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Frost River Firewood Haulers


Fireplaces and woodstoves are great at providing warmth and ambiance…

…to chase away winter’s chill, brighten moods at camp or keep a cabin cheery…but those fires constantly need to be fed, requiring frequent trips from the woodpile to the firebox. Our Timber Haulers are here to help! Give a gift of a solid grasp on more than an armload of wood and save some trips this Christmas. The area in front of the fire will stay cleaner when using our Timber Haulers, and so will the person carrying the wood. Duff, bark, and debris can stay in the sling. Carry the bundle with one hand, and be able to open doors with the other. Plus you’ll be able to see where you’re going without wood stacked up to your eyeballs… Handy!

Log CarrierTimber Haulers

Pure utility, a simple waxed canvas sling with sleeves for the included 3/4 inch solid oak dowel handles on each end. It’s long enough to go around a hearty armload of split firewood and rolls up for easy storage. Great for use at home or in the field, the handles are removable so you can re-purpose the sling for other uses in camp when not hauling wood. It’d make a good makeshift mini groundcloth in your winter tent!

Firewood Sling-
Log Carrier No. 615 by Frost River - Axe and logs not included
Log Carrier No. 615 by Frost River – Axe and logs not included

A waxed canvas sling with leather handles and accents— there’s a bit of luxury built in. The corded, rolled leather handles are sturdy and substantial, they feel good to carry. The sling is just the right size for portability and will stand up to as big of a load as a person would want to carry. Hand pounded harness rivets and sturdy nylon thread hold the whole works together. Consider one of our handcrafted Wrought Iron Hooks to hang the sling on between trips.

Birchbark GDT Log Bag-
Birch Bark Log Bag GDT No. 605 By Frost River
Birch Bark Log Bag GDT No. 605 By Frost River

You don’t need a rustic cabin in the woods to appreciate a well-crafted log bag. This thing works just as good for feeding an urban fireplace as it does at a backwoods pot bellied stove. The bathtub ends work really well to keep all the bark and bits where they belong as you haul wood in from the pile, plus it makes for a handy catchall in a trunk or living room when not serving the fire. Like all of our Timber Haulers, it’s made by hand in the USA!

Firepit Sling w/ Stahl Firepit
The Stahl/Frost River Firepit Sling, designed to haul the Camper Firepit and compatible with Frost River XP Accessory Bags. Firepit, sling, and accessory bags sold separately.
The Stahl/Frost River Firepit Sling, designed to haul the Camper Firepit and compatible with Frost River XP Accessory Bags. Firepit, sling, and accessory bags sold separately.

Here’s an upgraded Firewood Sling with longer handles for shoulder carry and sleeves to accommodate a portable Stahl Firepit. You don’t need the collapsible steel and aluminum pit to appreciate this sling (it works great on its own), but the whole rig sure does have a unique and fiery appeal. There are snaps inside the sling to attach an Accessory Bag XP for tinder, kindling, fire starters, or a pair of gloves, or use the snaps to help keep the sling closed. Carry the fire pit to camp, cabin, or the backyard, set it up, then use the sling to go get some wood to burn. A slick system with unique style that’s all made in the USA. Cool! … or hot, or just an awesome way to fuel a fire. Happy camping with better carrying capacity and a collapsible fire pit!

However you choose to haul your wood (or stove) may your campfires be ever-cheery and surrounded by good friends!


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Traveler’s Gift Guide

Travel is the heart of adventure.

It doesn’t matter if scanning a passport at ticketing, embarking on a canoe country expedition, undertaking a wilderness sojourn on two legs, pedaling a fat bike into the cold unknown, or striking out on an epic road trip… even a quick trip to Gramma’s for the weekend… all are great for a traveler’s soul and all-the-more enjoyable with some trusty bags. All our waxed canvas bags are made at Frost River, they’re guaranteed to last, and will get better with age and use. They carry character as well as your belongings.

Take a look through our Traveler’s Gift Guide for our top picks for the wanderer on your list.

Frost River's Isle Royale Bushcraft, waxed canvas, premium leather, solid brass hardware -- American made, lifetime guaranteed, rugged perfection.

Isle Royale Jr. – A canoe pack at heart, the Isle Royale doubles as a capable daypack as well. Overbuilt to endure heavy loads and designed to offer a spot for bushcrafting essentials, the 2-in-1 pockets straddle an axe sleeve on the front of the pack. Several lash points at the top and bottom allow exterior gear storage in addition to the main compartment and pockets of the bag. Waxed canvas construction provides weather resistance and durability. Travel like a woodsman, forget about wheeled luggage, wear your carry on bag. Made at Frost River in Duluth, Minnesota, USA.

Timber Cruiser Jr PackTimber Cruiser Jr. – A canoe pack that’s been sized down for smaller loads, the Timber Cruiser Jr., like the Isle Royale, is overbuilt to endure heavy loads. 2-in-1 side pockets offer spots for a water bottle or change of clothes, while the large main compartment can carry an entire weekend trip’s worth of gear. Soft-sided construction means it’ll scrunch down if you don’t overfill it.

397 Arrowhead 15 Eco by Frost River, a roll top day pack built by hand in Duluth, MN from waxed canvas, premium leather and solid brass hardware. Guaranteed for life.

Arrowhead RollTop ECO – Carry a little or a lot in this capable, adaptable, weather tight daypack. The rolled top allows the main compartment to expand or contract. Waxed canvas keeps the rain, snow, and weather out. The handy ECO side pockets provide spots for water bottles or small stuff with a snap top closure. Long leather flap straps, lash squares and attachment loops provide exterior cargo options.

Summit Expedition PackSummit Expedition – A full-featured rucksack with canvas padded backstraps, traveling with this pack keeps you ready for adventure at a moment’s notice. Carry on compliant with the airlines, this would make a great go-to bag for travels both on and off the beaten path. Lots of options with the Expedition.

876-voyageur-backpack_pack_smVoyageur Backpack Luggage – Here’s a crossover design that works well in the field, on the job, and traveling about. The heavy duty full zipper lets the bag open wide for loading and seeing what’s inside. Plenty of lash points on the outside, along with XP snaps on the inside, provide options for organization and storage. Carry the bag as you want, backpack straps, handles, or an optional shoulder strap let you carry it as you please. Two sizes available, the Backpack Brief is smaller, the Backpack Luggage is larger. Both stay inside carry on compliance for airline travel, carry both!

NavigatorNavigator – Luggage disguised as a briefcase. There’s capacity for both roles in the Navigator. Big side pockets provide room for a change of clothes. The large main compartment has room to spare for personal and professional belongings. Not too big to act as a regular brief either.

p-363-652-Flight-BagSMALLFlight Bag – Cram stuff in or pack neatly, it won’t matter when traveling with a Flight Bag. One large, main compartment holds more than you’d expect. The size and shape promote portability, waxed canvas construction is guaranteed to last. A great bag for weekend getaways and the unique ability to always pack a little more.

Overland Luggage – Our top shelf bags. Waxed canvas, solid brass, lots of leather, all steeped in heritage nostalgia. The Overland Valise and Garment Bag borrow from a different era, a time of more deliberate travel, and a classic sense of style. Carry well, be distinctive, and harken back to a time more golden with luggage like none other

Overland LuggageValiseWeekender or CarryOn sizes with a triple-buckled top flap covering a zip opening. Inside there’s a divider and zippered pocket. Shoulder strap and old world charm included.

