I was asked recently by Court Storey of the Twin Cities to reprint a Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) packing list I first published in 1987 while writing for the Pioneer Press. Much of the list originated with a colleague of mine at the time, Dennis Lien, who frequently traveled with me to the boundary waters.

“Our group of four just came back from our 53rd trip to the Quetico and BWCA,’’ Court wrote, “and still observe people bringing everything but the kitchen sink into these pristine places. We would like you to consider resurrecting and updating that article since there are a lot of greenhorns who have no idea what to bring!’’

The original list appears below, and generally is the one I still use. Exceptions include the addition of a cellphone (and solar or other charger) loaded with the Navionics Boating, Marine and Lakes app for the U.S. and Canada, and a handheld GPS.

Additionally, the website, paddleplanner.com, wasn’t around in 1987, and it can be helpful, as can a couple of apps (depending on your phone type), including Backcountry Navigator and PaddleNav.

Also, to Corey’s point, to fish the boundary waters effectively, you needn’t bring along a big tackle box. Jigs, a handful of crankbaits (floating and deeper-running), and Dardevles for northern pike and Five of Diamonds or similar for lake trout, will do. Also bring extra line and leaders.

E-mail me about additions to or comments about the list.


• Canoe/paddles/portage yoke

• Duluth packs/multiple heavy duty plastic liners

• Life jackets/cushions

• Camp tarp

• Swede saw and axe

• Camera

• Flashlight/batteries

• Collapsible water bucket/filter

• Two compasses

• Waterproof maps

• Mosquito head net

• Tent

• Plastic ground cloth

• Fire grate

• First aid kit

• Toilet paper

• Fish net; rods (2) and reels (2); fillet knife; small tackle box.

• One pair boot

• One pair camp shoes

• Rain gear

• Sunglasses

• Mosquito lotion

• Suntan lotion

• Sleeping bag and pad

• Gloves

• Jacket/outerwear

• Cap/knit hat

• Pocket knife/multi-tool

• Long underwear (seasonal)

• Matches in waterproof container/lighters

• Toiletries

• Change of clothes

• Book/playing cards