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January 16-20, 2009

Michigan Bush Rats'
5-day Winter-Camping Trip
Hiawatha National Forest

Eastern Upper Peninsula
Chippewa County
Strongs :: Michigan

When: 8 a.m. Friday, January 16, to midafternoon, Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Level: Intermediate-level, on/off-trail, map-and-compass, winter camping.

Difficulty: Moderately strenuous for the fit; cold/foul weather; snowy, wet, slippery terrain.

Prerequisites: Participants must have prior cold-weather winter-camping experience.

Costs: This is a free trip. Transportation, lodging, meals, public transit, permits, etc., are the responsiblity of each participant.

Organizer: Michael Neiger (LandNavMan on the boards), Marquette, Michigan (Web site; e-mail; bio).

Sign-up process: After reviewing the material presented below, e-mail your first name, last name, trail name, city, state (or province), and e-mail address to Michael Neiger (LandNavMan).

Chimo (Inuit for welcome) to fellow alumni
of southeastern Michigan's SOLAR Club,
the School for Outdoor Leadership, Adventure, and Recreation,
and fellow members of the North Country Trail Association.


The man [woman] with the knapsack is never lost.
No matter whither he may stray,
his food and shelter are right with him,
and home is wherever he may choose to stop.
—Horace Kephart, the Dean of the Wilderness, Camping & Woodcraft, 1917


Trip beta index

2—Pre-trip assembly info
3—Wilderness itinerary
4—Destination info
5—Permits and fees
6—Rations required
7—Advisories and notices
8—Hazards and perils
9—Insurance and SAR-comm gear
10—Equipment recommendations
11—Land-nav team info
12—Trip Internet discussion thread
13—Journals and photos from prior trips
14—Emergency contacts
15—Travel info
16—Wilderness skills info
17—Sign-up info


There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.
—Lord Byron (George Noel Gordon) 1788-1824
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto IV [1818], stanza 178


The Michigan Bush Rats' January '09, 5-day, on/off-trail, winter-camping snowshoe and sledge trip will see them exploring a portion of the the 890,000-acre Hiawatha National Forest in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Notice: In the event of poor snow conditions, this trip will be moved to more reliable, big-snow country: northeastern Alger County and northwestern Luce County

Located in Chippewa County, near Strongs, Michigan, the area is traversed by portions of the North Country Trail (NCT).


An excerpt from last January's trip journal:

We met at Roxane’s diner in Strongs, Michigan for a pre trip breakfast and the ritual signing of waivers, which relieve the leader of any responsibility for damage to one’s person that might result from participating in such an adventure.

Cathy S. (WoodsRunner), Mary Ann. H., and Mary P. (NatureLady) on the morning of Day 5. (Photo courtesy of WoodsRunner)

Cathy and I had carpooled from troll land and spent the night in a local motel. Michael had slept in his van nearby. MaryAnn and Josh had been driven from the Canadian Soo that morning by her husband, Dave, who joined us for breakfast before heading back home.

The diner is decorated with wasp-waisted Coke bottles and chrome in a style reminiscent of the middle of the last century. The coffee was strong, the food good and the waitress cheerful.

Lower Sylvester Pond along Sylvester Creek in the heart of the Mackinac Wilderness Tract. (Photo courtesy of NatureLady)

When MaryAnn inquired whether hot chocolate would be refilled like coffee, she said, “No,” but proceeded to bring her a gigantic cup which achieved the same purpose, providing all the cocoa one could reasonably drink.

After a pleasant meal, we headed to Raco where the trip was to start. Michael had gotten permission to leave a car at the Raco Lodge and as we were unloading equipment in the parking lot, the owner, Jim, came over to chat, prefacing his remarks with, “Well, this must be the Delirium Expedition….”

He was very friendly, giving us permission to cross his land in our travels. Cathy and Michael went to spot his van at the planned trip end, the Sullivan Fish Hatchery.

The rest of us waited in the crisp sunny air. Josh did some last minute modification of his sled, adding lacing to the front to keep it from catching in the brush. Snowmobilers came and went along the trail back of the lodge.

When the two returned, we carried our sleds across the highway, donned our snowshoes and followed an unplowed road into the backcountry.