Garment Bag – Forget the folding, hang your clothes and carry a first class Garment Bag! Great for suits, good for regular clothes too. Handcrafted from waxed canvas, leather, and brass instills a sense of travel worthy of a trip on the Orient Express, it’ll work wonders on your layover in Cincinnati.

Explorer Duffel BagExplorer Duffels – Durable duffel bags overbuilt for all kinds of adventures. The Explorers offer heavy duty web straps that wrap completely around the duffel body to instill confidence with heavy loads. Pockets and dust flaps help organize and protect your gear, while waxed canvas double bottom gives twice the durability. Add backpack straps with the Explorer ESBs.

850-zippy-drawingZippy Tote – The Zippy is a cross between a tote bag and luggage. A large, heavy duty zippered opening helps secure your things, while also making them easy to get to. An included shoulder strap helps to haul a heavy load, while rolled leather handles make it easy to tote. Works great as a personal item for those things you want to keep with you like your headphones, lunch and a Frost River catalog.

RollUp Dopp KitRollUp Travel Kit – A little bag that rolls up to keep your important toiletries easy to find. Hangs up from a hook, bar, or whatever you sling the snap strap around. Mesh pockets, a spacious pleated snap pocket and XP snap compatibility gives plenty of organizational options. Made in Duluth.

Frost River Accessory BagAccessory Bags – Little bags that’ll carry a lot. The triangular shape that’s wide on the bottom and narrow at the top provides more capacity than expected. From tinder to toothpaste to charging cords, you’ll find plenty of uses for a handy little waxed canvas bag.

Temperance ToteTemperance Tote – Here’s a cross between a purse and a briefcase. The Temperance is handbuilt using rich a leather bottom and accents that’ll get better with age. Handles attach using brass roller buckles to allow adjustment between making it a handbag and a shoulder bag. Organization on the inside, plus a zippered top, make this a versatile bag.

Bazaar ToteBazaar Tote – A big bag with adjustable leather handles, our Bazaar Tote is adaptable from a purse, to a carry on, to a grocery bag… whatever you need to carry, this tote can help. Interior snap tabs bring the sides together. A hanging zippered pocket is there to keep little stuff off the bottom of the bag. It’s a great size, shape, and design- here’s a worthy travel and errand-running partner.

Sawbill Trail Handlebar Bag No. 382 by Frost River

Sawbill Trail Bike Bag – Designed around the handlebars of a bike, there’s capacity to carry what needs to be brought along when traveling with a Sawbill. It also compliments a pack for exterior compartments. Leather straps offer a universal fit, brass rings on the ends are there for extra stabilization or to use it with a strap as a small shoulder bag. Waxed canvas promotes rides in the rain and puddle hopping.

Frost River CapWaxed Canvas Cap – Everyone needs a trusty cap, why not have one made in the USA from reliable and functional waxed canvas? We offer them in traditional 6 panel, and our new, lower profile 5 panel varieties. You can find both in multiple colors. Hats off to American Manufacturing!

Growler Packs

Growler Sling Pack – Bring a growler along! Life could be better when traveling with a bit of craft beer and a Growler Pack can help. Insulated, padded, carry handle equipped for wherever you need to go. Be welcomed more warmly at your travel destination when you arrive with a round of refreshments. Cheers to the holidays!

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Field Journal: Among eagles, trout and cabins

Frost River and partners from Country Breeze/True North, Japan, paddling the Brule and looking for Steelheads. Photo Alex Messenger.

 – a November paddle on Wisconsin’s Brule River –

Bald eagles, spring-fed waters, bubbling rapids… a late-season day on the Brule River is classic paddling on a quintessential northern waterway. Soon we’d be craning our necks, looking to the blue sky, watching for soaring eagles as they in turn watched the waters below for the same darting trout we ourselves hoped to hook with the tiniest of flies.

Frost River paddling the Brule and looking for steelhead on a warm November 6th, 2016. Photo Alex Messenger

It was a bright November morning. We had just set our clocks back, gotten an extra hour of sleep, and woken to sunshine and temperatures already hovering in the balmy mid-fifties. To say this was an unseasonable November 6th in northern Minnesota was putting it lightly.

A forty-minute drive and we’d dropped off a car at Winneboujou landing in Northwest Wisconsin and were pulling into the Stones Bridge landing with Henry the Frost River van and three boats. We were up for a lazy river day of paddling in the November sun. The river was running well, especially consider how late it was in the season, and 157cfs meant that the Class I rapids would be runnable. Recent stories about monster trout had us tying tippets and watching the shadows for flashes of fin.

Frost River paddling the Brule and looking for steelhead on a warm November 6th, 2016. Photo Alex Messenger

Floating away from the landing we watched as enormous trout darted underwater and eagles soared in the calm blue sky. We were carrying a light kit, just a few waxed canvas packs, canoe seat pads, thwart bags, a cooler full of IPAs and provisions, a couple rods, some cameras and five friends: a Duluth contingent and Takashi from Country Breeze in Japan. We appreciate when friends and partners visit us in the northland, and we always make an effort to get out and share some of the natural beauty we have here. Takashi was thrilled to get out on the water.

The leaves were nearly all gone from the birches and old forest that surrounded the quiet stream. The drooping boughs of weeping willows swayed in a light breeze. Ancient cedars shone green, despite dots of creeping rust as older needles relented to the coming winter.

Frost River paddling the Brule and looking for steelhead on a warm November 6th, 2016. Photo Alex Messenger

The Brule River is a magical place. The water is like nothing else: Clear, cold, spring water flowing north despite being well south of the Laurentian Divide. It seems like it shouldn’t flow that way, but is drawn by the pull of the biggest lake in the world. Much of the water in the Brule begins its journey at Solon Springs on the southern-most boundary of the Lake Superior watershed. As the cold water moves downhill along the Lake Superior basin, it gets added to by tributary streams and new springs in the riverbed. Traveling along the river, we could see these springs forming round clean spots in the river bottom and feel the chill of the water.

Thanks to the spring-fed supply there’s consistently shallow water that maintains its level throughout the year. Healthy green weeds provide cover for fish, turtles, critters, and plants that are especially visible on a sunny day. Gravel bars and rock beds striated over a millennia point downstream like lines on a highway. As the elevation drops, the river narrows, and the flow gets more energetic. Rapids form with just enough force to be exciting, but navigable by most any paddler fond of a little adrenaline rush.

Bald eagles launched from their perches on tall white pines, swooping low over the river and over our heads. Their enormous wings floated on the air as they soared, hardly making a sound. Golden eagles flew, too, navigating the narrow channel of the river, watching for the same flash of scales that caught our eye.

Frost River paddling the Brule and looking for steelhead on a warm November 6th, 2016. Photo Alex Messenger
A bald eagle soars over the Brule River. Photo Alex Messenger

Between Stones Bridge landing and the Winneboujou landing, the Brule River meanders for 19 miles through the Brule River State Forest. Ten miles in, the lowland forest, open swamp, spruce and tamarac-lined shores transition into steep shoreline. Private land, cedar docks, and sun-bleached boathouses appear like silent sentinels from the coppery bed of pine needles on the shore.

There are some amazing cabins and structures along the Brule. Building cabins like these… right along the waterline, sometimes even over the water, is no longer allowed— they’re relics from a different age, grandfathered into the protected place. There are cool old houses, gazebos, grand old cabins with bridges over the river and boathouses right on the water. In a way, they are engineering marvels, testaments to the kind of old-world craftsmanship that inspires our waxed canvas softgoods. They are houses in the woods as in a dream.

