A Video Guide to the Boundary Waters

Few things can equal the experience of a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. Each year, thousands travel to northern Minnesota to experience the abundant amount of clean, fresh water in the BWCA. A national treasure, it is the most visited Wilderness Area in the United States.  

As a federally protected Wilderness Area, no motors are allowed in the BWCA. There are no lodges, flush toilets, or rest stops where you can come in from the cold and stock up on snacks.

And after a few hours in this paddler’s paradise, you wouldn’t want it any other way!

However, because the Boundary Waters exists in this wild, pristine glory, it means you need a few skills to fully enjoy your time among the loons and the moose. Many were lucky enough to have a cool aunt, an outdoor-loving friend, or went to a camp where they learned how to setup camp and paddle into a headwind. 

We at Friends of the Boundary Waters believe that everyone, regardless of economic status, previous experience or social background should have a chance to experience the magic of the BWCA. We also realize that traveling here requires skills not everyone has.

To lower the bar to entry we worked with some incredibly talented videographers and individuals who are passionate about the BWCA to create a series of visually stunning videos that will guide you through some of the essential skills needed on a Boundary Waters trip, and give you a peek into the beauty and the majesty of contained in this land.

What to expect on a BWCA Trip

If you haven’t been camping for a few years — or ever — you probably have a lot of questions about what exploring the Boundary Waters will be like. While nothing beats going up there and finding out for yourself, we break down some of the most commonly asked questions in this video.

3 ways to Portage a canoe 

The famed canoeist Bill Mason once said, “Portaging is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop.” No doubt portaging is hard, but it’s also immensely satisfying, and you just might be one of the few who loves to portage! In this video, we break down a few techniques to get the canoe on — and off — your shoulders.

Two essential paddle strokes for canoe camping

Fact: You can paddle your way through a Boundary Waters trip without learning how to paddle correctly, and still have a great time. But learning just the basics of what goes into a solid paddle stroke can make an enormous difference. You’ll go further and use less energy!

Basics of outdoor cooking (plus two recipes)

Solitude, the sound of loons singing, and smell of pines on a misty morning. Yes, these are all reasons we love the Boundary Waters, but let’s be honest, eating is in the top three highlights of any day! Cooking delicious outdoor meals can be as simple or as complicated as you like. In this video we’ll show you how to make two simple one-pot wonders that will be the perfect capstone to a day on trail.

Navigating with a map and compass

Using a map and compass to navigate your way through the lakes and portage trails in the BWCA is immensely satisfying. While it can be tempting (and convenient) to rely on GPS or other modern electronics, navigating with these basic tools is an easy skill to learn, and share with others.

How to Pack a Canoe Pack

You can’t just stuff everything lying around camp into your bag and hope it fits! What’s more, if it starts to rain or if you tip your canoe, you want to be sure everything is tightly sealed and waterproof. We’ll show you how to pack your bag so that it’s waterproof to the point where it actually floats!

5 ways to rain and weather-proof your campsite

Once you get to camp – there’s work to be done! In addition to fishing, reading, and jumping into the water, you need to set up camp. This is your home for the night (or several nights) so be sure that you have a good sleeping and cooking area, and that you manage things so that nothing gets lost or — in case of bad weather — wet!

7 Tips to Keep the Boundary Waters Wild

We are all visitors to the Boundary Waters. It is up to each of us to do our part to protect the pristine beauty we are so fortunate to enjoy. This video gives you a few simple reminders on how to be a good steward to the land and fellow travelers.

We hope you enjoy these videos. Please share them with others and if you can, consider donating to Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. For over 50 years, we’ve worked to protect the Boundary Waters by bringing together people who are passionate about clean water and wilderness.