The Mackinac Tract Wilderness area: unspoiled and untrammeled. (Photo courtesy of NatureLady)

Once past the private property we cut an azimuth to the south across what the topo showed as low hills. The forest on the hills, however, was brushy and each little valley seemed to contain a stream so travel was rather slow--but definitely more interesting than on the road.

When we came across the road again, we had lunch in an open area alongside it.

In the afternoon Cathy took the point and we started out along a ridge in hardwood forest. It wasn’t long however, till the forest became a swamp and the travel became more difficult. The point person could usually get across a wet area without encountering slush, but those who followed had to fill in the wicking areas with fresh snow before proceeding.

We stopped repeatedly to break ice off our shoes and scrape our sleds which, as Michael says, feel like a friend has jumped on when they become coated with ice.

On this particular evening we had an objective to reach, a snowmobile trail where a couple of friends had said they might join our encampment.

Cutting an azimuth and breaking trail, Mary Ann H. guides the crew through the bush on the final day. (Photo courtesy of WoodsRunner’s photo album)

One of them, Chris, had not been able to get time off from work to start the day with us. The other, Dennis, was spending the weekend in the area, dogsledding and winter camping and thought he might be able to visit us.

We were strung out quite aways from the repeated stopping to scrape sleds and darkness had fallen by the time we got to the appointed area and found some ground high enough to camp on. We set up our shelters and collected firewood to cook the evening meal.

A nearly full moon illuminated these activities and the sky was very full of stars. Soon the hobos glowed with warm light too and our little village looked cozy. The temperature dropped steadily into the single digits and we definitely savored our layers of insulation.

The crew--Josh M. (BigFish), Cathy S. (WoodsRunner), Michael (LandNavMan), and Mary Ann H.--less NatureLady, relaxing after dinner. (Photo courtesy of NatureLady)

We stayed up fairly late, but neither Dennis nor Chris made it into camp. --Ed. An illness in the family kept Chris (NightBlazer) near home.

As we were settling into our bags a snowmobiler passed on the trail, then turned abruptly and came back, apparently curious as to who would be spending the night out there. I fell asleep contemplating the beauty of trees silhouetted in the moonlight and the soft silvery sparkle of the more of NatureLady's Journal

View journals from prior Michigan Bush Rats' January Winter-Camping Trips

2008 :: 2007a :: 2007b :: 2004a :: 2004b :: 2003

View photo albums from prior Michigan Bush Rats' January Winter-Camping Trips

2008a :: 2008b :: 2008c :: 2007a :: 2007b :: 2007c :: 2005 :: 2003


This free, moderately-strenuous, map-and-compass, on/off-trail winter-camping trip is suitable for the adventurous, intermediate-level, independent, fully-equipped, minus-30-degree, foul-weather, substance-free (tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs), swimming-proficient, adult, winter camper with a strong mind and body who enjoys exploring off-the-beaten-path wilderness and bivouacking in remote, non-campground settings.

Cargo sledges: This trip requires wide, large-capacity, stable sledges equipped with fixed traces (not ropes alone) designed to thread through tangled, rugged bush without snagging or rolling over. Loaner sledges are available at no charge from LandNavMan on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you are going to use your own sledge, please contact LandNavMan well ahead of time to make sure it is suitable for this trip (Improperly-constructed sledges have been a huge problem on past trips and expeditions).

I shall be telling this with a sigh—
somewhere ages and ages hence;
two roads diverged in a wood,
and I—I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.
—Robert Frost (1874-1963), The Road Not Taken, 1916, stanza 4

2—Pre-trip assembly info

Pre-trip bivouac options:

Thursday-night bivouac options in the Strongs, Michigan area inlcude:

Clark's Motel
29282 W. M-28
Eckerman, MI 49728

Strongs Motel and Tavern
28952 W. M-28
Eckerman, MI 49728

Friday morning assembly location:

Our 8:00 am Friday morning assembly location will be Roxanne's M-28 Dinner on the south side of M-28 in Strongs, Michigan (breakfast is optional):

Roxanne's M-28 Diner
29109 W. M-28
Eckerman, MI 49728


Last-minute contact for problems or cancellations:

Leave a message, or check for a message, at Roxane's.


Departure time:

After signing waiver forms, we'll depart to spot our vehicles about 9:00 AM.


