The Pack Report

What Gear Should I Pack For The Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness?

Whether you are a beginner or an absolute expert, packing for an upcoming outdoor adventure takes time, skills, and a good selection of gear.

Here at Duluth Pack, our packs are known as the original and godfather-esque packs of the outdoors, specifically the BWCAW (Boundary Waters Area and Wilderness). So, this tells you we know a thing or two about what gear to pack – ranging from snacks to packs. 

If you’re reeling to get inspired, tune into this podcast episode about an outdoorsman making a 575+ mile BWCAW paddle trip and finishing the iconic Superior Hiking Trail. 

We also recommend tuning in to listen to Award-Winning Author, Expert Outdoorsman, and Legend of the BWCAW, Cliff Jacobson, talk about his love of the Boundary Waters on this episode.

Lets go over a few things in detail.

What Is the BWCAW?

Located in Northeastern Minnesota and in the upper portion of the Superior National Forest, the Boundary Waters Area and Wilderness spans more than 1 million acres and encompasses shy of 150 miles along the international border of Quetico Providential Park in Ontario, Canada. In addition, the BWCAW is also bordered by the well-known Voyageurs National Park. In 1926, this chunk of land was set aside to preserve its natural beauty. In 1964, the land proudly became part of the National Preservation System. The area in particular, showcases some of the most picturesque lakes, islands, and portage ways that are hidden to most populations, except those that dare to explore these hidden and peaceful gems. The BWCAW welcomes canoers, kayakers, and campers of all skill sets to recharge in the outdoors. 

To grasp how enormous the BWCAW is, it is home to over 1,200 miles of paddle routes, 12 hiking trails, and over 2,000 listed campsites. The BWCAW does require permits to access its entry points and campsites. Popular entry points include Ely, Minnesota and Grand Marais, Minnesota. A point that makes BWCAW unique is that you won’t see motorized vehicles or large groups of people. 

How To Get A and Pick Up A BWCAW Permit:

Duluth Pack is proudly one of the largest cooperators of BWCAW in the world. This is due to the company’s extensive knowledge of the outdoors and BWCAW in particular. As a result, thousands of campers flock to the Duluth Pack flagship store to not only buy or rent the best outdoor and camping gear on the market but also become educated and learn from gear experts and store staff on what to bring, what not to bring, and how to truly enjoy themselves in the Boundary Waters. 

Plan ahead! Between the months of May 1st – September 30th, BWCAW permits must be reserved and are limited day by day by each entry point location. You must plan your trip ahead of time to ensure proper permits. This is due to removing overcrowding issues and keeping the BWCAW as serene and respected as possible. Starting October 1st – April 30th, reserving permits is not required.  

Where And How Do I Reserve My BWCAW Permit?

One permit will be issued per group, and size of a group is limited to 9 people and 4 non-motorized watercraft (canoes, kayaks, Jon boats, and up paddle boards) in total. A group leader must be chosen for your group to reserve the permits prior to camping. Reservation fees are $6.00 and $16 for every adult and $8 for every youth and or senior on the trip. All group leaders are required to have a valid email address to reserve a BWCAW permit. Each alternate permit holder is also required to have a valid email address. Permits are nontransferable – no exceptions. Again, plan ahead; once permits are gone, they are gone for the season. Trust us; they go fast!

Not staying overnight but still want to enter the BWCAW for the day? Permits for day travel are allowed to be self-issued at every entry point and do not need to be reserved prior to. 

Your permit is NOT mailed to you. You MUST pick-up your permit at any participating outfitter, such as Duluth Pack’s retail store. 

Leave No Trace Principles

The BWCAW is huge on promoting the principles of Leave No Trace. Not sure what that is? Learn more in detail here.

What To Pack For The BWCAW

Now we are to the meat of the experience prior to the adventure. Here is our recommended checklist of what to pack for the boundary waters canoe area and wildness to be set up for success. Keep in mind every one of these items is available to purchase at the Duluth Pack retail store. Exclusively at the Duluth Pack flagship store, if you purchase a Duluth Pack Drawstring Bag at full price, you get 10% off any item from the checklist below! In-store only. 

  • Auqa Tabs
  • Bug Dope
  • Bug Nets
  • Bandana
  • Bear Bell/Whistle
  • Carabiners
  • Chums
  • DeeLee Bob’s (bungee cords)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Firestarter
  • Duluth Pack Grab N Go
  • Gear Stash
  • Headlamp
  • Lip Balm
  • Mini Game Pack
  • Meals to Go
  • Mole Skin
  • Matches
  • Nalgene Bottle
  • Pillow
  • Sunscreen
  • Tarp

What Canoe Pack Should I Buy For the BWCAW?

There is no one product that is ideal for each camper; that is why Duluth Pack handcrafts a variety of Canoe Packs. Depending on the camper’s stature, the trip length, and the gear supplies carried, packs can differ in need. However, we suggest referring to the website to read product descriptions and learn which pack is best suited for you and your needs. However, some top-sellers include the Original #2Original #3#3 Cruiser Pack, Canoe Bow Bag, #4 Monarch Pack, and Camp Kitchen Pack – which come with a built-in tumpline. Fun fact, Duluth Pack’s founder, Camille Poirier, patented the legendary tumpline on December 12th, 1882 (the company’s birth date). 

Can I Rent a Duluth Pack?

You sure can! Not sure which pack to purchase, but want to test them out? The Rental Program is right up your alley. Learn more on how to rent a Duluth Pack here

We hope you feel more confident preparing for your upcoming BWCAW excursion. If you have any other additional questions, comments, or concerns, please give our gear experts a call at 218-722-3898 or email us at [email protected]. We would be happy to help!

Seeking expert guides? We recommend our friends at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters! They are the best!

Happy Adventuring, friends!

Happy Adventures - Duluth Pack