The following pre-trip information will help you in your final preparation and further fuel your dreams of the adventure ahead. Please feel free to contact us with any last minute questions you may have.
Think: Banff, Whistler or Boulder summer conditions. Weather conditions in northern environments range widely between extremes. The only fact you can bet on 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. 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 there are very few on the Tatshenshini and Alsek and few on most of the Nahanni and Mountain river trips (we will mostly see them on the last night). Mosquito populations vary according to temperature, rainfall, and wind. Generally, we are able to camp in places that have few or none of the pesky critters. However on occasion, 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 bug shirts are an absolute necessity on any of our tundra trips. If you cannot locate one please call us for assistance.
If fishing is high on your list of priorities consider the Coppermine or Firth rivers which are 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. Some guests try their hand at fly fishing. A medium to heavy weight fly rod and line is required. There is no fishing on the Tatshenshini and Alsek 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 time on the river can be anywhere from a short 2-hour day to an occasional 7-hour day, depending on the distance to the next campsite. Your guides will stop for shore breaks each hour. Many trips have one or more layover days when we stay put and enjoy camping for two nights at one spot. We like to get our groups on the river fairly early each day, usually by about 10am, to allow plenty of time to watch wildlife, enjoy a short hike or for photography.
Exploring your new camp area is also something to look forward to. Spending time around a campfire, fishing, or enjoying the midnight sun (early season) amongst countless other activities might occupy your time. Except for short forays within camp’s vicinity, travelling alone out of camp’s site is discouraged for safety reasons.
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.
You are welcome to participate with any in-camp chores but it is an option, not a requirement (remember this is your holiday and we are the ones doing the work for you).
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, raft 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 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 and evacuation insurance. The package that we use includes all three. Karen at Uniglobe Travel can answer your questions.
Please check to ensure your medical insurance will cover you away from home and includes evacuation coverage outside of your home region. If you pan to use a credit card policy or another policy, please check details to ensure it will cover your needs, some do not.
If this is your first river holiday, you likely have many questions. Please call us 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 your 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. Consider $125 per person (or $250 per couple) 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 compelled or 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. Upon arrival you can transfer your personal gear into these from your travel suitcase or duffel bag.
To organize items inside the large waterproof bag we recommend Ziplock 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” which may be rented from us).
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 is not waterproof. If you choose Gortex for raingear, it must be a top quality multiply 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 do not bring irons. Foul weather garments made for sailing seem to be among the best for durability and comfort.
Bring warm fleece, 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 fleece 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 synthetic long pants will work well. Long-sleeved t-shirts will provide protection from the sun in hot weather. Check the What to Bring list (below) for further details and please call with any questions.
Layering of clothing will give you the greatest comfort for a wide range of conditions. It is best to use several layers of shirts, jackets, and an outer shell rather than one heavy layer, 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’ll 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! Remember – except for a few t-shirts and briefs, do not bring cotton!
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)
- 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”.
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). Rubber boots may be rented from us.
Wear these with a felt insole (we are referring to the “footstep shape” insole, not the type that completely line the boot up to the rim because the later will take days to dry if wet) and a combination of polypropylene and wool/ fleece socks and your feet should stay comfortably warm. 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 should they get wet.
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 do not provide the necessary warmth. If you are 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 or gloves, 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. An older bag loses its loft with time and may be 5 degrees less effective. An inflated sleeping pad underneath works best. A sleeping bag and standard 3 cm (1″) sleeping pad can be rented for $75.00/person/trip. Consider treating yourself to a 9 cm (3″) luxury sleeping pad plus an inflatable pillow for an additional $30. There is also a double wide sleeping bag system with luxury sleeping pads for couples, it can be rented for $210. 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 (wear them), medication, toothbrush, underwear and any other hard-to-replace items in case your checked bags are lost. 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). 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 at home.
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 are in the wilderness, does not mean you have to eat freeze dried and one pot stews! We are able to manage 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 will send you a 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 (please transfer them 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. Be sure to bring an extra memory card and battery. You will not regret the small additional cost. 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 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 like those from Pelican (we rent these for your convenience). These cases provide the best protection possible for your valuable equipment.
- before and after shots of yourself are fun
- on the aircraft, keep your camera within reach
- 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 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