Paddling the pristine waters of canoe country leads a modern day voyageur through vistas of raw boreal beauty. Wilderness travel routinely tests and enhances a paddler’s character, it rewards with primitive adventure, and rejuvenates a soul with nature’s splendor. There are many benefits offered in a trip to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Ontario’s Quetico Provincial Park. But beyond the scenery above the surface, below the waterline lies some of North America’s premier fishing locations. There are a lot of fish in our northern canoe country, many are big, and often they are hungry!
Many border country waterways contain what is referred to as the “Grand Slam” of sport fishing, where you can catch Walleye, Lake Trout, Northern Pike, and Smallmouth Bass all in a week-long canoe trip, or even the same day! Many species grow to trophy-size in several Boundary Waters lakes. Isolation, clean water, perfect habitat, and reduced angler pressure all lead to wonderful fishing possibilities in the Boundary Waters. If and when you go up there, you owe yourself a shot at hooking a lunker— you might just come back with a fish story for the ages.
Those fish don’t catch themselves though…. and you can only bring a limited amount of tackle and gear with you as you’ll often need to portage whatever you bring along. With no motors allowed in most of the wilderness, you must fish from a canoe or from shore. North of the border, on the Canadian side there’s no live bait allowed, and you can only use barbless hooks.
Jigs and twister tails rule the roost for traveling light on canoe country fishing trips. Simple and portable, they travel well, are simple to use, and inexpensive to replace when broken off. There are lots of rocks, submerged trees, and toothy Northern Pike up there. Keep an eye out for non-toxic, lead-free jig heads if you’re buying new ones… the lakes and wildlife would thank you.
An assortment of sizes should be in your tackle box, and 1/8 oz, 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 oz will cover most conditions. With 8 or 10 of the two middle sizes and a couple of the bigger and smaller ones you should be set up for a week or so of fishing in changing wind, water current conditions, and depths. Jigs are made in a rainbow of colors, with all sorts of rattles, propellers, and zing-its on them. Plain jigs with a white head are usually the best (a painted eye may or may not help). The same goes for twister tails — simple is best. Bring single tails with fat bodies in an assortment of 3”, 4”, and 5” lengths. Again, white or light colors most resemble the baitfish you’re looking to mimic. Be sure to bring extra tails, they’ll get beat up from catching all those fish. The jigs work best for walleyes, but you’ll also pick up Smallmouth Bass, Northerns, and maybe a Lake Trout as well, though those brutes normally lurk in the deeper waters.
Sure… crankbaits, spoons, spinners, and plugs catch fish too, especially diving lures used while traveling from place to place. You’d be surprised where suspended fish will hit a lure while trolling back to camp. And there is something wholly spectacular about catching Smallmouth Bass on topwater baits, but pound-for-pound, the practically of jigs with twister tails present some of the best and safest options for fishing in canoe country.
The single hook simplicity of a jig is easier on fish and easier on you too. Fewer hooks make catch and release quicker and less stressful for the fish (many canoe country anglers don’t use a net). That also helps cut down on chances of catching yourself on a hook too!
You can get Boundary Waters permits at Frost River, learn more about planning your next adventure here. Keep an eye out for more tips on where to fish in the wilderness, coming up soon.
The road trip: an escape, a sojourn, pilgrimage, rite of passage and an American pastime.
No matter where you live, a road trip can bring you to beauty you’ve never seen and reintroduce you to experiences and places you’d forgotten you knew. We encourage you to set aside time this summer to go exploring on four (or two) wheels, to get outside, go camping, glamping, hotel-hopping—however you do it, get out and see what there is to see. We’ve pulled together hard-earned lessons and our favorite accessories to make the great open road that much more enjoyable.
Map it out: Get together with your mates and pull out a map (yes, a paper one) that shows the whole area you’re going to visit. Use a pencil and mark your must-sees, want-to-sees and can-live-without-but-would-like-to-stop-at-if-you’re-close spots. Connect the dots and you’ve got the start to the order of your trip. There’s fewer buzzkills worse than backtracking, and getting the plan in place can help avoid that. Also: Buy an atlas, one of the big ones, with every state on it.
Print out directions: It’s a great wide open out there, and hopefully you’re going places where phones won’t work (they’re some of the best and most scenic, after all). That means that you won’t be able to rely on your phone for directions. With your general route laid out, you can look up directions beforehand and print out the steps from Campsite A to Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower and finally Campsite B. Back in the day, you could have someone put together these directions for you. With the invention of the internet, you can make your own! Plus, with your map all marked up, you’ve got the rough directions right in front of you.
Get your Gear Sorted: Are you camping? Glamping? Peak-bagging? Hunting? Brewery-hopping? Shopping? Canoeing? Biking? You’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right stuff to do the things you want. Racks, boxes and trailers add a lot of utility to your vehicle, and keep your options open. On the softer side, you’ll want packs and bags that give you enough utility for your adventures, and enough flexibility to go from one to the other. We suggest a reliable duffle/luggage piece for the larger things you keep in the car, but want mobile (think sleeping gear, extra shoes, clothes etc.). Take a look at the Flight Bag, Explorer Duffle and Laurentian Luggage. You’ll need a daypack or shoulder bag that’ll take you from alpine lakes, to deep forests and everything in between. Take a look at one of the packs in our Summit Series, the High Falls, Arrowhead, and Geologist. You’ll need all of the accouterment for camping too, if you’re so inclined. Check out our regal and timeless Campfire Tents if you’ve got car camping or Glamping in your future.
