Healthy Enough For A Boundary Waters Canoe Trip?

Wondering if you are healthy enough for a Boundary Waters Canoe trip?  It’s been on my mind recently.  I figured it might make for a good post.

First and foremost, consult with your personal physician if you have any concerns regarding your ability to do any physical activities.

This post is focused in particular about tackling an overweight health issue and middle age.  It’s about me.

Perhaps in reading about my personal issue you will learn something about yourself if it relates.

I used to do a lot of camping and hiking.  Over the past nine years of my life, not so much.  The reasons why don’t matter, but I am 43 as I sit and write this post and plan on getting back into by outdoor hobbies.

In addition to my age I’m also about seventy-five pounds overweight, and lose my breath faster than I care to admit.

I also am not as flexible as I used to be.  If I spend five to ten minutes kneeling or squatting I am gonna be hurting the next day or three.

I am planning two Boundary Waters canoe trips next year.  Well, one for sure.  A second one may be a short solo trip to do some trout fishing.

But am I healthy enough to endure a trip into the BWCA?  Are you looking to get active and enjoy the outdoors by camping or hiking?

If you are like me, then you may want to keep reading.

Do You Need To Be In Shape To Go Camping?

I’ve done a lot of camping over the years.  Over the past nine years I didn’t do to much and also started gaining wight and getting out of shape.

I did go camping last year and was a bit of a lethargic lump.  I must admit I have more fun camping when I was spry and in shape.

I was able to bend and kneel with ease.  I could split wood for the fire without trouble.  I could sit in a canoe all day long and paddle my butt off.

These days I am slower to bend, I don’t like kneeling if I don’t have to.  Squatting is not fun for more than ten seconds, and then the next day my muscles complain.  Splitting wood… I move a bit slower but can still do it.  I just feel it later.  Canoe all day… don’t know about this one, but I doubt it.

My problem is I need to drop some pounds and stretch out my muscles and get limber.  Luckily I don’t have any health issues other than need to lose some weight.

Can I still camp in the shape I am in now?  You are darn right I can.  And will be soon.  I love camping and being out in nature.  And I plan to loose some pounds and get fit.  Camping will get easier for me as that happens.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not planning any long hikes miles into the forest with a forty pound pack on my back.  But I can still handle camping in a campground or State Park/Forest.  I can still canoe for a few hours down the Wisconsin River.

I just need to pace myself.

Is The Boundary Waters Canoe Area A Bad Idea If You Are Out Of Shape?

If you are overweight and get winded and all tuckered out fast, there is still hopes for you to go on a BWCA trip.

The biggest concern somebody in poor shape is going to have with the BWCA is paddling and portaging.

Portaging can be a real hassle if out of shape or in poor health.  Some portages are short and easy to cross… they are well groomed walking trails.  But most have lumpy ground with roots and rocks, downed trees, muddy paths.

First off I would not plan a trip that requires a lot of portaging.  You can actually paddle a canoe onto an ‘entry lake’ in the BWCA and find a camp right away.  No need to go far.

Setup up a base camp on an entry lake.  Or maybe portage just one time, on a short portage, to a lake a little further into the BWCA.

You can easily find yourself a base camp within a couple hours of putting in.  Find a nice camp site.  Unload your canoe, and take your time setting up camp.

Setup your tent or hammock.  Put up a rain tarp.  Gather some kindling and dead wood for your fire.  Take it easy.  Work slow.  Take some breaks and enjoy your surrounding.

The point is this; if you are heavyset and tucker out easy and don’t want to paddle far you certainly don’t have to.  Have a bad leg or hip?  you don’t have to portage at all, jut stay on the entry lake and find a camp to call home for your trip.

From your base camp you can do small excursions in your canoe and explore the lake you are on.  Do some fishing.  Do some swimming.  Look for wildlife and take some amazing pictures.  Take naps.  Read a book.

What About Having To Do Camp Chores?

Camping is not a highly vigorous activity, at least it doesn’t have to be.  I like camping because I can slow down and move at a more relaxed pace.

Camp chores are not a big deal and shouldn’t be worried about.  You primary need is shelter, food, and water.

  • Wood gathering for fires:  If you plan to cook your meals over an open fire you will need to collect wood.  You may even need to chop or saw some logs.  If you work slow and take your time this can be accomplished.  If there is no way you want to collect wood and have a campfire then bring along a portable stove/burner with enough fuel to cook your food.
  • Setting up your tent:  Smaller sized tents, from one person up to four, can be setup usually fairly easily without much effort.  If you have larger tents having another person there to help is usually a good thing.  Even then, setting up a large tent for six to ten people usually takes about fifteen to twenty minutes if you take your time.
  • Cooking meals:  Whether you gathered wood for a fire or just setup and use a camp stove, cooking is cooking.  It’s not a vigorous activity.
  • Gathering Water:  Back when I started camping as a kid you collected water in a bucket or canteen, maybe filtered it, and added some purification tablets to drink it.  Today it’s easier.  You can buy a $20 filter and suck water straight through a straw from the stream, river, or lake.  Portable water filters make gathering water to drink and cook with easy.

Our Of Shape Camping – Conclusion

I started getting out of shape about ten years ago when I stopped getting out doors to camp and hike.  I’m changing that.  Getting back into shape is going to go hand in hand with my jumping back into an outdoor lifestyle.

Don’t let the thought of camp chores scare you from going camping.  Even in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Check with your doctor to be sure.  But you can certainly go on a easy BWCA trip or even a State Park camping trip without too much hassle.

As for me… I plan on getting more active to loose weight.  Starting with local walks around my house.  Keeping a better eye on what I eat.  And of course hitting some the smaller local hiking trails.

By the time my canoe trips come around next year I plan to have shed some pounds and increase my flexibility.



TD is the owner and publisher of TD All Outdoors. He has been enjoying the outdoors since since he was a child. Over the years he has spent as much time as he can solo wilderness canoe tripping, overlanding, hiking, fishing, bushcrafting, hunting, hammock camping, and more. Aside from this blog, he also own his own coffee brand,

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