If your are more interested in the experience of the  BWCA than the Northern Tier patch, it's more affordable and enjoyable to use a private outfitter. Pro: Route flexibility.  The only reservation is your Entry Point and pick-up.  If you get into a poor campsite one night, move on.  Bad weather? Tent up for a day. Leisure. If you're in a good spot, linger an extra day and enjoy the wilderness.  Work on Scout skills, teach a merit badge.  Unstructured time for campers to bash around an have fun.  My approach to covering distance is to get out of civilization.  Once you're in deep, logging miles so that you can brag about paddling X number of miles is missing the point. Fishing.  Plentiful Largemouth, Smallmouth,  and Northern Pike.  Walleye, if you know how to catch them, makes the best eating fish. Campsite improvement opportunity.  Improve the fire ring seating, clear the landing area, cut back the latrine trail.  Blowdown trees were everywhere.  Folding saw and tomahawk were in frequent use.  Teach Paul Bunyan before you leave. Hammocks!  They pack light, sleep well, and not allowed at Philmont. Group composition.  Without YPT concerns, you can take anybody you want, as long as you stay with in the BWCA rules.  My dog was an excellent bear alarm. Con: No patch. You have to plan more yourself.  http://bwca.com/index.cfm? Bear in mind that some portages are more difficult due to the vertical content. Three miles of flat and smooth is easier than one mile of up and down, especially if it's steep and rocky. Go prepared for the bugs.  Avoid black fly season.  Mosquitoes after dark can be brutal on the way to the latrine.  Avoid marshy campsites.  Our best was an exposed point on Disappointment where the breeze kept us bug-free for 2 days.
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