Bring the nicest camera you’ve got: You’ll want a photo album when you’re done. Don’t bring too much, but bring enough to capture all of your adventures. A phone will do a great job, but falls short in extreme-low-light. Stars are worth it just to look at, but if you want to get the Milky Way for your profile picture, bring something that was built for taking pictures. A GoPro is great for an action-packed (or decidedly low-key) road trip adventure.
Multiple Drivers: Have more than one driver and drive in shifts. The world is a big place, and roads only get you places so fast, so plan on being in the car and driving a lot. Even with the best laid plans and a patchwork of destinations along the road, you’ll be getting from point A to B over several hours, or an entire day. Switch off your drivers: it keeps you sane, and, most importantly, it keeps you safe.
Seat Belts: This goes without saying, but buckle up. It’s easy, fast and it keeps you safe. Get in an accident without a belt and you’re likely to end up outside of the vehicle. We’re not prudes, we just want you to get home safe!
Cash Money: If you’re going with friends, figure out the finances first, decide if you’re rotating your gas fills, all going on one credit card and splitting it up later, pooling cash—whatever. If it’s not out in the open, you might be on the all-nighter drive home Sunday night before you’ve all got to pull double-shifts when you realize that Joe hasn’t spent a dime and thinks he won’t have to. Cover it early so there’re no hard feelings and no-one gets left high and dry.
National Parks Pass: The National Parks are great. The spaces they administer are some of the most beautiful in the country, and the hikes, trails and views are amazing. If you’re visiting more than one, buy a parks pass. It will save you a lot of money and hassle over the course of a trip. Plus, they’re good for a year, so you can get another trip or two out of it before it expires.
Food: Bring and eat healthy food. It’s easy to slip into poor eating habits on a road trip. Pack and buy fruit, eat salads, drink water – you’ll be glad you did.
Don’t Blink: It’ll be over before you know it, so grab your road trip by the horns and live it to the fullest!
Since we craft Reliable Softgoods from premium raw materials, it’s something we get to do every day. It’s a rewarding process to start from scratch, cut the fabric, the leather, sew it together, drive rivets. It’s a very human endeavor, to build, construct, make and improve. But we like to build gear because we like to use gear — we appreciate quality and knowing what went into making something that we use and enjoy. That’s part of what makes a tour so cool; you get to see where the stuff was made, hear the stories about the process, watch it happen and sample the finished product. It’s a rare opportunity these days to see goods being made.
That’s part of the reason we love the brewery and winery tours. You get the chance to smell the hops, the grapes, the grains, see and feel the barrels, the fermentation tanks, tools and ingredients, all while learning about every stage of the process that turns those simple ingredients into something great. The best part of these tours, is that at the end, you usually get to try the finished product. Doesn’t it taste better knowing how it got there?
At Frost River, we make a wide assortment of waxed canvas and leather goods that pair perfectly with craft brews and wines. Our growler packs support the craft brewing industry by encouraging growler fills at local breweries. That’s sustainable both in helping promote the use of reusable bottles and reusing Growler Packs. Not a beer fan? Our bottle totes provide a beautiful way to haul one or two bottles of wine or spirits no matter where you’re headed. They keep it classy, while keeping gift bags out of the dumpster, plus the cushy lining protects the bottles and maintains the temperature. Once you’re at your destination, glasses go on our bridle leather coasters, or you can put the growler on our leather trivet, and cans stay cold and hands stay warm in our can insulators. You can even display your bottles with our wine bottle bandoleer.
There aren’t too many wineries up in our neck of the woods, but we do have a wealth of breweries and premium drink crafters. Here are some of our top picks for brewery and distillery tours in the Duluth area and across the bay into Wisconsin.
Naturally, one of our personal favorites would have to be our neighbors across the street at Bent Paddle Brewing Co. Their beers are consistently excellent and they’re constantly coming out with new rotating taps and casks that feature new and interesting infusions, hop blends and malty goodness. Their trail-ready cans are available off the shelf, and their taps are just a few rods of portaging out our back door. By signing up here, you can take a tour through their brewery on Saturdays and Sundays, where you’ll learn about how they’ve been “Bending Tradition® in Duluth, Minnesota, since 2013”.
Just a short drive away, with an amazing view of Lake Superior and the Duluth Lake Walk, you can find our friends at Canal Park Brewing Co. In addition to their delicious array of foods, wide range of brews, quintessential vistas and patio dining with fireplace, you can take a tour of their brewery facility on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. More info can be found here.
Also near the Duluth Lift Bridge is Vikre Distillery. Inspired by their Norwegian ancestor’s discovery of the ethereal beauty of the northwoods and Lake Superior, Vikre distills premium spirits like gins and aquavits that thoughtfully blend tradition and innovation to make pure, creative spirits that are infused with northwoods, Lake Superior and Minnesota ingredients and experience. Free daily tours available at 5:30pm. More info can be found here.
A quick drive over the harbor and St. Louis River into Wisconsin will take you to Thirsty Pagan Brewing Co. They’ve been cooking pizza and crafting beers for a decade, and will be celebrating their 10 year anniversary on 5/4/2016. Tours of their brewing facility are available on Saturdays at 2pm. More info is available here.
Drive the other direction, up Highway 61 along the North Shore of Lake Superior, and you’ll find Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors. They’ve been brewing dangerously good ales on the North Shore since 2011 and recently added a canning line so you can find their beer throughout the state. Brewery tours of Castle Danger Brewery are held on Saturdays at 5pm and cost $3. You can book a tour here.
