Safety, camping & good food
We want our guests to come off their Magpie River Adventure in love with the outdoors and rejuvenated.
Our “thrive not just survive in the wild” motto comes from decades of experience in the remote wilderness. Our trip guides are incredibly experienced and they will share their knowledge and systems with you. We encourage you to get hands-on in camp and learn from some of the best in the industry.
Here’s what to expect about activities and our wilderness travel style on the Magpie River Adventure.
The safety of everybody in the group is always our number one priority. The most important factor is our guides’ years of experience, training, and knowledge of the river.
Many people think of rafting as extreme. But in fact, with the right approach to decision making, we have a lot of control. Throughout the trip, as you learn about how the river works, you’ll see that whitewater is 100% predictable.
Of course the Magpie is remote and so we need a careful approach to river running. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean less fun—it just involves a good understanding on our guides’ part of where to play versus where we need to avoid actual risks.
Every trip has an extensive safety plan. Even though our guides are rescue and safety instructors on industry-leading international certification courses, we still train together specifically for the Magpie with practice scenarios.
Thankfully, those scenarios don’t come to be real incidents because we teach prevention and good decision making, and we practice what we preach.
- Maximum guest to guide ratio on the Magpie River Adventure is 5:1
- Our guides have extensive and current industry-leading safety credentials and certification. Every trip has a minimum of 2 guides with Wilderness First Responder (an 80-hour medical course) and Whitewater Rescue Technician certification. As well, many of our guides are instructors in those disciplines.
- Each trip carries 2 emergency communication devices: a satellite phone and an InReach messenger device and locator beacon. They are always carried by the guides in separate waterproof containers in different boats.
- Each trip carries extensive first aid kits and river safety equipment
- All activities are ‘challenge by choice’. It is up to you if you want to participate or we will offer an alternative (for example paddling a rapid on your own in an inflatable kayak vs. a guided raft)
Of course, wilderness travel has inherent risks. We ask that you to read through and sign our Liability Release Form.
Please contact us if you have questions about safety. It is one of our specialties and we enjoy talking about it. As lifelong wilderness travellers our guides feel more safe on a river trip than they do in the city—and our primary goal is we want you to feel the same way!
Food and menu choices
One of the most important factors for safety and enjoyment on a wilderness trip is good food. Guests are always pleasantly surprised by the quality, quantity, care, and presentation of meals on the Magpie River Adventure. Take a look at a sample menu.
We know you aren’t coming on this trip for fine dining —but that doesn’t mean you should lower your standards regarding your nutrition, ethical values, and taste buds.
In our pre-trip questionnaire, we’ll ask you about allergies, dietary requirements and menu requests. We always plan options for vegan, gluten free, and really any specific choices (“don’t like fish” or “prefer no red meat”, etc.). Just let us know in advance.
Most of our guides eat mainly organic and sustainably-sourced and grown food at home. We wouldn’t want to serve you anything less on your vacation. Rest assured—we put a lot of time and care into sourcing food that is going to taste delicious and make us all feel great.
Cooking and community
On this trip you’ll be exposed to a range of wilderness cooking and food planning styles. We’ll have tons of fresh food (it is only a 5-night trip and we have rafts for transport) and dried food too. We cook on stoves, grill on open fire, and can bake things like desserts and lasagna in Dutch ovens.
Many guests want to learn backcountry cooking techniques and we welcome and encourage you to get involved. If you’re interested, you’ll also get a chance to learn how to make bake bannock (traditional Indigenous bread), pick berries, and harvest plants for tea with the help of both our Innu Cultural Guide and Boreal Forest Ecologist.
Of course some guests really want to get into the kitchen and others would prefer to use that time do go fishing, for a hike, or just relax—and that is great. Afternoons at camp are fun and a time for you to get what you want out of the trip.
We ask that everybody helps out by cleaning their own dish. We set up a table-top wash station with big bins and hot soapy water rinsing and washing. We’ll also show you how the stoves and coffee brewing systems work so if you like to get up at 4am, you can help yourself.
Deep sleep system
Nothing sets you up for success in the wild like a good night’s sleep. However, for many people that first night outdoors can be challenging. To help, we ensure you have everything you need to be cozy.
- First we provide individual tents to give you a home away from home where you can stretch out, read or journal without worrying about bothering anyone.
- Next we provide high quality inflatable sleeping mats. These keep you insulated from the cold ground and provide support for hips and shoulders.
- We also offer a low cot option for those looking for a little more support—just request one on your pre-trip info form and the guides will help you set it up.
- You can bring your own sleeping bag, but we also offer bags that will keep you warm and snug.
- Finally, we provide a full size organic cotton pillow with plush pillow case. One of the hardest things for people is finding the right head support. Many guides will just stuff their clothes into their sleeping bag’s bag, but if you can have a full size pillow, why wouldn’t you?
Toilet system—your room with a view
We humans have a funny relationship with going to the bathroom in the wild. Some might argue there’s nothing more natural. But if you’re not used to it, it can be one of the most intimidating things about going backcountry camping.
However intimidating going to the bathroom in the woods can be, the truth is, you have to do it eventually. It’s important for your health and your comfort during the trip. To help ease you into the process we have a backcountry toilet system.
