While legions of anglers have taken to the water in tricked-out motorized and pedal-drive kayaks everywhere there’s an easement, given the chance, I still prefer the solemnity of paddling and portaging a canoe through off-grid waters.
Such was the case this past June when an old fishing buddy of mine and our seven kids traveled deep into the northwest corner of Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) and Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park.
To get farther back faster—skipping any clogged canoe routes—we hired Anderson’s Canoe Outfitters on Northern Minnesota’s Crane Lake to shuttle us up a serious of lakes, rivers, mechanical portages, and across Ontario’s massive Lac La Croix via flat-bottom, shallow-draft boat to start our portaging a good 4 or 5 days paddling into the interior.
The result? We spent 8 days even farther off-grid than we would have gotten simply paddling and portaging our way—and with our fishing lines in hard-to-reach waters. While I could drag the fishing report out to novella-length proportions, highlights of the trip included a near 40-inch pike caught by my buddy’s 10-year-old daughter, acrobatic smallmouth bass to the 4-pound mark, and lots of walleyes for frequent shore lunches.
It had been a dozen years since I’d done a BWCA/Quetico canoe fishing/portaging trip—never before with kids in tow, this most recent adventure with two 10-year-old girls; two 15-year-old boys; two 16-year-old girls; and one 17-year-old girl. Yep, a full infield and outfield of anglers with varying experience and interests—just the kind of trip every kid needs to make at least once before they graduate. When asked about the recent adventure, I reply: “Everyone came back with hair on their chest—even the two 10-year-old girls.”
Despite the shuttle, the trip was challenging. It rained intermittently the day Anderson’s dropped us off at our put-in point—a manageable, yet muddy and uphill 100-rod portage—and stormed our last day breaking down tents and organizing Duluth packs for the paddle miles back to the shuttle drop-off.
Good thing I donned Whitewater Packable Rain Jackets and Pants for all, which we tested on the battlefield, paddling (and setting up/tearing down tents) in gear-drenching rain, swarms of mosquitoes, ankle-biting black flies, and blazing sun between squalls.
Because we’re all anglers and not accomplished long-range canoeists, we opted for recommended fishing rain gear, not the high-dollar apparel many backcountry trekkers purchase from mountaineering outlets.
While we did rent a good amount of gear from our buddy Paul at Luna Rose Canoe Adventures, we also brought a lot of our own. A combination of tents, canoes, and bear-proof shoulder-strapped 60 L blue barrels of dry ice and perishable groceries, the items that proved especially critical for everyone’s comfort included rain gear, wide-brimmed mosquito-net hats, and bug dope.
Did the Whitewater Packable Rain Gear pass muster? Absolutely.
Its first advantage for canoe portaging/fishing/camping? The rain gear packs down into included sacks that compress to the size of a softball, perfect for a 4-canoe, 9-person trip like ours where smart, space-saving packing was vital.
Secondly, the gear does what it claims; it keeps you dry even in sheets of pounding rain, traversing big waters in wind and waves.
Lastly, when the rain did let up, it served as protection against ravenous mosquitoes. Same thing with the black flies, which had a hard time biting our ankles through the rain pants.
Would I recommend Whitewater’s Packable Rain Jacket and Pants to other anglers, canoeists, campers, and off-grid enthusiasts?