General Great Lakes-area tourism and travel information:

Upper Peninsula of Michigan travel information

Michigan travel information

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario-area travel information

Province of Ontario travel information

Ontario travel information

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men [women] are withered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd—
But he [she] shuns the shadow of oak and pine.
—Nessmuk (George W. Sears), Woodcraft, 1920

3—Wilderness itinerary

After departing Roxanne's, we'll likely drive to the Sullivan Creek Fish Hatchery where we'll start and finish our trip from.

If all goes well, we should arrive back at our vehicles about mid-afternoon on Tuesday.

Additional itinerary info may be posted at a later date.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
—Robert Frost (1874-1963), The Road Not Taken, 1916


4—Destination info



Additional Resources

Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows,
in craggy garden nooks full of Nature’s darlings.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
—John Muir (1838-1914), Our National Parks, 1901

5—Permits and fees

  • Since we will be bivouacking on Federally-owned land during our trip, no permits will be necessary.
  • Pre- or post-trip lodging, meals, and campsite fees are optional and the responsibility of the participant.
  • There are no other fees or costs to participate in this trip.

General Great Lakes-are bivouacking regulations

Bivouacking on State of Michigan-owned land:

Anyone bivouacking on land owned by the State of Michigan outside the boundaries of state parks, state forest campgrounds, etc., is required by state law (Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Sec. 74201 et seq., P.A. 451 of 1994) to post a Camp Registration Card (Form no. PR 4134; view sample copy) at their bivouac site. Notice: Backpackers have been ticketed and fined for not posting Camp Registration Cards in the past.

This permit—which is free—must be filled out in pencil (to make it legible when wet). Since this two-part permit is perforated (for partial removal by Department of Natural Resources officers) and made of heavy cardstock (to withstand weathering), it can not be reproduced.

These 8.5- by 11-inch permits can be picked up free at any Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) office. They can also be ordered by the DNR by e-mail.


Bivouacking on United States Government-owned land:

No permits are generally required to bivouac on federal land outside the boundaries of national parks, national lakeshores, national forest campgrounds, national recreation areas, etc.


Bivouacking on Canadian Province of Ontario-owned land:

Anyone bivouacking on Crown land—property owned by the Province of Ontario—outside the boundaries of a provincial park, national park, etc. is required by provincial law to purchase Land Camping Permits.

These permits cost $10.00 Canadian per night, per person and are generally available from any Ontario sports shop that sells hunting and fishing licenses, such as the one below, which is conveniently located along the east side of Highway 17 on the northern outskirts of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Chippewa Trading Post
1332 Great Northern Road
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 5K7
Fax: 1-705-759-0887

The trail has taught me much.
I know now the varied voices of the coyote—the wizard of the mesa.
I know the solemn call of herons and the mocking cry of the loon.
I remember a hundred lovely lakes,
and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees.
The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk,
opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets.
It has given me blessed release from care and worry
and the troubled thinking of our modern day.
It has been a return to the primitive and the peaceful.
Whenever the pressure of our complex city life
thins my blood and benumbs my brain,
I seek relief in the trail;
and when I hear a coyote wailing to the yellow dawn,
my cares fall from me—I am happy.
—Hamlin Garland, "Hitting the Trail," McClure's, February 1899

6—Rations required

The following rations will be required for this adventure:

  • Breakfasts—4
  • Snacks—5
  • Lunches—5
  • Dinners—4
  • Backup rations—1 full day(s) (breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner)


How to pack your rations:

Measure, weigh, and triple check your rations. You should be carrying about 1.75-2.75 pounds of dry weight food, or about 2700-4500 calories of food per day, depending on your body weight and exertion level. It is recommended that you avoid "bulk" packaging and instead consider packing each complete meal serving in its own, separate, plastic bag, which is sealed with a simple overhand knot. This system has the following advantages over putting all of your snacks, say nuts for the whole trip, in one bag:

  • You'll know for sure at home (visually) that you've packed enough rations;
  • In the bush, you'll now exactly how much to eat without eating into another days rations; and
  • You'll further reduce the chances of your food getting ruined if moisture penetrates the food bag itself as the moisture will still have to work its way into each and every individual ration unit.

Meticulous ration planning, measuring, and packaging is tedious, but its essential for safe and successful long-range recon of remote wilderness.