Want “The Ultimate Craft Beer Experience?” Take a look at the comprehensive brewery tours offered by the folks at The Duluth Experience. They offer tours every Thursday, Friday and Saturday that run a total of 4.5 hours and visit several craft breweries in the area. Their all-inclusive brewery tours “provide transportation, education, behind-the-scenes access to the breweries, craft beer samples, a souvenir sample glass and a fabulous meal.” The crew also offers guided bike rides, Lake Superior kayak trips, and Duluth history tours.
Interested in seeing all the magic that happens at Frost River? We offer tours any time we’re open, and they’re free! Just stop by our shop at 1910 W Superior St. in Duluth, MN during our normal hours and ask one of the friendly staff. They’ll show you where all of our Reliable Softgoods are made.
First off, all of us here at Frost River would like to say… Thanks! Thanks to all the Mothers out there, we appreciate the love, work, and guidance you’ve provided to make the world a better place for each of us, both here at Frost River and beyond. Our talented crew works hard and everyone here has special skills, many of which have been passed down from generations of mothers before us. Also, to all the Moms we have on staff… Happy Mother’s Day!
Here are some hard working, waxed canvas gift ideas to help you say thanks and help keep Mom looking good and carrying well. Each item we make here at the Frost River shop is designed and constructed to endure and function at its best, just like how Mom taught you to be.
Waxed canvas creations with character, any Mom would be proud to carry one of our purses. (Especially with one of those giant, kid hockey player buttons on it.) We’ve got several styles of handbags, shoulder bags, and totes that work great for a woman on the go. All are made here in Duluth by people who care, many of whom are mothers too. Our top picks: Saganaga Travel Satchel, Field Satchel, Crescent Lake, and Premium Shell Bags.
Packs, sized right for mom.
Not too much, but plenty of room for all those Mom essentials is what we aim at for a Mother’s Day backpack recommendation. Our High Falls -Short Day Pack is small enough to be easily portable, yet holds enough to be handy on the go. There’s a sleeve at the back to divide contents or carry a water bladder. A small zip pocket on the front keeps cards or keys ready to go. The padded canvas and web shoulder straps are wide enough for comfort, but low profileto stay out of the way. Give your mom a hand by helping to keep her hands free. This pack stays put on walks, runs, and scrambles, so it’s ready for whatever challenges Mom faces!
A pack built to last, with space and pockets! The sides will take a large water bottle, the front keeps small items close at hand. Great in a canoe, on the trail, or around town as a day pack. Waxed canvas keeps the weather out. Reliable Duluth construction is guaranteed to hold together for years of family adventures.
Moms often end up carrying a lot, why not help by providing a handy bag? One of the beauties of our field tan waxed canvas is that guys won’t even mind sharing the load! Our Garden Totes celebrate spring planting and are useful for carrying all sorts of stuff to the garden and beyond. A Zippy Tote is great as a sophisticated carry on for travel wherever Mom needs to go. The Temperance is part big purse, part stylish briefcase, all reliable and set to please for years to come. Our Gooseberry Tote is a grocery-getting champ! It folds flat and stays out of the way, until called upon to carry a bunch of stuff, then it opens wide and offers utility and reusability unmatched by any plastic bag. Want the same ultra-portable-foldable utility with a shoulder strap? Take a look at our Urban Foraging Tote. It’s a medium-sized tote that takes up almost no space in your car, pack or purse. Plus, the little slip pockets hold coupons, receipts, or a phone!
A new portage pack would make a great gift for a mom with a love of canoe country. Our Timber Cruiserand Woodsman Packs are sized right in the middle. Each are able to carry a full camping kit yet remain portable and fit great in a canoe. Need to carry more? Our Grand Portage and Camp Cook’s Kitchen are sized right for an unforgettable trip into the border country.
Most importantly: Celebrate mom with a gift of outdoor adventure. No matter if you get out for a grand canoe expedition, a walk in the woods, or a simple stroll around the block, just spending time together in some fresh spring air will certainly be appreciated. And if you can’t get together, share some of your love of all things outdoor and handcrafted with a gift from Frost River, an e-gift certificate along with a hand written letter can go a long way. Cheers to Moms!
…with a party at our shop in Duluth 4/22 from 4-7! Online, we’re highlighting some of the ways we at Frost River are working to be better stewards of the earth and our neighborhood. Join us in taking big and small steps to decrease waste as we work toward leaving no trace both on and off the trail.
Being an urban manufacturer means we have a lot of potential to create trash, and waste energy. That means we have a lot of opportunities to reduce that waste, and reduce that energy consumption.
Reducing waste begins with making good use of our raw materials. We call them raw, but the truth is that everything that we put into our Reliable Softgoods had to be made. Cotton doesn’t come off the shrubs in great waxed sheets, solid brass hardware doesn’t come from the earth in the form of a 2” snaphook and leather doesn’t grow on trees. All of these materials come from natural processes, and are grown or harvested. By the time they reach us, they’ve been gathered and worked by dedicated crafts-persons until they become the high quality brass, canvas, web and leather that we put into every piece of Frost River gear. It’s the good stuff, and the less of it we can waste, the better.
In the past, canvas was cut by hand. It’s an art, and we still do it when we need to, but it’s a wasteful process. When we went to cut a run of bags, we’d lay down layer upon layer and place the pattern pieces manually, arranging them the best we could, accounting for stretch, yield, and space, by hand. After tracing the patterns, we cut it with a fabric saw. It wasn’t a perfect system. For one thing, any time a sharp blade oscillates at high speed while an operator does delicate work, it’s dangerous. Cutting was difficult, inconsistent, and wasteful. The scrap bins filled quickly.
