Gear check List
A. Camping Gear:
- sleeping bag—good to 0°C/32°F or below
- sleeping pad*—therm-a-rest or light air mattresses are best
Both items can be rented for $75/person + gst per trip or individually for $37.50 + gst.
*We suggest you consider making the upgrade to our new-this-year 3.5 inch luxury sleeping pads (you will love it); add $30.
B. Personal Clothing:
- long-sleeved shirt—wool or synthetic
- sweater—polypro, fleece or wool
- warm jacket or vest—(i.e. puffy jacket, ski jacket, etc.) An extra-thick fleece sweater and windbreaker could substitute.
- windshell—should be big enough to go over a sweaters
- rain jacket (hooded) and pants—VERY IMPORTANT—must be waterproof and good quality—a poncho is NOT acceptable.
- shorts—we suggest nylon, quick-dry variety
- long pants—quick-dry nylon, synthetic blend or wool
- one extra pair of warm pile or wool pants—optional
- long underwear (not optional)—tops and bottoms—polypro is best (avoid cotton). There are various weights: light, medium or expedition. Pick what is most comfortable for you, keeping in mind that you can layer your clothing.
- socks—several pair of wool are best
- hat—that can be tied on and with a brim that will protect you from sun & rain
- toque (wool hat)
- neck tube, buff
- swim wear
- running shoes, sport sandals, or equivalent (for camp wear)
- hiking boots—lightweight
- rubber boots with insoles in the bottom—for wearing in raft (see Comments on Gear—Footwear) (Not necesarry on Nahanni or Wind river Canoe expeditions) or around camp on wet days
- neoprene booties (with soles) or neoprene socks & overshoes—for two-person canoe expeditions (see Comments on Gear—Footwear)
- glasses, contacts (spares), sunglasses—string to tie on
- personal toiletry items—soap, towel, shaving gear, tooth brush, skin cream (to avoid severe drying of hands), etc.
- consider a “camp towel”—synthetic model. Some bring baby wipes for hygiene (Note: We do provide an excellent hand washing system in camp.)
- sunscreen lotion
- day pack capable of holding rain gear, lunch, camera, etc. on hikes
- personal medications (bring in “carry-on”—also consider two sets and giving one to the trip leader for safe keeping)
- insect repellent and bug jacket. We strongly suggest that you bring a bug jacket—they’re light weight and pack easily. We do sell “The Original Bug Shirt.” Call us for details.
- heavy duty trash bags as insurance to keep your things dry in the waterproof bags
- plastic water bottle for day hikes. Must be 1 litre or more.
- knife, matches and/or lighter (in a waterproof container), compass if you wish, light cord for clothes line
- rubber dish gloves for cold water protection if necessary
- minor first aid items—bandaids, pain relievers, etc. (We carry large expedition first aid kits.)
- small musical instrument if you wish
- passport and visa (Your responsibility to determine if a Visa is required—Visa is not required for Canadian and US citizens)
- insurance details—insurers name, policy & phone numbers for medical evacuation & trip cancelation insurance
- small nylon draw-string organizing bags to keep clothing sorted in your pack
- camera—spare battery, extra memory card. We recommend a waterproof box to protect it.
- fishing rod and equipment (collapsible please). Check out more at About Fishing!
- reading and/or writing materials (we bring a “library” with some field guides and trip-specific literature)
- binoculars—a must for wildlife watching
- flashlight—more so on August trips
- gloves or mitts—for cold days (A must on the Tat/Alsek or any of our tundra trips!)
- favourite alcoholic beverage in a shatterproof container (i.e. Nalgene bottle)
- helmet (mandatory for three-week whitewater from the Moose Ponds)
- trekking poles—collapsible walking stick(s) (These are excellent for your knees & balance while hiking. Use them like ski poles)
- tent (we do provide them, but you may feel more comfortable with your own. Check with us for suitability.)
- small collapsible wash bucket, handy for a sponge bath or doing laundry
E. Canoe Trips Only*
- knee pads—our canoes have knee pads and most trips do not require much kneeling. If you have to ask, you probably don’t need them.
- paddle—only if you prefer to use your own.
- PFD—only if you prefer to use your own.
*If you are bringing any of these items please inform us prior to June.
