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PostPosted: September 5th, 2011, 10:57 am 
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When I talk about some of my longer trips, people often want to know just how we do it.
Most people are familiar with the techniques of shorter wilderness tripping, and the differences between a week long trip and a month long trip really aren't that great: you need more food, you need to do laundry once in a while, and most importantly, you need to learn to live with the land.

After the first week, we have found that you just kind of get into a "rhythm" so that it stops being a trip, and just becomes life out on the land.

Here's a few pics of some of our long trip techniques:

Here's what a month's food supplies look like, all packed up at home before the trip.

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In order to provide us with "real food" wile on an extended wilderness trip, we do a lot of baking in a reflector oven. Here's one of my favorite trip meals: oven-baked lasagna:

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Because we do the vast majority of our cooking over an open fire, we prefer to use traditional fire irons rather than carry a grill. I purchased these fire irons from Craig Macdonald who keeps the traditional style but makes them out of a lightweight material:

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In keeping with the "traditional equipment" style, we've also switched to using a wooden wannigan for all our trips this season. The benefits of using a wannigan far outweigh the benefits of using a food barrel for this type of tripping, in my opinion... fodder for another tread, perhaps...
(the food barrels in the photo above were only used to store food for our scheduled re-supply)

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At the midpoint of our last trip, we had arranged a re-supply at a friend's cabin on Obabika Lake. This way, we didn't have to travel with an entire month's supply.
Here's what a mid-trip re-supply looks like:

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Because of this carefully choreographed re-supply, we were able to travel relatively light for the duration of this trip:

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About once a week (or whenever it becomes necessary), we do laundry. Using the Seal Line pack, this is our laundry tub, and we have "fresh" clothes whenever we need them.

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Once into this routine, it is possible, and quite comfortable to live indefinitely on the trail.


I'm hoping others will post some of their long tripping tips and techniques and maybe encourage others to do some more challenging trips out on the land.


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PostPosted: September 5th, 2011, 6:53 pm 
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Hi Mike,
Thanks for sharing your techniques for longer-term trips.
3 items interest me immediately:
1) the reflector oven
2) the fire irons
3) the wannigan

Could you tell us more about each of those. I usually cook over a fire and don't like using a grill, but the fire irons idea has never occurred to me. Does the iron conduct heat and reduce the need to replenish the fire with the "correct" pan-balancing compatible logs? And the wannigan? Is it the convenience of storage and organizing small items? And the weight?
This summer I brought along a new item that provided me with many hours of fun, solo and especially on our family's trip. This is a portable round sail called a "Windpaddle". (Google and Youtube) It's a flimsy looking pop-up, ultralight, brilliant little patented invention that looks extremely inexpensive to produce but costs a staggering $130 to $250 depending on model size. When the tailwinds arrive__they do, sometimes!__ it sets up in seconds and really works! It packs to something like 13 ounces and is easy to store in the boat and on portages. I'll always bring ours along (until it rips and disintegrates, that is. I do suspect it's here for a good time, not a particularly long time!)


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PostPosted: September 5th, 2011, 9:47 pm 
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Location: Fort McMurray Alberta
Great stuff Mike!

The fire thing doesn't work on the tundra, so we budget a litre of naptha a week per 2 person food group. There are variations on the theme. A couple of key points for long trips:
Take food you like!
Make sure there as much variety as possible

Folks can tolerate a lot of crappy weather and things going wrong, if they are eating well. The rice/bulgar/oatmeal diet has lead to a lot of "Canoe Rage" with some groups!

Personally I wouldn't take a wannigan, but I understand why others do.

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PostPosted: September 7th, 2011, 5:01 pm 
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To respond to some of the comments, here's a little more information of some on my techniques:

Reflector Oven:

The reflector oven has become a regular part of our kitchen kit in recent years. I purchased this one from a contact at the WCA. It is a Swedish made Svante Friesen design that is a lighter, more compact version of the traditional rectangular design that has been popular for years.
The reflector oven cooks with indirect heat - the heat that is reflected off your dinner fire. Virtually anything that can be baked at home in your conventional oven can be baked in a reflector oven. We regularly bake breads, cakes, brownies, lasagna, baked enchiladas, shepherd's pie, etc...

