Safety, camp life & activity levels
Here are more details on what to expect about backcountry camping, menus and cooking, activity levels, and our wilderness travel style on the Magpie Packraft Expedition.
Safety is always our #1 priority, and our guides embody that with their years of experience, training, and knowledge of the river.
Many people think of whitewater paddling as extreme. In fact, with the right approach to decision making, we have a lot of control over our exposure to risk. Throughout the trip, as you learn about how the river works, you’ll see that whitewater is actually predictable. The area you’ll be travelling through is remote (only accessible by float plane or helicopter) and so we take a calculated approach to hiking and river running.
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. In all of our training we focus on prevention and good decision making, and we practice what we preach.
Packrafting safety practices
- The 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’, meaning it is up to you if you want to participate or we will offer an alternative.
Nonetheless, wilderness travel has inherent risks and we will ask you to read through and sign our waiver form.
Contact us if you have any questions at all about safety. It is one of our specialties and we enjoy talking about it. As lifelong wilderness travellers our guides certainly feel more safe on a river trip than they do in the city. Our primary goal is for you to feel the same way!
Food & menu choices
Because a successful packrafting expedition is so weight dependent our menu has to be dialed in. We need high quality food (a key to safety and enjoyment in the wilderness), but our food systems also need to be lightweight.
We teach you how to be comfortable with our lightweight food systems which are based around high quality dehydrated food and complemented by delicious fresh food.
A key to efficacy in the backcountry is load sharing. You’ll learn how to:
- split and pack the food and cooking equipment between a group of 3 in the most efficient way
- divvy up the cooking and cleaning responsibilities
- use lightweight backpacking stoves safely and efficiently
At the mouth of the Magpie we’ll meet up with a raft (one of the guides will row’s the raft from here down with everybody’s backpacks strapped in…keeping your own boat lightweight for the rapids). The raft will be cached in the bushes and you can bet there’ll be a few celebratory treats cached with it.
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 so we can prepare.
Teamwork & camaraderie
The key to any successful expedition, but especially one that is so far off the beaten path, is teamwork. Loads are divided, responsibility is shared and everyone has to watch out for each other. A positive attitude and patience are fundamental to a backcountry packraft trip such as this one.
You can spend more time scratching your head about which gear to buy than on the expedition. At Boreal River we sweat the small stuff so you don’t have to, and everyone is provided with lightweight state-of-the-art backpacking gear.
Arguably the most important part of a successful trip is sleeping, so everyone gets expedition quality tents and high quality inflatable sleeping pads. The one extravagance that we encourage on this trip that you don’t find on most expeditions is individual tents. Having your own space is a luxury you’ll thank us for.
Of course we also provide you with the packraft and paddle and all the group gear — see a full list of what’s included and what to pack.
hygiene & 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 and this system enables you to wash your hands just as well as you can at home.
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. At the same time we’ll be 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 bring plenty of water purification tablets and 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 no industry, agriculture, or people living anywhere along the entire watershed (the Magpie and all of it’s tributaries).
With bugs, preparation is everything.
There will probably be mosquitos and black flies on July trips. They are usually completely gone from the Magpie by mid-August (we’ve had many an August trip where some guests decide to sleep outside for some of the nights to be right 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.
- The bugs are not an issue on the river but if you are spending time in the forest, make sure to have bug repellent or a head net (provided) accessible.
- 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 is 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.
Activity level & conditioning
The Magpie Packraft Expedition is 4 out of 5 on our activity level scale.
The demands of the trip mean we’re careful about guests’ fitness levels. Hiking with all of your gear requires endurance, strength, and energy. As a result, we require that if you’re joining this adventure you should be fit enough to jog 6.5 km/4 miles and comfortable hiking with a full backpack for a full day.
If you’re used to backcountry canoeing and hiking in parks and comfortable carrying heavy loads, you’ll be great.
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about fitness requirements.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who regularly spends long days on the water or trails you should be fine, but it won’t hurt to do more. And your enjoyment will only improve the more fit you are. To get in shape for the trip we suggest:
- Do some cardio work, such as jogging or cycling for at least an hour, 3 or more times a week
- Lift weights 2 or 3 time a week. Alternatively, cross train with activities such as swimming, hiking, climbing or paddling 2 or 3 times per week
If you’d like a more detailed program you can ask us, or even join a gym and tell the trainer what you’re conditioning for.
Your Trip Itinerary9 days of enjoying remote wilderness and learning new skills
What’s Included & What to PackYour planning is easy. We take care of all the details
Safety, camping & activity levelsFind out what to expect about life in the wilderness
Planning your travelSee how to get to Sept-Iles and plan your travel