F. Specific Trips
- wet suit or dry suit—mandatory for Babine, all Nahanni canoe trips and Coppermine canoe. Consider it for the Tatshenshini and Firth. We provide wet suits for rent on all rivers of Grade III. On the Alsek River they are included in the package. Wet suit rental must be confirmed 90 days prior to trip departure. If you’re the type that cools easily, you should consider a wet suit for any trip—3mm neoprene, short or long legs; sleeveless preferred.
- tent bag—communal bags for transporting tents on the raft. Each bag holds three tents.
- tent—Mountain Hardwear Trango 3, self-supporting dome tent. Comfortable for two people with some remaining floor space for bags. (Single occupancy is $50.) If you wish to bring your own tent, please contact us so we can approve the model and design.
- river bag—115 litre, 30 gal—this is for your clothing and camp gear. When closed properly it provides waterproof protection. We’ve never encountered anyone who couldn’t fit everything they needed in this bag!
- day bag—20 litre, 5 gal– a smaller bag for items you’ll want to have easy access to during the day. Waterproof when closed properly. (Note: This is not the same as the “day pack” listed below which you must bring for hiking)
- boot bag—communal bag for carrying hiking boots during the day.
- cooking, eating utensils, table ware—all taken care of.
- river footwear, rain jacket and pants—you can rent these items from us—please enquire.
Items for Rent*
- rubber boots $30
- rain jacket and pants $65
- wet suits $75
- Pelican water proof camera case $35
- sleeping bag/sleeping pad combination $75 or for a luxury sleeping pad add $30
(Fees are per person, per item, per trip in CAD)
*To ensure we can supply your rental needs, please place your order before June.
You probably already have almost everything you need –we can provide the rest. Getting ready is part of the fun and the following lists are designed to simplify your packing. However, please feel free to contact us with any questions.
We use chartered aircraft with limited load carrying capacity. Try to restrict your gear to an effective but lightweight set of outdoor clothing and equipment. Please limit your load to a total of 40 pounds. The good news is that most clothing is light and can be rolled into a tight ball, do don’t skimp on warm layers. If you’re in doubt about a certain item, bring it along and consult with the guides before departure. It can always be left behind – we’ll arrange a place at the departure point for you to stow unnecessary items. Avoid bringing valuables such as jewelry.
Comments on Gear
Foul Weather Clothing
The importance of good rain pants and hooded rain jacket cannot be over-emphasized. Consider a hooded jacket and pants made of a coated, waterproof fabric for rain protection (eg. Helly Hansen, Wet Skins, sailing suit). While Gortex may work for wind and light showers, it’s not waterproof. If you choose Gortex for raingear, it must be a top quality multi-ply suit. It should also be reasonably new and/or recently treated with solutions as per the manufacturers instructions. Please note that the manufacturers state it will not function properly when dirty and performance is increased by a warm iron. We don’t bring irons. Foul weather garments made for sailing seem to be among the best for durability and comfort.
Bring warm synthetic pile, polypropylene or wool clothing to wear underneath your rain suit. These fabrics continue to insulate even when wet. Cotton and denim are a liability in wet environments – leave your jeans at home. Throw in some wool or pile mitts with nylon covers, or rubber gloves with a light glove inside, and a wool hat, just for good measure. You may not actually use any of this on the trip but ”better safe than sorry.” In fair weather, a pair of shorts or light weight long pants will work well. Long-sleeved T-shirts provide protection from the sun and bugs in hot weather. Check the equipment list for further details and please call with any questions.
Layering your clothing will give you the greatest comfort for a wide range of conditions. It’s best to use several layers of shirts, jackets, and an outer shell rather than one heavy jacket, which will be too hot most of the time. With the layer system you can add or remove layers according to the day and you have something dry in reserve.
In any given summer, we usually hear the following equipment feedback:
- From guests on a good weather trip: “Why did you tell us to bring along all the warm clothing we didn’t use?”
- From guests (who followed our list) on a trip with some cold weather: “Thanks for having us prepared by giving us such detailed instructions on what to bring!”
- From guests (who did not follow our list) on a trip with some cold weather: “I was cold!”
Having said all this, please don’t let the equipment list put you off. Whether you end up using all or half of the gear on your list, your river journey will be the trip of a lifetime!
Here are some terms and definitions to help you with provisioning:
- Water proof— the quality of a sealed fabric that does not allow moisture to pass through. Condensation from sweating is controlled by venting through zippers.
