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BSA Northern Tier 2011
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Charles Maguire
(hikelite) - F

Locale: Virginia
BSA Northern Tier 2011 on 01/10/2011 06:47:54 MST Print View

In July 2011 Our Troop is going to Northern Tier which is a 10 day canoe trip in Southern Canada. Has anyone been there and do you have any insights, tips or recommedations that aren't in typical BSA material. For instance how bad are the bugs (mosquito's/black flies)?

Any comments helpful.

Thank you

Hikelite

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: BSA Northern Tier 2011 on 01/10/2011 08:48:59 MST Print View

Never been there.
Not a Boy Scout.

But Canada + Water + July ? There is no real predicting on bugs, except: Yes.

I'd consider a sewing project where everyone ends up with a headnet. A simple tube, big enough to fit over a Seattle Sombrero, with a sewn in circle on top and a 1/16" shock cord closure at the bottom. Most importantly, make them big enough so you can get a spoon to your mouth. Cheap, easy, light, and effective. They will increase the sanity quotient considerably if you hit a hatch.

Edit: There is "nanoseeum net" and mosquito net. Nano is very tight, and consequently warm. Try to find Light Weight mosquito net. Cooler and better visibility. It will be sufficient for mosquitoes and the blackflies.

Apparently BPL no longer sells them. :-(

Edited by greg23 on 01/10/2011 08:56:37 MST.

Justin McMinn
(akajut) - F

Locale: Central Oklahoma
Re: BSA Northern Tier 2011 on 01/10/2011 09:40:32 MST Print View

I went with my troop in 1995. We used a local outfitter instead of the BSA. The bugs were real bad. You could hear a constant buzz from their wings when you were waiting to fall asleep. I would highly suggest finding out how much weight will be in your bear bag(s) and practice hanging them. We got caught "out after dark" each night trying to hang ours. Our group was pretty unexperienced and had a hard time trying to hang a lot of food weight high enough.

Ryan Slack
(RWSlack) - F - M

Locale: Minnesota
PM me on 01/10/2011 09:42:46 MST Print View

If you'd like you can send me a message or I can give you my email. I worked there for a few summers. The program is decidedly not UL, but you can do a lot with your boys (and adults) to make the trip better and lighter before you go.

Ryan

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: BSA Northern Tier 2011 on 01/10/2011 09:53:43 MST Print View

Canada + Water + July ? There is no real predicting on bugs, except: Yes.

Ditto that ... several times over.

There HAVE been relatively bug free summers due to severe drought but while the odds of that happening are better than those of winning the lottery ... they're only slightly better. With a bit of luck I think black flies will be way past peak but you'll certainly contend with mosquitoes, horse flies, deer flies and ticks.

Early July is typically worse than late July ... August better than July. Get all camp work finished before sunset, peak skeeter time for next hour after that. Seek out breezy/exposed spots for lunch stops.

But it's worth all that ... it's a spectacular place.

Rock of Ages Lake
Rock of Ages Lake

Charles Maguire
(hikelite) - F

Locale: Virginia
PM on 01/10/2011 09:57:14 MST Print View

Ryan, your info says you have not specified an email yet for someone to PM you on. If you like you can PM me and I will respond.

Chuck

Ryan Slack
(RWSlack) - F - M

Locale: Minnesota
re on 01/10/2011 10:22:53 MST Print View

updated

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Hanging Food on 01/10/2011 11:07:19 MST Print View

Not a Scout, so don't know all "rules", but...

Consider using a 2" pulley (3 ounces) in the middle of a line with the foodbag line going through it. MUCH, MUCH easier to haul up a lot of weight.

PulleyHang
It greatly reduces damage to the tree, with far less chance of a line getting stuck.

Yes, you'll need two more 50' lengths of parachute cord for the pulley, and yes you have to make two successful throws. But it is easier than finding that perfect overhanging limb.

Look at these for small rope and cord management. Essential in any case.
Butterfly Coil for bigger rope.
Figure Eight for small cord.

