Where to Winter Camp

Winter Wonderland: Unveiling North Shore Winter Camping Gems Beyond BWCAW

While winter camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) promises adventure, it might not suit everyone's preferences. Fortunately, there are numerous alternative spots nearby that offer a balance of accessibility and natural beauty. Here are some recommended places for your next winter camping excursion outside of the BWCAW: Minnesota State Parks Minnesota State Parks provide designated campsites, with some offering plowed sites during winter. Split Rock Lighthouse, Tettegouche, George H. Crosby and Cascade State Park are North Shore state parks that offer winter camping. Superior National Forest Within the Superior National Forest, various options cater to winter camping, from dispersed camping to official campgrounds. Fees Campgrounds Although primarily popular in the summer, many fee campgrounds (which do not actually require a fee from November through March) offer excellent winter camping opportunities. Sawbill Lake Campground: Located 23 miles up the Sawbill Trail from Tofte, Minnesota, this campground is a welcome spot for winter campers seeking solitude and adventure. It sits on the border of the BCWAW, offering those who want a taste of The Wilderness access to it without having to travel far distances with gear or sacrifice the perks of a few amenities. Though the campground roads to outhouses and sites are not plowed...

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Winter Camping Packing List

Winter camping can be a magical experience, offering the unique combination of frosty landscapes outside and cozy warmth inside (if hot tenting). To make the most of your winter camping adventure in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) Wilderness or nearby areas near Lake Superior’s North Shore, proper preparation and a well-thought-out packing list are crucial. Below is a list of essentials we recommend bringing for a comfortable and enjoyable winter camping trip. Plus, at the very end we'll be sharing some of our favorite tips that we've come up with for elevating the experience. Don’t have what you need? Let us know. We have much of the necessary gear (like hot tents, stoves, toboggans, and camping accessories) available for purchase and/or rent. Traveling Daypack Toboggan (with straps) Bags/Containers for gear when hauling Tarp to wrap gear in Snowshoes Skis and ski boots for travel (optional) Snowshoes for travel (optional) Ski or Hiking poles with snow baskets Map Compass GPS Handwarmers and footwarmers First Aid Kit Whistle Emergency Shelter Camp Backcountry shovel Saw Axe Ice Auger- (cannot be gas or battery powered if using in the BWCA) Matches and lighters Water Filter or purification, if needed Knife or Multi-tool* Duct tape Repair kits for...

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Late-Winter Ice Travel

  Ready or not, here spring comes! Unseasonably warm winter weather has us thinking spring up here at the outfitter. Recent XC ski trail reports (especially up the Gunflint Trail) have been surprisingly decent thanks to the fresh load of snow that we just got a few nights ago. That being said, the extended forecast is looking pretty warm and it won’t be long before we’re swapping out our skis for bikes and toboggans for canoes. When winter temperatures start to climb above freezing, one of the most common questions that we get from winter campers and backcountry skiers is- “What’s the ice like out on the lakes?” The reality is that lake ice, no matter the weather, is never 100% safe. While a majority of winter adventurers make judgment calls on the strength of ice based on factors such as appearance, depth, age, or temperature, there really is just no way to be sure. Currents can impact the thickness and safety of ice in unpredictable ways, the size of the body of water can play a role in determining ice depth, and, according to the DNR, even moving fish populations have been known to bring up warm water from the bottom of the lake. March and...

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Does Lake Superior Freeze?

We get asked about Lake Superior freezing over a lot at the outfitter, so we figured we’d take the time to answer that question here. The short answer is yes, Lake Superior does freeze. Even during milder winters like the one that we’re currently sweating through, you can expect to see ice in harbors and on some of the more sheltered sections of the Lake. The Grand Marais harbor has been freezing on and off all winter long (some brave souls were even out ice skating at one point), and for few days here and there folks have been able to get out and ice fish around the Duluth/Superior area. That being said, ice on Superior is notoriously fickle and comes with its own set of risks regardless of how cold a winter it is. What may feel like an endless sheet of ice-skateable ice in one instance can float away in a matter of hours, leaving a dark blue expanse of open water between you and the shore. Just ask the deer that made local news in early January after spending 18 hours stranded on an ice flow in the Grand Marais harbor (WTIP), or the 26 fishermen that had to be rescued...

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Tubbs Snowshoes, Altai Hok Skis, Fischer XC Skis, and Yaktrax- When to use them and Why

Winter is fickle and takes many forms in our neck of the woods, so it's best to plan an adventure that works with the conditions rather than against them. Some forms of winter travel are better suited for fresh snow, others for a hard, icier snow-pack. Staying flexible and adapting your trip to the conditions is the surest way to have a good time no matter what mother nature might throw your way.   Snowshoeing is for deep snow  Snowshoes are a winter classic and perfect for exploring rugged terrain in deep snow conditions. Snowshoes have been helping people travel in the winter for thousands of years, and work in the same way as a Lynx's over-sized paw by distributing the wearer's weight over a larger area to keep them "floating" above the snow rather than sinking through it with each step. Trudging through deep snow without snowshoes is known as “post-holing”, an experience that is exhausting, slow, and not especially enjoyable. Be a lynx, not a deer! Snowshoes are maneuvarable in tight situations, making them the best option for exploring sections of the Superior Hiking Trail after a heavy snowfall, venturing off-trail through the woods, or along a frozen river. Lots of people...