A nature lover is someone who,
when treed by a bear,
enjoys the view.
—Author unknown

7—Advisories and notices

Wildfire hazards on snow-free terrain:

We must be extremely careful with our cooking stoves and when burning bug coils to make sure we don't start a ground fire, which has happened more than once on past trips of ours. Please bring a fire-proof stove base (aluminum pot lid, etc.) for your stove and bug coils.

During snow-free periods, we will NOT be having any campfires—or burning any hobo stoves—unless we find a very, very safe area, such as an open mud-gravel-or-sand-covered area immediately adjacent to water. If a fire ban is in effect, which is sometimes the case during the summer, we will not have any fires.


Fire-proof stove base:

To prevent accidental ground fires during snow-free periods, everyone must have a heat-resistant, fire-proof stove base. This has been a problem in the past with both solid fuel (Esbit) stoves as well as liquid fuel stoves, especially MSR-type stoves.


Biting insects in warm weather:

If the weather is very hot, come prepared to do battle with swarms of mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums, ticks, and biting beach flies while hiking, swimming, eating, and bivouacking.

Loose-fitting, tightly-woven, full-coverage, light-colored clothing treated (saturated) with permethrin (e.g.: Repel's Permanone Clothing and Gear Insect Repellent) before the trip combined with liberal doses of 100% DEET (e.g.:Muskol's Maximum Strength 10-hour 100% DEET Insect Repellent; Repel's 100% DEET Insect Repellent), a head net, and a love of the outdoors should do the trick.

Since they are so critical to one's sanity, bring an extra bottle of DEET and an extra headnet. If you are going to experiment with alternatives to DEET, pack some 100% DEET anyway as most experienced deep-bush travelers swear by it when all is said and done, especially most Bush Rats, who bivouac sans tent.

A supply of smudge-creating bug coils (e.g.: Pic Mosquito Coils) are also a staple of most deep-bush travelers (note: a flat, fireproof base must be used under these to prevent accidental fires).

Out of 8 billion applications of DEET from 1966 to 1999,
less than 40 instances of toxicity appeared in the medical literature.
—Dr. Mark Fradin, in the May 2000 issue of Backpacker Magazine, on his study of DEET

Safety glasses:

It is highly recommended that some form of eye protection—safety glasses—be worn while bushwhacking as several trippers have suffered near-incapacitating eye injuries on past trips.



This is a tour, not a basecamp-type trip. We will move everyday, bivouacking in a different location each night.

We do not go to the green woods
and crystal waters to rough it,
we go to smooth it.
We get it rough enough at home,
in towns and cities.
—Nessmuk, (George W. Sears), Woodcraft, 1963

Long-term parking advisory:

Reduce the threat of thefts or vandalism to your car by keeping it locked, relatively empty, and uninviting looking. To help stymie gasoline theft or vandalism, consider using a locking gas cap. The expense of a locking gas cap—$10 or $20—will look pretty cheap compared to the alternatives: having to get someone to haul gas to your remote location, much less have your car towed and repaired after vandals contaminate your gas tank.


Liability waiver form:

All persons participating in a Bush Rats trip or expedition organized by Michael Neiger must read, acknowledge understanding, and sign a liability waiver at the trailhead.


Prohibition on cotton clothing:

No high-cotton-content clothing—save a bandana or two—is allowed to be worn or carried for safety reasons. When wet, cotton is VERY hard to dry and often leads to hypothermia. Wool or synthetic clothing fashioned from nylon, supplex, polypro, fleece, or microfibers are much safer and easier to manage during prolonged bouts of foul weather.

There's no such thing as bad weather—
only wrong clothes.
—Author unknown

Survival kit:

An on-your-person, in-pocket, survival kit (knife, waterproof matches, firestarters, compass, and whistle) secured with a loss-prevention lanyard is highly recommended.

The beginning of wisdom is a salutary shock.
—Arnold Toynbee

Water supply:

Bring an adequate amount of water to the trailhead as there is generally no water available.


Water-hauling capacity:

Everyone should have the containers (Nalgenes and bladder) to hump 4 quarts of water when needed. While we often trek with just a quart or so of water in our rucks, when we range far from water—like when we bivouac long distances from surface water—we will fill up all our containers so we can remain independent for an afternoon of bushwhacking, dinner at night, breakfast, and a morning of bushwhacking.


