_Nine-hundred miles east of Anchorage, the World War II-era
winds through the McKenzie Mountains of Canada's Northwest Territories and into some of the most wild landscape in North America. This defunct oil pipeline, turned dirt road, turned over-grown and washed away wilderness trail snakes from the Yukon border to the rich oil fields of Norman Wells. It's considered by many to be the most remote trail in the world. Last year F&S Adventurer Jim Baird and Video Editor Mike Shea set off to ride the trail by ATV without helicopter or plane support. Others have completed Canol on ATV beginning to end, but none have done it without fuel and food drops along the way. Attempting this self-sustained adventure, Jim and Mike leaned hard on their ATVs, their gear, and most importantly, themselves. This is the the gear they rode, carried and relied upon out in the bush. --The Eds _
Polaris Sportsman 550 x 2
Needless to say, these quads were the backbone of the trip. Thankfully, their never-say-die drivetrain took everything Canol Trail could muster -- even a nice long bath in frigid mountain water. In a perfect world we would have selected a smaller option, like the Sportsman 400 H.O. The lighter overall weight would have helped. Design-wise, the Polaris won me over. The air intake is positioned high, underneath the handle bars, which meant that the engines were less likely to swamp on the many deep river crossings that we encountered.
**OtterBox 3510 Cases ** Mike says: Camera gear does not like water. And on the Canol Trail we had lots, and lots of water. When we weren’t splashing through rivers, it was raining, when it wasn’t raining we where chest-deep in grayling eddies. Before shipping off to Canada, OtterBox sent us several 3510 cases. Without these small Pelican-type cases we wouldn’t have filmed a thing. I customized the foam to seat the VIO Cams, GoPros and fast-access items like extra batteries and SD cards. They kept our wallets, keys and cellphones dry — even when we floated them in the river. Of all the gear we took north (and lets face it, we had a lot of awesome gear) these compact little dry boxes are the one thing I’ll certainly take on every other trip I do.
A good winch is a must-have on a trail as demanding as the Canol. On this trip, there wasn’t a day that we didn’t use it. A bad bird’s nest and, later, a broken post, took my winch out of commission early in the trip. I don’t blame the quality of the winch for the broken post. I do blame the low winch-mount position on the 550 x 2, which makes the winch more likely to bang against rocks when traveling. Mike’s winch had to work double-time after mine quit. It held up, which is a testament to the durability of the Pure Polaris Winch. Pure Polaris Winch
These were not our preferred jerry cans. They leak through their air vents too often, especially when laid on their sides. To combat this problem, I duct-taped the air vent caps down before we left Whitehorse for the trailhead. With only one handle on each of these cans, it can take some time to strap them down tightly. But, with some work, I was able to secure five on the back of each quad. Canadian Tire 20L 4WD Gas Cans
We packed our gear and personal items into 115L and 75L Eureka Canoe Packs. When closed properly, these float bags can keep your things dry underwater. They were helpful to us from day one, when the bags were exposed on the trailer for the entire rainy, 16-hour drive to the trailhead. Our Canoe Packs were important during our river crossings. When crossing the Twitya River, we had to swim while carrying our bags, which we would not have been able to do if these bags didn’t float. The padded shoulder and hip straps on the Canoe Pack also make it comfortable to carry, which would have been important had we been forced to walk out. Eureka Canoe Pack
Our food went into a Eureka Storm Shield 60L Blue Barrel. These food barrels are airtight, and, even filled with 80lbs of grub, can float. I’d hoped that this barrel could be used as a flotation aid for our raft. Unfortunately, our barrel was old and the dried-out seal leaked substantially when dunked. If I were to do this trip again, I would probably pack food into two or three smaller dry bags. They’d be less bulky and could be strapped to a quad more easily. Eureka Storm Shield 60L Blue Barrel
[McNett Aqua Seal and Tenacious Tape](http://www.mcnett.com/Aquaseal-Urethane-Repair-Adhesive-Sealant-for-Waders-P58.aspx/ http://www.mcnett.com/Tenacious-Tape-Repair-Tape-P50.aspx/) It doesn’t matter how tough your waterproof gear is. With enough use, it will wear through eventually. On the trail and at home, I fix holes in my dry bags, tears in my tent fly, and punctures in my dry suit or waders with a combination of Aqua Seal and Tenacious Tape. The combination of the two can leave a damaged area stronger than it was to begin with. To patch a hole, use scissors to cut two round pieces of Tenacious Tape and stick one to either side of the hole. Then, apply Aqua Seal over the tape, covering a half-inch past where the tape ends. For smaller holes, just a small dab of Aqua Seal will do the trick. It’s good stuff.