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Food Barrels or Food Packs For Your Next Canoe Trip?

In packing food for a BWCA trip there are two main pack styles that are usually used. Either soft sided traditional canoe packs or blue food barrels. We outfit and sell both packs and barrels made by Granite Gear and Recreational Barrel Works. Both options work well and have several advantages and a few drawbacks. It really comes down to preference. On a side note I have used both barrels and food packs on many trips and still use both, but I tend to like using barrels best. Food Barrels Barrels are great. They keep your food dry and also prevent it from getting crushed and banged up. Contrary to some opinions they are not completely bear proof, but they do help reduce the odds of having bear issues and stop any smaller animals from getting your food. We outfit our barrels with an additional locking device that allows you to secure the barrel to a tree. This will keep a bear from being able to take the barrel into the woods and away from camp. It also makes it more difficult and louder for a bear to get in the barrel. One obvious disadvantage to the barrel is the size and bulk of the barrel. They are a ridged container, which can...

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Moving and Getting Outside

We think being active and getting outdoors is extremely important. With all of the recent changes that are affecting our lives to slow the spread of Corona virus, we wanted to share a few of our favorite ideas of things you can do while you’re social distancing at home. Outdoor Activities Find some trails. Does your neighborhood have some hiking trails nearby? If so, find your hiking boots (or whatever you have – don’t let your shoes stop you) and take a walk on the trail. Go fast and work up a sweat or take a nice stroll. Walk around the block. Don’t think you need to find a trail or go anywhere special. Sometimes, just stepping out your door for a quick stroll around the block (or 20) will do wonders for your mental and physical health. Above all, if you are able, get outside and walk. Ride your bike. If you have clear, safe roads in your neighborhood, grab a jacket and helmet and go for a ride. Whether it be long or short, getting in the saddle will keep you moving and change the scenery all while keeping a healthy distance from others. Indoor Adventures Plan your next adventure....

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Late Winter Activities on the North Shore

Though many people in the Midwest lose their snow and are typically forced to stop participating in their favorite winter activities in March, we are fortunate here on the North Shore in Minnesota to have an excellent snow base year after year. That means we get to enjoy nicer temperatures AND still indulge in our favorite winter sports, like Nordic and alpine skiing, hiking, and even snowshoeing. Because of the contrast in other areas of the state and region, we want to share some of the top things you can do right here on Lake Superior’s North Shore during the late winter and early sprint months. Alpine/Downhill skiing Although the alpine season is over in most areas of the state, it is far from over on the North Shore! Because temperatures typically turn cooler earlier in the fall/winter here compared to the rest of the state, Lutsen Mountains has the opportunity to make snow and set up a great snow base. A unique ecosystem, created by its proximity to Lake Superior, significantly increases the snowfall totals each winter also. These snowfalls help create an incredible base. Coupled with cold nights that linger in the late winter, there is significantly less snow loss ...

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10 Luxury Items For Your Next Canoe Trip

If you are looking to kick back and relax on you next canoe trip consider bringing these 10 luxury items  to make your time at camp more enjoyable. #1 Helinox Camp chair Sitting on the logs around a fire in the Boundary Waters is fine for a short time, but if you’re type that likes to lounge around camp reading a book or drinking coffee then having a nice chair like the Heliox chair one is worth the extra 2 pounds that it will add to the pack #2 Eno Hammock It’s hard to beat an afternoon nap in a hammock on a canoe trip. Eno hammocks are light weight and durable. At most camp site you’ll be able to find a few trees for hanging you hammock. #3 Ripstop Nylon Tarp Those cheap tarps from the hardware store work great for lots of things, but they are not meant to withstand being hung from trees and or used in strong winds.  A Ripstop Nylon tarp like the Eno Pro Fly allows you to hang a tighter and stronger shelter to protect you from the elements. No more dealing with loose tarps flapping in the wind or grommets ripping of tarps as you attempt to hang...

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Ice out in the BWCA

The days of winter are getting longer and customers are starting to call about canoe rentals. It is the time of year I start to think about summer. Winter always hangs on longer than expected here in Northern Minnesota, but with minimal ice cover on our lakes this year just maybe spring will be sooner than normal. As of now we have 18” of ice or less on most of the lakes in the Boundary Waters. This is close to half of what we have seen in past years. This is not to say there is not tons of snow in the woods, in fact all the snow we got earlier this winter is part of the reason that we have so little ice. It has been insulating our lakes and slowing ice formation since we got a big storm just after thanksgiving. So, with such a smaller amount of ice on area lakes will we be paddling any sooner this year? In the past couple years we have been left wondering into May if the ice will be off in time for the annual fishing opener on the second Sunday of May. Gunflint Lake is usually one the last lakes...

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