Planning a Mississippi canoe trip

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 15-21, 1997
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Planning a Mississippi canoe trip

Planning a Mississippi canoe trip
Question: I'm planning a canoe trip down the Mississippi River from Minnesota to New Orleans. What kind of preparation, planning, gear, etc., do I need?

Ben Chatelain
Moreauville, Louisiana
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Wow. That's a bold endeavor. Because the Minnesota end of the Mississippi is still ice-covered until late May, you may want to start your trip in June or July. Before you start, invest in a series of maps of the Mississippi from the Department of Natural Resources (800-766-6000). With these you'll be able to strategize about where you can pitch your tent, so you don't have to deal with overprotective property owners. Another concern is the presence of large barges. Some of these can cause quite an undertow if you get too close. Call the port authorities in the large cities (Minneapolis, St. Louis, etc.) and ask if there are certain times of the year when the traffic is heavier.

For gear, invest in a Kevlar canoe. It is more expensive, but also more abrasion resistant, an important factor when you're planning to use it as your home for the next few months. Also, Duluth Pack (800-849-4489) has a reputation in the canoeing world for making the most durable packs around for approximately $95. They also might be able to tell you where you can buy bulletproof plastic liners to put in the packs — an absolute necessity, unless you want to drench all of your prized possessions. I'd also plan to bring an easy-to-use water purifier, a camp stove, a headlight, an extra paddle or two, cooking gear, a lifejacket, a good set of rain gear, a plastic tarp, at least two pairs of sturdy shoes (one to wear as your "wet" shoes, and one to wear as your "dry" shoes), and a couple of good paperbacks.

For food, plan far in advance and use a lot of easy-to-haul items that won't get smooshed, broken, stale, or rotten. High-energy foods like flapjacks (a fantastic mixture of oatmeal, brown sugar, and honey), PowerBars, cheeses, nuts, and raisins, as well as easy-to-make hot foods like oatmeal, pasta, bulrice (bulgar wheat and rice), hot drink mixes, and plenty of dried fruits. It'll be hard to stowe away your canoe and gear in order to make a trip to the nearest grocery store, so try to pack as much food as you're comfortable carrying.

Also, because you'll spend the majority of your day in a somewhat soggy state, make sure you always keep at least one set of clothes dry. Always have a your raingear and a wool sweater near the top of your pack and always wear wool socks — they retain heat better and dry quicker.

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