It was a bottleneck, too. Cutting enough canvas to keep a fleet of sewers running is tough. We could do better. We needed a specialist. We’ve dramatically reduced the amount of canvas that we waste by completely changing how we cut our fabrics. Frost River invested in an American-Made automated cutting table. It’s a 48-foot inverted air hockey table that holds layers of fabric with a vacuum and runs a series of tools, cutters, and punches, along the length on a robotic arm, cutting our waxed canvas into the parts and pieces that become our Isle Royale, Flight Bag, Dog Bowls and Growler Packs. It’s more consistent, safe, and it saves fabric. Where there used to be big unusable bits and scraps, there is now minimal waste. That saved canvas goes into gear built for adventures, not into dumpsters, landfills and oceans. It’s how it should be. The canvas has a purpose, and it’s not to feed garbage trucks, it’s to feed the soul of adventure.
Reducing power consumption is another important way for us to reduce our footprint. Switching out all of our bulbs from incandescents to fluorescent and LED is a small step, but makes a big difference. Each sewing machine, (lets just say we’ve got a few,) used an incandescent bulb that burned hot. Switching all of those out with LED bulbs alone has made our workshop brighter and more efficient, pleasant space. The sewing machines themselves ran with a big, heavy, inefficient motor. It buzzed loudly and spun the entire time the machine was on, like an idling engine. We’ve switched all of our machines over to servo-motor driven machines. They’re nearly silent, and far more efficient, only running when they have to, and with minimal electricity.
The leather we use comes from the S.B. Foot Tannery in Red Wing, Minnesota. They are a great, local partner that has been making premium leather since
1872. Being an American tannery, they’re held to strict environmental regulations. We cut all our leather here at the shop with a focus on quality, yield, and efficiency. The leather goes through several stages of sorting where we keep cutting smaller and smaller pieces until there are no more useable bits. We use as much of the hide as we can. Also, we don’t ignore the parts of the hide with the tanner’s marks either. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a strap with a proud stamp on the back, that reads “SB Foot” in silver lettering. We’re happy when it shows up, because it matters where our materials come from, it’s part of what make our Reliable Softgoods special.
Everything with our name on it is made in America. That’s sustainable for our economy and our community. Sales bring important revenue to our local community, and the jobs they provide pays bills and supports other businesses. Transportation costs and energy are reduced by keeping manufacturing local. Being in the center of the country, we can ship east and west with near equal cost and impact.
Once Frost River bags are out in the wild, bagging peaks and logging miles, they’ll break in and give good service for years. We guarantee them for life because we know what kind of materials go into them, and how well we’ve put them together. We’ve built the business sustainably too, so that we’ll be around to fix, patch and repair these Reliable Softgoods. Waxed canvas is tough stuff. It endures scuffs, scrapes, and abrasion well and gets better with age and use. When and if the wear and tear gets through, our construction and the qualities of our materials allows us to take a bag apart, make repairs, patch it up, and get it back together again. Did a squirrel or bear make new holes in the side of your Old No. 7 trying to get to the jerky? We can fix that!
After all, the most environmentally-friendly thing is to repair something worth repairing and keep it in use.
It’s not always easy to find ways to reduce the waste and the amount of energy that goes into what we build, but it’s worth it to us. We build our authentic, heritage waxed canvas packs, bags and luggage to help folks around the world get outside and adventure more. It’s gear that’s built for life, and the way it’s built is sustainable, good for the environment and repeatable, while leaving as small a footprint as we can. We enjoy our work and take pride in being stewards of our neck of the woods while we build good stuff for our neighbors around the world.
Happy Earth Day, and thanks for supporting a small, sustainable manufacturer of authentic heritage Reliable Softgoods in Duluth, MN, USA, from all of us at Frost River.
“There is magic in the feel of a paddle and the movement of a canoe, a magic compounded of distance, adventure, solitude, and peace. The way of a canoe is the way of the wilderness, and of a freedom almost forgotten. It is an antidote to insecurity, the open door to waterways of ages past, and a way of life with profound and abiding satisfactions. When a man is part of his canoe, he is part of all that canoes have ever known.”
– Sigurd Olson from The Singing Wilderness
The canoe country wilderness truly is a magical place. The ecosystem of connected lakes and rivers beginning in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest, extending into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and continuing over the Canadian border to Quetico Provincial Park was carved by glaciers over a millennia. Humans have been traveling the waters for nearly as long, packing their gear over the portages for generations. Many of the same canoe routes, portages, and campsites marked on modern maps and still in use today would be familiar to Native Americans a thousand years ago.
Minnesota’s BWCA is the most visited wilderness area in the nation, and with good reason. The simplicity of a Boundary Waters camping trip provides a rare respite from the bustle of a busy life. It’s a glimpse back to a bygone time, to when much of North America was untamed wilderness and all sojourners had was their gear, their companions, and the quiet rustle of waves, wind and forest.
A modern paddling trip is not that difficult to plan, and once you’re out, the ancient rhythms of a simpler life can help heal the ailments of a soul worn by modern urban life, ailments that may go unnoticed until held in contrast to the lonely call of a loon, the sunrise through the fog over a silent lake, the crackle of a lively campfire, the drone of a million mosquitoes heard from inside a stout tent. The Boundary Waters provides an opportunity to tap into primitive energies nearly forgotten in modern day life.
Make it a point to visit and you’ll thank yourself. The first step is deciding (or taking up an offer) to go.