- Gore-tex—a laminated fabric manufactured to be water repellent and breathable. The waterproof qualities may be compromised if the fabric becomes soiled or abraded by pack straps. (Use for wind and light shower gear.)
- Polypropylene—a lightweight synthetic fabric that transfers moisture away from your skin. Brand names include Lifa, Wickers, Odlo, Patagonia and others. (Used for long underwear.)
- Capiline—another polyester fabric that is similar to polypropylene and manufactured by Patagonia. (Used for long underwear.)
- Fleece & Pile—a polyester fabric that is lightweight and soft. It is warmer than wool per pound, insulates even when wet, and dries quickly. It is also referred to as fleece, Polarplus and Synchilla. (Used for outerwear.)
- Icebreaker Wool—a brand that has all but eliminated the “itch factor”.
Remember—except for a few T-shirts and briefs, do not bring cotton!
River travel means water underfoot. A standard pair of knee-high rubber boots are recommended (minimum 10” high) for raft (and for two-person canoeists on the tundra or who are experienced with them). Wear these with a felt insole (the “footstep shape” insole, not the type that completely line the boot up to the rim because the latter will take days to dry if wet) and a combination of polypropylene and wool/pile socks. Carry a spare set of insoles and socks, and in the case you “overstep” your boots, they can be used to replace the wet ones. If you make your insoles out of closed cell (ensolite) foam, they will not absorb water and will dry very quickly.
For the tandem canoe trips or rafters who are familiar with them – not on the tundra – we suggest you buy a snug-fitting pair of neoprene booties available at canoe or scuba diving supply shops. Most have integral soles.
If you get a pair without soles you may wear them inside tennis shoes. The height should be mid-calf, not ankle height. Don’t be fooled by the “surfing shoes” made of quick-drying material rather than neoprene – they don’t provide the necessary warmth. If you’re on a whitewater canoe trip, you already know about specs for booties and just remember that the water is cool.
Tip: if you use neoprene booties, drip a teaspoon of hot water in each one in the morning. Shake and test with your finger. Then put them on and luxuriate in the warmth!
Sport sandals have become popular. While okay for rugged individuals, remember that the water is cold, especially in the far north.
For hiking and camp wear, bring light hiking boots. Be sure they are broken in before the trip to minimize chances of blisters. Important criteria includes: ankle support and sufficient height to keep out bits of debris.
We recommend a sleeping bag with synthetic fill rated to 0°C/32°F. If you tend to be a person who sleeps “cool,” you may wish to consider a bag that’s rated an additional 5°C cooler. An older bag loses its loft with time and may be 5 degrees less effective. A Therm-a-Rest pad or a sleeping bag underneath works best, as the ground may be rough. Closed cell foam or ensolite work but they’re not as comfortable and are not recommended. Sleeping bag and sleeping pad can be rented for $75/person/trip or $105 for the luxury sleeping pad upgrade and sleeping bag. This can relieve your luggage burden on the airlines. If you wish to rent, please indicate this as early as possible. Some individuals consider a “chamber pot” for convenience at night. A wide mouthed container and lid, such as a yogurt container works well.
Managing Your Baggage
Use the maximum allowable carry-on baggage space to ensure you have essentials such as hiking boots, medication, toothbrush, underwear and any other hard to replace items as there is usually no time to locate lost luggage before departure of your bush plane flight. This situation is unlikely, but worth preparing for.
Try to keep your bags under 40 pounds (not including paddle, PFD and tent if you are bringing these). Again, we suggest maximizing your carry-on baggage with all of your essentials, in case of baggage loss. If you have back problems, you can request an additional pack for the river to lessen the weight of individual packs.
City clothes and valuables may be left at our rendezvous location, but for peace of mind we recommend that you leave all but essential valuables behind. Car parking facilities are available at the departure points.
Food and Meals
Despite remote wilderness locations, you can expect to eat very well. We take special care in preparing nutritious and delicious meals for all of our trips. You will be continually amazed at the variety and quality of the meals. Just because you’re in the wilderness, that doesn’t mean you have to eat freeze dried and one pot stews! (We’re able to manage some food allergies and dietary restrictions. Please identify these concerns early when you book so that we can work the arrangements into the plans for the season.) Comfortable stools are provided for seating around the fire at breakfast and dinner.