Former presidents, business moguls, famous families— there’s a wealth of history and old money along the Brule. Calvin Coolidge had a “Summer White House” at the Cedar Island Lodge along the river. There’s history, nature, clear water; it’s a daydreamers paradise.

Frost River paddling the Brule and looking for steelhead on a warm November 6th, 2016. Photo Alex Messenger

We passed the old cabins through the welcoming haze of campfire smoke, the boathouses and structures appearing from the trees as if made by elves. Despite the structures, we were alone for the entire paddle. No other boat appeared. It was incredible. The rapids rushed and we bounced over rocks in our two canoes and kayak. Over lunch, we worked the water where a school of stalwart steelhead lurked just beneath the surface. There must have been 30, slowly swaying against the steady flow of the Brule. They remained uninterested in our fly, and we enjoyed more IPAs, horseradish cheese with crackers and the juicy burst of sweetness from fresh grapes. The sun continued to shine and we shed the fleece layers and jackets we’d brought for this November day. It was in the 70’s now, but the water was cold and had the bite of coming winter.

As we continued down a lake in the river, we felt the presence of people, the hundreds of years of paddling on the water, and building escapes along its shores. In the distance, we could barely hear the sounds of power tools wafting over the rush of trees swaying in the wind. We were all happy to be gripping the handles of paddles and fishing rods instead of chainsaws.

Frost River paddling the Brule and looking for steelhead on a warm November 6th, 2016. Photo Alex MessengerThe water rippled and the boats skittered at its whim. Soon we were in the shelter of the trees, passing more boathouses, rusty screen porches and intricate log work so old that they were now sun-bleached and growing moss. Vertical log sides and whimsical swooping cornices, intricate wall sconces with deep amber shrouds. After a few paddle strokes, each building disappeared, only to be replaced by another, entirely different, but equally fascinating piece of Brule architecture around the next bend.

A few more casts and we packed our gear. No fish for us today. We were on the last miles of our journey and nearing Winneboujou. We broke down the fly rod, stashed it in the case and felt the pull of the paddle, watched the turn of the current, the meandering of the stream, the swaying of the trees, the falling of dry leaves and the swooping of massive eagles.

Frost River paddling the Brule and looking for steelhead on a warm November 6th, 2016. Photo Alex Messenger
Friends from Frost River and Takashi from Country Breeze/True North ready to paddle the Brule and look for steelhead on a warm November 6th, 2016. Photo Alex Messenger

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Field Tan and Hunter Orange Two Tone Gear

The Windigo Signal Bag  and Sawbill Trail Bag attached to the Isle Royale Jr. to add a bit of visibility in the woods. Made in USA.

Our waxed canvas does a great job providing weather resistant durability to a pack or bag. Our field tan blends in to the natural world so well, which we love, but there’s a time and a place for blending in, and there are times when you want you or your gear to be seen… Oh, if you only had a bright patch of waxed canvas on there to help stand out a bit!

New this fall, we’ve added just enough orange canvas to some of our favorite tried-and-true designs to stand out, plus we’ve come up with a new bag that’s guaranteed to lighten up a pack no matter what you’ve got in there.

Bonus: Through November 2nd, we’re offering a bonus Canvas My State patch with any purchase of orange two-tone gear. Add a patch to your bag, or add a standalone patch with your order of the Windigo Signal Bag, Sawbill Trail Bag (Field Tan or Two Tone), or High Falls Daypack (Field Tan or Two Tone) placed by 11/2, and we’ll include an individualized code with your shipment for $15 that you can use on a future order at It’s our way of saying Thanks! and a great way to add some regional pride to your new reliable softgoods.

Windigo Signal Bag

The Frost River Windigo Signal Bag is a simple little zip-top bag with solid brass attachment rings, binding loops and XP snaps. It's a basic bag with subtle field tan on one side and high visibility hunter orange on the other. A simple bag with unlimited possibilities.

Add some color to an Isle Royale Bushcraft Pack with a Windigo Signal Bag. Solid brass rings at each corner provide options to lash it on a pack, or run cord through to make light duty backstraps or attach a shoulder strap. A zippered top provides security for contents. There are numerous uses for this little pack. Use it as a signal flag, or a marker for yourself or others to find a spot. It could offer a dry spot to sit, pack it with soft stuff and use it as a pillow, or pack it with foam for a butt or kneeling pad. It’d make a good summit pack when you add some cord for straps. Turn it into a satchel with one of our shoulder straps and collect foraged items along the trail (keep an eye out for birchbark, berries, mushrooms, and more!). It’s an extra, handy pocket to carry on its own or add to your pack! Field tan and XP snaps on one side, bright hunter orange on the other. Stay subtle with field tan and add a zippered pocket to a pack, or put the hunter orange side out to help get seen. More at the Windigo Signal Bag product page.

The Windigo Signal Bag attached to the Isle Royale Jr. to add a bit of visibility in the woods. Made in USA.
The Windigo Signal Bag attached to the Isle Royale Jr. to add a bit of visibility in the woods. Made in USA.

High Falls Short Day Pack

No.399o High Falls Short Day Pack by Frost River. A little pack built by hand from waxed canvas in Duluth, MN.
No.399o High Falls Short Day Pack by Frost River. A little pack built by hand from waxed canvas in Duluth, MN.

The streamlined design of the High Falls is handy in so many spots. It’s a great size to stay out of the way when on the move. The size and shape provide low profile capacity that’s great for carrying a small amount of gear and works well with a water bladder. Now with the two toned option it becomes more fit for the field during hunting seasons and on bike lanes as well. The contoured shoulder straps don’t interfere with gun stocks, and the narrow, vertical profile stays well clear of a rifle slung over a shoulder. Orange helps a hunter, or hunting season hiker stay visible. Weather resistant waxed canvas keeps contents dry and the canvas is quiet in the woods.

Sawbill Trail Handlebar


No.382o Sawbill Trail Handlebar Bag by Frost River. A simple bag built for bikes but great for attaching to other packs too with the included straps. Rings at the ends work to stabilize the bag to a bike or haul it by a strap. Hunter Orange body helps to stand out in a crowd, in the woods, or in the bike lane.
No.382o Sawbill Trail Handlebar Bag by Frost River.

Orange waxed canvas bag body with Field Tan ends, the color-coordinated combination works to give you and your bike better visibility on the road and down the trail. Waxed canvas keeps the weather, water, and trail debris out of your bag. The leather attachment straps offer a universal fit for bike and bags and work to keep the bag where it belongs. Brass rings on each end are there to offer more stabilization to tie off the ends, or add a strap for a simple shoulder bag. Built at Frost River to last a lifetime.

Our hunter orange isn’t as bright as a true blaze orange, it’s a more subtle color, but with plenty of pop. It’s always a good idea to check your local regulations for gear during firearms deer hunting season. We’d recommend you follow the DNR’s regulations to stay safe in the woods.

The Windigo Signal Bag and Sawbill Trail Bag attached to the Isle Royale Jr. to add a bit of visibility in the woods. Made in USA.
The Windigo Signal Bag and Sawbill Trail Bag attached to the Isle Royale Jr. to add a bit of visibility in the woods. Made in USA.


