Pointers for paddlers when it comes time to hit the trail
Portages are the shortcuts of the backcountry, the various overland routes connecting one body of water to another. Depending on where you’re paddling, they can be busy places, too. And portaging isn’t just the act of transporting your canoe and gear in the most efficient way possible—it’s also about how you carry yourself while engaging with other outdoor enthusiasts.
Here’s what to keep in mind to ensure trouble-free portages on your next backcountry fishing or hunting adventure.
#1 PACE YOURSELF
Washed out trails, ankle-breaking rocks, fallen trees and other obstacles can be hazardous when you’re portaging a canoe, heavy pack or harvested animal. So, don’t be afraid to carry less, make multiple trips and take breaks. That way, you’ll be steadier on your feet and less likely to trip or fall. Remember, a portage is not a contest to see who can carry the most gear, or finish first.
#2 YIELD TO OTHERS
Portages are natural bottlenecks in the backcountry, so if you’re going to run into someone, it will likely be on a portage. If you meet others carrying canoes or heavy packs who are travelling in the opposite direction as you, move to the side and let them pass. If there are obstacles or tricky stretches along the way, meanwhile, always let those facing the higher risk go first.
#3 BE RESPECTFUL
If you meet others on a portage, it can be a great opportunity to share information, trade gear or just catch up on weather reports. Not all people in the backcountry are hunters and anglers wanting to chat, however, so be mindful of their sensibilities and their time. If you’re travelling with a dog, meanwhile, keep it safely on a leash to avoid tripping up others.
#4 MIND YOUR GEAR
When you reach the end of an exhausting portage, place your canoe and gear off to the side of the trail so you don’t impede others while you catch your breath. Plus, loose paddles, packs, PFDs and fishing poles can be tripping hazards. If you’re carrying a rifle or shotgun, take extra care to store it safely.
#5 LEAVE NO TRACE
Nothing spoils a remote outdoor experience more than seeing other people’s garbage, such as food packaging, spent shotshells and old fishing line. You don’t want others—or animals—to find your trash, so clean up after yourself and take it home with you. Worse yet is seeing another person’s washroom waste, so don’t be that surface pooper. Instead, dig a hole and bury your business, as well as any soiled toilet paper.