In order to make the most of your trip, you’ll want to start planning as early as you can. So, here’s how to plan for a Boundary Waters canoe camping trip. Or, at least, how to get the ball rolling. We’ll cover the next steps and finer details as you get closer to loading up the stationwagon.
First, decide to go. This is that big, ‘first step’ thing that has to happen before anything else can. Pick the dates, pick your mates and clear the calendar. Make sure you’ve got enough leeway on either end of the trip, too. You’ll generally want to get up to canoe country very early the first day of your trip, or the night before for an early start at your entry point. On the other end, when you’re leaving to head home, plan about a day to get back to the car, get your gear packed, celebrate in Ely, Grand Marais, along the North Shore, or in Duluth and then head home (depending on where home is, of course, it might take longer). If you had wet weather or a sloshy boat, you’ll have to dry your gear when you get home, too. Start date, end date plus travel to and from. There. You’re set. That’s all there is to it. Not exactly, but in some ways, starting is the hardest part of planning a trip up to the storied border lakes of the BWCA. Once you get these rough bookends, all of the other details start to fall into place.
Once you’ve got your rough trip framework, it’s time to start filling in the details. The first is to choose where you’re going: an entry point. If you haven’t been there before, you’ll need to learn a bit about permits. Visitors to the Boundary Waters are required to get permits in order to access the wilderness. Each group (up to 9 people) needs one permit. There are set locations where people may access the wilderness (entry points) and there are a specific number of permits available for each of those entry points. Visit Recreation.gov to see the map of available entry points and the number of permits remaining for your start date. Some entry points have a large number of permits per day, while others are more limited. Some have as few as one permit for any given day. This is why it’s important to plan ahead so you can secure a permit at the entry point of your choice.
Everyone that’s been to the BWCA has their favorite lake, and, while there’s a lot of overlap, everyone’s opinion of the best lake, best site, best _____ will be different. The truth is, you can’t go wrong anywhere you go within the BWCA. It’s all beautiful, rugged, and will make for a wonderful trip. So, if your entry point of choice is taken, there will still be lots of other good options where you can go.
Once you’ve decided on a place to start your journey, you can reserve the permit through Recreation.gov and select a permit issuing station. If you’re coming through Duluth, be sure to select Frost River as your permit issuing station. The Frost River Trading Co. is conveniently located off of Interstate 35 (Exit 255a!) in Duluth, and is a great starting point whether you’re going through the Gunflint or Echo Trails to begin your trip. We’ve got maps, map cases, cookware, wood-burning camp stoves, camp food, snacks, packs, gear, canoe accessories, paddles and more, plus, if the Bent Paddle Brewing Co. taproom is open, you can fill your stainless steel “Wilderness Worthy” growler (no glass is allowed in the BWCA) and bring some craft beer with you into the woods.
With your dates set, itinerary begun and permit reserved, you can start thinking about the rest of your trip. The length of your trip will dictate your route, how much gear and food you bring, what maps you buy and will be important as you strategize traveling through canoe country. You’ll naturally want to pick out some rugged Reliable Softgoods to haul your gear. We’ll cover the specifics of pack selection and packing in another blog.
Duluth, Minnesota, at the tip of Lake Superior, the doorstep to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Most of you get it, a good number of you have had the pleasure to visit, some of you haven’t (if that’s you, you should put it on your list). Those of you that have been to Duluth, been to the Frost River shop, traveled Minnesota or paddled our placid waters know a bit about why we think this is a special place. But, Minnesota and Duluth, they’re not the only special places. There are lots of spots that are special, parks that bring you outside, waterways that wind and meander into your soul, plains that keep you grounded and mountains that inspire – they’re part of a patchwork that forms your experience, your memories of a place, and makes that place important to you.
That’s why we’re proud to offer these new Canvas My State Patches. We’ve picked out ten states and two regional silhouettes to start, twelve outlines that are both instantly recognizable and speak to much more than their borders. Place an order for one of over 30 of our specific packs and bags below and you can add a Canvas My State buckskin patch sewn to your bag for $15. It’s a simple, bold way to share some of your regional pride on some US-made gear. We design, make and sew both the patches and the reliable softgoods they go on right here at 1910 W Superior St. in Duluth, MN USA. We’re starting with the lower 48 of the US, Lake Superior and ten states from different regions across the country.
Canvas My State Patches available: USA Lower 48 | Lake Superior | GA – Georgia | CA – California | IL – Illinois | MN – Minnesota | NJ – New Jersey | NY – New York | OR – Oregon | TX – Texas | WA – Washington | WI – Wisconsin
Can’t find your state? Vote for the next round of patches on social media by sharing a photo of your favorite spot, tagging it with #CanvasMyState and telling us what makes your region special (bonus if you include a piece of Frost River gear in the photo!). We’ll share selected entries and your vote could help get your state, province, lake or region on the waxed canvas map!
We’ve picked this set because they’re some of our favorite packs and bags, but also, because we made them and because of their design, we can add patches to the bags we’ve got on our shelves. This means that adding a patch won’t take us very long, and we can get your gear to you quickly with just a $15 up-charge. It might take a couple business days from your order, depending on our backlog, but we won’t have to make your pack from scratch, so you’ll get it sooner.
The buckskin leather is the same deerhide we use on our distinctive Canoe Pack backstraps. It’s a rich, durable, sustainable, naturally harvested buckskin that’s sourced in the States. It pays homage to our regional and canoe pack roots whether on a day pack or a professional shoulder bag, the Canvas My State patches let you bring a bit more of where’s important with you as you wander. They’ll age and patina just like the rest of our reliable softgoods as you use your gear in your day to day, and on wild adventures. Help promote a handcrafted, homegrown message and add a patch to any one of the products through visiting our Canvas My State Selection.