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Storing and Cleaning Waxed Canvas Bags

Frost River, Old No. 7, Canoe Pack, Photo by David Hoole

There’s a steadfast durability, a quiet confidence built into each one of our waxed canvas bags. It comes from using the highest quality raw materials and hardware, assembled with tried and true techniques and it’s part of what makes a Frost River pack special. Everything we make is built to last and be used outdoors: All our reliable softgoods are held to the standard of our canoe packs. Large, purpose built packs, specially designed and reinforced to handle heavy loads over the rugged terrain of the northern canoe country wilderness. No matter if you’re looking at a brief, tote, purse, bike bag, or piece of luggage, you’ll benefit from the traditional materials and handcrafted construction that have been refined over generations in our hometown, Duluth, Minnesota.

Waxed canvas is tough, but like anything worth holding onto, it needs to be cared for.

Most importantly, it must be dried out before it’s stored. Mold and mildew love to take up residence in cotton fibers. It will also last longer and work better if it’s cleaned out from time to time. And while our waxed canvas is tougher and much more weather-resistant than untreated canvas, it is still cotton and therefore requires a little extra care to help it last and perform at its best.

Packing a Frost River Old No. 7 and Grand Portage Canoe Pack at the Frost River shop at 1910 West Superior Street in preparation for the Dave and Amy Freeman Wilderness Year Resupply Trip in spring 2016.

Once in from the field, dry out your pack!

Follow these simple steps to keep your pack or bag in tip-top shape, (especially if you got caught in the rain):

  • Empty it out. Grab it by the bottom, and shake all the stuff out.
  • Keep it wide open or turn it inside out and let the interior dry and air out.
  • Air-dry and inspect the leather reinforcements. You can condition the leather if you’d like, but the reinforcement leather is meant to be hard and more dry than heavily oiled. Never accelerate the drying process with leather.
  • Never store a canvas bag when it’s wet.
  • You can read more about storing your reliable softgoods, and info on leather care here.
“My bag got dirty, how do I clean it?”
  • Waxed canvas bags are different than bags made from other materials, they’re not meant to be “washed”.
  • They’ll develop a unique patina with age and use. Why would you want to wash off that good, hard-earned character?
  • Some say that campfire soot, coffee stains, and other evidence of adventures all combine to make a waxed canvas pack better.
To clean your waxed canvas bag:
  • Brush the big chunks off with a soft scrub brush or old tooth brush.
  • Add some plain water and use the brush for stubborn spots.
  • Add pressure if necessary. Consider a garden hose, or spray bottle on “stream” (be sure there’s no cleaner or chemical residue in the bottle, especially bleach). Use a bit of mild bar or flake soap, but not detergent, to spot clean. Note: Using soap and intense cleaning may require you to add wax once you’ve finished cleaning.
  • Rinse well.
  • Never put a Frost River bag in the washing machine! It, and likely the machine, will never be the same.

A little care and upkeep will go a long way toward keeping your pack or bag in good shape. Some time invested early in repairs, cleaning and quality storage will keep your reliable softgoods working for you for years to come. Now raise a glass (or a can) to American Manufacturing and a job well-done keeping your gear in good shape!

Growler Family Group

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Outdoor Family Fun, and Some Packs to Bring Along


You love the outdoors, and spending time with your family- but it can be tough to bring the two together… especially as the seasons change and the days keep getting shorter in the fall. School, work, dinnertime, juggling activities… it seems like there’s no time- especially daytime! How do you deal? Here are some outside activity ideas, and some packs to bring along. Good luck to you and yours… We hope you can carve out some time and all get outdoors together this fall!

Schedule outdoor time, and stick to the plan
Frost River Fall Hikes with the kids
Frost River Fall Hikes with the kids. Photo David Hoole

Mark it on a calendar, (maybe even on a real (paper) calendar) plan ahead, pick a weekend, and make a quick trip to the BWCA or stick close to home, pack an evening weekday picnic (and blanket) and use those last moments of daylight for all they’re worth. Hit a nearby trail or pick a park and make some memories. Consider an extra layer and a flashlight… it gets cool and dark quick these days!  Our Arrowhead Rolltop is a layer packing pro! The expandable top will carry a kid’s coat on top of your own, you could even add a third through the straps if you need.

Set a standup meeting

It happens all the time at work, why not set a time for outside fun? Set an evening meeting or two a month, consider inviting friends with kids too. Get together, pick a backyard with a firepit, go for a hike, work on skills with the kids…. whatever. It’ll be fun to get a crew together and do cool outdoor stuff at dusk. Bushcraft skills would be a great meeting topic. Our Isle Royale Bushcraft Pack will carry your kit, including an axe.

Headlamps help
The Stahl/Frost River Firepit Sling collaboration brings enhanced function and portability to the Stahl Camper Firepit. Features pockets for the 5 steel and aluminum plates of the Camper, plus snaps to keep the sling shut or add a Frost River Accessory Bag. Firepit, sling, and accessory bags sold separately. Photo Alex Messenger
Accessory Bags help keep the little things in order. Photo Alex Messenger

With days as short as they’re becoming, it’s important to bring some illumination. If you haven’t tried one, you won’t believe how much easier it is to move and work after dark with a headlamp. Find a dedicated spot (preferably in a go-to pack) to store those headlamps though— the little buggers disappear like nothing else! They’ll fit fine in an Accessory Bag, so will your other gotta hang-on-to items, like a compass and a set of work gloves.

Lantern or CandleLight

An old style kerosene or white gas lantern, even good old-fashioned candles, let off light like nothing else, and have character all their own. An old lantern may need some maintenance to get back in service, but that could be a fun family project as well. Once you get it up and running, protect it in our Lantern Pack, they work great for growler refills too!

Northern Lights

The Skyline Rolldown Backpacks are small in size, but big in features, with ample pockets in a small footprint, plus the versatility of a rolltop! Made by hand in Duluth, MN.

If you live in the north, just the chance to see the Aurora Borealis may help get interested adventurers out the door. Bob’s Astro Blog will let you know if there’s northern lights in the forecast. Consider a good northern exposure to see what’s going on up there. You’ll need to get up and over the hill if you’re in Duluth, on the other side of Skyline Drive. Our new Skyline Rolldown Backpack could be just the ticket to carry some stuff and could make a great pillow while you’re laying down, looking up. Plus, it’s sized right for smaller loads or smaller people, so it’s a great pack for the kids.

Blame the Moon

Crescent Lake Shoulder Bag and High Falls Short- Day Pack on the right by Frost River

It’s a full moon! We gotta get outside! We won’t even need the headlamps on the way out. C’mon, grab your stuff, I’ve got a chocolate bar, let’s go! High Falls -Short Day Pack or Brighton Beach Tote, because Brighton Beach is a great spot to watch an autumn moon rise over Lake Superior.

Orchard Tour

Fall is harvest season, cash in on a tasty crop and visit an orchard. It offers a chance to see how apples grow and you can bring some home too! Our Huron Tote, Urban Foraging Tote, or an Ash Basket will help haul a harvest.Pack Basket

Bird Migration

We’ve got a natural funnel here around Duluth called Lake Superior. It forces migrating birds to go around the big lake. Hawk Ridge is a great spot to look up and notice the birds, both large and small, on their way south. Bet there are birds overhead in your neck of the woods as well. A Field Satchel can carry a bird book and sketch pad or notebook to manage notes on the migration.

No 873 and 875 Small and Large Field Satchel by Frost River

Hunting season

From birds to big game, hunting offers a reason for outdoor minded folks to get up and out with family and friends. Fall is a beautiful time to get out in the woods, and even if you don’t carry a gun, you can still carry on traditions with a hunting group. Check out our blog post for a feature on our Hunter Orange waxed canvas packs.

