Boundary Waters Catalog Blog

Knowledge Base and Learning Center


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Essential Checklist for Newbie Wilderness Adventurers

Planning a trip to Ely to get up close with nature? Awesome. However, those new to canoe country adventures might not be entirely sure how to go about doing that.

So, we decided to compile a short list of essential tips for beginners to help increase their enjoyment and make their canoe trip more comfortable. 

Let’s dive right into it:

Get a Kevlar canoe.

Buy or rent a Kevlar canoe. They are like half the weight of old style aluminum and almost half the weight of plastic composites and can drastically change your attitude towards portaging. Their lighter weight not only improve performance on the water but becomes essential when navigating the routes of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Obviously, people don’t normally carry 40 to 50 pounds on their shoulders but it’s so much better than hauling 80 to 90 pounds around. Since the 2000 lakes within the Boundary Waters are connected by portages you must carry not only your transportation (canoe) but everything you need for your trip in portage packs over these portages (many of them are one quarter to a mile or more in length.) We sell new Kevlar canoes and we have an extensive rental fleet each summer if your budget isn’t ready for a new one yet.

Wear a Lifevest and be safe!

Photo above by Eric Glasson

Bring dehydrated/freeze-dried food items. 

If you really want to save up space and volume in your pack and in the canoe focus on packing dehydrated/freeze-dried food items that occupy the least space and don’t weigh much. 

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Type of Travel Personalities -Which Type of Traveler Are You?

Isn’t it interesting that every year thousands of people visit Ely, but everyone experiences it differently? There’s so much to explore up here, but how you plan your vacations and explore the surroundings depends on what type of traveler you are. 

You might find yourself among the following travel personalities:

Adventure Seeker

Your life revolves around conquering challenges, owning a lot of camping gear, and knowing not only how to use it but how much each piece weighs. You go to sleep thinking about your next vacation and have a long list of adrenaline-pumping adventures you need to get to. Minnesota has what you are looking for. Whether you want to go out and explore the wilderness in a canoe, experience camping, or go Stand Up Paddle Boarding or kayaking on local lakes, we have got everything you are looking for. We’ve also spent our lives seeking adventure and part of our travel personalities is definitely that of Adventure Seekers.

The Creative Finder

You have a love for unique things, everything handmade and authentic. As far back as grade school you may have begun your own art career and in college you enjoyed spending time around the art galleries and museums. You enjoy craft fairs and farmers markets. In Ely, you are most likely to sign-up for a class at the folk school, walk around the art galleries and spend most of your afternoon in a secluded spot with a sketchbook and maybe some paints. Ely, Minnesota has a vibrant and thriving Artist community. Indeed, you can find something creative to do or someone creative to share and talk with almost anywhere you go around Ely. You will especially enjoy the Blueberry Arts Festival, Harvest Moon Festival and Ely Winterfest (think Snowcarving Symposium). We welcome all Creative Travel Personality people to Ely and the Boundary Waters.

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Take this Off Your Holiday Bucket List: The Northern Lights

Minnesota is home to one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena: the Aurora Borealis – otherwise known as – The Northern Lights. People from around the world hold interesting views about these dancing lights that fill up the northern sky. 

The Inuit believed that these were the spirits of the dead playing a game with one another. While people across Finland believed these lights were caused by a fire fox who ran across the northern sky, leaving a trail of fire burning in the night sky. Even today, there are stories parents often tell their kids that the northern lights are messages sent from another planet or bursts of colors reflecting off distant glaciers. 

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A Fish Story

I’ve used Flexcut carving tools for twenty plus years. I come from a family of antique dealers and one of the first things I collected with my dad was pocket knives. When we moved to Minnesota in the mid-1990s I began carving wooden fishing lures. I got the bug to start collecting homemade folk art lures and carving my own after my Mom gifted me with two that she found during a “pick” of antiques. They came with a message from the then deceased carver’s wife. “Whenever my husband couldn’t catch anything, he’d tie on one of these. They always worked better than any Rapala. He made them himself.”

I still have his two lures (above left) and I soon carved my own version just a little wider with bit more of a cave to bubble more water on retrieve and reversed the paint colors. I carved this out of white cedar with a Flexcut Carving Roughing Knife and finished it with a Flexcut Carving Detail Knife and sandpaper. I added vintage red beads for eyes (I didn’t have any of the iridescent silver sequins that he had used on the original) and changed the plain #2 Treble hook to a dressed treble that I snipped off of a beat up Mepps Spinner.

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Poem: None of this Happens Without Effort

None of this Happens Without Effort

Camp is about prep
and work and anticipation.
There’s no running water,
no light switches or air conditioner
or heater after sunset.
No roof over your head 
and no memory foam in your bed.
Wood has to be gathered, sawn
for cooking fire, for warmth.
Tarp raised
for shade and shelter from rain.
Tent assembled in lue
of your house back home.
Water taken from lake
and boiled.

Fire materials gathered,
tinder, kindling, small and medium and 
substantial wood, all dry, all down,
all dead.

Fire can’t just be turned on,
it has to be carefully constructed in layers
of loving attention;
it has to be started
(no easy feat if it is wet, windy or cold and dark)
then tended and watched
always — like a child by 
a swimming pool.
It cannot leave your sight.

Camp just doesn’t happen.
It grows from the first moment you 
arrive at the site, like a sunset does
all throughout the day, formed from
memories the day before
when it was home to other campers.

As you shift a rock, gather wood, prepare meals,
count the stars and tie tarp lines;
as you find the best angles and granite slopes
for your camp chairs and fishing poles to 
balance remember that tomorrow 
when your canoe glides away on
the surface mirroring the sky
you’ll be just another memory
good or bad.