We are not permitted to provide alcohol within our trip packages but we’ll send you a Selection List of spirits which may be conveniently ordered through us from local liquor stores. These items will be ready for you upon arrival. You are also welcome to bring a beverage of your choice from home (transfer to plastic bottles).
You’ll have opportunities to wash clothing in camp if required. A personal collapsible wash bucket is handy for this.
Most participants want to return home with the best possible photographic record of their trip. Here are some helpful ideas:
Carrying your camera
The #1 rule – water destroys cameras – instantly! The waterproof day bag that we provide should protect your camera on raft or canoe expeditions. A strong Ziplock bag provides extra insurance inside. Better yet, or for two person canoe expeditions, we recommend you invest in a waterproof case. We recommend the Pelican brand, available in canoe, photo and diving shops. These cases provide the best protection possible for your valuable equipment.
Along the river, sand can play havoc, so be prepared to clean your camera regularly with a brush and lens paper. It is also strongly recommended that you update your homeowners policy to cover any expensive camera equipment.
- before and after shots of yourself are fun
- on the aircraft, keep your camera on your lap
- don’t forget shots of packing and the departure at the start of the trip
- you can add interest by varying the light conditions. Set your exposure for the lighter portion of the shot
- sequences with long, medium and close-up are fun and will tell a story
- portray the immensity of canyons and mountains by using people and boats (small in the viewfinder) for scale
- be sure to have some pictures of yourself by trading your camera with other people
- to avoid squints, photograph faces in the shade
- look for significant detail shots such as cooking, flowers, your boat…etc.
- rule of thumb – light is best in morning and evening; rapids look best in sunlight
- reflections in pools can make beautiful compositions
- be sure to have a parting shot of the group; perhaps with one of the aircraft
- waterproof and wide-angle cameras have become very popular on our trips
Think Banff, Whistler or Boulder summer conditions.
Weather conditions in northern mountainous environments range widely between extremes. The only fact you can bet on with mountain weather is that it can change instantly. This means that although we may enjoy fine weather we must also be prepared for changes. On any given day you may experience sunny, hot, dry weather that is interrupted by periods of rain or on rare occasions – even snow. In general, the weather is moderate with average temperatures of 16°C (62°F) in July, and 14°C (56°F) in August. When packing, please be prepared for heat waves and cold spells. For tundra river trips, please refer to the specific notes in the itinerary regarding weather.
Remember, as mere mortals your guides have no control over the weather. This may seem obvious but it is surprising how many well-educated people will look for someone to blame for poor weather. The best we can do as guides and outfitters is to suggest proper clothing, and we have done this in the equipment list. Please call for any clarification you may require.
Generally we few on the Tatshenshini and Alsek and few on most of the Nahanni and Mountain River trips.
Mosquito populations vary according to temperature, rainfall, and wind. Generally, we’re able to camp in places that have very few of the pesky critters. However, on occasion (particularly in early season), try as we might, we may be unable to avoid them. Be prepared with mosquito repellent and a head net, or better yet, a bug jacket. Bug jackets or shirts are an absolute necessity for any of our tundra or early season trips. If you cannot locate one please call us for assistance.
If fishing is high on your list of priorities consider the Coppermine River which is famous for Arctic Char. All of the rivers we frequent (with the exception of the Tatshenshini, Alsek and Stikine) boast Dolly Varden, Lake Trout, Arctic Grayling and in places Northern Pike. These species are wary and although fishing can be well rewarded, it does require patience and persistence. Small spinners seem to yield best results for grayling and Dolly Varden, while medium to large lures yield better results for Char and Lake Trout. Although some try their hand at fly fishing be aware that a number of our rivers are big and wide and at times can be very windy. A medium to heavy weight fly rod and line is required. Fishing on the Tatshenshini and Alsek is poor due to the siltiness of its waters. Licenses are available at our rendezvous locations. Your guides can provide details.
We have structured our expeditions to allow lots of time to hike and explore the area we are travelling through. Travel days on the river can be anywhere from a short day of two hours to an occasional long day of seven hours depending on the location of the next campsite. The guides will stop for breaks each hour. Many trips have one or more “lay-over” days when we stay put and enjoy camping two nights in that spot. We like to get our groups on the river fairly early each day, usually by about 10 am, to allow us plenty of time to stop during the day to watch wildlife, do a short hike or allow us to photograph or explore around camp at night.
