As a kid who went to Summer Camp for a month every summer and then became a Camp Counsellor for years, I’ve grown up with an emotional affinity toward loving nature. I’d wanted to try a portage trip for a long time but never had anyone who wanted to go with me. Last summer I did my first portage trip in Algonquin Park, which is a few hours North of Toronto. If you’re thinking about going portaging and are a beginner let me give you a few tips that I wish I had known before setting out!
Invest in a water filtration system
Water is heavy. Portaging is physical. If you’re doing a weekend trip in the summer, you’ll need a lot of water. I made the mistake of lugging along jugs of water and I regretted it.
You’re already carrying a canoe, tent, food and all of your gear through the woods and some of the portages are rugged and uphill. Believe me, you won’t regret going light by having a filtration system instead of jugs of water.
Mountain Equipment Co-Op has tons of options for water filtration systems.
Don’t change campsites every night
For a first timer I was far too eager and booked campsites on different lakes every night. I didn’t realize how taxing 8 hours of repetitive motion of paddling (often times against the wind on huge lakes) would be on the body.
I vowed that next time I go, I would make sure to include some chill time at the campsites and just take closer and shorter canoe trips throughout the day. What’s the point of being surrounded by all of that beauty if you are too tired to take it in!?
I recommend changing campsites every other day, or if you must change every day then choose places that are not too far from each other so you have time to explore. Believe me, paddling against the wind is HARD.
Wear running shoes during the portages
Should be pretty obvious, right? It’s really tempting on a hot summer day to just leave the flip flops on and try to punch out the portage really fast. MISTAKE! My feet were absolutely dead, borderline tendonitis after a day of doing the portages with flip flops on. Don’t try to be a superstar – wear proper footwear!
Leave early in the morning to get the best campsites
As noted in #2, my campsites were located far from eachother (8 hours of paddling apart) and by the time I got to the lake, all the good campsites were taken. We ended up having to paddle across huge lakes just to compare the available campsites.
When you are dead tired because you’ve never done a trip like this before, the last thing you want to do is add another few hours of intense paddling onto your day. Choose shorter trips to avoid this and get the best campsites on the lake before the others!
Choose island campsites if you can
Private island, anyone? This will require getting to the lakes early! It’s going to be worth it. A private island campsite is super romantic, relaxing, magical, [insert adjective]. Sunset or sunrise views are to die for.