Ryan Slack
(RWSlack) - F - M

Locale: Minnesota
p-cord on 01/10/2011 11:14:26 MST Print View

P-cord is used for tent/tarp lines and various repairs at Northern Tier. Bear rope is supplied with either a steel ring or pulley. And it's rope (not UL). Two rope technique is widely employed when possible.

It's all real, cooked food, and for a full crew on a ten day trip you'll likely have two full food packs at obscene weights.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: p-cord on 01/10/2011 11:32:14 MST Print View

Ryan,
Consider a a couple of double pulleys, one with a beckett, for a 5:1 "block and tackle" system. Two doubles 1" weigh about 10 ounces. And of course you'll need 5 times the rope. Small diameter, 500#. But you know how to "manage" that.

PulleyDoubleMini

Found Here, for instance.

Edited by greg23 on 01/10/2011 11:32:51 MST.

Ryan Slack
(RWSlack) - F - M

Locale: Minnesota
block & tackle on 01/10/2011 11:41:22 MST Print View

I've had some experience with similar setups for very heavy bear bagging. They all work. You're right that they need a lot of extra line. With Scouts, I've always used the two big ropes and single pulley + brute force. It's a great way to wear them down so that they go to bed before the bugs come out.

Colin Dunlap
(ColinDunlap) - F
Re: on 01/10/2011 13:06:33 MST Print View

My troop went 4 years ago through a seperate outfitter. We had a lot of fun, had no problems with bugs, and found that we packed to much food (we caught and ate fish every day, and ended up bring a lot of food back with us). A group had gone a few years before and canoed every day and stayed at a new site every night, so we decided to try something new and stay at one site for the week and take day trips out. That ended up working out really well. It only rained on us one night but when it rained, it came down in buckets.

Edited by ColinDunlap on 01/10/2011 13:07:31 MST.

Charles Maguire
(hikelite) - F

Locale: Virginia
Thanks on 01/10/2011 17:35:15 MST Print View

This is all great - thanks.

Any must see things we are going to Bissett Manitoba?

Chuck

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
canoe trip on 01/11/2011 12:12:32 MST Print View

Head nets for everyone, soak your clothes in permetherin, good raingear top, I also vote for double pulley system, one pulley on hanging line, another pulley on a food bag, second food bag attached to first food bag. Possible investment in a good, large silnylon tarp for your group would be good. Then it will never rain, lol.

Ken K
(TheFatBoy) - F

Locale: St. Louis
Took three crews last summer. on 01/13/2011 12:04:21 MST Print View

We took three 8-man crews in mid-July 2010 (three adults and five scouts in each crew). Thus far, it's the pinnacle experience of my adult Scouting career.

We went through a private outfitter instead of the BSA camp to keep costs down and not have to go three to a canoe. We did stop by the camp on our way off the lakes and again as we left Ely.

Our crews started in Snowbank Lake and Lake One. Each crew did 50 to 60 miles afloat, with 2 - 4 miles of portaging over six days as they worked their way up to Knife Lake along the Canadian border.

I'll add a +1 and then another +1 to the head nets and permethrin treatments. Through the day the bugs aren't too bad... Just a fly here and there. When the sun sets, the mosquitoes come out in force. It sounds like a thousand kazoos. Be in your tent about half an hour before sunset or prepare to be eaten. Also, do NOT leave your tent door cracked... not even a little.

Long sleeve poly shirts (like Starter or looser Under Armour) are great. Light. Wicking. Quick drying. With an SPF of at least 30. If wearing shorts, be sure to coat your lower thighs and knees with sunblock a few times a day. That's the only place I ended up burning.

If your portages are all under half a mile, wear cheap tennis shoes with mesh sides that you don't mind ruining. Might even punch holes in the side for quick drains. I took my old lawn-mowin' shoes. Worked perfectly.

Get up and on the water early. Camp sites are first-come-first-served and start getting snapped up by 2 o'clock or so.

