping bag.
- Compression Stuff Sack: Big enough to hold your sleeping
bag and all the clothes you're not wearing.
- Dry Bag: To protect things that need to stay dry.
A couple of freezer weight, gallon size zip lock bags and a couple of
heavy weight garbage bags should cover all the contingencies.
- Boots: one pair with sturdy soles and cut high enough
to provide a reasonable ankle protection. Modern voyageurs have generally
worn leather boots, but newer models which have more man-made materials
will absorb less water and dry more quickly. You will be wading with
your boots on. Never go on a trip with new boots; make sure yours are
thoroughly broken in before September.
- Socks: You will need two pairs of socks. I like to
think of them as the wet pair and the dry pair. Wool socks are traditional,
but generally require a synthetic or silk liner stock to prevent blisters.
Modern hydrophobic synthetic fiber socks are better, and can generally
be worn without liners. Cotton socks are an invitation to unspeakable
misery, and should be forbidden by intergalactic law. Wear your wet
socks during the day; they are going to get wet anyway. Save your dry
socks for dry camps and to wear inside your sleeping bag.
- Gloves: Fleece or leather to protect from blisters
as well as cold.
- Hats: The ideal wilderness hat should shed rain, deflect
sun, and be capable of being stuffed in a pocket. You'll probably want
something to keep your ears warm if it gets chilly, e.g., wool or fleece
stocking cap or balaclava.
- Swim Suit: For modesty while soaking in lake or sunning
- Belt: Nothing beats a nylon strap with a plastic buckle.
- Camp shoes: If the campsite is dry, you will want
something to wear around camp other than your wet boots: moccasins,
mucklucks, sandals, sneakers, etc. The less they weigh and the less
space they occupy the better. Of course, this principle applies to everything
you need to carry.
- Pants: I am a big fan of nylon convertible pants.
Nylon pants get wet, but they don't stay wet. Convertible pants allow
you to zip the muddy pant legs off and wash them while you continue
to wear the shorts.
- Underwear: Non cotton is better than cotton. In September
you will probably appreciate having a pair of longjohns and a long sleeved
T-shirt made out of Thermax, polypropylene, Polartek or similar synthetic
- Shirt: Make sure you have a long sleeved shirt, preferably
made out of something other than cotton. If this list is turning into
a tirade against cotton -- your favorite fabric -- here's why. Cotton
absorbs water very easily, and dries very slowly. When cotton is wet,
it is extremely heavy and has virtually no insulating value. Conditions
in the Boundary Waters in September are likely to involve both some
cold and some wet.
- Jacket: You need something to keep you warm. The traditional
garment is a wool sweater. Wool has the great advantage of retaining
much of its insulating value even when wet. Modern fleece garments improve
on wool by being hydrophobic. Down garments provide an excellent ratio
of warmth to weight. They do not absorb water easily, but if they become
saturated they become useless. In short, down is a great choice if you
protect it from rain.
- Rain Suit: A rain suit means pants and jacket: Water
resistant nylon or high-tech laminated fabrics like Gore-Tex. These
will keep the rain off and allow your own body moisture to evaporate.
Plastic rain suits are cheap, but they trap body moisture inside and
quickly fall apart. Ponchos
are traditional, but don't work as well. Raincoats don't work well.
- Insect Repellant: Frankly,
I doubt, you'll need it.
- Sun Glasses.
- Sun Screen: It's not going
to be high summer, but still invaluable in the long term effort to avoid
- Soap: Biogradeable backcountry
soap like Bio-Suds, Camp-Suds, or good old Ivory Soap.
- Toothbrush & toothpaste.
- Personal medications.
- Hand Towel: I prefer a couple
of Handi-wipes. Volume & weight are negligible, and they dry quickly.
- Water bottle (and perhaps a
large plastic mug with lid for around the station)
- Flashlight or headlamp.
- Notebook and writing device.
- Paperback book: for recreational
- Canoe Paddle: If you own a
paddle of which you are particularly fond.
- PFD: If you prefer to use your
- Skin Lotion
- Utility knife or multi-tool.
- Camera Gear: Strictly optional.
You'll want a dry sack to protect it.
- Fishing Gear: Only if you intend
to obtain a fishing license. Keep it minimalist. Consult Bob Black for
What It Costs
The surcharge for the CWT courses is $600.