Listen to the leaves

Appreciate the small stuff. The sound of the breeze is set to change soon. The woods will be quieter again as the leaves begin to fall. Now’s the time to get out and witness the auditory and visual spectacle of autumn. Pack a picnic, do dinner outside, collect some colorful foliage and make memories after school and work, just before nightfall. Grab a couple daypacks, spread out the load, and enjoy the company of friends and family in our most colorful season of the year.

Get the kids outside for some fun in the shoulder seasons. It’s a great time to learn about the changing of the seasons and experience the outdoors. Photo David Hoole

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Gear up for Hunting Season

Frost River Packs and Cases at the Hunting Cabin.

Crisp, clear mornings with an autumn scent on the breeze has the hunter-gatherer spirit stirring in many of us around this neck of the woods. It’s time to condition the boots, inspect and case a weapon, grab a trusty pack, and take to the field! Our Hunter Orange Packs offer capacity, quality, and high visibility confidence for years of successful hunting seasons..

Before we go any further, we urge safety first, especially when going into the woods in hunting season.

  • If carrying a gun, always practice the four rules of firearms safety.
  • Know when and where hunting seasons are open.
  • Wear bright colors
  • even if not hunting, blaze orange is best, and two articles may be legally required— especially during firearms deer season.
  • If you aren’t hunting, be on the lookout for hunters and make your presence known. Whistle, sing, carry on a conversation to let them know you’re around.
  • Be considerate, hunters want to protect the woods and wilds too, and work to do good things for wildlife and habitat.
  • Be especially vigilant with a dog. If you’re hiking, protect your K9 by keeping them on leash and having them wear hunter orange, too, like our waxed canvas Dog Vest.

On to the fun part!

To help outfit you for the season, we’ve compiled some of our favorite fall gear, all handmade in the USA at Frost River and all fit for the field:

Hunter Orange Box Utility Pack130 Box Style Utility Pack Hunter Orange. Frost River's rugged waxed canvas reliability in hunter orange. Make a statement of visibility – This pack offers no-nonsense utility, waxed cotton canvas for weather-resistant reliability, and, as always, it’s made at Frost River in Duluth, MN. There’s a tumpline to take the pain out of a long trek into a deer stand. The capacity is just right to stow extra layers, gear, and a lunch with room to spare. The backpack body is based off our Woodsman Canoe Pack.

830 Cliff Jacobson Signature Pack Hunter Orange. Frost River's rugged waxed canvas reliability in hunter orange. Make a statement of visibilityHunter Orange Outdoor Signature Pack – Built on the same patterns as our Cliff Jacobson Signature Pack, this bright backpack is a capable carrier, with several handy pockets and compartments for your gear.

705o Small Utility Hunter Orange. Frost River's rugged waxed canvas reliability in hunter orange. Make a statement of visibilityHunter Orange Utility Packs – Want visibility and capacity in a simpler, more economical option? Take a look at our Orange Utility Backpacks. They’re durable, repairable, and built for the rigors of hunting and paddling for a lifetime.

Gun Case - Waxed CanvasWaxed Canvas Gun Case – Built by hand with premium leather, cushy sherpa lining and solid brass hardware to make a classy and protective gun case. We offer several lengths to tailor the case to your gun. Also available for long guns with a mounted scope.

Hunting ChapsWaxed Canvas Chaps – Weather, brush, and burr protection for your legs. Our chaps are built to take years of abuse in the field. Wide ankle openings with snaps to go over heavy boots, with durable web straps to attach to a belt. These chaps are double reinforced where it counts.

Game HoldersGame Clip – Plan for success when bird hunting. Pheasants, ducks, grouse and geese, all fit fine for hands-free hiking or foraging. The Game Clip holds 5 birds, or get the Game Strap to carry 10.

837 Urban Foraging Tote. A simple, floppy, over-the-shoulder or cross-body tote. Great for wherever you forage.Urban Foraging Tote – It’s easy to come back with more than you left with when you bring a Foraging Tote. Birds, berries, shed antlers, birch bark, mushrooms, and more can be brought home when you travel with a handy tote.

Prairie Boot BagPrairie Boot Bag – Weekend bag on top, with a boot compartment below in this luggage made for the hunting camp. Bring a little style and function to the woods, or on a business trip. Hose it out in-between!

Shell BagShell Bags – A handy spot to store shells and other stuff too. Four sizes are available, each features a long leather shoulder strap and handcrafted heritage comes standard. Channel your inner mountain man with a bag designed to keep an old black powder gun loaded.

Little Marais Messenger BagLittle Marais – Here’s a simple sling bag, great to carry just a bit more gear into the field. Performs well hauling a basic first aid kit, small water bottle, bit of rope, flashlight, and a reload. It’ll stay out of the way at your back or under an arm. Canvas is quiet in the woods and the design allows access while you’re wearing the bag.

Shell KitShell Kit – Sized for several boxes of 12 gauge shotgun shells, and overbuilt to stand up to the weight. Carry your extra ammo with style. The bag also works great as a catch-all in the truck for the off season.

Frost-River-Hats-7745Waxed Canvas Hat – Great headgear for both fine and foul weather. Get a Field Tan cap when you want to blend in, use hunter orange when you want to stand out. One size fits most. Made in USA.

Fall is a wonderful time to get out and enjoy the woods. Hunting can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, keep traditions and heritage alive, and provides an opportunity to open your eyes and be a better observer of nature. Plus, hunting license fees work toward helping habitat conservation and restoration.Check out what they’ve done for Trumpeter Swans in Minnesota. Whether you’re headed out to see the sights, or look down ‘em, get outside and enjoy it.… Happy Hunting to you!

Four rules of firearms safety:

  • Treat all guns like they are always loaded.
  • Never allow the muzzle to cover anything which you are not willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  • Always be sure of your target, and what’s beyond it.

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Best Spots for Fall Colors in MN Northland

A mix of Aspen, maple, birch, pine, and fir, make a fall drive up north in Minnesota worth the the trip. Photo David Hoole

Cooler nights and shorter days have brought a changing of the seasons. Fall is bursting its way to our neck of the woods at the tip of Lake Superior. That means it’s time to get out, go for a drive, take a hike, and enjoy the most pleasant season in the northwoods. So grab a trusty pack, lace your boots, load up a picnic along with your rambling gear, and get out to enjoy the most colorful season nature has to offer!

Some of our favorite spots to catch fall colors in Northern, MN:
The Frost River Grand Portage and Nessmuk on Bat Lake on a short September BWCA Trip. Photo by Alex Messenger
The Frost River Grand Portage and Nessmuk on Bat Lake on a short September BWCA Trip. Photo by Alex Messenger

The BWCAW – The northwoods at its finest! Untrammeled, undeveloped, and pure. A canoe is arguably the best vehicle to explore wilderness’ wonders and fall is a great time to get up to canoe country. Check out our September 48 Hour Field Journal here. Plan a trip, get a wilderness permit, and pick it up at Frost River Trading Co. in Duluth. 

Highway 61It’s been designated an “All American Road” for good reason, it’s beautiful! The winding route along Lake Superior’s North Shore from Duluth to Grand Marais (and beyond) offers vistas of the big lake, numerous state parks, scenic rivers, hiking trails, picnic spots, and leaves galore that’ll all be changing color soon. If you’re traveling by bike, check out our panniers named after the road! Don’t forget to listen to some Bob Dylan while you’re there…

A statue of Dorothy Molter, the Root Beer Lady at the Dorothy Molter Museum in Ely, MN.