Equipment waterproofing:

To keep your gear dry during foul weather, consider lining the main compartment in your rucksack with a huge, heavy-duty "contractor-grade" plastic bag. Critical items within the "contractor" bag, such as clothing, sleeping bag, and rations, should be further protected from moisture by lining their respective stuff sacks with heavy-duty "garbage-compactor" bags. Avoid using regular garbage bags as they tear much too easily on long, rugged trips.


Hydration and snack consumption while underway in the bush:

It is recommended that you carry a water bottle and snacks on your waistbelt in separate pouches so you can snack and sip water while underway, without stopping to take your pack off. Regular snacking and hydration are essential for avoiding dehydration, hypothermia, and exhaustion, especially when things get challenging, like late in the day or during foul weather.


Allergies to bee stings:

If you are allergic to bee stings, consult your physician about carrying an injectable epinephrine unit—such as an EpiPen or Ana-Kit—in your rucksack.


Canadian trips:

Canadian money: You may want to consider getting Canadian money from your local bank before the trip, or using one of the money exchange services located in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, if they are open when you cross the boarder. Currency exchange calculators on the Net include or X-Rates.

Gasoline: You may want to consider topping off your gas tank, before you cross the border, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

Identification: Bring appropriate identification with you to reduce problems getting into Canada as well as back into the United States. If you don't have a visa, you must have a copy of your birth certificate to establish your identity.

Prescription medications: If you are carrying prescription medications in your first-aid kit or elsewhere that are not in a properly-labeled container, it may be a good idea to stow the original, labeled containers, with at least one example pill in each, in your vehicle to reduce problems with Canadian and U.S. customs officials.

The tendency nowadays to wander in wilderness is delightful to see.
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people
are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home;
that wildness is a necessity;
and that mountain parks and reservations
are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers,
but as fountains of life.
—John Muir (1838-1914), Our National Parks, 1901

8—Hazards and perils

Wilderness tripping and expeditioning—especially remote, foul-weather travel, bushwhacking cross-country, cliff and steep slope travel, climbing, canyoneering, cave exploration, river fording, swimming, canoeing, portaging, skiing, snowshoeing, winter camping, ice travel, ice crossing, deep cold, high winds, etc.—involve unknown and unpredictable hazards and perils.


Forewarned is forearmed:

A wilderness tripper's or expeditioner's failure to physically and mentally prepare for a harsh trip or expedition; acquire the necessary skills and equipment for a harsh trip or expedition; and recognize, take responsibility for, and avoid the unknown and unpredictable hazards and perils that often present themselves on a harsh wilderness trip or expedition will likely result in the serious injury, paralysis, or slow, painful death of the tripper or expeditioner.

Nature never overlooks a mistake,
or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.
—Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895), A Liberal Education, 1868

First-aid kits:

On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, the only first-aid equipment available is that which is carried by each participant. Each participant should carry their own first-aid kit, which should be stocked with the items and medications recommended by their personal physician.

We need the tonic of wilderness. . .
We can never have enough of nature.
—Henry D. Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden: Spring, 1854

Emergency medical care:

On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, there are no doctors, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, or other trained emergency medical personnel. At best, other participants may only be able to render the most basic of first-aid care.


Search & rescue services:

On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, no one is trained in rope handling, rappelling, climbing, caving, ice travel, high-angle slope travel, swift-water travel, etc. No one is trained in rescue from any of these activities either. There are no search-and-rescue personnel, and no one is trained in high-angle rescue, ice rescue, swift-water rescue, etc.

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments—
there are consequences.
—Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)
American lawyer, orator, and civil war cavalry commander
Some Reasons Why, 1896

9—Insurance and SAR-comm gear



On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, no insurance coverage is provided for participants. It is recommended that participants consider purchasing their own insurance coverage such as:

  • Trip cancellation insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Medical insurance
  • Prescription insurance
  • Evacuation insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Life insurance

Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.
—Edmund Burke (1729-1797), Speech, 1792

SAR-comm gear:

On Bush Rats trips and expeditions organized by Michael Neiger, emergency communications gear such as cell phones, satellite phones, and satellite beacons (ELTs, PLBs, & EPIRBs) are not provided. Even if a participant carries SAR-comm gear, it can't always be relied upon, especially in rugged terrain, remote bush, or extremely harsh weather.

The only way to summon search and rescue personal or emergency medical personnel on Bush Rats trips or expeditions organized by Michael Neiger is for another uninjured participant to walk, snowshoe, or paddle to a point where help can be summoned.

