The program fee covers all transportation (the canoeing and all shuttles or other ground transportation). Students are responsible for making arrangements to get to Minneapolis for the initial orientation in late August, and their transportation to return home from Minneapolis in December at the completion of the program. Travelers or guests joining the trip along the way should coordinate these plans with the outfitter and field staff.
Schedule and Itinerary
The expedition, as with any complicated river-based travel, is highly variable and subject to change. Weather and river conditions will vary frequently and schedule and camping locations will be determined by a complex set of factors, with the safety and well-being of the group being the highest priority. Part of the fun and excitement of the trip are the unexpected events and encounters along the way. Participants will need to remain flexible and accept that plans will change. We travel on “river time,” which means we will move downstream at the pace that the river allows.
All food on the trip is provided, including snacks, and nonalcoholic beverages. This includes all food while camping, and restaurant dining while in towns and cities along the way. We generally cook our own meals and the fare is basic but substantial, with the limitations that come with camping (heavy on carbohydrates and with fewer perishable ingredients). We make sure people stay hydrated and have enough food to fuel us through the strenuous paddle days. At times students and guests may choose to have meals at restaurants on their own, at their own expense.
Students participating in the entire River Semester will be camping for approximately 8 – 12 weeks of the semester (depending on the itinerary and weather conditions). Camping conditions are often primitive (no running water or electricity or road access). We have access to showers generally at least once a week. Many people will rinse off in the river or take brief cat baths at camp as needed. We stay in hostels and hotels in the cities and at dormitories at research facilities. Generally there will be 3 people per tent, and 4 people per room in hostels or residence halls. Guests will be provided with a tent (1 -2 people/tent depending on preference) and can choose to stay at separate accommodations in towns (at their own expense).
We travel with a set of field lab equipment, field laptops, solar chargers, e-readers, and field wi-fi.
Our outfitters supply canoes, paddles, life jackets (PFDs), tents, all cooking gear, tarps, first aid, and waterproof Duluth packs. Some additional equipment (such as sleeping bags, pads, and rain gear) is available for students or guests who are unable to acquire these on their own. Please let us know as soon as possible if you need any of these items so that we can make sure that we have the items available.
The program will cover group laundry, done approximately once a week. Students cover any additional laundry beyond this at their discretion.
We will carry a set of e-books and a small library of hard copies of texts used in the program for students to share. Students wishing to have their own personal copies of the texts will need to purchase them and carry them in their personal gear.
Students should budget some spending money for the trip, in the range of $25-100/week depending on individual preferences. This would cover things such as extra snacks, personal toiletries, entertainment or souvenirs in towns (movies, music, etc.)
Personal gear required for the trip (some equipment, such as sleeping bags and pads, is available for loan from Wilderness Inquiry). Weight limit for each individual for clothing, sleeping bag, and pad is approximately 30 lb. and no more than 3,500 cubic inches. Minimize the amount of cotton clothing you bring (synthetics or wool work much better).
Gear should be brought in a soft-sided duffle or similar bag that will be left at the Wilderness Inquiry headquarters or in the van. All gear will be packed in waterproof bags provided by Wilderness Inquiry.
During travel, you will have your gear sorted into two categories: what you carry with you in the canoes and what you will have packed away during the day and need only at camp.
I. Gear to keep with you in the boat (in a smaller, approximately 15 – 20 liter dry bag):
__ Waterproof Jacket & Pants – Must be sturdy enough to withstand wilderness conditions.
__ Water-shoes – One pair of durable, closed-toed shoes to be worn while canoeing–Keens or Tevas are good. Crocs will not work! (the mud will suck them right off). These are a high priority item (cost of a new pair of Keens is approximately $50-100). If you do not have water shoes, then rubber boots are recommended. Rubber or neoprene boots (such as NRS Boundary Water neoprene shoes) are highly recommended for anyone traveling for the whole semester; these are optional for people traveling for shorter periods. Foot care is a priority and a challenge on this trip. We are in and out of the water frequently and spend time in muddy and sandy shoreline most days. There can also be biting insects, nettles, and poison ivy, so having good protection of your calves, ankles, and feet will make a big difference in your over-all comfort.
__ Small Day Pack or Dry Bag – A small day pack or dry bag to hold items you’ll want during the day. The bottom of the canoe gets wet, so you will need to provide a waterproof container for anything you want to stay dry. Wilderness Inquiry has extra dry bags for use as needed.