We apologize for any inconvenience, but these patches are unique to this program and at this time, only available on new products and not sold separately. We’ll keep you updated as the Canvas My State program evolves, and it will! Cheers!
It’s springtime, and that means it’s time to get out and do some exploration!
We’re setting our sights on spring travel, to both far-off jungles, backwoods waterways and urban wilds far from home. Read on for some of our top spring travel tips for air travel, packing and how waxed canvas fits in with modern sojourns.
“These days the toughest task for luggage is to survive the baggage check at an airport. Our normal is sitting outside during a torrential downpour, and left to dry in the sun. Our luggage looks forward to the airport. It’s considered a vacation.” – Henry the Frost River Caribou.
We started out at Frost River by making reliable canoe packs, built the traditional way, with premium raw materials that were made to last, and to be relied on, deep in the backcountry. That philosophy of traditional attention to detail in materials and construction carries over to more civilized, domesticated travel, too. If your bag was built to a standard to hold up to wilderness travel in canoes and over portages, packing up and pitching camps year after year, it will readily endure overhead bins, airline terminals and far-flung destinations like a champ.
Air and canoe travel aren’t all that different. Now, before you scoff and say we’ve got our head up our chaps, let us explain. First off, whether you’re flying or paddling, you can’t bring everything (the kitchen sink, while portage-able in our Camp Cook’s Kitchen, is not carryon compliant). Secondly, you’re in new places, not at home, which means that you’ve got to bring the right gear (a parka might not be right in Bermuda). Third, what you bring has to work and be reliable (remember when your wheels busted on that massive roller?). Fourth, it’s tiring, but experiencing new things makes it worth it (no explanation needed)!
Frost River Flight Bags are to airplanes, as our Portage Packs are to canoes: handy and well suited to the job. Just having one around helps to instigate travel (… I should really get out with that bag!). They’re ready to go whether you want to pack neatly or cram stuff in and run. The long, not-too-wide bottom, offers a great platform to launch your getaway. The simplicity of one big compartment cuts weight, cost, decisions, and fuss.
How to pack a flight bag for a weekend getaway or several weeks of adventure travel:
We suggest packing your bag from bottom to top, starting with a solid foundation. Place heavier items at the bottom, like shoes and jeans. Lighter weight dress shirts and wrinkle-able neckties should go on top. Underwear and socks work great to fill empty spots in your shoes and on the sides. Pack tightly on the bottom, loosely on the top. You can tuck jackets and other stuffable items on the sides, so it’ll fit in tight spaces. If you run into trouble fitting it in the overhead with a line of passengers behind you, you can always take out the jacket to make it fit. Having a solid foundation will help keep the bag stable, while softer items on the top and sides provides wiggle room for airline size checks and preserves the cram-ability of soft sided luggage in overhead bins.
The heavy duty zipper on the Flight opens wide to get your stuff in and out and see what’s going on in there. The corded leather handles are substantial, feel great, and are securely riveted to the bag. Solid brass D-rings with leather reinforcement on the ends of the bag are evenly positioned on either side of the main zipper. We include a wide cotton web shoulder strap with each bag and offer additional pads. The arrangement makes shouldering a Flight Bag a manageable and balanced operation while the double bottom and leather reinforced corners protect the flight from terminal floors and baggage claim carousel converyors. The not-too-wide design keeps the weight close to your center and makes the cross terminal hustle to a connecting flight easier than with a wide body bag. No wheels, but extra character is built in.
Quick tips for packing and traveling with a carryon:
Roll your clothes: They’ll take up less space, and fend off wrinkles better than when folded. Try using a “Ranger Roll” to save space, prevent creases and keep your clothing together. The technique uses a fold at the top of the roll to tuck the garment into itself. It’s pretty slick.
Bring a laundry bag: Keep the dirty clothes separate from your clean stuff. Our Overland Valise has a divider in the main compartment that works great to isolate worn clothes from the fresh stuff. Be careful using a plastic bag, they act like a greenhouse with wet, stinky things…
Wash ‘em while you’re out: A week-long canoe trip is easy with minimal changes of clothes, but there’s typically not as much latitude with more civilized travels. Not that you’ll be short on space with a bag like the Flight, but you can manage with fewer clothes if you wash them while you’re out. Hotel room sinks, towel racks, drying lines and towels make for a great impromptu laundromat. A clean, dry towel can speed up drying if you roll and squeeze wet, rinsed items before hanging them to dry.
Layer up: Your camp counselor was right, layers are important whether you’re in central park or the Ogishkemuncie Lake in the center of the Boundary Waters. As you plan your packing, pick layers that’ll all work together. A sweater to go over a shirt, a fleece to go over the sweater, a rain jacket to go over that. You can wear them all together for cold weather insulation, and if it warms up, shed the extra layers. Give yourself options and cut the extra weight by making them all work together.
