Back Country Essentials - Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

Back Country Essentials

When it comes to downsizing, in my outdoor adventure career, I’ve been slapped upside the head twice. Two moments where I was left shaking my head wondering how drastically downsizing for the backcountry was going to be possible. The first time, I was developing a TV show with an accomplished world adventurer. He and his family (wife and 2 week old baby) were planning to trek across Mongolia. I was going to document the journey. Having a new child myself, I asked him, “how are you going to bring all the STUFF a baby needs on a walk across a country?” He looked up at me and said, “all we need is a sling and a boob or 2!” he kept packing, and you know what? He was right, and they did it. The TV show didn’t work out.

I was prepared for anything as we landed in Resolute Bay, Nunavut ready to embark on a 3 week sea kayak adventure in Canada’s far north – I’m talking so far north, you’re almost going south again. As we were about to leave for our bush plane trip into the backcountry, we were told we could only bring the essentials and to repack everything. Oh, and these essentials had to fit into a 5 liter dry bag. 3 weeks of clothes, ablutions, shoes, plasticy items etc. left behind. There is NO WAY POSSIBLE we can do this and still be safe… however, upon reflection, it was WAY possible and actually very enjoyable. Sure everyone smelled a bit (okay a lot) by the end, but really, it was a refreshing way to travel. I didn’t have to worry about anything but what was important, staying warm, dry and comfortable while exploring one of the world’s last truly wild frontiers.

So what do you do when you’re flying into a remote bush camp for that fishing trip you’ve been excited about for the last year? Most anglers I know (myself included) will try to JAM every piece of terminal tackle, every lure, every rod and reel they own into their suitcase to ensure they don’t miss out on anything. There is an inherent fear of being under gunned, I still feel it when I travel. The reality is, in adventurous pursuits, be they trekking, sea kayaking or flying into a fishing adventure, gear and weight are an important duo to keep in mind while you’re packing. Many adventure companies have weight restrictions on what you’re allowed to fly-in with.

First and foremost, many lodges have suggested items to bring on a trip that have proven tried and true over the years on their waters. Some even go so far as to let you know what the best lures and specific colors are that produce. Be sure to check out that list to get a sense of what is possible. It’s important to note that these lists are mere suggestions of what you can bring. You don’t need to stock up on every item. Tailor your gear list to your style of fishing. Here is the approximate weight of some basic items vital to a successful fishing trip.

Spinning reel with line X 2 – 1lb 4 oz

Baitcaster reel with line – 9.5 oz

Rod X 2 – 8 oz

Fillet Knife – 5 oz

Extra line – 3 oz

Fly reel 14 oz

Fly box with flies – 8 oz

Bag of soft plastic baits – 2 oz

Glove 3 oz

Crankbait – 1 oz

Rod tube 1 lb 11 oz

Small box for lures 1 lb

Soft plastic tackle bag 1lb

So as you can see with just the basics, total weight is already about 6 lbs. You haven’t included hooks, weights, jig heads tackle bag to name a few.

So how do you effectively pack for a trip when you have a weight restriction? There are places you can cut the fat to ensure you are able to pack designed to your fishing style.

Travel vessel – The vessel in which you choose to transport your fishing gear can cut a lot of weight.

Soft Tackle Bags

I never travel with a hard tackle box. It is bulky and quite inefficient. All my tackle, including terminal tackle and soft plastics are kept in soft bags. The advantage to a soft tackle system is its compact-ability. As you use your tackle or lose your tackle the bag will adjust in size. Ultimately, soft bags are significantly lighter than a tackle box. For hard baits such as crankbaits, stickbaits and spinnerbaits, you can easily transport them in harder compartments stored within your soft tackle system.

Travel Tubes

The kind of travel tube you choose depends most on how your rods are constructed. If you are using one-piece rods, you’ll be stuck with a 7-8 foot adjustable rod tube. (note: some airlines won’t transport tubes over 8 feet in length) However, if you decide to fish with rods that can break down, that will decrease the size of the travel tube you need, generally cutting size and weight in half. Finally, many companies do have travel rod systems for anglers. These systems are designed for portability and ease of travel.

Terminal Tackle

There is little doubt terminal tackle makes up the most of the weight in our tackle systems. Hooks, jig heads, weights, leaders and swivels are inherently heavy in nature due to construction material. Bring the bare minimum you think you’ll need for the trip. (a little more if you’re going into the back country with out lodge support) If you are heading to an outfitter, they will most certainly have a well-stocked shop for all your angling needs. Extra rods, reels, line and most importantly terminal tackle should be available. Ask the question before you start packing and adjust accordingly.

Lures and Bait

Make the choice before you pack – am I fishing with soft plastics? Lures and spoons? Or live bait. (or a combination of the 3) These choices will drastically affect your overall weight. Soft plastics are generally lighter, more compact and you get many in one package. But you need to supply more terminal tackle to fish these baits. Note the weight above: 1 crankbait (with 2 treble hooks) weighed in at 1 oz whereas 10 plastic baits weighed in at 2 oz. (No hooks). 10 to 1 looks pretty good on the scale. For live bait, your outfitter will provide based on lake regulations and you’ll generally have to pre-order your minnows, worms or bugs – so no weight there, just terminal tackle.

Another option to minimize weight on a fly-in fishing trip is to bring a fly rod system. I pack all I need for a week’s fishing in a small bag (includes 2 reels and 4 spools, 2 rods, leader material and flies) that weights about 6-7 lbs. It’s great fun and if you haven’t done it before, consider it another card in your angling deck.

Planning a fly- in fishing trip can be just as fun as the trip itself. I am yet to meet an angler who doesn’t love to rip their tackle system apart, repack it all with a specific goal in mind. If you are travelling with a friend, family member or other anglers, get in contact with them to “divide and conquer”. If you’re responsible for soft plastics, make sure your partner is well diversified with hard baits or spoons. Worst case scenario is you run out of something out there and get to try something new to add to your fishing arsenal. – that’s a great problem to have!


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