The wait for assistance may be very long—sometimes measured in days—and could possibly be very painful, maybe even fatal. Since the evacuation process will be very difficult and costly to arrange, participants should consider purchasing evacuation insurance and carrying their own communications gear.

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal.
My strength lies solely in my tenacity.
—Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French biologist & bacteriologist.

10—Equipment recommendations

Safety equipment

[ ] Ice-rescue picks (check ice-fishing section of sports shops or order Pic-Of-Life #POL-1 from Rock-N-Rescue at 1-800-346-7673)
[ ] 50-foot piece of 1/2-inch floating rescue rope in loose-fitting stuff sack with drawcord (hollow-core, braided yellow polypro rope sold at some hardware or construction supply shops is one inexpensive option)
[ ] One rescue/climbing-grade locking carabiner
[ ] One Swami Belt for roping-up on dangerous river-ice crossings, belaying on steep pitches, and anchor use (A 10-foot chunk of 1-inch or 9/16-inch tubular webbing should be adequate)


On-person survival gear

[ ] Waterproof matches with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Waterproof firestarters with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Magnesium firestarter with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Sturdy pocket knife with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Compass with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Whistle with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Signal mirror with loss-prevention lanyard
[ ] Map of area in plastic bag


First-aid kit

[ ] Elastic ankle wrap
[ ] Moleskin
[ ] Vaseline
[ ] Band-Aids
[ ] Waterproof first-aid tape
[ ] Pain relief medication
[ ] Anti-inflammatory medication
[ ] Cold & flu medications
[ ] Small tweezers
[ ] Small scissors
[ ] Powerful, prescription-grade pain killers for long trips (see your Doc)
[ ] Broad-spectrum antibiotic for long trips (see your Doc)


Repair kit

[ ] 50 feet of 1/8-inch braided nylon cordage (lashing, repair, difficult [2-rope] bear hangs)
[ ] Small roll of duct tape
[ ] Sewing kit
[ ] Repair kit for sledge
[ ] Repair kit for snowshoes
[ ] Repair kit for stove
[ ] Repair kit for inflatable sleeping pad (if needed)


Head gear

[ ] 1 very thin balaclava
[ ] 2 thick hats that can be worn together
[ ] One thickly-insulated hood on overparka (see below)
[ ] 1 pair of sun glasses
[ ] Protective eyewear for bushwhacking (very important)
[ ] Prescription glasses (spare pair if important)
[ ] Bandana
[ ] Wide-brimmed sun/rain hat
[ ] Neoprene facemask
[ ] Goggles (optional)


Upper-body gear

[ ] 3 or 4 thin polypro tops
[ ] 2 1/4-inch thick micro-fiber-insulated jackets
[ ] 1 heavily-insulated over-parka with insulated hood
[ ] 1 nylon rain parka with hood (no vinyl; no ponchos)
[ ] 1 highly-breathable, uninsulated, high-wind overparka with hood (deep, tunnel hood with fur ruff is optimal in arctic-like conditions)


Hand gear

[ ] 1 pair of oversize mitten shells
[ ] 3 pair of mitten liners
[ ] 2 pair of glove liners


Lower-body gear

[ ] 1 pair of polypro undershorts
[ ] 1 pair of hiking shorts with survival gear in pockets
[ ] 2 pair of polypro long underwear
[ ] 1 pair of 1/4-inch thick micro-fiber-insulated pants (sidezips are very handy)
[ ] 1 pair of heavily-insulated over-pants (sidezips are very handy)
[ ] 1 pair of nylon rain pants (no vinyl)
[ ] 1 pair of highly-breathable, uninsulated, high-wind, overpants (or use rain pants)



[ ] 1 pair of heavily-insulated boots or mukluks
[ ] 1 pair of spare liners and insoles for boots or mukluks
[ ] 4 pair of thickly synthetic socks
[ ] 2 pair of liner socks
[ ] Vapor barrier socks
[ ] 1 pair of gaiters (if needed to seal boot-pantleg opening)


Sledging gear

[ ] 1 large sledge with fixed traces and waistbelt (no rope traces)
[ ] Assorted large stuff sacks lined with contractor-grade plastic bags
[ ] PVC tarp to secure gear on sledge against loss and foul weather
[ ] Sledge de-icing kit in very small stuff sack: synthetic pot scrubber pad and plastic ski scraper (this kit is very important)
[ ] Insulated waist-belt water bottle parka
[ ] Waist-belt snack pouch
[ ] Waist-belt map pouch


