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How do I prepare for my trip? 

Don’t fret too much if you’ve only camped a few times (or never!), don’t know how to steer a canoe, or can’t even imagine what it would look like for a person to carry a canoe on her shoulders. We work with teenage and adult novices all the time, and we are ready to show you the ropes and work with you and your crew to figure out how to use “teamwork to make the dream work.” Having said that, we encourage girls to be active in their own way as they get ready for for their trip – whether by playing soccer, tap dancing, skateboarding, or climbing trees!

What do I pack?

We provide the canvas canoe packs for you to use on your trip, and will send a detailed packing list before your trip. The weather in Minnesota can change quickly so be prepared for anything from 50 to 95 degrees, knowing that you may also be somewhat wet during the day. Please remember that the equipment you bring does not need to be expensive. You can get good quality items from thrift shops, or borrow from family and friends. We also have a good-sized stash of clean and organized lost-and found items we can let you borrow.

Fifty years of experience have taught us that to stay safe and comfortable on a canoe trip, each person needs four different outfits, as described below:

Wet clothes: 

This is what you wear while canoeing—they get wet!

    • Quick drying pants (nylon wind pants or light cotton, not stretchy yoga pants and NO jeans)
    • T-shirt
    • Long sleeve cotton or nylon shirt to protect from sun and bugs
    • 1 pair wool socks
    • Underwear
    • Rain jacket and rain pants. These are important! Stearns or the sturdier type of “Frogg Toggs” are fine. No ponchos! Rain gear that is a little bulky is better than too-tight. Bigger rain jackets are easier to get on and off, and may be worn over life jackets.
    • Boots: Sturdy, broken in, not waterproof. These boots will be wet during the day. They should offer support to the foot for rugged wilderness portaging and drain readily. We have used footwear like Vietnam Boots or Merrell Moab Mid-hiker models. Look in thrift stores for good, non-leather boots that fit your feet with wool socks.
    • Some girls wear a swimsuit under their wet clothes, too.
    • A hat with a brim that fits you securely, to wear in the canoe.

Dry clothes

These are clothes that you change into in the afternoon when you arrive at your campsite. This is totally separate from your wet clothes, and it is very important that they stay dry. Bring a handful of quart- or gallon-sized Ziplock bags to pack them in! You do not need one outfit per day; most participants just have one outfit for "wet clothes" and one outfit for "dry clothes", with a couple of added items for comfort (for example: one extra T-shirt, pajamas). 

    • Shirt 
    • Long pants
    • Underwear 
    • Cotton or wool socks
    • Tennis shoes (closed toe and closed heel)
    • Shorts (if you want for around the campsite, or layover day!)
    • Pajamas

Cold weather clothes:

The weather is unpredictable, and it is important to always carry extras just in case.

    • Warm wool or fleece sweater/pullover (no cotton sweatshirts)
    • Lightweight stocking cap
Miscellaneous items: 
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste (travel size is best!), comb/brush, soap/shampoo for showering on base
    • Optional: camera, journal or small book, deck of cards

Sleeping Bag: Sleeping bags should be packed in a stuff sack with a garbage bag as a liner (on the inside of the stuff sack). Any summer or three-season sleeping bag will do, with a rating of, for instance, 30 degrees or so. Mummy shape is the best (most efficient with keeping your heat in) and the lightest, though it’s not totally necessary. The less bulky, the better, since sleeping bags are packed with all of your other personal belongings. Adult participants should also feel free to bring a lightweight closed-cell or Thermarest-style sleeping pad.

Do not bring Keen sandals, Crocs, aqua socks or Teva-type sandals. They are not allowed on trips, as a substitute for either your “wet boots” or your “dry shoes.” All shoes must have a closed toe and closed heel.

How do I get to the canoe base?

Canoe base staff will meet you in Ely, MN, at 1pm on arrival day, where we caravan 17 miles out of town and then 1.5 miles down a dirt road to our canoe base. There is no cell service at the canoe base, and devices like Google Maps and Mapquest are unreliable on the edge of the wilderness. Any passenger vehicle can easily make it down our road. Vehicles are parked on-site. It is very reasonable for a crew to leave from Minneapolis bright and early and reach Ely by 1pm on arrival day.

There are no vehicle rental businesses in Ely. Crews flying to Minnesota typically find that it is cheapest to fly into MSP and rent a vehicle to drive to Ely, returning in the same vehicle. Duluth and Hibbing airports are usually significantly more expensive, but they do have vehicle rental options.

Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines also owns the Janette Pollay Cabin in Duluth, which is a large cabin with electricity and running water (and pit toilets outside). While it is used for day camp most of the summer, it is often available overnight for Girl Scout groups of up to 24 people for about $50/night. This is a great option for budget-conscious troops who don’t want to pay for lodging or haul around their own camping gear.

NLCBAA works closely with Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes and Pines on promoting this small but mighty program.

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