If given the choice, go with the heavier aluminum canoes versus Kevlar (I think it's the only option if going through the BSA camp). The boys can be brutal on the bows when trying dry landings.

Light weight is nice, but if you're smart with your portages, this is a trip to take some luxuries on. An extra 10 pounds in the canoe is not noticed.

We bear bagged it, but didn't see any signs of bear (or any other non-human mammals, for that matter).

Rain gear did little good for us. We only had two real downpours. We weren't wearing our suits the first time when a thunderstorm rolled in very quickly. We were all soaked by the time we made it to shore and got them on. The second time we had them on "just in case". The sweating soaked us all from the inside anyway.

If the boys DO wear their raingear, make them wear their PFD over their jackets or do a PFD check at every portage. We lost one life jacket because a boy took it off at a portage and put his rain jacket back on without it. We were two miles up the lake before realizing he didn't have it.

More than anything, let the boys do the work, navigate the lakes, get you lost, and found again. Watching our boys grow over the course of the week was amazing.

Good luck!

Ryan Slack
(RWSlack) - F - M

Locale: Minnesota
Congrats on the trip! on 01/21/2011 20:40:11 MST Print View

Ken,

Sounds like you all had a good time up there, and pretty close to the Northern Tier base. I bet you saw plenty of Scout groups in that area. Just to add my $.02 to your $.02:

Low-cut shoes: yes they can work, but if you go through N. Tier (while I worked there) they expect you to bring shoes with ankle support. Those who don't have to sign an extra waiver at the base and possibly some other hassle. I don't know if I'd recommend them for Bissett, where the OP is headed...longer portages and plenty of quicksand-like "moose muck" in those parts.

Portaging and other stuff: most of the interpreters at Northern Tier like how well the aluminum canoes resist scouts' efforts to sink them. Kevlar are surprisingly durable though (but more expensive, and only an option at Ely and Atikokan bases, not Bissett). The base groups do wet portage only, so the hull of the canoe ideally only touches the water and the sky. Raingear's importance and frequency of use is absolutely unpredictable on a trip-by-trip basis. My last trip there in July 2009 was my consistently coldest and wettest, with constant temps in the 40s to mid 50s, wind and rain, and no appreciable sunlight for just under five days. My PFD (also my pillow at night) was never wet because I put it under my rain jacket. Losing it isn't a big deal, as it shouldn't be coming off for the single-portage anyway...unzipped at most.

My favorites of yours, in ascending order:
+1 on covering up from the sun.
+2 on your early rising advice. Get a move on while the water is calm, the air is still and cool (on a good day), and set up camp early so you can cook before the bugs hit.
+3 on this: "let the boys do the work, navigate the lakes, get you lost, and found again." EXACTLY! I hope some of your same boys get another high adventure trip in together.

Ryan

Troy Childs
(tchilds) - F
Re: BSA Northern Tier 2011 on 02/05/2011 08:26:05 MST Print View

Take a power kite for some real fun. You can either go with a 3m to 5m 4 line training kite or a simple 2 line power sled. You will have a BLAST with the kite but be warned, a 5m kite on a canoe is going to capsize. I would at least build a small DIY power sled maybe a couple 1m and 3m for making down wind travel easy as pie.

It wouldn't be a bad idea for everyone to build a small power sled, they'll fit in your pocket why not right? I dunno what the wind conditions are up there that time of year but I'm assuming a constant 5-10mph breeze.

The bugs will be thick enough to choke on so be prepared with high quality premium head nets. Cheap head nets are not going to save you from everything. The OR net with a ring in it is one of my favorites, about $18. BRING DEET in a few different concentrations and be aware of people's tolerances to the stuff. 100% deet won't be for everyone. Make sure they know how to use it and when they need to not use it. 10 days of the stuff can really get to some folks, even at 30%.

Edited by tchilds on 02/05/2011 08:30:49 MST.