Carry a travel kit, make sure it’s stocked: We make several styles of travel kits in waxed canvas, and they work great to carry and contain your grooming contents. First off, waxed canvas is water resistant. Our Standard and Premium Travel Kits are handy because they close tight, are the right size, and are shampoo, lens solution, and shave cream resistant! The material will contain a mess and keep catastrophe from messing up your vacation. Along with your leakable liquids, extra lenses, trimming tools, deodorant, and fine smelling stuff, stow some cash in your travel kit. It’s a great spot for a little savings account. Here’s a good way to pack one from the Art of Manliness… Our RollUp Travel Kit has zippered mesh pockets to separate your grooming items. Accessory Bags make great low profile (and low cost) toiletry bags too, and the XP models have snaps to work with our RollUp Travel Kit. That’s handy for security checks before flights (keep the liquids for inspection ready in an Accessory Bag on the outside). They hold more than you’d expect, come in small, medium, and large sizes, and they’re all made at Frost River in the USA.
Put the stuff you plan to use first or on the flight on the top: It’s especially important with a carryon bag. Be sure your snacks, reading material, hat, headphones, eye mask, and overstuffed plush neck pillow are at the top so you don’t need to dig too deep in your nicely packed bag to get what you need while on the go. Keep these things in your personal item, like a briefcase or daypack.
Protect your suit with a cover, or strategic packing: If you’re bringing a suit, consider a garment cover. They help protect your three-piece from rough travel, preventing stains, scuffs and wrinkles. If garment covers are not your traveling style, you could always fold a suit to fit in the flight bag. We’ve tried the below method, and can attest that it worked for us!
Start with the front facing you, turn one shoulder inside out, bring the other shoulder in to nest with the turned in shoulder and line up the top seams. Place a rolled t-shirt in the void of the empty shoulders. Smooth out the folds and wrinkles. Roll from the collar down to the bottom hem… like this
For pants, bring center pleat of pants together, roll form bottom cuff to waistband. Place the rolled suit in the center of your bag, above jeans and shoes, below other dress shirts. Use a Carry On Flight Bag for a backpacking trip: While we’re not advocating you hike into the boonies with the Flight, it makes a great gear hauler to the trailhead. You can carry a full set of backcountry camping gear for two in a Carry On Flight Bag. Here’s a setup for the wilds of the Pacific islands, complete with an ultralight two person tent (left the stakes at home and worked with native sticks), full set of top and bottom rain gear, two pairs of sandals, capacity to carry 20 liters of water (12 for the car, 8 for the trail), full cookset (pot, canister stove, spoons and cups in a Frost River Accessory Bag – buy the fuel when you land), sleeping bags and sleeping pads. Carrying all the camping gear in the Flight Bag kept it together, easy to carryon, easy to check if the gate agents requested, and allowed the less-than-full backpacks to be used as personal items. Checked luggage fee? $0.
At Frost River, we make packs and bags of all different shapes and sizes that are designed to fit in and stand out among the sea of nylon no matter how you choose to travel. We pride ourselves on making reliable canoe packs that are built for rugged wilderness travel over varied terrain. Our waxed canvas, with its abrasion resistance and ability to shrug off weather, performs great in the woods and on the water. Our solid brass hardware won’t rust and will bend before it breaks. Premium leather straps get better as you use them carrying a pack in the woods, by a canoe, or around town. That philosophy of traditional attention to detail in materials and construction carries over to more civilized, domesticated travel, too, and if your bag was built to a standard to hold up to wilderness travel in canoes, over portages, packing up and pitching camps year after year, deep in canoe country, it will readily endure overhead bins, airline terminals and far-flung destinations. It’s built right, built by hand, in Duluth, MN, and guaranteed for life.
There’s a new wave of biking happening in Duluth… The Fat Bikes have arrived!
With oversized tires for off road use over rough and soft terrain, Fat Bikes are known for their stability, an air cushioned ride, and fun year-round, and Duluth is quickly becoming a hub of activity for the sport.
Check out this recent video of Fat Biking in Duluth, all shot in town on Duluth roads, trails, stairs and lift-served slopes!
“Remember those dangerously fun Honda 3 wheelers you rode as a kid?,” asks Jesse Class, Frost River Supervisor of CAD & Cutting and avid rider of a fat bike in Duluth, “They’re a lot like those!” Many riders appreciate the plush ride, the float over soft ground, as well as the exercise it provides and endless possibilities in terms of terrain and when during the year they can ride. “It’s not as much about the speed, but the experience,” said Class.
New this winter, and for those that are more into speed and gravity, Spirit Mountain Ski Area began offering lift-served winter fat biking for several of their runs. The resort is among the first in the world to offer lift access in the winter to blend fat bikes in the same terrain shared with skiers and snowboarders. It opens a whole new realm for riders looking to tap into new places to ride. This spring, Frost River is partnering with the local riding group and trail champions, The Cyclists for Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) to help bring the “Frosted Fatty” bike race to Spirit Mountain. The race will be an open course downhill with two stages. Riders will be given a time limit to complete as many timed runs as they can. The “King of the Mountain” will be the one with the best times over both stages. You can register here, start gates drop at 10 am March 19, 2016. There’ll be great gear from Frost River, Surly, and other sponsors for the winners.
In addition to the race at Spirit Mountain, COGGS has been working to complete a trail system called the Duluth Traverse. According to COGGS, it will be the “the first 100+ mile system of singletrack all within an urban environment.” The Duluth Traverse links together several existing multi-use trail systems to allow residents and visitors access to great trails all over town. It’s a sustainable way to get out and enjoy the thousands of acres of public wooded space available in Duluth. Upon completion, “every Duluth neighborhood will be connected with this natural surface, human-powered trail,” say COGGS, and these trails are perfect for fat biking.
Aside from building and maintaining trails, COGGS closely monitors trail conditions around town. Seasonal and daily advisories are posted to help keep riders off trails when conditions are very wet and trails are fragile. In those instances, riders are urged to take to the streets, roads, and beaches and to stay off the trails, lest they get full of ruts and require repair.