We bring a frame that supports a toilet seat just like the one you have at home. We place it over a hole we dig far from camp and the river making a temporary outhouse, without the walls (you wouldn’t want to miss the view!). To ensure privacy we teach everyone the signals for when the bathroom is free: a paddle lying across the path to the toilet means “occupied”. If that same paddle is leaning against a tree it means “free”.
Trust us, as far as temporary bathrooms go, ours is hard to beat.
Hygiene and washing
You’ll appreciate the easy to use hand washing system that we set up at camp and our riverside lunch spots. Good hygiene is key on wilderness trips. This system means you can wash your hands just as well as you can at home.
Simply turn on the spout and you’ll have flowing clean water. We provide soap, hand sanitizer, wipes, and you’ll even get your own nail brush so you have everything you need to get as clean as you like!
Minimizing our footprint - sustainable tourism
Minimal impact camping techniques (sometimes called “Leave No Trace”) differ across the world depending on the type of environment and the amount of people travelling through. Our guide team works with the local conservation group to establish norms for the Magpie.
With all of our cooking, washing, and bathroom procedures, your guides will show you the systems we use to stay comfortable and healthy while at the same time minimizing our impact on the surrounding ecosystem.
So few people visit this amazing landscape every year that we realize one of the biggest draws is the pristine environment. We do everything we can to keep it that way.
Read more about how Boreal River strives to protect the environment.
The Magpie’s water is exceptionally clean. But we always have purified water by bringing 2 systems:
- A gravity filter hangs at camp (like a pump filter but without the need to pump). The guides will always make sure there is filtered water available. You can fill your bottle with this water to keep with you during the day.
- We also bring plenty of water purification tablets. You can keep a few on you to purify your own bottle any time.
While purified water is always available, it is up to you if you want to drink water that you take directly out of the river. We don’t believe it is risky if you draw water from the Magpie anywhere where it is flowing steadily. Many paddlers including many of our guides drink the Magpie water. We are lucky to travel on a large river that has absolutely no industry, agriculture, or people living anywhere along the entire watershed (the Magpie and all of its tributaries).
Mosquitos and black flies are usually completely gone from the Magpie by mid-August. (We’ve had many an August trip where some guests decide to sleep outside under the stars!) In early August there are still remnants of them just before dusk and after dawn, and on overcast days. Some years if July has been dry there are no bugs at all by the end of July.
The good news is, with the right approach and the help of your guides, you can protect yourself and stay comfortable.
- Bugs aren’t an issue on the river but of you’re spending time in the forest, make sure to have bug repellent or a head net accessible. We always pack along extra too.
- Citronella (natural bug repellent) works but only lasts for about 20 minutes. DEET works very well but we find it travels best and feels better on your skin when it comes in a cream. Our guides recommend Watkins brand. It’s also available at stores in Sept-Îles.
- If it the bugs come out at camp, put on some long pants, socks, and a long-sleeved hooded shirt or hang out by the campfire—the key is to be proactive.
The beauty of the deep wilderness is that it’s a chance to slow down and appreciate the little things. You’ll probably find yourself seeking a quiet corner to just sit and look at the river or the trees. These quiet moments help make lasting memories, but we also ensure there’s plenty for you to do if you feel like moving.
We bring inflatable kayaks and stand up paddle boards that you can use during the day or at camp if you feel like going for a quick paddle. There are also some spectacular hikes we’ll take from camp and world class trout fishing. If you want to bring your camera go for it, just make sure you have a waterproof Pelican case.
Some people will do yoga. You can also swim, help prepare meals, and learn about the Innu culture. With our Boreal Forest ecologist, you can go for a hike to look for edible plants or even help collect data (like water and soil samples) for scientific research.
The Magpie has amazing whitewater. Read the trip itinerary for a description of the rapids and how you can choose to paddle in a guided raft, or if you want more of a challenge, run rapids and surf waves in your own inflatable kayak. Many people choose a mix of both.
Your river guides will also teach you how to read rapids and choose routes. If you are interested we can even show you some rescue techniques like swimming, and throwing and catching rescue throw bags. These are fun ways to play in the river and swimming in rapids will help you understand whitewater better if you decide you want to pursue more paddling.
Activity level and conditioning
The Magpie River Adventure is 2.5 out of 5 on our activity level scale. If you choose to inflatable kayak the whole river, it is 3.5 out of 5.
We’ve had guests in their late 70s on our Magpie River Adventure and as young as 10. It’s a trip for almost anyone who is active outdoors.
Here are our general fitness requirements. You should be comfortable:
- Spending a full day outside with 6 to 8 hours of moderate activity like hiking and paddling (with rest breaks, of course)
- Stepping in and out of the raft and crawling out of a tent
- Lifting 10kg bags
- Going on an hour long moderate hike
Simply being an active person is good enough for this trip, but getting in trip-shape will only help you enjoy your time more.
If you don’t already exercise, going for a walk each day and taking the stairs at work will help you tremendously. Lifting light weights can help you prepare and is good for you in general. Going for hikes on rough terrain will help you practice for portages around the biggest rapids.