Packing For CanadaBy Larry Ladowski
One of the easiest ways to not ruin your fishing vacation before it even starts is to take some time prior to the trip and give some thought to packing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a trip when someone has said, “Boy, I wish I would have brought my (fill in the blank).” A little advanced planning and packing for a trip helps alleviate problems, and it also serves to get everyone excited and enthusiastic while anticipating the event.
When packing for Canada, first you have to look at the kind of trip you are taking. There are many options with subtle variations but primarily six main categories when it comes to Canada destinations:
1. Drive-to American Plan
2. Drive-to Housekeeping Plan
3. Fly-in American Plan
4. Fly-in Housekeeping Plan
5. Boat-in American Plan
6. Boat-in Housekeeping Plan
You can find numerous lodge or resort options for each of these categories within the special Canada Fever issues of MidWest Outdoors during the months of December, January and February, along with links to their websites under the “Destination Canada” tab on www.midwestoutdoors.com.
The main difference between American versus Housekeeping plans are that American plans include meals while staying at the lodge, while Housekeeping plans require you to do the cooking. There are some lodges that offer modified American Plans, which may offer one of the three main meals being cooked, but for ease of categorizing, we’ll keep it simple and say that either you cook your meals, or the lodge does.
Once you decide on a particular trip or lodge (or maybe this may be part of the reason for booking a certain lodge over another one), the first thing to do is look over the lodge website and begin making a list of what they have or what you may need to bring along. Another good option is to call the resort or lodge owner and discuss what may or may not be needed for making your trip more enjoyable. Many lodges will offer helpful packing tips right on their site.
Obviously, cooking makes a huge difference for packing if you need to bring food items and groceries; that alone could be an article in itself. On past trips, my family and I have done everything from not packing any food items and purchasing everything once we got to the lodge, to planning and preparing specific meals in advance, and freezing them for the trip. One important thing to remember, however, for Canada and border crossing is that you are not allowed to bring fresh fruits or vegetables across the border.
Food is obviously a matter of taste and there are too many variables to discuss for this article. So with that in mind we will stick with discussing the following packing list as a “guide.” I have put some items on the list that may trigger other ideas. And for some, the list may be overkill, but for others, it may be ideal. Some people like to bring the “kitchen sink” with them on their vacations, while others prefer a Canadian vacation where they can “rough-it.”
When discussing clothes, what you pack may once again tremendously vary depending on the time of year, weather patterns, the kind of trip, how far north you go, etc. However, one main thought to consider when packing for Canada is to select items in terms of layering. Undergarments and mid-layer clothing that can be layered are always a better option. Also, clothes that offer wicking material for warmth and/or breathability are a better choice. A “staple” item for any Canada trip is raingear. Good, quality raingear is a necessity because it can make or break your vacation.
An important thing to remember in this category is your daily medications if need be. Many lodges can be far from towns, and when considering fly-out or boat-in options, towns and stores are altogether unavailable. A spare pair of contacts or glasses can also be very helpful and a trip saver. Polarized sunglasses should also be an important item. And with my age getting up there, I now have a pair of Ono’s sunglasses (www.onos.com) with bifocals to allow tying lures to small diameter lines as well as reading maps, restaurant menus, etc. Lastly in this category, question whether your particular lodge either supplies towels or requires you to bring your own.
This is also an important category because without some of these items your trip could be cut extremely short--like at the border if you don’t have your passport. However, I lump some other key items in here like cell phones, money, camera, licenses, etc. The last item in this category is one of my favorites. My Grundens Drybag (www.grundens.com) goes on all of my Canada exploits. When you spend the day on a boat, you are constantly around water and you can also run into all kinds of weather. My dry bag keeps my raingear, camera, extra clothes, licenses, and all my other gear that I carry, dry and easily accessible.
Once again, this category can vary tremendously depending on the species that you plan to fish for. But the list will at least make you go through the thought process of figuring out what you may need. One thing I find that many people forget is extra line. There have been many times when I have completely re-spooled a reel after a day of fishing because of tangles or problems. The last thing you want to have happen is to lose a trophy fish due to faulty equipment.
This category is a kind of catch-all. It lists things that you may find handy while traveling to your destination or if you are planning on bringing your own boat. A couple standouts are jumper cables and a first-aid kit. Also, a spare truck or car key just in case you manage to lose the first one.
This category doesn’t discuss types of food, but does include items that may be useful for cooking or handy on a fishing vacation. Fillet knife, can opener, coffee maker/filters, food sealer (if planning on bringing fish home) etc. And something that my family loves to do while on most Canada fishing vacations, is have a shore lunch. Discuss with the lodge owner whether shore lunch pans, grates and utensils are available from the lodge or if need to be packed. If you have never had the chance to eat fresh caught fish, baked or fried on a Canadian shoreline, I highly suggest the experience. Shore lunches can be easily enjoyed by as few as two people or an entire group of people.
As mentioned, this list is meant, not as a “catch-all” list, but one that you can adapt and make your own. It can be altered, expanded, or even detailed with specific items that are unique to you. Whatever it does, I hope it makes your trip more enjoyable in the long run and adds some fun for the group or trip invitees.
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