Packing Tips

Once you’ve decided on your wilderness trip, you’ve got to get ready.

Watch the weather, read up on the area and its wildlife and history, plan your menu, make sure you pack what you need to bring with you and leave behind the stuff you don’t, think about your fishing gear, and, finally, plan how to get here. The sections below, and the separate menu planner and checklist for clothing and personal items (designed to print out easily) should help.

Canoe-Country Weather

Average Monthly Highs:

  • May 62°F
  • June 69°F
  • July 75°F
  • August 71°F
  • September 59°F
  • October 46°F

Some general weather rules to remember:

  • Weather can change often and quickly.
  • It can be very cold or very warm any month from May to October.
  • You are exposed to the sun all day even when it’s cloudy.
  • Wind from the east usually means rain.
  • Wind from the west usually means stable weather.
  • Sub-freezing temperatures are possible in May, September, and October.
  • Remember — no rain, no rainbows!
  • If there is any thunder or lightning near you, get off the water immediately!

Here is a link to weather and other information you may find helpful:  Gunflint Trail Weather

Menu Planner

If we are preparing your food, please print out the menu planner, fill it out, and return it to us. You may attach it to an email, phone it in, or mail it to Hungry Jack Outfitters, 318 South Hungry Jack Road, Grand Marais, MN 55604. There are two pages.

Our goal is to make our food a positive part of your vacation. To do this you need to let us know what your preferences are. We will try to accommodate them any way we can. Please fill out the menu planner completely. If we do not receive your menu planner 10 days before your trip we will choose and pack for you.

What to Bring

There’s no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothes.  If you select a complete outfitting package, Hungry Jack Outfitters will provide all the camping and cooking gear you need for your trip. You will need to bring only clothing and personal items on our separate printable checklist. Here are some general principles to consider:


Durable, versatile, and comfortable are the key words. Lightweight or medium clothing that can be layered will be more versatile than a few heavy items. Try to pack items that will serve several purposes. And remember — at the portages, you’ll have to carry everything you bring along.

We always carry long underwear tops and bottoms on every trip, to make sure we don’t get caught unprepared by a cold snap.  We always bring a stocking cap just in case too.

Weather can vary quite a bit over a 5-or-6-day trip, so don’t be fooled into leaving those warm things behind on a hot starting day, or throwing out the shorts if it seems cool. Unlike backpacking, you carry your gear only while portaging between lakes, so a few creature comforts are encouraged.

NEVER leave your rain gear home.  A poncho will do but know you are likely to have a wet butt at some point in the trip.  Rain jacket and pants are highly recommended.  Gore-tex is great but it’s expensive only marginally better than coated fabrics after an all-day soaker.   In fact, Gore-tex is “breathable” in both directions.  We get cheap, coated nylon rain gear and replace it as needed.

One other general note about clothing. Avoid lots of cotton in spring, early summer, and fall, as it tends to get wet and stay wet. Sweat pants, sweatshirts, and jeans weigh about 400 pounds when wet, and they’re very difficult to dry. For your warm layers Polarfleece works very well, and dries quickly, even while you wear it. Thin poly-and-cotton trousers or wind pants are great for layering, and they pack nicely, too.  Conversely, in the really warm times of the summer cotton is more comfortable than synthetics and is less likely to develop a stink.

Boundary Waters Footwear

We probably get more questions about footwear than anything except fishing tackle. The key here is whether you want to keep your feet dry or not.  It’s wet here and sometimes muddy.  Your feet will probably get wet so just plan on it.  Wear something that is light, protective and will not hold water in.

During the warmer months (later June, July, and August), it is much easier and more convenient to get wet and change to dry shoes at the end of the day.  Wear shoes you can just walk into the water with.  You are going to get wet anyway and it makes loading and unloading the canoe much easier and more safe on slippery rocks.  When the weather is really warm it’s actually quite refreshing to just walk out in the water at the end of a portage.

Old tennis shoes work well but lightweight hikers work too.  Stay away from waterproof shoes and low boots.  They are going to get wet and will hold water in. There are several amphibious shoes that are designed to be wet and drain well. Having good support for your arches and ankles is very important. Aqua socks do not provide enough support for portaging but are good for swimming.  Closed toes are recommended if you want to wear sandals.

“The correct footwear is very important.” During cooler times of the year, you will want to try to keep your feet dry but you still will need to be able to step in a few inches of water or mud. The best option is calf-high all-rubber “wellies.” Your feet will sweat in them, so you need to change socks often. There are many types of hiking/hunting boots which are waterproof, warm and protect your feet.  Keep in mind that Gore –tex boots are only waterproof in the lining.  The leather gets wet. Bogs brand or Muck Boots brand neoprene boots are also recommended.  They are very warm, totally waterproof and comfortable.

In any case, you will want dry, comfortable footwear for camp. I like sandals or even moccasins with rubber soles, Crocs, but the old tennies work just fine. Just be sure there is breathing room for your feet.  This is probably the most important item in your pack.

We do not sell or rent shoes or boots but if you have trouble finding something in your area, Joynes Ben Franklin and Lake Superior Trading Post in Grand Marais have a good selection of BWCA friendly footwear.

Download a checklist

What to Leave Behind

Suitcase-Size Camera Bags and Tackle Boxes

We see some pretty funny stuff going into the woods. And many people groan after a trip about carrying some item they considered a necessity, only to find that it never came out of the pack.

Try to keep fishing tackle, camera equipment, and other toys to a minimum.

A small camera or your phone are easy to pull out for the surprise moose photo.  Bigger, expensive cameras often end up wet or in their case to avoid getting wet.  The same goes for fishing tackle: keep it simple. I fit all my tackle for a week-long trip (including pliers, stringer, and knife) into a box about 6″ x 10 x 3″ — and I almost always end up using only about half of what’s there. If fishing is the big priority for your trip, then bring one extra rod and reel for the entire group, just in case someone has a breakdown.

Nifty New Gadgets

Be very hesitant to buy the latest camping gadget at your local outdoor store. You may despise it after three days at the bottom if your pack. Take only what you know you’ll need; you won’t miss the stuff you’re not used to.

See you soon!

"We are still thinking about what a good BWCA experience we had this week. Thank you for such great outfitting!"