The key to a successful Boundary Waters trip (with an outfitted guide) is proper preparation, so be sure to pack these essentials:

  • Sleeping bag & ground pad
  • Two full sets of weather-appropriate clothing (see below)
  • Footwear that functions well in water and on rocks
  • Rain gear
  • Hat
  • Water bottle (no cans or glass bottles)
  • Dry bag
  • Zinc (leave the sunscreen at home—it pollutes the water!)
  • Bug repellant
  • Toiletries
  • Flashlight plus spare batteries


Here are some guidelines to help you decide on clothing (download a suggested packing list):

  • “Cotton kills” is a common saying in the outdoor world. When cotton is wet, it dries slowly and sucks the heat out of you. Look for either wool, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene, nylon, or a cotton/ synthetic blend.
  • Wool is a miracle fabric. Even when wet, wool keeps you warm.
  • On a budget? Used clothing stores like Savers, Goodwill and military surplus stores can be treasure troves.
  • Rain gear can be expensive. You don’t need to drop $300 to stay dry. Frogg Toggs makes affordable rainsuits that might not last a lifetime, but will keep you dry for four or five trips.
  • Plan for a variety of weather, regardless of the forecast.
  • Dress in layers, with a thin pair of long underwear as your base. This method allows you to add or shed clothing as needed.
  • Dark clothing attracts bugs. The lighter the better.