Bivouac gear

[ ] Tarp and bivy (or small tent)
[ ] Ropes to rig tent or tarp
[ ] Winter sleeping bag system with minus-30 rating (January & March) and minus-40 to-50 rating (February)
[ ] 1 very thick sleeping pad or 2 thinner ones (& repair kit for inflatables)
[ ] Sleeping booties
[ ] Flashlight (LED with headstrap is recommended)
[ ] Spare battery (lithium recommended for deep cold)
[ ] Candles
[ ] Large-blade snow shovel for building emergency snow shelter
[ ] Small wood saw


Hydration gear

[ ] 3 one-quart ,high-quality (Nalgene) water bottles (you must have enough capacity to carry water for entire day, excepting breakfast and dinner)
[ ] 1 thermos for hot drink/soup at lunch


Ration-heating gear

[ ] Lightweight, cold-weather backpacking stove
[ ] Fuel for stove (unless your cold-weather experience proves otherwise, figure about 12-13 ounces of white gas per day)
[ ] Priming paste for stove if needed
[ ] Lighter on neck lanyard (must be kept warm to work in cold temps)
[ ] Waterproof matches
[ ] Windscreen for stove
[ ] Small steel cookie baking sheet for stove base and emergency fire pan use (we will avoid burning fires directly on the ground due to long-term scarring)
[ ] Pot holder
[ ] Pot
[ ] Lid for pot
[ ] Spoon
[ ] Mug


Hot-weather bug-management gear

[ ] 1 bottle of 100% DEET per week
[ ] 1 spare bottle of 100% DEET
[ ] 1 headnet
[ ] 1 spare headnet
[ ] Several anti-bug smudge coils


Personal items

[ ] Personal medications
[ ] Driver's license
[ ] Birth certificate and/or passport (recommended for Canadian trips)
[ ] Emergency contact names and phone numbers
[ ] Credit cards
[ ] Cash and travelers checks
[ ] Medical, prescription, and dental insurance cards
[ ] Sunscreen
[ ] Lipbalm with sunblock
[ ] Wrist chronograph
[ ] Paperback book


Personal hygiene gear

[ ] Toilet paper
[ ] Synthetic pack towel
[ ] Toothbrush
[ ] Toothpowder (or toothpaste)
[ ] Toothpicks & dental floss
[ ] Handcleaner


Vehicle gear

[ ] Extra car key on lanyard
[ ] Vehicle registration papers
[ ] Vehicle insurance papers
[ ] Locking gas cap
[ ] Heavy-duty battery in good condition
[ ] Road map (Michigan 1-800-292-2520; Canada 1-800-268-3736)
[ ] County map book for Michigan trips
[ ] Spare tire (check pressure!!)
[ ] Tire jack and lug nut wrench
[ ] Shovel
[ ] Windshield scraper and snow brush (winter)
[ ] Safety Check—Tire pressure (including spare)
[ ] Safety Check—Tire tread wear
[ ] Safety Check—Wiper blade condition
[ ] Safety Check—Wiper fluid (front and rear)
[ ] Safety Check—Oil level (level; thinner in winter)
[ ] Safety Check—Radiator fluid level (level and rating)
[ ] Safety Check—Transmission fluid level
[ ] Safety Check—Headlights, taillights, brakelights, & turn signals
[ ] Jumper cables
[ ] Nylon tow strap
[ ] Single-bit axe (optional)
[ ] Bow saw (optional)
[ ] Hi-lift bumper jack (optional)
[ ] Hand-operated winch (optional)
[ ] Pick axe (optional)
[ ] Tire inflation system (optional)
[ ] Battery jump-pack power unit (optional)

It is one of the blessings of wilderness life
that it shows us how few things we need
in order to be perfectly happy.
—Horace Kephart, the Dean of the Wilderness, Camping & Woodcraft, 1917

11—Land-nav team info

Topographic maps:

  • 1:24,000 Dollar, Michigan
  • 1:24,000 Raco, Michigan
  • 1:24,000 Sullivan Creek, Michigan
  • 1:24,000 Pendills Lake, Michigan

Note: UTM easting and northing grid lines may or may not need to be drawn on these quads

