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Northern Tier - Suggested Number of Days

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Now that we got our Philmont date for 2019, the troop is questioning if we'd be better off doing Northern Tier instead.  Sigh...

Anyway, the Northern Tier lottery is open, and I didn't realize that you pick not just your start date, but end date.  I've read you need to consider how many miles you want to do per day.

Could you folks who have done this tell me how many days your troop chose, what was the reasoning you used and would you have changed anything about that plan now that you've done the trek?  Any strategy on dates as far as ensuring your troop gets in?

We have a PLC meeting this weekend, and I'd like to pass this experience on to them to help them finalize plans for high adventure 2019.

We're doing Sea Base this year.  I'm preparing myself by going on the Monster of Rock cruise next month.  I couldn't get a stipend from the troop for some reason. :p

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Because of the limited NT program, I have taken my boys only on independent BWCA trips.  An experienced guide, be it either BSA or non-BSA is necessary in the planning stages of the trip.  I have made multiple trips to the area and never used NT.  We got our own permits, established our own routes, organized the boys, acquired the gear, planned the meals and did our own thing.  Only once did we plan on doing a 50-miler.  The rest of the trips were pretty much fishing and multiple site camping. 

The longest trip we planned was for 9 days due to the limit of how much food one needs to start out with and still keep the canoes afloat.  Like backpacking, weight is an issue.  The standard canoe capacity is 350#'s.  With older boys who are large enough to carry a 80# canoe, the load capacity goes down to compensate for the heavier personnel.  The permit only allows 9 people on a team so that means either 3 or 4 canoes, one of which needs 3 people.  I don't know the load limit of a kevlar canoe, but one can get their hands on freighter canoes, the load limit jumps up to 750#.. We took my 2 freighters and 2 standard canoes.  1 standard canoe was just the 3 people. The other could carry a load of about 50#'s besides the two people.  The freighters could carry 2 people plus 400# of equipment each on average. 

All in all it takes as much planning as the standard backpack trek.

I would think that one could also have a solo kayaker instead of a 1 canoe/3 people that would allow for an extra 50-70#'s and not overload the one canoe, but that means yet another boat to portage.

It would be nice to know what kinds of canoes NT carries and what their load capacities are.  Our "guide" was a scouter that had gone on many floats using commercial outfitters in the area.  We could have taken on more gear, but would be restricted to calm waters so as not to swamp the overloaded canoes on windy days.  Even as lightly loaded as we were, there were days we "sat out the weather".

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Our Troop did Boundary Waters through Ely a couple of years back, and we're going to Bissett MB this summer for Caribou Provincial Park.

We did 7 days for the first trip and are going or 10 this trip. 

We did 7 the first time because our crew ranged young, avg age was 15, and it worked out well. We chose 10 this time because it's a bigger deal to get there and we wanted to maximize on the time spent, plus now all those guys are older, avg age is almost 17 now.

I don't think we would change anything. Like I said the first trip was a young crew, and the first high adventure for the troop in almost 10 years. Plus we are in California and lakes and portaging are just plain alien to us. We had a lot to learn, but learned it quick and had a great time.

The big reason for our return trip is NT is just so different from what we can do out here. 

The troop has done the Triple Crown and the only base that required any strategy in our experience is Sea Base. NT is pretty much pick your week and sign up.

From our experience, and recommendation from the NT staff, go as late in the season as possible.(We've done the second week in Aug both times) The black fly and mosquito populations have a fairly short life span and start to die off as the summer wanes. You'll still have a healthy mosquito population later, but it'll concentrate to dawn and dusk.  

Our biggest take away from the first trip was bring a full crew, 8 in that case. You have 3 to a canoe, with three canoes. So 8 plus the NT guide. We ended up one short and it made it tough getting our gear into two granite packs as opposed to the three we would have had. (All portages are single carry)

Our group is really looking forward to Bissett, they're really into the idea of not seeing another soul for the time on the water.


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Very good advice, revdmv.  I think 7 days would be about right for our crew.

Our committee chair and I lean toward us doing Philmont in 2019 (we have a trek from the lottery).  The Scoutmaster leans toward Northern Tier.  The scouts, having no experience, aren't really sure.  We're also looking at the ages of the kids in our troop and factoring that in.

I'm trying to give the PLC as much info as possible to help the decision making process.

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Our troops is planning an independent BWCA trip this Summer with 3 crews:

11-13yos: prep day, 3 full canoeing days, and exit day so 5 days by NT counting.

14-15yos: 7-8days by NT method

Older scouts: 8+days depending on how many 21+ scouters they can find... shooting for 10i-12 days probably will actually do 10.


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Well, our troop finally made a choice and we're doing Philmont in 2019.  So that likely means Northern Tier in 2020. 

If we'd chosen NT for 2019, I think we would have gone with 9 days, which would mean 7 on the water.

Since we're doing Philmont, no skipping leg day.  :confused:

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