This handheld touchscreen GPS is a great piece of technology. The touchscreen makes it easy to use, especially when panning and zooming. It can take AA batteries but is rechargeable. We used the Montana to check our progress along the East-West running trail. As it turned out, touch screen wasn’t the best option for us, as it banged around ruthlessly in the steering boxes on our quad, so next time a heavier-duty option, like the GPSMAP 62stc would be best. Garmin Montana
After a cool first night, I removed my tent fly to find hundreds of mosquitoes clinging to my tent. As we broke camp and the day warmed up, the mosquitoes became active and caused us some problems. Bugs in the Mackenzie Mountains are not usually bad by Northern standards, but, on that morning, we were glad to have our Thermacell mosquito repellent while we broke camp. Thermacell
This is a Cold Steel Trail Boss small axe with a big bite. The hardwood handle and sharp blade made cutting wood easy. We used the Trail Boss to cut firewood, cut trees for our raft, and split the logs that we used to repair our trailer. The axe head came off once, while we were using it to cut through a downed tree that blocked the trail, but that was an easy fix.
Several of the deep-cut creek banks that we encountered needed some levelling to get across. That’s when we put this small shovel to good use. Everything that Cold Steel makes seems to be especially sharp. This shovel was no exception. Surprisingly, it was also the best tool we had for cutting branches and saplings when we had to blaze a trail. Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel
Before we left on our trip, Mike asked me what to expect from my cowboy coffee, a simple brew of straight coffee grinds in a Nalgene that’s gotten me through years of wilderness trips. “It’s chewy,” I told him. GSI 50 oz Java Press Mike ran out and bought this coffee press. It’s a standard French press designed to be durable and lightweight for easy use while camping. Its handle was broken by the end of the trip but that didn’t hurt its performance.
I’ve been using versions of this tent for years. It’s great in heavy wind and has kept me remarkably dry through some heavy downpours. The ventilation zippers on the tent’s ceiling helped us deal with the varying temperatures that we experienced on the trail. The newest Mountain Meteor also features a large vestibule. Sierra Designs Mountain Meteor 3
There are a lot of grizzly bears in the Canol country. This 12-gauge was both our protection and our meat provider. It was overkill for ground squirrels but, considering that we only brought one gun, a versatile 12-gauge made sense. My Remington has been out on many trips now and looks at least ten times older than it is but it still operates as well as ever. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have brought along a small break-down .22 also. That would have helped us get a couple rabbits that were out of shotgun range. 12-Gauge Remington Express 870
One-ounce slugs would be better for close range protection against a charging bear, but the high-velocity slugs that I brought on the trip can pack a devastating punch too. I kept the 12-gauge close and loaded with slugs after Mike almost hit a couple of grizzly cubs that burst out of the bush ahead of him on day 19. Remington 2 ¾” 7/8 oz High Velocity Rifled Slugs
This #6 shot was my small-game load. When we hunted ground squirrels, found mostly in the higher treeless country, we saved meat by avoiding direct shots. Winchester 12-gauge 2 ¾” Super-X Game and Field Loads
We cooked almost everything on this stove. It’s lightweight and can burn any kind of fuel, which can be a good thing in a pinch. Perhaps because of my own ineptitude, I couldn’t seem to start the stove without wasting fuel and igniting a giant fireball. Mike didn’t do much better. When I did get the stove going, it was effective and boiled water quickly. Primus Multi-Fuel EX Stove
On rainy days, I really appreciated the zippered bottoms of these rain pants, which allow you to slip them on without taking your boots off. The belt loops and zippered pockets were also useful. A soft outer layer keeps the pants “quiet,” which we appreciated. No one likes to hear the annoying zip-zip-zip of synthetic fabric all day, especially not when stalking rabbits like we were. The mesh interior takes a long time to dry out, though, and drying rain pants over a fire is a good way to ruin them. Cabela’s MT050 Gore-Tex Quiet Pack Rain Pants
[ Cabela’s Gore-Tex Rainy River Parka](http://www.cabelas.com/product/Clothing/Mens-Casual-Clothing/Mens-Rainwear/Mens-Rainwear-Jackets-Parkas%7C/pc/104797080/c/104746680/sc/104522580/i/104091480/Cabelas-GORE-TEX174-PacLite174-Rainy-River8482-Parka-150-Tall/1318376.uts?destination=%2Fcatalog%2Fbrowse%2Fclothing-mens-casual-clothing-mens-rainwear-mens-rainwear-jackets-parkas%2F_%2FN-1100878/% 2FNs-CATEGORY_SEQ_104091480%3FWTz_l%3DSBC%253BMMcat104797080%253Bcat104522580&WTz_l=SBC%3BMMcat104797080%3Bcat104522580%3Bcat104091480) With a name like “Rainy River,” this jacket seemed like an appropriate pick for our waterlogged trip. This jacket fit nicely – being a pretty big guy, I appreciate that Cabela’s offers “Tall” sizes – but, most importantly, it kept me dry.