Honeymoon Trail DriveThis drive takes you off the beaten path from Highway 61 and into some of the rolling hills that form the start of the Sawtooth Mountains. Take scenic drives on gravel roads and make a stop at George H. Crosby Manitou State Park for a hike through deep forest, past majestic rivers and waterfalls.

Highway 1 cuts inland from Lake Superior to Ely. This route travels up, over and across the Sawtooth Range as well and is usually one of the first areas of the state to reach peak colors. Take this scenic route on your way from Duluth to Ely for a great sampling of the northland. If traveling by bike, we’ve got bags named after it to help carry a load.

Highway 13 – This Northern Wisconsin scenic route runs from just south of Superior, east to Bayfield then to Ashland and points south. There are many hardwoods along this route and travel in October is stunning. Plan a stop to pick some Apples from one of the many orchards near Bayfield… or arrange to arrive for Bayfield’s annual Apple Fest on October 7, 8, & 9. 

Jay Cooke State Park – Walk across the swinging bridge over the St. Louis River and marvel at the fall colors, the water and the geology. Hiking, biking, and walking trails, plus camping and interpretive programs available.

There are plenty of great spots to get out and enjoy the fall season right in Duluth. Amity Creek along the Lester Park Ski Trails on the east end of Duluth is a beautiful spot, with water, cliffs and rushing falls. Photo David Hoole
There are plenty of great spots to get out and enjoy the fall season right in Duluth. Amity Creek along the Lester Park Ski Trails on the east end of Duluth is a beautiful spot, with water, cliffs and rushing falls. Photo David Hoole

Do Duluth: There are lots of great areas and opportunities right in and around Duluth that are top notch. There are a bunch of great trails right in town for hiking, biking, or driving. The Seven Bridges Road works for all three travel types, plus we’ve got a pack named after it! Check it out and get a little background on this great road. The Superior Hiking Trail goes all the way through Duluth and beyond, and provides great vistas near the water, and from the top of the hill. Stop by the Frost River store, we’d be happy to point out some more local favorites.

Hawk Ridge is a great spot to watch migrating birds (raptors especially) as they go around the wide expanse Lake Superior (knowledgable naturalists will help you spot the birds, and often even lend out binoculars). Plus it’s a great vantage point to see fall colors as they contrast with the deep blue of Lake Superior.

The Minnesota DNR does a great job keeping track of the changing leaves. Check out their site to get a forecast of when the change normally happens along with some of the science behind why we are so fortunate each year with stupendous scenery. 

Happy fall travels to you!

A fall color forecast by the MN DNR
A fall color forecast by the MN DNR

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48 Hour Field Journal: BWCA in September

The Frost River Grand Portage and Nessmuk on Bat Lake on a short September BWCA Trip. Photo by Alex Messenger

It was 3:00 in the afternoon as we dipped the canoe into the water, loaded our gear and paddled into a stiff headwind. 3:00pm is a terrible time to start a BWCA trip.

But let’s back up a second…

Three days earlier, on a Monday in September, my wife and I were sitting in the dim light of a lamp, watching as twilight dipped toward night.

Summer was over, but we’d decided to make it happen. We had an open weekend, and were going to go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness one more time. Besides, September is one of the best times to go, crowds are down, temps and bugs are moderate and the sunsets last longer.

The whole trip was last minute.

We hadn’t had our route laid out for months. We’d be doing the trip by the seat of our pants, no frills, just the right gear, and an open mind. We were flexible on where we’d be going in, when we’d get there and when we’d get out, which made getting a permit easier. We had only two constraints: we wanted to start out of Grand Marais and we had a limited amount of time…

48 hours— two nights and three days in pristine borderland canoe country.

A Frost River Grand Portage, Nessmuk, and the essential Bent Paddle Growlers for 48 hours in the BWCA. Photo by Alex Messenger.
A Frost River Grand Portage, Nessmuk, and the essential Bent Paddle Growlers for 48 hours in the BWCA. Photo by Alex Messenger.

On Tuesday, we identified our entry point and reserved our permit for Brant Lake. On Wednesday, I picked it up at Frost River Trading Co. and got some last minute BWCA gear and Cache Lake food. On Thursday, we tied the canoe to the roof and headed north.

After two hours along Lake Superior we were in Grand Marais enjoying fresh-made cinnamon sugar donuts at World’s Best Donuts. We drove for a long way up the Gunflint Trail, past endless woods and winding roads that brought us into the remains of the Ham Lake Fire and on the road to the landing at Round Lake.

We dipped the Wenonah into the water, loaded the Grand Portage, Nessmuk and Voyageur into the boat and paddled off into a stiff headwind. It was 3:00 in the afternoon.

I wouldn’t recommend starting a canoe trip that late in the day. It’s a risky proposition: First, there’s the worry of campsite availability. Second, there’s the possibility of bad weather. Third, there’s eight hours less sunlight to work with than if you’d started at 7 or 8 am like normal.

Caveats aside, part of the beauty of a September Boundary Waters trip is that there are far fewer visitors to the wilderness in its last permitting month than at its height in midsummer. The wilderness feels more remote, the portages less busy, the horizon dotted with fewer boats and the lakes just that much quieter. It is a magical time to visit the northland.

Paddling in the Boundary Waters in September means being prepared for any kind of weather, and hoping for the best. Photo by Alex Messenger

There are risks involved any time you’re traveling into wilderness, and going late in the season is no different. Visiting the BWCA in autumn and the shoulder seasons requires that you be prepared for temperature extremes. It can be hot and it will most likely be very cold. If you’re prepared for any weather though, you’re likely to have a positively unforgettable trip.

I quelled the thoughts of running out of daylight, full campsites or getting snowed on and looked around. Half of Round Lake had been burned, and half was spared: restoring forest on one side and spared shorelines of old cedars, birch and aspen on the other. Much of our trip would be the same as we’d make our way west and then loop south, running along the border of the Ham Lake Fire to the north and further west the Cavity Lake Fire area. Areas of burn are bittersweet; on the one hand, it is a renewal and new start for an ecosystem—on the other, the destruction and sense of loss is hard to bear. What once was, and the forest now, are two different places. And yet they’re the same.

The portages were wet, the leaves along them just barely turning from their summer greens as they donned the changing of the season. Puffs of cumulous clouds, bright sun and wind made the foliage dance in the textured light. The breeze was refreshing on the trail too, keeping us cool as we hauled our gear in one short trip over each portage. We paddled, portaged, paddled, portaged. It was quiet. There was no one else around.

As we made our way to the portage at Brant Lake, we found the old weathered sign informing us we were entering the Boundary Waters. It stood there like an old sage, its paint peeling in an old-cabin sort of way, the etched and carved insignia and words now home to moss and lichen. We smiled at it as we hoisted packs and canoe and began the portage. Soon we’d rounded corners on Brant and were deciding whether to make camp and string up the hammocks, or to push west. We left the campsite behind in search of adventure further on.

At the next portage, we came upon the first group we’d see, a group of girls from Duluth’s own Marshall School on an orientation trip through YMCA Camp Menogyn.

On Gutter Lake, we paddled between tall rocky outcrops, carved long ago by an ancient river. Now it was a narrow lake, a swamp, with floating grasses and sections of bog. Pines and birches stood tall on shore, but in the swamp were stands of dead trees, killed by flood and charred by fire.