COGGS and the City of Duluth have secured several grants to help fund the completion of the Duluth Traverse. For each of the large state and federal grants, COGGS and the City need cash matches to secure the funding. Contact COGGS if you or your club would like to donate time or funds to help make finishing the Duluth Traverse possible.
If you’re in Duluth for the Frosted Fatty at Spirit Mountain or will be in town the evening of March 19th, 2016, COGGS will be hosting their 5th Annual Duluth Traverse Gala (registration is now full) after the races at the Greysolon Ballroom, and to finish off the March 19th fat bike and bike festivities, you can go to the LollyGagger After Party across the street from the COGGS Gala at Zeitgeist Arts Cafe & Atrium. The afterparty is open to all, and access is by free will donation. There’ll be local brews, purchasable pint glasses, great music and good times with bike-minded folk starting at 9:30pm.
The trails COGGS is building are multi use, catering not just to fat bikers and mountain bikers, but to hikers, runners, and snowshoers alike. It’s a win for all interested in the opportunity to have great trails in town that can be used year-round.
At Frost River, we’re fans of fat bikes and their riders, and some of us ride, too. Frost River waxed canvas bike bags fit in fine with the style, mentality, attitude, and all weather riding that this new breed of bicycle brings. “When you fat-bike, you’re in the elements and don’t want to worry about gear. Waxed canvas is durable,” said Class, “they’re great partners.” More information about Frost River bike bags can be found here.
We recently hosted fat bike riders from Surly Bikes and BikePacking.com for the start and finish of a bike packing trip in Duluth, providing parking and some local-knowledge route ideas. The riders disembarked from our new parking lot behind the Frost River shop at 1910 W Superior St and headed west, uphill, loaded with winter gear for a two night, three day bike camping trip. They hit three single track trail “parks” before taking on an ice crossing of the St. Louis River at the back of the Duluth/Superior harbor. They said the crossing made for a slippery ride that was unnerving with the ice groaning under their loaded bicycles. Over the ice and trails they proved that bike camping is do-able and enjoyable in all seasons, even winter.
We’ve worked with Surly Bikes to match bags to their racks and enjoy working with our fellow Minnesota company. When they heard about the bike packer’s trip, they invited us via twitter to keep BikePacking.com’s vehicle …“if they don’t make it out”… Thankfully, the riders did make it back, so while we missed out on a sweet minivan, we were able to get the scoop on their fat bike camping story.
With all the trails, hard work, new gear, events and possibilities, the wave of fat bikes is still only beginning, but it seems like it’s in Duluth and Minnesota to stay, and we like it. Whether you’re an avid cyclist, are new to the sport, or would like to try it out for the first time, there’s plenty for everyone here throughout the year in Reliable Duluth.
If you’re taking a warm winter getaway up north to Duluth this weekend and are looking for things to do, here are some of our top picks for activities and events in and around Duluth, MN. With shopping, spectating, music, outdoor events, contests, races, extreme sports, slopes and fat bikes — this is a good weekend to head north.
The Frost River shop will be open every day this weekend at 1910 W Superior St. We’ve got good stock of our waxed canvas Reliable Softgoods, so if you’ve been eyeing a pack and want to try it on, stop on by. We’ll be giving free tours of our workshop, too, so you can learn how it’s made. As always, we’ll have the coffee on! M-F. 9-6 Sa. 9-5 Su. 11-4
Make it a twofer and portage across the street from Frost River to Bent Paddle Brewing Company’s Taproom for their craft-brewed ales and lagers. Pints, Flights and Growlers are available when their taproom is open. They’ll be pouring this weekend: F 2 – 11 pm Sa 12 – 11 pm Su 12 – 5 pm
Duluth Parks and Hikes – Duluth is home to some amazing trails and hikes. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the The Lakewalk, Enger Tower, Park Point and the Chester Park Trail below Skyline Pkwy (bring ice cleats on this one!).
“Birkie Fever” hits Cable, Wisconsin this weekend as 10,000 nordic skiers race 51K for skate skiers and 55K for classic skiers in The American Birkebeiner ski race. The event is on the Worldloppet circuit of international ski marathons and the largest cross country ski marathon in North America. There’s shuttle service to the starting line, access to the trail along the way, and a party at the finish. Grab your cowbells and cheer on some racers!
If you find yourself in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, check out the 906 Polar Roll Fat Bike Race going on in Marquette, MI. Put on by the 906 Adventure Team, this race, part of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series, brings riders and groups from across the region. Rain, snow, shine — organizers are racing on. Be sure to stop by and visit our friends from Flying Moose on the course in Marquette. They’ll be working with sponsor Framed Bikes and showing off some of our waxed canvas bike bags.
2pm Duluth Polar Plunge. Watch or join the folks jumping into the frigid waters of Lake Superior off the Duluth Lakewalk to benefit Special Olympics Minnesota.
6pm At Mont Du Lac Resort — The Rider’s Cup Ice-Cross World Championship (downhill race on ice skates) followed at 8pm by a concert with The Black Eyed Snakes & Brother Ali. This is free for season pass holders & those with day passes. Folks without the passes can get into the concert for $16, which includes night skiing. More info here.
Didn’t get enough Fat Biking in Marquette? Want to try downhill Fat Biking? Spirit Mountain, Duluth will be hosting their Fat Bike Sunday, with certain lifts and slopes open to fat bikes from 10-4pm. More details here.