Bringing two raincoats was a good idea. When we found ourselves riding for hours into driving rain, I doubled up on rain jackets to stay warm and dry. A thick, soft outer layer and a comfortable internal lining keep this jacket warmer than most rain coats. But, as with the Quiet Pack Pants, the mesh liner takes some time to dry. Cabela’s MT050 Gore-Tex Quiet Pack Jacket
It wasn’t until the morning of Day Five that the trail crossed a suitable place to fish. With my eye on a nice eddy, I extended my telescopic rod and tied a #1 Mepps to my line. Soon, we had a Dolly Varden and a couple grayling for breakfast. I would catch many more fish with the same spinner in the days to come. I always bring Mepps spinners on my wilderness trips. They are good for almost any species and great for fishing rivers.
I’ve had this pan for about seven years now. It’s light, non-stick, and easy to clean. The handle folds in, which is an important feature for me. I’m sure that this pan will be around for many a fish fry to come. GSI Camp Gourmet Frying Pan
The lack of rigidity in the fibreglass handle of this axe means that some of the power from each swing is lost when the handle flexes. It doesn’t come very sharp either. This axe ate through wood more slowly than our smaller, hardwood-handled Trail Boss. Yardworks 3 ½ lb Fiberglass Axe
“Beaver fever,” also known as giardia, can live in untreated water. And believe me, you don’t want this parasite hanging out in your lower intestines. Although there are fancier water filters on the market, the Katadyn Hiker Pro filters out giardia, which is the only real contamination concern in the far north. Rivers in the Mackenzie Mountains carry heavy loads of silt, which clogged the filter of our pump and rendered it useless within the first ten days. The correct thing for us to do would have been to fill a pot with river water and let the silt settle before pumping. In our hurry down the trail, we didn’t do that often enough. Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter
Polaris Folding Ramps
These strong, compact folding ramps helped us deal with cut banks. They also got us into trouble when they weren’t secured properly. Ramps mean less digging but more bulk. If I were going to tackle the Canol again, I would leave the ramps behind in favor of a small pick and a shovel.
The Flat Pack is a tubular air pump with a tire plug kit inside. On day seven, after a tire separated from the rim, Mike got a flat. Luckily, the bead remained seated. The bicycle pump that I brought had already broken, so the Flat Pack saved the day. We inflated the flat to 2 lbs pressure with a CO2 cartridge and then used the Flat Pack pump to take it the rest of the way. The pump began to seize when topping a tire up with air a few days later, but a little cooking oil got it moving smoothly again. Kolpin Flat Pack & C02
The wave is my favorite multi-tool. I would never leave for a wilderness trip like this one without it. My only problem with the Wave is the way that it digs into my hand I am whittling. But I’ve come up with a solution. The belt case for this Leatherman has a hole in the bottom which is meant to be used for carrying the Wave in needle-nose-pliers form. If I need to do a lot of carving, I put the Leatherman in the case upside down with the blade sticking out the bottom hole. The case acts as good protection for my hands. Leatherman Wave
Mike says: With nearly 150 pounds of tools in a Eureka barrel strapped behind my quad, I decide to go small and bring a pocket-sized Leatherman. I used it daily at meals and for cutting dry kindling in the ever-wet conditions. Most importantly, it got me through the night (with the help of a fire-starting rod) when Leatherman Freestyle I found myself stranded on the wrong side of the river.
