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Solo Trippin’

6/12/24 – Planning a solo trip into the BWCAW anytime soon? Always been interested in the idea of spending some alone time in the wilderness? You are in good company! As the season is starting to ramp up the Sawbill crew is preparing for our own solo adventures in the BWCAW. As a crew, our experience with solo trips varies. Some, like Sawbill extraordinaire Sawyer, are well versed in the art of solo traveling. Some are preparing for their second go at going solo, and some of us are preparing for their very first solo trip. I fall into this last category and so I’ve been accumulating all the tips and tricks to having a safe and fun time while alone in the wilderness. All the following suggestions are great to employ regardless of group size but are even more vital to practice when going it alone.

For all solo trippers, we recommend:

  • Planning out your food. If you’re doing a long day or have a big appetite don’t shy away from bringing two-person portioned meals. Our recommendations (which can be found in the Sawbill store) are the Pad Thai from Backpacker’s Pantry and the Mushroom Risotto (available in a single serving) and Bibimbap from Good to Go. To add some flair to your food and spruce up your meals, bring an avocado, bell pepper, and/or lime (all available in the Sawbill store) to add to your dehydrated meals.
  • Considering gear options and picking the right fit for you.
    • In regards to getting your beauty rest, some solo travelers prefer bringing a two person tent over a single tent so they can have some more room. 
    • With the food storage order in the BWCAW (more information here) consider how you want to secure your food in alignment with the order. Bear vaults, Ursacks and bear ropes all fall within regulation and are all available at the Sawbill store for either purchase or rental. Sometimes double carrying on portages are necessary when traveling solo, so Ursacks and Bear Vaults can make life easier in these situations. Any of these methods are totally feasible for solo travel, so just consider the best method for you.
    • Many solo trippers find it easier and more efficient to paddle a canoe with a kayak paddle; others prefer to stick to a wood or plastic canoe paddle. Depending on your experience and comfort, think about what type of paddle suits you best. We have all the above options here at Sawbill and are alway happy to discuss what will be right for you!
    • Remember, you can always bring an extra paddle if that makes you more comfortable. If you’re renting a canoe from Sawbill you’re more than welcome to take an extra paddle out with you (regardless of group size). Just make sure both come back to us.
  • Getting oriented with a solo canoe. The solo canoes (Wenonah Prism and Wilderness) in Sawbill’s fleet are unique in that the seat of the canoe is less central than other solo canoe designs. This makes travel days more streamlined as you don’t need to take out the yolks to paddle or re-attach them for portaging. As with all canoes, it’s important when traveling in the water that you’re as trim to the water as possible. With our solo canoes, it works best to place your pack towards the front of your canoe to balance out the weight and remain as level on the water as possible. 
Wenonah Wildnerness Solo Canoe
(view from back of canoe)
Wenonah Wilderness Solo
(view from front of canoe)
  • Wearing your life vest while out on the water. We always recommend wearing your life vest whenever you’re out in the BWCAW, but this is even more important to do while in the wilderness by yourself.
  • Telling people back home about your route and the day you’re planning on coming out of the wilderness. Even with technological advancements, you can’t rely on having cell service in the BWCAW, so just be mindful of this.
  • Enjoying the solitude and time of reflection. There’s something very special about getting to experience the beauty of the wilderness by yourself.
  • Coming back to Sawbill and telling us all about your trip. We always love to hear about your adventure!

Make sure to keep up with our newsletter for an update on the crew’s trips and our inside scoop on routes and lakes. I’ll be back with my two-sense on Perent Lake and the Hog Creek entry point (#36) so get excited and stay safe out there! – Luna