One of the best things about canoe camping as opposed to backpacking is the ability to get away from it all in relative style. When backpacking, you hike with everything strapped to your back, so every single ounce counts—you don’t want to carry anything more than you absolutely have to. But when you can float your gear in a canoe for the majority of the time, you would be amazed at all the cool things you can take to make your backcountry camp feel just like you are living in the lap of luxury.
Over the years, we have collected numerous “luxury items” that we absolutely love. Here are a few of our favorites:
Eagle’s Nest Hammocks
For the most part, the campsites in the Boundary Waters are amazing, and we make a minor sport out of finding the best ones. We have lots of criteria for choosing the perfect place to bunk down. These include: a neatly-organized kitchen, a separate flat spot for our tent, a reasonable walk to the latrine, an attractive lakefront picnic spot, and an inviting swimming hole. You’d be pleasantly surprised to discover how many Boundary Waters campsites actually meet most of these criteria, and sometimes they’re even located on an island to boot. It’s pretty amazing to have an island all to yourself for the paltry price of a wilderness permit!
A few years back, we purchased a pair of Eagle’s Nest hammocks, and they added a whole new dimension to our Boundary Waters campsite selection process. Now, the number one criteria in selecting a campsite is finding one with pairs of trees positioned just perfectly for suspending our hammocks to provide a commanding view over the water. In our humble opinion, there’s almost nothing better than chilling out in a hammock. In fact, hammock time has become one of Matt’s favorite activities in the Boundary Waters, so we make sure to get off the water early enough each day to spend some quality time swinging in the breeze in our Eagle’s Nests hammocks.
Warning: If you find yourself canoeing with a loved one and deciding to purchase hammocks of your own, you will be faced with a relationship-defining moment. You see, Eagle’s Nest actually makes a double hammock built for two. Before purchasing ours, we looked at the pictures on the tags of the squeaky clean model couple relaxing in their double hammock together and then of the solo swinger kicking back in his roomy hammock all by himself. We debated the merits of each, but the thought of snuggling so closely in that double hammock after a week or so without a proper bath landed the single hammock solidly in first place. Perhaps we’re missing out on a chance to get to know each other even better after all these years, but we can attest to the fact that we have enjoyed harmonious hammock bliss ever since!
The Kitchen Sink
Washing dishes is not any more fun in the Boundary Waters than it is in real life, but it is certainly made a lot easier with this kitchen sink from Sea to Summit. It weighs next to nothing, folds up smaller than a hockey puck and makes it super easy to collect water from the lake to carry a safe distance for washing. This year we splurged and got a second sink for rinsing, and it was awesome—highly recommended!
For years, we coveted our friend Chris’ bug shirt that he always brought along on our trips to the Boundary Waters, and, this year, we finally got our own. In a rare move, we opted not to look like identical twins (you know what they say about married couples) and go in separate directions. Matt chose the far less expensive Sea to Summit version, while I splurged on the luxury, E.T.-inspired Original Bug Shirt, Elite Edition model. Have we ever mentioned that we have a side job moonlighting as wilderness fashion models?
In all seriousness, our new bug shirts were life-savers during the witching hour at camp, when the drone of mosquito buzzing turns deafening. We’ve been told we’ll get good use out of them this summer, too, when we hike the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier.
ThermaRest Lite Seat
As far as seating goes, the options in the Boundary Waters are pretty much limited to large logs and flat rocks. After cooking a meal, we really enjoy finding a great vantage point where we can enjoy our breakfast or dinner with a view. These small, light ThermaRest pads are perfect for making any hard spot a little softer and can double as a prop for your pillow or a cushion for your knees when photographing low subjects. We love them! While there are many camp chair options available, you can’t beat these for size, weight, and versatility.
Fitger’s is our favorite brewpub in the super-cute town of Duluth two hours south of Ely. Whenever we head into the Boundary Waters, we make sure to stop at Fitger’s to pick up some tasty beverages for our first night or two in canoe country. They sell a BWCA-legal growler, a 64-ounce plastic Nalgene bottle, which you can fill (and refill) with one of their numerous concoctions. There is a strict ban on bringing glass and cans into the Boundary Waters, so a Fitger’s Growler is the perfect solution. We were surprised to find that we don’t have any photographs of Fitger’s or their growlers. I guess we are are always so excited to drink their delicious brews that we can’t be bothered with photos. Our apologies!
Wish List: Bug Zapper
We mentioned in our last post, that we stayed with our Chicago friends, Joy and Jonathan, in their cabin just outside of Ely for a few nights at the end of this year’s trip. While there, they introduced us to a new item that, while impractical for use in the Boundary Waters, sure would provide hours upon hours of fun in your campsite. Apparently, last summer up north was particularly rainy and therefore buggy, driving Jonathan to purchase this highly-entertaining bug zapping gadget. Shaped like a tennis racket, it produces a very satisfying, success-confirming zap on contact. After eight days of living among the blood-suckers, Matt verged on the maniacal and took great pleasure in delivering deadly overhead smashes to any mosquito who dared come near. Never has it been so much fun to give those mosquitos a piece of our mind!
Well, we hope this list has given you some good ideas for what to bring on your next trip to the Boundary Waters. Hope to see you out there. Happy paddling!