To be a kid again…

You gotta’ have the right gear!

Paddling the Boundary Waters requires the right gear. Gear requirements for canoe country are unique. Some of this unique gear you’ll bring, most will be provided by the Northern Tier. In this e-mail we will continue your journey to being a kid again on the 2010 Canoe Voyage by discussing the gear you’ll use when paddling the Boundary Waters August 28 – September 4.

Gear you will bring

Wet boots are boots that let the water that flows into your boots, flow out of your boots. You will need wet boots because your feet will be wet. You will get out of your canoe in knee deep water and you will get into your canoe in knee deep water. In addition, some of the portages will be covered with pools of knee deep water and mud. “Dry-footing” in canoe country is not an option.

Water sandals do not work and are not permitted by the Northern Tier. The most common injury in canoe country is foot and ankle injuries caused by sharp, slippery rocks. You will encounter lots of sharp, slippery rocks while getting into and out of your canoe, and on the portage trails as well. Water sandals do not offer the necessary protection.

The most recommended type of wet boots is American-made jungle boots—the imported jungle boots are poorly made and will not hold up. American-made jungle boots can be purchased at surplus stores or may be purchased directly from the Northern Tier.

Wet boots can also be made by taking an expendable, but still serviceable, pair of hiking boots and installing grommets along the in-step and out-step and around the toes.

Waterproof compression bags are highly recommended. These bags allow you to compact your personal gear and sleeping bag very tightly. This is important because you will be sharing a Duluth pack with 2 other Voyageurs, and if everyone is using compression bags, getting the personal gear into the Duluth packs will be easy.

Waterproof compression bags also offer the assurance that, in the event of a canoe swamping, your personal gear will remain completely dry.

Rain gear is essential, both for wind and rain protection. The Northern Tier does not allow the use of ponchos. They are dangerous because they make it difficult or impossible to swim in the event of a canoe swamping. You will need a lightweight rain jacket and pants. These can serve double duty as a second layer to protect against the cold.

A full list of the personal gear you will need, and order forms for wet boots.

Gear the Northern Tier provides

Canoes (and your feet) are your only means of transportation in the Boundary Waters. The Northern Tier offers the choice of aluminum canoes or Kevlar canoes. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

Aluminum canoes offer maximum stability and durability (they can take a few dings from submerged rocks) and make it easier for beginning canoeists to paddle in a straight line. The downside to aluminum canoes is that they are heavy—they weigh about 90 pounds—and you gotta’ carry them across the portages.

Kevlar canoes are light (about 60 pounds) and fast. The downside is that they are tippy, hard to control for beginning canoeists, and easily damaged by submerged rocks.

Duluth packs are issued by the Northern Tier for your personal gear. Each Duluth pack is shared by 3 Voyageurs. (This is easy if you are using compression bags.) Duluth packs fit well into the tight spaces of a canoe. Your personal pack will not work well. It will upset the distribution of the crew’s personal gear and will not fit well into the tight spaces of a canoe. Your pack frame may well get damaged if you try to stuff it into a canoe, or the canoe itself may get damaged.

Tents (four men) are issued by the Northern Tier. The four man tent is perfect for three adults.  The use of personal tents is discouraged because the four man tents make the best use of limited tent space available in many campsites.

A complete list of the gear provided by Northern Tier can be found by copying and pasting the link (above) into your browser and clicking “Equipment” as the last step.

For a video view of Northern Tier gear, click the link below and select the first video (22 minutes). While the video dates from 1981, it gives a fairly accurate depiction of your gear.


“Out there we were kings…the richest men in all the world”.

~Pierre Radisson, Voyageur, 1600’s, writing about canoe country


More details here.

Order here.