Leave more than just footprints behind.
Leave kindness, leave passion for the wilderness,
leave a head start for someone’s new home…
some dry tinder, a clean camp, 
a safe-and-totally-put-out-non-warm fire bed,
clean grate, good seating, starter pile of kindling
and firewood. No trash.
Leave it better than you found it.

Take memories made. Take pride.
In how you shared this lake,
this place that is so much more
than a red dot on a map.

©Timothy James Stouffer 07082023 All rights reserved
#elystreetpoet Ely, Minnesota
photo Nick Jones @vnick763 Header photo Steve Piragis
#piragis #piragisoutfitting #boundarywaterscatalog #boundarywaters_elymn #visitelymn #upnorthmn #bwca #bwcaw#canoecamping

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Customer Reviews, Testimonials

I will be back every year for more adventures and Tim’s Canoe Country Charcuterie.

Good food, great sights, the best gear, and amazing people. Lifelong memories made thanks to the hard work of all the folks at Piragis Outfitting.

Special thanks to Tim Barton for keeping us safe, fed, caffeinated, educated, and even entertained. Good times were had by all.

Also… no bears 😉 Rachel Frey


Cute gift shop and outfitter! Dog friendly and adorable gift shop upstairs Emily Estrada


We didn’t get outfitted this time around but stopped in at 6:30 AM to get some last minute things for our trip. Great store, great selection with very friendly and helpful service Eric J


Northwoods staple. An establishment of the BWCA. A solid outfitter that REI wishes it could be.
Alex Yantifovich


Have used this outfitter several times. They are incredibly knowledgeable about the area and can help with just about any aspect of your trip. Great canoes. Great people. Marcus Myers


Enjoyed out outfitting experience and the canoes and paddles were excellent! Anton DeLeon


I highly recommend Piragis. I was extremely impressed by their customer service. I booked my trip with Adam who has loads of knowledge. He was very helpful throughout the entire process from start to finish. Zack was very knowledgeable about all the gear and answered all of my questions. I am glad I chose the right company from the start. I will absolutely be coming back to Piragis in the BWCA. Thanks for a memorable trip. Terry Villar


Just finished up a 6 day trip where Piragis outfitted us. I was impressed with the quality of the gear as well as the well stocked store. They had everything we needed..be careful though as they really make sure you will not go hungry out there. The staff is very knowledgeable and answered all our questions pre and post trip. I will use them again. Shawn Bilak


Here’s the screen shots from Google Reviews. Thanks for reading and sharing. If you would like to write a google review of our services please feel free to do so! If you’d like to review some of your favorite products at the Boundary Waters Catalog, that feature is easy to use. Just sign into your customer account and each of our products online can be easily reviewed.

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Happy Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July, Independence Day from all of us at Piragis Northwoods Company and the Boundary Waters Catalog. May your paddles always find new adventure and the free spirit of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness always guide you home! photo @vnick763 Nick Jones #piragis #piragisoutfitting #boundarywaterscatalog #visitelymn#boundarywaters_elymn #fourthofjuly #independenceday2023

Please note the fire restrictions (aka fire ban) in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness have been lifted as of July 3, 2023. A fire ban is still in effect for Quetico in Canada. Stay safe and keep the fireworks out of the wilderness.

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We’re Having a Kayak Sale

Remember to check out the biggest kayak sale of the year.

Call Tom or Tyler 1-800-223-6565 to save today

Over 80 Kayaks in Stock
Solos, Tandems, Specialty, and composite models of Current Designs, Perception, Wilderness Systems Brands
June 28th to July 11th 2023
*Discount taken off lowest priced kayak Piragis Boathouse Open 9 am to 5 pm daily.

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Welcome to the Gift Room

Welcome to Piragis Northwoods Company and the Boundary Waters Catalog Gift Room. Below is a short video tour of our most visited room in Ely. We offer a wide variety of products to choose from. Each room in our retail store in Ely, Minnesota holds a world of treasures. From camping supplies, to clothes, and of course the room we are currently walking through The Gift Section. We try to do our best to mirror this variety online at boundarywaterscatalog.com, however the best way to enjoy this shopping experience is to visit us in person. Why not take a Boundary Waters canoe trip while you’re here!

The gift department of Piragis Northwoods is full of delightful items that are sure to wow anyone you gift them to, or to hold a sweet spot in your heart as a souvenir of your time in beautiful Ely Minnesota with Piragis Northwoods Company.

From wonderfully crafted pottery, to amazing photographic prints, you are sure to find something that catches your eye. Our wide selection of gifts doesn’t end there though. We also have candles that will fill your home with the sweetest of fragrances, and of course, blankets and pillows that will pair perfectly with those same candles to make your home a cozy wonderland.

Everything in our gift shop is meant to make you think back on your Boundary Waters trip fondly, so that even after you can no longer see the pristine wilderness forest you can still have a part of it with you. We do this by not only keeping a consistent wilderness theme in the room, but by also having local small businesses and artisans items available in our gift shop. This means that with every purchase you are taking a little bit of Ely Minnesota back home with you.

From handcrafted jewelry, to lotions, to kitchen ware, and even a loon whistle so you can never forget the sounds of  our introverted state bird the gift shop is sure to have you leaving with something that will fit perfectly in your home. And of course if you’re still missing the little critters of the forest we have a whole section to bring home a buddy from the Boundary Waters that will never leave your children’s side. So come in today and find your next gift for someone else, or even yourself, because everyone deserves to treat themselves and a trip to the Boundary Waters is a perfect occasion.