__ Sun Hat and Warm Hat – One to protect from rain and sun. One warm stocking cap for cool weather.
__ Water Bottle – Plastic or metal water bottle or canteen.
__ Sunscreen & Lip balm – Make sure it is at least 15 SPF, especially if your skin is sensitive to the sun.
__ Flashlight or Headlamp – Bring extra batteries. Keep it small and light. Headlamp preferred.
__ Sunglasses – A sports strap to hold them on is helpful.
__ A notebook/sketchbook for class, pens, pencils.
II. Gear & clothing to have at camp. This will be packed into a large “Bill’s Bag” that each person will share with one other person. It is best to have your clothing in a few small stuff sacks to keep it organized and separated from the other person’s gear.
__ Several small stuff sacks for organizing your clothes and personal items.
__ Pants – 2 pairs quick drying nylon or other synthetic is best.
__ Insulating Tops – 1 wool or synthetic sweater or fleece jacket.
__ Long Sleeve Shirt – Lightweight shirt for protection from bugs and sun, quick drying nylon or other synthetic is best.
__ T-shirts – 2- 3 Quick drying synthetics or Merino wool is best, cotton OK.
__ Long Underwear – 1 Pair of tops and bottoms made of polypropylene or other synthetic. No cotton. This may seem unnecessary for August, but we sometimes have mornings in the 40s, even at that time of year. Also cold rain and winds are always possible.
__ Shorts – 1-2 pair of shorts. At least one pair should be made of quick drying nylon. Can double as swimsuit.
__ Swimsuit (for those comfortable swimming, we regularly swim in the river when conditions permit)
__ Underwear – Enough underwear to keep you happy (around 6 pairs should do).
__ Camp Shoes – One pair of lightweight shoes or flip-flops to be used when off the water around camp.
__ Socks – 3-4 Pair of wool or polypropylene are best, cotton will not keep you warm if wet.
__ Sleeping Bag – Compact, light-weight 3-season synthetic fill sleeping bag with nylon stuff sack (rated to 25-32 degrees F., not a winter bag). No cotton or flannel bags.
__ Ground Pad – Ensolite ground pad or Therm-a-Rest, Exped, or Big Bertha inflatable type.
__ Toiletries –Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, etc.
__ Medications – If losing your meds would cause you great discomfort, consider bringing a second set and giving one to your trip leader as a backup. We will stop in towns along the way that do have pharmacies. Anti-itch cream recommended for bug bites. WI has a full first aid kit for any more serious injuries or illness.
__ Insect Repellent – No aerosol cans.
__ Bandanas – 2-3 Bandanas used for a variety of things including marking your bags, washing up, etc.
__ Small, synthetic towel. Do not bring a cotton towel. These will become musty and unusable within a couple of days.
__ A supply of your personal snacks or favorite nonperishable food. High-protein power bars recommended (avoid high sugar snacks). People do sometimes get hungry in between meals, as we are getting a lot of fresh air and exercise.
__ Gloves – One pair of lightweight wool or synthetic. Some people do get blisters from the paddling.
__ Ear plugs – along much of the river between the Twin Cities and the Quad Cities, the train tracks run along both sides of the river and trains run at night, and sound their horns at all on-grade crossings. Some campsites are near facilities that are noisy as well.
__ Small Pocket Knife
__ Binoculars for field observations or bird watching
__ Fishing Pole – Collapsible poles and small tackle boxes are best. Don’t forget a Minnesota fishing license.
__ Personal Diary/Book
__ Camera – Store in padded, waterproof/plastic bag or container (although most people just use their smartphones)
__ Several Plastic Bags – They always come in handy, especially to organize your gear.
Note on electronics: laptops are not be necessary. We carry only six Chromebook laptops to share among the 12-16 students and most assignments must be submitted electronically. There is space in one of the waterproof “Pelican” cases for personal laptops if you want to bring one. For safety and maintaining awareness of surroundings while paddling, use electronic devices (including use of headphones or wireless speakers) is allowed only by exception and permission of trip leaders. We recommend minimizing use of cell phones or other electronic devices on the trip. The point of this kind of experience is to be paying as much attention to the world around us, and minimize the amount of distraction. That said, we will be blogging and using social media on the trip as we go. The program will have laptops/tablets available for some lab work, solar panels and batteries for recharging electronic devices, and shared internet access via a mobile wi-fi hotspot. When possible we will use local libraries and coffee shops for wi-fi access, studying and class time.