I am leaving really early tomorrow morning for a canoe trip into the Boundary Waters. As I have discussed in a previous entry, I am the “Lord of the Pack” in that I do most of the planning, shopping, and packing of the food and gear (because I am damn good at it). However, I tend to get a bit of pre-trip paranoia and always feel like I am leaving something important behind.

That got me thinking, what do you really need to have a good time in the woods? There are five mission critical factors for it to be a truly successful trip:

1. Fire – I have camped without a fire when there have been burning bans in years past, but it always felt a bit hollow. As we have been gazing into campfires as a species for something like a million years now, it is pretty much hardwired into our system. While I pride myself in being able to build a fire without matches by using a bow drill, I always do bring a lighter (or three). It is way easier and still technically is building a fire without matches…

2. Toilet Paper – Just try wiping your ass with a spruce. Thimbleberry leaves and sphagnum moss make good field expedient solutions, but are no substitute for the real stuff. And as camp fare tends to be light on the fruit and vegetable sections of the food pyramid, bring two ply at the very least.

3. A Good Tarp – The weather forecast for this weekend is rain until the day we leave (go figure). Tents are great to sleep in, but huddle all day in one during a downpour and you might just give up camping. A good tarp allows you to be outside and comfortable without getting soaked, and will keep the rain and dew off of your gear at night. Don’t skimp on the tarp either; I started with a 9′ square tarp and now use a 16′ tarp as it will cover everything better with elbow room to spare. Bring a tarp.

4. A Folding Chair – Sitting on logs and in the mud looses its appeal very quickly. The seats that go right on the ground make it almost impossible to do anything productive and can be tough to get in and out of after a day of rough portages, and while the small folding stools like Byers of Maine makes are better, they are hard to sit on for too long and impossible to kick back in. What you want is a good, stable, four legged folding chair. They don’t weigh that much, are high enough to let you cook easily from, and you can sit in one all day and be comfortable.

5. Wine – The three liter box of wine is perhaps the greatest innovation of the last 50 years. Take the bladder out of the box and it will pack almost anywhere. Three liters is just about right for one person on a Friday to Sunday trip.

Perhaps some of you may think that I have omitted things that might have bearing on a person’s well being, like food. Be that as it may, when you are sitting your clean ass in a dry, tarp covered folding chair in front of a roaring fire while guzzling high wine like a voyageur, will you really care? If I get too hungry, I will just have a chance to use my survival kit.

I wonder what wine goes with squirrel?

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