January 8, 2017

3 Items That Made a (Wet) Boundary Waters Trip Comfortable

Planning a portage trip to Northern Minnesota? Consider these 3 must-have items for a successful journey into the Boundary Waters.

When I was invited to go on a trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on short notice, I immediately said “yes.” I didn’t have a lot of time to pack, but in the end, between the three canoe-campers we had everything we needed and just a bit more for margin of error.

That ended up being a good thing—the weather wasn’t quite as accommodating as it could have been. We spent an over-anticipated amount of time in and around camp waiting for driving wind and steady rain to allow us to get back out on the water. The main tasks on those days were gathering wood, keeping the fire burning and, oh yeah, eating.

boundary waters gear

That time—while the least taxing physically—could have been the worst of the trip. But good company and being comfortable made it memorable for the right reasons.

Of the gear that I brought, here are three items that stood out on that trip, and especially on those days the rain socked us in:

#1 ENO Hammock and Rainfly

This one was a surprise for me. I generally sleep in a tent, and had never owned a hammock in my life. When I looked at my most lightweight tent and thought about how much gear we’d be portaging (several times a day) a hammock started looking like a good solution.

I ended up purchasing a ProFly (rainfly) to use with an ENO hammock I got as a gift but had never used. As we set up camp on night one I quickly began questioning my decision. The wind was strong and the rain was hard. After setting the hammock up and getting my sleeping bag inside it there was still daylight and dinner before seeing if it really would be dry, never mind comfortable.

In the end, it was both. The way that the rainfly marries up with the hammock kept out any rain or moisture. And, as a first-time hammock-sleeper, I got a big surprise: it was far more comfortable than any night I had spent in a tent.

hiking boots hang off hammock

#2 Salewa Alp Flow Mid GORE-TEX® SURROUND® Boot

After landing in Minnesota to meet the rest of the group and head up to Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, I didn’t find out I was short on footwear until we were practically putting the canoe in the water. Everyone had boots to wear daily as well as a pair of sandals for trudging around camp. I had boots. They were good boots, but if they were to fail, it was going to be a wet, uncomfortable trip.

The weather was far wetter than we planned for. When we got to our outfitter in Ely, they recommended bringing a set of rubber boots for when we hit ‘the deep mud.’ That was when I started to worry if I was going to be able to keep my boots… and socks… and feet… somewhat dry and available for comfortable use for five or more days in a row.

After my first misstep and the plunge of my right foot into water, I realized I might have a chance. The boots took on no water (as guaranteed). Three days (two of them rain-drenched) later, the boots were all I had worn. My feet stayed dry the entire trip and the only part of my socks that needed drying by the fire was the part where they emerged high above the Salewa boots.

GPS tracker

#3 DeLorme InReach

I’ve had a DeLorme InReach for years now, and have taken it on every backcountry trip I’ve been on since I purchased it. It gets quite a bit of use. Luckily, I’ve never had to use it in an emergency situation. Its use has been limited to tracking routes in real-time, helping navigate along pre-planned routes and, one of its best functions, communicating with those at home.

Each of those features was used on the Boundary Waters trip.

The best was certainly the two-way satellite text messaging. Between paper and digital maps, we could have lost three sources and still been fine getting where we were going. Letting everyone at home know that all was well despite the weather reports they were seeing could only have been done with the InReach.

The trip ended up being logged as one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. In the year preceding it, I had taken more than a half-a-dozen trips ranging from five to 10 days. This trip, while carrying the least amount of gear and having the most challenging of conditions comparatively, ended up being the most comfortable of them all

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