You are welcome to participate with in-camp chores and routine, but this is your choice. (Remember, this is your holiday and we are working.) Pick the role that will yield the most enjoyable experience for you. If at any time you are puzzled about expectations, please ask one of your guides. They’re very approachable and would rather clarify your questions than have you wondering.
Early risers may keep themselves busy by seeking out panoramic photographs or pursuing other personal interests. Getting up, preparing and eating breakfast, making plans for the day, striking camp and loading the boats is a process that usually takes about three hours. If the camp is a two-nighter, things are tidied up and we enjoy the highlights of that particular spot.
Evenings are usually unstructured. A campfire, fishing, enjoying the midnight sun (early season) or countless other activities may occupy the time. Except for short forays within the vicinity of camp, travelling alone out of site of camp is discouraged for safety reasons. As professional outfitters, we must be consistent with this policy.
We take care in making our logistical arrangements. In spite of this, an event may arise that causes a deviation in scheduled plans. When this occurs we have to remind ourselves that safe wilderness travel by plane, canoe and occasionally even by vehicle is very dependent on prevailing conditions. If these conditions are such that we cannot proceed safely, the only alternative is to sit tight and wait. Fortunately, such circumstances are very rare, but if they do present themselves, we would appreciate your patience and cooperation.
Isolation and Other Groups
Although we are travelling on a wilderness river, we may encounter other visitors. We do our best to avoid this, but often, particularly at points of significant interest, it is likely that we will see other groups. Once away from these places it becomes easier to maintain our solitude.
With Regard to Our Safety Record . . .
We have taken great pains to ensure that our guides are professionals and amongst the best in the field, particularly where safety is concerned.
The element that separates the safest guides from the rest is judgment, something that only comes from seasons of experience in a variety of environments. We have a great deal of respect for our guides and also the responsibility they must bear. In turn, the guides on your trip will ask that you follow some simple guidelines:
- While on the river or any lakes, each person must wear a lifejacket completely fastened – no exceptions.
- In bear country there is security in numbers. Before anyone ventures out of sight of the group, be sure the guide knows and consents. In many situations, including hiking and always boating, the guide will require that the group stay together. Once again, this stems from years of experience.
- Selection of itinerary is something that the group will participate in, but the final discretion always rests with the guide. Weather, river conditions, forest fires and other variables may dictate that the group sits tight or selects an alternate plan. In such a case the guide will make the choice and will require your support.
All participants will be requested to complete and sign a medical form in conjunction with his/her physician prior to the trip.
We strongly recommend cancellation/medical/evacuation insurance. The package that we use includes coverage for evacuation and for Canadians it has additional medical coverage. See the application form or call our office for more details concerning what the cancellation insurance covers. The cost is approximately 5 – 7% of the trip fee and is non-refundable.
Please check to ensure your medical insurance will cover you away from home and include evacuation coverage outside of your home region.
If this is your first river holiday, you likely have many questions. Please feel free to call with any questions you have. We regularly address health concerns, feminine hygiene, dietary needs, washing and other factors. Our job is to ensure you feel comfortable while making the best use of your valuable holiday time.
“Is it required and how much?” – an awkward question when on the river. Hopefully this will lend some clarity: Most guests tip their guides. If you feel the guides have been especially helpful and instrumental in increasing the enjoyment of your trip, and have gone out of their way to make you feel comfortable, you may wish to leave a tip at trip’s end to show your appreciation. Your guides work harder than the best staff in the finest restaurant and it’s 24/7! Consider $125 per person per guest per guide as a starting point. You may call in a credit card tip to the office following the trip if you wish. Please do not feel required to leave a tip.
River travel demands attention to thorough waterproofing of your gear. We will provide you with a large, waterproof river bag (115L or 30 gal.) and a smaller water proof bag (20L or 5 gal.) to be used as a day bag for quick access to items you may need during the day.
To organize items inside a large bag, you may wish to use colour coded, nylon stuff sacks. As a safety measure, you should plan to line your river bag with a large trash bag. We cannot accept responsibility for performance of the bags. If you have a valuable camera we strongly recommend you bring a waterproof camera bag or case that can be found at your local camera store. (One of the recommended types is made by Pelican and can be rented from us).