Here's a shot of the reflector oven in action, baking a shepherd's pie made with dehydrated ground beef, dehydrated corn, carrots and peas, with instant mashed potatoes on top. Simmer the main ingredients with Cubhouse Shepherd's Pie seasoning, top with the potatoes and bake for half an hour. A 100% dehydrated meal that tastes just as good as when you make it at home.

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And here's the finished result:

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Fire Irons:

I too have never been a fan of using a grill... most are awkward to pack, and others, like the hyped-up Purcell grill are too small to be practical for wilderness campfire cooking: they are fine for simple one-pot meals, but like Doug points out, the food can make or break the trip, so we tend to cook more elaborate meals: we often joke that we eat better on trip than we do at home.

Fire irons allow you to take advantage of the traditional 3-walled fireplace design, and arrange several pots in a row, while still allowing for proper placement of a reflector oven, as seen below.

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The Wannigan:

The wannigan began as a bit of an experiment...
Years ago, I spent some time tripping with John Kilbridge of Temagami Canoe Company. He would go on and on, extolling the virtues of tripping with a wannigan. I initially thought it was a ridiculous idea to haul a big box on a canoe trip, but still liked the "romantic" idea of using a traditional wannigan, so I built one to bring on my big lake travel (easy portage) trips.
After taking it on my easier trips, I discovered the many benefits of using a wannigan:
-Fully loaded, It is easier to carry than a loaded food barrel
-It is better organized and easier to find things than in a barrel
-It sits better in the canoe than a rounded food barrel
-It stays much cooler than a barrel - cheese and chocolate don't melt even in 30deg heat
-Because it is always upright, you can carry more delicate items (in our case, leftover birthday cake, still in the pan, wrapped in a ziplock bag)

Because the wannigan is carried with a traditional leather tump, all the weight is transferred directly down the spine, making carrying extremely heavy loads quite manageable.

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As an added bonus, it makes an awesome camp kitchen:

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I originally built the wannigan to use on my "comfortable" trips, but after the first few outings with it, I was hooked.
Now it comes on all our trips.
I likely wouldn't take it on a whitewater trip, as the waterproof qualities of the food barrels outweigh the other benefits of using wannigan, but for typical lake travel trips, the wannigan can't be beat.


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PostPosted: September 8th, 2011, 7:38 am 
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Location: Toronto Beach(es)
Mike, how much do your fire-irons weigh?


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PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 1:38 pm 
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WRT the Wannigan, Do you hang it for bearproofing? I can't see it taking a hit very well.

One of the biggest downers for an extended trip is diarrhea. I know it makes you want to snigger a little to read this, but if you have ever had a serious bout, you know what I mean. I spent 2 weeks this summer "tripping" between my bed and the toilet, hardly sleeping, and aching everywhere from my ribs to my butthole. I was thankful it didn't hit me while away from home. I have had less serious bouts on the trail that laid me up for a day or two though.

I think the change in diet can set some folks off, and hygene and drinking water can also definately be factors.

I strongly suggest packing immodium if you plan on being away for anything over 5 days, strong stomach or not.


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PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 4:17 pm 
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open_side_up wrote:
Mike, how much do your fire-irons weigh?


I have never bothered to weigh them before, but since you asked, I weighed them on our kitchen scale and they weigh in at 13oz, including the canvas case.

The traditional fire irons used by early trippers were simply two solid iron rods. Keewaydin and Wabun canoe tripping camps use heavy 3/4" gas line pipes cut 3-4 feet long. These options were a little too heavy for my liking.

The ones I purchased are made by Craig Macdonald, who makes them out of a modern thin walled tubular high carbon steel - I was initially worried that they might warp over the heat because they were so thin and light, but after a full season of steady use, I am happy to report that they performed excellent.


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PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 4:22 pm 
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C. Potvin wrote:
WRT the Wannigan, Do you hang it for bearproofing? I can't see it taking a hit very well.


I don't hang my food. Never have.

