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Which is More Challenging Philmont or Northern Tier

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Generally speaking, rigging a sail in the BWCA is illegal. 

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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:

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.

Camp.jpg

Fishing.jpg

Max.jpg

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Two more over the limit:

 

Tea.jpg

Vista.jpg

I forgot about the joy of having NO cellphone signal and no recharging opportunities.  The kids had to talk to each other and games in the tent at night weren't a factor.

Your GPS on your phone still works fine; those satellites are still up there.  I saved a Google Maps image on my phone for use offline that I had pre-marked with all of our campsite possibilities.  It helped us not waste time searching the shoreline for legit campsites.  I took 3 phone batteries, but only used 50% of one over a 7 day trip in airplane mode.  It's amazing how little power you use when there's no network to ping.

Edited by JoeBob
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2 hours ago, JoeBob said:

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.

<snip>

Con:

Our troop is going on an independent BWCA trip this summer... the adults and the PLC viewed the greater planning as a huge plus not a con. More control for the older kids, more growth opportunities for the younger and cheaper. We're using our own camping and cooking gear, planning and prepping our own food, and hopefully can rustle up enough dry bags and duluth packs(though we may end up renting some of those).

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Thanks for the info.  That will be something for the troop to consider.  I will say that YPT rules apply for all troop activities, though.

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When you have mixed genders (female Venturers and Boy Scouts in my case), YPT can be interpreted to require 2 Adult Females and 2 Adult Males.  BWCA rules cap the maximum party size at 9, so you have 4 adults and 5 youth.  That ratio is a little steep in my opinion.

My trip was obviously not an official Scout trip.  We went as private civilians with one adult male and one adult female.

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20 hours ago, JoeBob said:

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:

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 is bug-free for 2 days.

 

One of the times I went to BWCA, it was with two troops.  One was experienced in HA, the other not.  The groups were blended and all planning was done by both troops.  They had custom made hats, scarves and patches made for the trip. They used military duffles and packed with garbage bags.  It rained for 8 of the 9 days so dry-bags were a moot issue.

Even with all this, the cost per scout was less than 5 days of summer camp.

 

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21 hours ago, JoeBob said:

 

One other advantage of using your own outfitter is lighter Kevlar canoes.

Great pictures JoeBob, brings back a lot of memories. One of our adults also took his Border Collie.

One big difference I tell "adults" deciding between canoeing in Canada and hiking Philmont is that you can take a bath every day in Canada. Ahhhhhhh.:rolleyes:

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21 hours ago, JoeBob said:

When you have mixed genders (female Venturers and Boy Scouts in my case), YPT can be interpreted to require 2 Adult Females and 2 Adult Males.  BWCA rules cap the maximum party size at 9, so you have 4 adults and 5 youth.  That ratio is a little steep in my opinion...

The venturing 4-deep-for-big-woods YPT is over-cautious. I did use such as opportunities to train more adults, but when I went over the requirements with my brother (a hikemaster at the Y of the Rockies), he said, "Why don't you just have three adults? One stays with the injured and the youth, and two go to get rescue!"

Again, with mature youth and younger adults, that 4:5 or 4:6 ratio isn't that bad ... but finding the numbers for what effectively becomes a parent-child (or ideally, older sibling-younger sibling) outing is not trivial.

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On 12/4/2017 at 11:59 AM, JoeBob said:

 

  • Campsite improvement opportunity.  Improve the fire ring seating, clear the landing area, cut back the latrine trail.  Blowdown trees were everywhere.

While I know this was posted with nothing but the best intentions, keep in mind that this is a wilderness area; none of those are things you should be doing on your own.  

Edited by The Blancmange

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The BWCA has crews that go out and regularly do these things.  It is not something the visitors are allowed to do on their own.

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Normally, I'd demure and support LNT; but I'm basing my comments on the July 21st 2016 Blowdown:

http://bwca.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=forum.thread&threadId=955746&forumID=16&confID=1

The crews are still working to clear sites.  The less used portages are passable, but close.  Trees are down everywhere.  Look at the far shore in the photo.  That's a lot of standing dead timber.

Blowdown.jpg

This storm affected only 25% of the area that the 1999 Blowdown flattened, but it was still scary:

http://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2016/06/24/area-man-survives-violent-bwca-storm/86333972/

If you want some real wood to cut, something that BSA doesn't have much of these days, the BWCA is for you.

Please be careful and train your boys in woods skills and first aid.  The writer assumes no responsibility for missing fingers or hacked off feet.

Edited by JoeBob

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