Getting Ready for a Nahanni Trip
Getting ready for a Nahanni trip may be as easy for you as packing your gear and heading to the airport while others may spend several years preparing themselves. Your present skill and experience level will determine how much pre-trip preparation is required. Getting ready may involve a number of aspects:
1) What Skills and Experience Are Required for a Nahanni Trip?
2) Skills Clinics - Whitewater Canoeing, Canoe Tripping
3) Experience - Starter Trips
4) Education - Learning About the Nahanni
5) Personal Equipment
6) Physical Fitness
1) What Skills and Experience Do I Need?
There is a trip information package for each trip that has a detailed description of the skills and experience required for that specific trip. We offer clinics and shorter starter trips to help you acquire these skills.
• Skill Levels: Black Feather trips are assigned a skill Level from 1 to 3 to assist you in identifying those trips suited to your ability. Briefly they are:
Level 1 - No experience required;
Level 2 - Some experience and basic skills are expected;
Level 3 - Some more advanced skills and abilities required - not for novices.
Level 4 - Some intermediate to advanced skills and relevant experience are required - not for novices
For more information about Skill Levels, contact the Black Feather office to discuss your suitability for a specific trip. Nahanni Trips range from Skill Level 1 to Skill Level 3.
• Skill Level 1 Trips: Grizzly Bear Basecamp.
This base camp hiking trip explores the area surrounding Grizzly Bear Lake in a series of day hikes with light packs. Average fitness for your age is sufficient to enjoy all the hikes. No previous experience is required but previous camping experience is an asset.
• Skill Level 2 Trips:
Nahanni Classic, Getaway, Nahanni Hiking and Broken Skull River. You should be comfortable in a canoe, with a knowledge of basic whitewater strokes, manoeuvres and rescues. You should have been on an overnight river canoe trip. Ideally you will participate in a warm up session in easy whitewater such as Black Feather’s Whitewater Canoe Clinic or short river canoe trip prior to your Nahanni trip, or have canoeing skills equivalent to Intermediate Paddle Canada Basic Whitewater Tandem.
Nahanni Canoeing and Hiking - In addition to the above canoeing skills and experience we strongly advise some pre-trip conditioning for the multi-night back packing trip. You should take 3-5 (or more if you can) pre-trip hikes with a loaded pack and your hiking boots on hilly, uneven terrain in late June and July. You can start with a shorter, flatter route but try to challenge yourself on later outings.
• Skill Level 3 Trips:
Nahanni Whitewater Trip, - You should be confident in Class 2-3 whitewater and have an intermediate knowledge of whitewater skills, safety and rescues. You should have paddled other whitewater rivers and been on a multi-night wilderness trip(s). Expert skills are not required but this trip is no place for a novice. You should participate in a warm up session in intermediate whitewater such as Black Feather’s Whitewater Canoe Clinic or short river canoe trip prior to your Nahanni trip.
2. Skills Clinics
Black Feather's Whitewater Clinics are a great way to get ready for your Nahanni trip. These options will allow you to brush up and improve your canoeing skills, review safety and rescues and ensure that you have the correct gear.
- Whitewater Canoe Clinic - A 2 day clinic at Palmer Rapids concentrating on paddling skills and whitewater safety. Instruction is given at various levels.
- Canoe Tripping Clinic - A 2 day intermediate clinic to prepare you for a challenging northern river expedition.
- Western Whitewater Clinic - A 2 day clinic in British Columbia concentrating on paddling skills and whitewater safety. Instruction is given at various levels.
3. Experience - Starter Trips
One way to quickly gain experience and skills is to take a shorter guided Black Feather whitewater canoe trip. Some of our trips have a little more emphasis on skill development:
- Petawawa River: 4 days - Skill Level 2. Summer river trip in Algonquin Park. A good trip to gain experience.
- Dumoine River: 5, 6 or 8 days - Skill Level 1+to 2. Longer trips with more significant rapids. A special Family trip available.
- Noire River: 5, 6 or 7 days - Skill Level 1+to 2. Longer trips with more significant rapids. A special Family trip available.
- Upper Magnetawan River: 3 days - Skill Level 2. For those with previous experience - an early spring warm up trip with coaching in technical rapids. Excellent preparation for more challenging northern trips.
- Lower Magnetawan River: 5 days - Skill Level 2. For those with previous experience - an early spring warm up trip with coaching in technical rapids. Excellent preparation for more challenging northern trips.
The two Magnetawan River trips can be combined for a longer trip.
4) Pre-trip Reading
Many people enjoy reading up on the Nahanni or pouring over the maps before they head north. The trip information package will contain an extensive reading list covering topics on the history, geography and wildlife of the Nahanni. There are also suggestions for reading about canoe tripping and paddling.
Maps: You can order the Government of Canada topographical maps for the trip online from World of Maps in Ottawa:
- For Nahanni Classic and Getaway trips - 95 E, 95F and 95G
- For Nahanni Hiking trip - 95 E, 95F, 95G and 95L
- For Nahanni Whitewater trip - 95 E, 95F, 95G, 95I and 95L
5) Personal Equipment
Black Feather provides all group gear - including canoes, paddles, lifejackets, kitchen equipment, tents, tarp, rescue and safety gear, satellite phone etc. Participants must supply their own personal clothing and gear. Most people already have much of what they will need. Some of the more specialised items include a fairly warm sleeping bag and pad, a good rain suit, a waterproof pack for your personal stuff and some sort of thermal protection like a wet suit.
A limited number of wet suits and waterproof ‘barrel packs’ can be rented from Black Feather for pick up in Ft. Simpson. Please contact us in advance to reserve a rental item. A recommended clothing and equipment list will be provided with your confirmation package once you have registered.
6) Physical Fitness
Each trip has varying degrees of physical fitness required. You can assume that a skill level 1 trip would require less physical fitness than a skill level 3 trip. However, each specific trip package will describe the physical fitness recommended. We do recommend that all individuals have a reasonable state of health and fitness, and be ready to live in a wilderness environment, and to assist in camp chores such as setting up tents and loading/unloading canoes. A suggested pre-trip conditioning document will be included with your trip confirmation. If you have any questions as to your suitability for a particular trip, please contact the Black Feather office. We are happy to discuss this with you to ensure that you have a great experience.