Ken K
(TheFatBoy) - F

Locale: St. Louis
Re: Re: BSA Northern Tier 2011 on 02/06/2011 21:32:15 MST Print View

You would certainly have enough wind to work a power sled some days, but sails in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area are illegal. How they define "sail" is vague, so I think it depends on the mood of any ranger that might be within sight. With a kite, you would certainly be "within sight" of a lot more folks.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: BSA Northern Tier 2011 on 02/06/2011 23:20:07 MST Print View

Went there in 2001 with my Dad and a small crew. IMO its the most fun I ever had in Scouts. I had a great troop and we did lots of hiking and camping but Northern Tier was the pinnacle of my Scouting experience. My Dad liked it so much he went back with my brother two years later. We did about 70 miles in 9 days, our longest portage was 1.5 miles, with most of them being less than a mile.

The typical BSA stuff is heavy but works. None of us had the slightest clue what lightweight gear was but we all survived and had the time of our lives. By the time my Dad went I had learned a little about UL hiking and I made a number of clothing suggestions that they appreciated. Namely, synthetic clothing which dried quickly. You'll spend most of your time being damp. The thing that could have used the biggest overhaul when I went was the food. Suffice it to say we had way more cookpots, pans, and stoves that we ended up using. I'm not sure what the standard kit it now but I'll bet its still overkill.

Rain gear was a must when we were up there, we got two straight days of rain, one so bad we sat most of it out at the campsite. Bugs were bad every night. Long sleeves, long pants, and a headnet are highly recommended, as is being in the tent before it gets dark. If the BSA still recommends jungle boots I would say they are overkill for 80% of the portages we did, but the quick drying aspect is nice. I think I could have got by with a sturdy pair of trail runners and been much more comfortable in camp. I wore swim trunks during the day, which was a good choice and then wore a pair of rain pants over them in the evenings when the bugs were getting bad. If you have a favorite PFD, bring it because the BSA's were a little skanky when I was there.

Some highlights for me were eating walleye we caught during the day, Yum-Yum (a particularly wicked portage, which Sigurd Olson mentions in one of his books), a campsite with a crude log picnic table that wasn't supposed to be there, seeing a bald eagle (unheard of in my home at the time), losing two of our three methods of water purifications by the second day, white caps rolling over the front of the canoe on a particularly windy day, The Yellow Brick road (a pretty easy portage), and the B and the B (Bit** and Bast***, two very tough portages in very close proximity).

I want to go back very badly, though not necessarily with the BSA. Its absolutely beautiful and one of my fondest memories. I wish that I had brought a real camera along. Specific memories have faded and I wish I had photos to remind me. My Dad and brother took a camera when they went and they I love their pictures. I chose to do Northern Tier instead of Philmont and never once regretted it after hearing about other Scouts' experiences. Not the Philmont sounded bad, but Northern Tier is less about the activities and side trips at the campsite and more about the journey from camp to camp. We were often too tired to do much more than cook dinner, soak in the water for a bit, and hang the bear bags.

I hope that you make as many memories as we did, no matter what gear you decide to bring.

Adam

Troy Childs
(tchilds) - F
Re: Re: Re: BSA Northern Tier 2011 on 02/07/2011 22:27:38 MST Print View

Well if sails are illegal then I wouldn't take anything more than a small power sled to assist with down wind travel. That really is a shame about the sail thing. Hopefully they don't mean small power sleds at all. Power sleds can not travel up wind, capsize boats, or cause loss of control. These are all things that sails can do so I would avoid larger kites and just play dumb if anyone says anything.

When we went to northern tier in scouts, we had makeshift sails set up on canoes for hours at a time sometimes. We used clothing and external frame packs, big tents, all the good heavy stuff that scouts love to carry around w/out even complaining. These made it impossible to steer the canoes and often we found just tieing a shirt up on some sticks was about all the canoe could handle.

Edited by tchilds on 02/07/2011 22:31:52 MST.