Topo map ordering info and waterproofing info


County maps:

  • Chippewa

County map ordering info


Additional cartographic resources

  • Hiawatha National Forest Service Map, Michigan 2001 (U.S. Forest Service, Sault Ste. Marie Ranger District, 4000 I-75 Business Spur, Sault Ste., Marie, Michigan 49873, 1-906-635-5311)

Gps setup:

Grid coordinate system:

1000-meter Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) Grid

UTM grid horizontal map datum:

Michigan Trips:

1927 North American Datum CONtinental U.S. (NAD 27 CONUS)

Canadian Trips:

1927 North American Datum Canada (NAD 27 CA[nada]) for older edition maps; 1983 North American Datum (NAD 83) for newer edition maps

UTM grid zone:

Zone 16

UTM grid hemisphere:

Northern hemisphere

Unit of measure:


Battery type:

Use lithium for deep cold and long-range use

Battery setting:

Select type of battery being used for accurate battery-life readings

Owner info:

In the setup menu, key-punch in your name, address, and phone number so if your GPS is lost and found by a willing party, it can be returned to you.


Magnetic declination:

January 2009 Magnetic declination for Lat. 46° 20' 00"N, Lon. 84° 50' 00"W:

06° 55' west

Deviation of UTM easting grid lines from meridian of longitude lines:

01° 35' to 01° 40' east

Magnetic declination of UTM easting grid lines:

8° 30' to 8° 40 'west (we'll use this magnetic declination figures to correct our field and map azimuth calculations in the bush)


Roamer utm plotter scales:

Michigan destinations:

1:24,000 and 1:25,000

Canadian destinations

1:20,000 and 1:50,000


Ranger pacing beads:

Metric: Nine 100-meter beads and four 1-kilometer beads


I can’t rightly say I’ve ever been lost,
but I’ve been mighty perplexed for two or three days runnin'.
—Davy Crockett (1786-1836)

12—Trip Internet discussion thread

To keep up to date on the latest developments on this trip as well as learn who else is going, point your Internet browser to the trip's discussion thread (message board) on Backpacker Magazine's Midwest Forum Web site.

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature,
which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.
—Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), "Walking," Atlantic Monthly, June 1862


13—Journals and photos from prior trips

To review journals and photo albums from Michigan Bush Rats' trips and expeditions, visit the RuckSack's Journals and Photos Page.


To review photos of sheds discovered on Michigan Bush Rats' trips and expeditions, visit the RuckSack's Sheds and Skulls Page.

Years from now
you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do
rather than the ones you did do.
So throw off your bow lines,
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
—Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens, 1835-1910)

14—Emergency contacts

  • Mackinac County Sheriff: 1-800-892-6156
  • Chippewa County Sheriff: 1-906-635-6355
  • Newberry State Police: 1-906-293-5151
  • St. Ignace State Police: 1-906-643-8383
  • Sault Ste. Marie State Police: 1-906-632-2216
  • Hospital (St. Ignace): 1-906-643-8585
  • Hospital (Newberry): 1-906-293-5181
  • Hospital (Sault Ste. Marie): 1-906-635-4460
  • Hospital (Newberry): 1-906-293-5181

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal
and give strength to body and soul alike.
—John Muir (1838-1914), The Yosemite, 1912

15—Travel info

In every walk with nature,
one receives far more than he seeks.

16—Wilderness skills info

All-season skills:

As you sit on the hillside,
or lie prone under the trees of the forest,
or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream,
the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.
—Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping, 1926

3-season skills:

It is impossible to overestimate
the value of wild mountains and mountain temples
as places for people to grow in,
recreation grounds for soul and body.
—John Muir (1838-1914)

4-season skills:

In the school of the woods there is no graduation day.
— Horace Kephart, the Dean of the Wilderness, Camping & Woodcraft, 1917

17—Sign-up info

If this sounds like your kind of wilderness adventure, kindly e-mail your first name, last name, trail name, e-mail address, city, and state (or province) to LandNavMan (Michael Neiger) of Marquette, Michigan. Thank you.

See you in the bush.

In God's wilderness lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness.

 —John Muir (1838-1914), Alaska Wilderness, 1890


If you've been able to read this Web page...
thank a Teacher;
If you've been able to read this Web page in English...
thank a Veteran.
—Author unknown

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