Bear hanging is one of those things that you read about in typical "How-To" books, but in reality, outside of Algonquin Park, it is rarely practiced.


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PostPosted: September 9th, 2011, 5:33 pm 
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Location: Toronto Beach(es)
Mike McIntosh wrote:
I have never bothered to weigh them before, but since you asked, I weighed them on our kitchen scale and they weigh in at 13oz, including the canvas case.

The traditional fire irons used by early trippers were simply two solid iron rods. Keewaydin and Wabun canoe tripping camps use heavy 3/4" gas line pipes cut 3-4 feet long. These options were a little too heavy for my liking.

The ones I purchased are made by Craig Macdonald, who makes them out of a modern thin walled tubular high carbon steel - I was initially worried that they might warp over the heat because they were so thin and light, but after a full season of steady use, I am happy to report that they performed excellent.


Tx Mike. I'd thought of gas pipe too, but they'd certainly be heavier than I'd want to add to my gear.

I'll give Craig a call.


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PostPosted: September 11th, 2011, 7:43 am 
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open_side_up wrote:
Tx Mike. I'd thought of gas pipe too, but they'd certainly be heavier than I'd want to add to my gear.

I'll give Craig a call.


Craig's prices are very reasonable too, if you contact him directly:
I think he only charged me $60 for my fire irons, including the canvas case.
Other retailers (who shall remain nameless...) charge a huge mark-up for Craig's gear.


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PostPosted: September 12th, 2011, 1:14 pm 
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Location: Merrickville, Ontario, Canada
open_side_up wrote:
fire irons

Something similar from Purcell called Stix: http://www.purcelltrench.com/grills.htm


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PostPosted: February 9th, 2012, 11:51 am 
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Location: Merrickville, Ontario, Canada
Last summer we started using dutch ovens on our annual eight day canoe trip. We brought briquettes along to heat it, and we made some fabulous meals. Going to start using that a lot more.

Screened dining shelter a pleasant respite from most bugs, and a couple of chairs for the old guys :)


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PostPosted: February 9th, 2012, 1:52 pm 
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Location: Manitoba
Excellent post Mike, thanks for sharing.
Loved the photo as well.

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PostPosted: February 14th, 2012, 1:50 am 
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Location: seattle, Washington USA
The Temagami region has its share of wannigan users...my son is a Keewaydin alum. I use them sometimes, but prefer barrels for my "beary" trips in the NWT and the Yukon. Barrels also float well. I make and use tumps for the canoe and every pack and barrel. Lightweight Dutch ovens work great. GSI makes a nice 10" that is hard anodized aluminum. Although I start off with some fresh food, the longer trips, I turn to freeze dried for dinners. They use less fuel than dinners that need to be cooked, even for a little, not an issue when you have a fire, but an issue when you have to use the stove, and the temperature is close to freezing. I've used titanium fire irons, they cool fast and work well. Always take a repair kit for your stove and know how to fix it. If using MSR stoves with plastic pumps, bring a spare pump. I count calories on my longer trips, that is, I try to keep my calorie count UP. When you are burning an easy couple of thousand calories a day, you will need the intake. Space in the boat is more of an issue than weight. Develop a system and stay with it. Do not switch gear with others on the trip, if you do, something might get lost. Know your tarpology. Even with freeze dried food, I always take some special things...chocolate, a small can of peaches, to have a really nice meal at least once a week. Tripping canoes should have a thwart behind the bow seat. Mike you are totally right about the week that it takes to get into a routine. Trippers who only go out for a week or less, never cross that glorious hump...really sad. Hudson Bay pattern axe is a very useful tool, as is a good folding saw. A good hand cream is a great idea. I use zip locks for food, double bagging in the barrels. It keeps food smell down...above the tree line there is no place to hang food. A lint rollers is helpful for keeping the grit and needles out of the tent. If your spray deck is two or three piece, having each piece a different color makes it easier to sort out an put on when you're tired.


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PostPosted: February 14th, 2012, 8:15 am 
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Erich, you just wrote the Reader's Digest version of advanced tripping advice! :thumbup:

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