I turned the map, which seemed to hardly resemble the otherworldly scene. It’s easy to get turned around in the backwaters of canoe country. It’s important to keep a good eye to where you are, and equally important to trust the map. The portage looked to be in the far corner of the lake, beyond the floating bogs, tree graveyard and a flotilla of autumnal lily pads. I’d never considered that the lily pads would change as well, and the colorful layer was laid out before us like a street cobbled in agates, emeralds and amber.

The Voyageur Backpack Brief fits in well no matter its surroundings. The crossover pack works in professional settings and woods and wilds alike. Photo by Lacey Messenger.
The Voyageur Backpack Brief fits in well no matter its surroundings. The crossover pack works in professional settings and woods and wilds alike. Photo by Lacey Messenger.

I forced myself to trust the map and we paddled past flotsam up a narrow channel near shore. It looked less promising the further we went, and as we pulled the boat through swamp muck, we grew ever more skeptical. At the corner of the lake, the channel opened and there was the open landing, a beautiful slope of glacial rock. The map had been right and we were relieved. We were in the right place.

After portage, paddle and portage, we walked out of the swampy upland we’d been traversing and arrived at Green Lake. It was deep, the water nearly glacial blue and undoubtedly home to scores of meaty lake trout. The sun reflecting off its surface was brilliant, and schools of little fish darted in the water at the landing.

We made camp for our first night on Bat Lake, happy that we’d pushed on. We were alone on the lake and basked in the quiet solitude as we cooked a dinner of curried cranberry cous cous and Cache Lake Sweet Potato Au Gratin. The rich September sunset bathed the lake in golden hues, and the deep night brought a refreshing chill to the air.

Frost River Canoe Packs are fit for the field, any time of year. Photo taken on Bat Lake in September 2016, with the Grand Portage Pack and Nessmuk Pack. Photo by Alex Messenger.
Frost River Canoe Packs are fit for the field, any time of year. Photo taken on Bat Lake in September 2016, with the Grand Portage Pack and Nessmuk Pack. Photo by Alex Messenger.

On day 2 we woke and unpacked the kitchen gear from the pockets of the Nessmuk to make mochas and oatmeal. The Nessmuk was perfect for hauling our little canister stove, pots, pans and cups, Bent Paddle steel growler, water filter, first aid kit, rope and rain gear. In the Grand Portage we hauled our tent, sleeping and cold weather gear, tarp, shoes, hammocks and all of our food. The pack was perfect for the load, and would cinch down as we continued to eat our rations. Both packs held a surprising amount. The Voyageur carried our cameras, technology and backup filter and fit in well with the two traditional packs. Packing up was easy with the three and soon we were on the water.

We’d be paddling a chain of lakes, taking the long way around to get to Crooked Lake. As the crow flies, it was only 2 miles and 2 portages away. We wanted to cover some distance though and see more sights, so our route went west, through the islands of Little Saganaga and south to the outlet of the Frost River, before coming back north toward Crooked Lake.

We made quick work of Gillis, French, Powell, and West Fern Lakes. Soon we were paddling past bonsaied cedars growing impossibly out of lichen-crusted rocks on Little Saganaga. Huge puffs of cumulus clouds drifted through the sky in foreboding columns. It looked like we’d get some weather before the day was done, so we pushed on. Loons silently fished as we paddled past, and the wind came and went. We scooted past islands and bays, layers of wilderness and water.

Paddling past bonsai cedars on Little Saganaga in the BWCAW in September 2016. Photo by Alex Messenger.
Paddling past bonsai cedars on Little Saganaga in the BWCAW in September 2016. Photo by Alex Messenger.

We found the narrow end of Little Saganaga and the quiet outlet of the Frost River. It was a narrows, almost a canyon, covered in rich moss and canopied by the bent trunks of leaning trees. The portage was short and steep. I imagined paddling further upstream, into the sinuous channels of the Frost River. It wasn’t only that it was the namesake of our packs and where we’d picked up our permit, but there was something more. The map showed a winding stream, banked by swamp and steep stone. The lines on the map pulled at something deep within me, something very human. I yearned to discover the meaning of those lines, the mystery and adventure of unknown backwaters that had been hinted at on paper… but it would have to wait until another trip when we had more time.

Raising the canoe at the end of Little Saganaga in the BWCA. Photo by Lacey Messenger
Raising the canoe at the end of Little Saganaga in the BWCA. Photo by Lacey Messenger

We set the canoe down on Mora Lake, and it was eerily calm. The wind had died. There were no more loons. The water bugs had stilled. The sun was veiled by the edge of cloud and darkening by the second. We both thought about the silence, but didn’t mention it for fear of breaking it. Soon the silence was broken by a distant rumbling, a long plaintive sound like that of a jet. I watched the sky warily. We were still two lakes from our destination at Crooked Lake. On the map, I traced the shoreline and two small portages between us and our goal. The sky was darkening quickly.

The unmistakable boom of distant thunder echoed from the cloud.

We turned the canoe and headed for shore toward a campsite. I was suddenly worried it would be occupied. We hadn’t seen a soul the entire day, paddling through lakes that were filled with campsites and very busy during the summer. I was relieved to find the campsite empty. We beached the canoe on the rocks and hopped out. Cracks of thunder were getting sharper, coming closer. We heaved packs out of the boat and pulled it up on shore. In a moment, we were climbing away from shore with the daypacks and tarp. We made quick work of stringing up the shelter, and the rain started. Lightning flashed. Thunder roared. The lake sputtered with the downpour. We hid under the tarp, crouched on our lifejackets in a lightning drill. The din of the rain, the bright flashes and the echoing cracks continued. Soon, rain turned to ice as hail joined the fray.

We waited under the tarp for three hours as the storm grew and ebbed. We cooked dinner and stared off into the trees, having forgotten to bring any books, games or playing cards. Gradually, the storm receded and the sun returned. A full double rainbow drew colorful across the sky.

Rainbows arc across the sky after a Boundary Waters hailstorm in September 2016. Photo by Alex Messenger
Rainbows arc across the sky after a Boundary Waters hailstorm in September 2016. Photo by Alex Messenger

We still wanted to make Crooked Lake, and with thunder now a memory, we were safe to get on the water. It was 7 o’clock and we had one hour of this golden light left. We weighed the options and estimated an hour of travel time. It was hard to tell if we’d get caught in another wave of storms, but the sun was shining and we would only be on small bodies of water, with ample opportunity to pull off if the skies let loose again.

By the time we’d packed the daypacks and the Grand Portage and were pushing off, it was almost 7:30. The sun was golden, low, just a few fingers’ distance above the horizon. We paddled hard. On open water, I looked behind us to see a wall of bubble clouds, shining bright orange in the sunlight. Behind them was the deep purple of storm clouds. It was headed our way.

The first portage was at the back of a bay. As we entered the narrows and hauled over beaver dams, I pictured the tree graveyard from the day before and again hoped we were headed in the right direction. The storm clouds loomed silently behind us and I double-checked my navigation. We’d left the untouched forest and were back in the burn area. Skeletons of burnt trees loomed over a tangled mess of fallen limbs, branches and trunks, wrapped in the fresh vines of undergrowth that had returned first after the fire. The colors of the clouds shifted as the sun continued its downward path. I hoped we were on the right track. We reached the end of the bay and thankfully found our portage. We hauled our gear as quickly as we could, out of breath as we hopped onto the next lake. We were paddling hard, not talking, looking over our shoulders every few strokes to see how the storm clouds had grown, now threatening to swallow the last few rays of sunlight.

