Campsites: Selection and Set-up
A solitary island campsite with a beautiful sand beach and a perfect view of the sunset can be hard to pass up. But taking the time to notice the fresh bear scat along the biffy trail, the too exposed tent site or the overhanging dead trees can be integral to a good night of sleep and even your safety. Learn how to select and set up your campsites before you set out for your trip–through the links below. Remember, it’s always a good idea to read up on the specific regulations at your destination. To find information on selecting and setting up campsites in specific canoe parks and wilderness areas, consult the Destination Guide–the Park & Permit section–for rules and regulations.
Outfitters offer suggestions for campsite selection; for the BWCAW and Quetico Park check out Canadian Border Outfitters’ website. Their information and suggestions can be applied to camping in most all of the northern canoe country areas.
Another worthwhile read is Discover the Outdoors article on choosing the right campsite; though geared toward backpacking it is still sound advice in canoe country.
And, don’t forget to be informed about tips for camping in bear country whether you are canoeing or backpacking.
When it comes to finding the right pack for a canoe trip, you’ll find that while comfortable, internal frame backpacks designed for hiking aren’t an ideal fit for canoeing. The better choice is to go with a stouter, shorter pack designed for canoeing. These packs ride low in a canoe adding stability to the canoe while in the water. For more advice on selecting the pack that’s best for you and guidance on how to fill it, check out the Portage Packs section of the Gear Guide and these suggested links.
According to most dictionaries, to portage is to carry boats and gear from one navigable body of water to another. It sounds rather benign. In canoe country a portage is often a narrow and uneven trail between lakes and rivers; what sounds and looks simple can feel quite different with a canoe on your shoulders. Portaging is the great challenge of canoe tripping, and one thing is certain: paddlers have a lot to say about portaging. Read on for advice of all kinds as you prepare yourself to ‘learn to love it’.
Canoe Country Wilderness Canoeing by Lee Hegstand or One Step at a Time by Brian Cooke are good starts in offering advice for getting you and all your gear across a portage: techniques, handling the pack, carrying the canoe, and even portage safety.
Some canoeing outfitters and guides recommend hanging your food pack to keep it away from bears and chipmunks (yes, chipmunks really are a legitimate threat when it comes to safeguarding your food), and others leave the decision up to you. Left to their own devices, canoe campers generally fall into two categories: “I always hang my food pack” or “I never hang my food pack.” Where do you fall? Wherever you fall, it’s a good skill to know in case a late-night, unwanted visitor prompts you to change your strategy. And, in 1994 the U.S. Forest Service released a detailed report on low-impact food hoists. Its information is still applicable today.
Lunch in the rain, a blazing hot campsite with little natural shade, and a good tail wind all warrant a key piece of gear: the tarp. Yet a poorly hung tarp does little to assuage any situation, and hanging methods can be as personal and varied as the personalities on any given trip. Tarps can be found in the Tents and Tarps section of the Gear Guide.
Next: Miscellaneous Tips