Island on Grassy Lake (credit:
MEASURED AT ELY, MINNESOTA
What It Costs
The surcharge for the CWT courses is $600.
Participation in the Cornell Wilderness Term involves
certain obligations and certain risks. The required Acknowledgment
of Risk and Release of Liability affects your legal rights.
Read it carefully before you sign it.
What to Bring
For Life at the Field Station: The Wilderness
Field Station is rustic. Students live in a two-story dormitory without
heat or plumbing. There is an outdoor wash station. Staying clean involves
swimming in Low Lake and/or every-other-day saunas. The Field Station
has an old wringer washing machine, but no clothes dryer. Bring what you
will need. You should assume that there will be no opportunity to shop
while you are at the Field Station.
- Necessary or Very Useful:
- warm sleeping bag and pillow
- flashlight or headlamp: there is no electrical power overnight
- casual clothes such as jeans, shorts, T-shirts and sweatshirts
- swimming suit and towels
- rain gear
- boots or sneakers that you're willing to get wet
- personal medications & toiletries
- water bottle (and perhaps a large plastic mug with lid for
around the station)
- textbooks and other academic supplies
- recreational reading
- personal snacks
- fanny pack, bookbag, or day pack
- utility knife or multi-tool
- camera gear
- fishing gear: Minnesota fishing license required
Field Station Duds (credit David
For Extended Wilderness Travel: If your
course includes an extended canoe trip, you will want gear to keep you
warm and dry when continuously exposed to the elements. The following
recommendations on camping/canoeing clothes come from Craig.
- 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: You need something that you can wear in and out of the
water, which will give you feet enough protection for lugging reasonably
heavy loads over reasonably rough terrain. Some modern voyageurs
insist on high-top leather leather boots, some get along fine with
an old pair of sneakers. 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. 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. All socks are not created
equal. Here are the possibilities from best to worst.
- Modern Merino wool socks stay warm when wet, resist stinkiness,
and don't need liners, but they don't dry as fast as synthetics.
- Modern hydrophobic synthetic fiber socks dry relatively quickly
and don't need liners.
- Rag wool socks (the kind that feel rough to the touch) stay
warm when wet and resist stinkiness but generally require a
synthetic or silk liner stock to prevent blisters.
- No socks at all. Not recommended but better than what follows.
- Cotton socks are an invitation to unspeakable misery, and
should be forbidden by intergalactic law.
- Gloves: Fleece or leather to protect from blisters as well as
- Hats: The ideal wilderness hat should shed rain, deflect sun,
and be capable of being stuffed in a pocket. You may 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 on rocks.
- 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, flip-flops, 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
may 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 Repellent: 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 skin cancer.
- Soap: Biodegradable backcountry soap like Bio-Suds, Camp-Suds,
or good old Ivory Soap.
- Toothbrush & toothpaste.
September on the Range
River (credit Craig Allin)
- Personal medications.
- Hand Towel: I prefer two or three Handi-wipes. Volume & weight
are negligible, and they dry quickly.
- Personal water bottle.
- Lightweight flashlight or headlamp.
- Notebook and writing device.
- Paperback recreational reading.
- Canoe Paddle or PFD: If you happen to have one you prefer to
- Personal bowl & eating utensils.
- Skin Lotion
- Utility knife or multi-tool.
- Camera Gear: 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 expert advice.