Watching the sunset on Crooked Lake after racing September storms. Photo by Alex Messenger
Watching the sunset on Crooked Lake after racing September storms. Photo by Alex Messenger

I searched for the subtle signs of the next portage, finding it under drooping cedar boughs. Panting, we hauled our gear, thankful for the strategic packing and the capacity of the portage pack that let us make the trip in one go. When we reached the end of the portage at Crooked Lake, the sun had set. We took a chance and turned left to find an island campsite in the trees outside the burn. I hoped the sites would be available, ever-worried that people would suddenly appear and the sites would be occupied.

It was open. Again, we beached the boat, hauled our gear and pitched the tarp. We set the tent up underneath and waited for the storm. It didn’t come until the middle of the night, quietly dropping huge amounts of rain.

We woke to partly sunny skies and dry sleeping quarters. We drank our mochas, stowed our cooking gear in the Nessmuk, packed the Grand Portage and filled the Voyaguer with camera gear for our final push back out to Round Lake. The sun came out, but the winds had shifted, and though we were now retracing our steps back from Gillis, we were paddling into another headwind.

In a few hours of paddling, portaging and trail lunching, we were waving goodbye to the peeling paint on the old mossy sign at Brant Lake.

We’d spent 48 hours in the wilderness, and were refreshed. It was time to go home.

Paddling out of the Boundary Waters after a short but sweet 48 hour weekend trip in September. Photo by Alex Messenger.
Paddling out of the Boundary Waters after a short but sweet 48 hour weekend trip in September. Photo by Alex Messenger.

By Alex Messenger

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Field Tan Waxed Canvas – A Modern Classic

Frost River Canoe Packs - Modern Classic Packs


When you think Frost River, you probably think premium…

…of the high quality, the meticulous construction, the no-nonsense function, the leather, the brass, and of course field tan waxed canvas. Frost River gear is easy to spot. There are so many nylon bags out there, in crazy configurations and colors. There are also many imitators— packs and bags that think because they look a bit like the real-deal that they just might be. But still, even with the imitators, it’s easy to spot a Frost River pack. There is a refinement, a utility, and a timelessness about what we build. That’s why we craft gear the way that we do. It’s not the easy way. Hardly. It’s the right way, the way it should be, and it’s hard work, which is why the finished product is so tough.

Frost River Isle Royale Bushcraft Pack Jr. on the Appalachian Trail.
Frost River Isle Royale Bushcraft Pack Jr. on the Appalachian Trail.

Our field tan waxed canvas is a marvelous material that works wonders in the outdoors, wearing hard and blending in. Our packs and bags are built to the standards of those who came before, and those rare few who rely on their equipment in both day to day and in the deep mystery of unknown wilds. The material, in its natural earth-toned color, has been around for years, earning a solid reputation of enduring prolonged use and rough treatment outdoors. It’s no sterile-lightweight-super-fiber. Our canvas comes from the earth, making a quiet statement of durability, great feel, and unique character. It’s tough, and provides a smooth feel while imbuing the quality and durability required for a lifetime of use. As you carry a waxed canvas bag it will subtly change over time, developing its own personality, a patina that is like a record of the experiences and adventures you’ve been through with your trusty bag.

Field tan is where it all started.

It’s the original, natural color for canvas packs and bags. Before industrial dies, bleaches, chemical blanches and tech-washes, the cotton fibers

Sojourn Skinny Pack available with a padded sleeve or as the box style (with wider side gussets) for more capacity.
Sojourn Skinny Pack available with a padded sleeve or as the box style (with wider side gussets) for more capacity.

were natural or naturally died, off-white or muted color. Canvas would gradually stain and discolor over time, and eventually, what started as off-white would fade and age to become a product of its lifetime— an amalgamation of the trips, falls, scrapes and adventures that created the eventual look and feel of a well-worn piece of equipment: field tan. We decided to start where all good packs end up, with that subtle, earthy field tan color. Over time, like all good gear should, our packs and bags age, polish and patina. The brass will glow, the leather will shine, and the field tan will be influenced by all the miles you’ve logged and the patches sewn on to cover those few missteps.

The color and canvas stands out in town, bringing a bit of the woods into the city and offering a quiet reminder of something that may have been forgotten in the hustle-bustle of our modern age. You’ll be rewarded as you carry the same reliable pack from your weekend adventure with you on Monday after brushing the woods duff off from a recent hike into the hinterlands.

The Frost River Voyageur Backpack Brief at Ely's Peak.
The Frost River Voyageur Backpack Brief at Ely’s Peak.

Our gear is built to last a lifetime, to stand out through subtlety and the nature of high-quality materials and craftsmanship. A piece of distinction, merit and longevity speaks for itself. A Frost River pack is a bit like that; it doesn’t need to boast. But some folks have asked for a pop of color. We’ve done a few special runs and limited builds of Frost River gear in other colors when we’ve partnered with folks like Woolrich, Askov Finlayson, Westerlind, and our retail partners, always sewing with subtle earth tones — shades you’d find in nature. It’s important to us, because we at Frost River build reliable softgoods, gear that is grounded, sturdy, and usable outdoors, and the colors we choose should be too.

Which brings us to Frost River red

The Frost River Limited Build Two Tone Collection in Field Tan and Olde Glory Red. September 2016
The Frost River Limited Build Two Tone Collection in Field Tan and Olde Glory Red. September 2016

We love red! Our logo is red, our building is red, the company truck is called “Big Red,” Henry, the Frost River van, is covered in red (and field tan). It’s our other favorite color. We recently got ahold of some red waxed canvas and are offering a bit of it on a select few of our daypacks in a limited build, and we’ll be taking pre-orders through September 6th, 2016 for shipment in late September.

The Frost River Itasca Outset Day Pack in two-tone, with Olde Glory Red and Field Tan. Available for a limited time at Frost River Trading Co. in Duluth and online at Orders taken through 9/6/2016 for end of September delivery.
The Frost River Itasca Outset Day Pack in two-tone, with Olde Glory Red and Field Tan. Available for a limited time at Frost River Trading Co. in Duluth and online at Orders taken through 9/6/2016 for end of September delivery.

It’s fitting that this red, called “Old Glory”, was made to emulate the red stripes on American flags of olde; the stars and stripes is an important symbol for us as we build and manufacture in Duluth, MN, USA. In fact you’ll find a little flag on the taffeta of each of our packs, so you could say we’ve had red in all of our packs! When we saw this canvas, though, we knew we needed to add some to the packs for a little while at least.

Red-Arrowhead-pocket-DSC_7978“Old Glory” red is just the right shade to complement our reliable softgoods: Not too bright to be obnoxious in the woods, not too pink (nothing against pink, but we’ll never do pink packs… that’s just not right). The wax formula in this beautiful red is the same as our field tan, a proprietary compound infused in a super-secret process by the folks at Fairfield Textiles in New Jersey. It’s a deep, earthy red, a bit like the warm hue of a Norway Maple leaf with the sun coming through it. It works great with our field tan waxed canvas. And it’s only going to be available for a short time this fall. So act quick! Check out what we have to offer, pick a pack you like and get in on this limited edition offering. They won’t be offered for long, but just like all our Frost River gear, they are guaranteed to last a lifetime!