True Flare makes 12-gauge flares and bear bangers. The company also offers flare and bear banger cartridges that can be fired from a spring-activated True Flare pen launcher. In my experience, a bear banger works better at deterring a problem bear at a distance than a warning shot with real ammo. It causes an explosion right in the bears face, closer than your shot could. The small and easily stowable pen launcher is an important thing to have in a survival kit. Since I hadn’t tried the 12-gauge cartridges I gave them a test run while on the trail. The 12-gauge bangers and flares have a better range than their pen-launched equivalents. All are fun to shoot and can also save your life in an emergency. True Flare
We used a combination of our axe and this folding saw to cut and crop logs for our raft and to clear deadfalls from the trail. The folding Sawvivor saw is very light but packs the same punch as a heavy Swede saw. When folded, the blade is stored in the aluminum frame, making this a very compact tool. Trail Blazer Sawvivor Saw
When we finally hit the Twitya River, I broke out the dry suit that I would use for several cold swims. This suit provides some flotation along with reliable protection from cold water. The top half of the suit can be left down so that the suit can double as your pair of waders. I’ve owned this dry suit for four years. It had seen about eleven weeks of expedition use without a single patch before this trip, when I managed to burn a hole through the suit sleeping too close to the fire and puncturing it with a fishing hook. Kokatat Meridian Dry Suit
We used ratchet straps to attach the log floor of our raft to an inflatable donut. We also used them to bundle logs together and drag them to the river. There are a lot of good ways to use ratchet straps on a motorized trip. I’ve learned to never leave home without them. X-Strap Ratchet Strap
Cancord Poly Steel Rope
We used this rope to ferry our quads across the Twitya though, unfortunately, we didn’t get across the second braid. We also used the rope for a winch extension, for tying down gear, and to tie our raft together. The rope is strong (4,495lb test) and floats. It made a great winch extension but was too stiff to hold good knots when we used it to tie the raft together.
When winching, we used a couple of ‘biners to clip our cable to a chain that we wrapped around our anchor point. I clipped one of these ‘biners to my swamped quad when it had to be winched out of the river. They are strong, reliable pieces of hardware. Petzl Straight Gate Carabineer
We had 20 hours of sunlight a day on the Canol, so we didn’t have to use our headlamps much. That said, it was dark when we tried our first ferry across the main branch of the Twitya. The poor angle of our rope meant that our raft-rigged quad didn’t complete the ferry and was left floating in the strong mid-river current. With this headlamp on, I swam out to the raft and attempted to pole it to shore. That didn’t work, so I tied a rope to it, swam back to shore, and pulled it off the river using the other quad. I couldn’t have done it without my headlamp, which, I might add, was still working even after I’d dunked it in the river a few times. Petzl Tikka XP Head Lamp
A strong current made it difficult for us to straighten the rope that we were using to ferry our quads. I re-evaluated the angle necessary for the ferry and tied two of these ball bearing pulleys to a tree and another one to a tree three feet away. Petzl Partner Pulleys
I tied this self-jamming pulley onto the tree, along with the third single pulley, and used them both together in my effort to straighten the ferry rope. The Traxion pulley was important here because it gripped the rope after every inch we pulled through it, not allowing it to slip back. Despite our four-to-one pulley system, we still could not get the rope to straighten. The pull of the current on the rope was that strong. We should have brought a few more pulleys! Petzl Pro Traxion Pulley
This pot set was the closest that I could find to my favorite, made by MEC, which is no longer manufactured. There is no pot set currently on the market that I would consider ideal. Too many pots are made for camping stoves and lack the versatility necessary for an expedition. A good camp pot has a tightly fitting lid, “pot gripper” handle, and a handle over the top. With my pot set, I can grip both pot and lid with the pot gripper, which is perfect for straining pasta. I make sure that everything in my mess kit – cutlery, bowls, cups, and plates included – is metal so that it can all be used over the fire if necessary. MSR Alpine Two Pot Set
When we realized we couldn’t make it across the Twitya, we had to call our contact in Whitehorse for a pick-up at the trailhead. Our satellite phone got great reception despite the mountainous country around us. It worked when our S.P.O.T. device was malfunctioning. Iridium is the only brand to use while traveling in the North because of the company’s superior satellite coverage. Roadpost Iridium Satellite Phone
This thick wool/fleece blend sweater it the best sweater I’ve had in years. It’s warm and comfortable and, as I learned after dunking a quad in the swollen Equi River, it insulates well when wet. The only damage that the sweater incurred on this trip was the large brown singe that I found on my back after a night of sleeping too close to the fire. Cabela’s Outfitters Wooltimate Wind Shear Henley Sweater
These Gore-Tex boots are the closest a hunting boot gets to a day hiker. I chose this model of Lynx boots because they are un-insulated and non-leather which means they dry out far more quickly than a leather backpacking boot or an insulated hunting boot. The quick dry time of these boots was great after I recovered my swamped quad out of the Equi, but on several other occasions I was happy they dried quickly too. With all the river crossings and rain on this trip, drying our boots around the fire was common practice. Rocky Lynx Waterproof Outdoor Boot
We were in close quarters with grizzly bears throughout this trip and lucky to avoid a real run-in. Although I’ve never had to use bear spray, I can see its advantages. A banger can scare a bear off, but bear spray can actually hurt it, buying you the time you need to get away. The downside to bear spray? A grizzly has to be awfully close to for it to be effective. I would still take a 12-gauge with slugs over either spray or bangers. If all hell breaks loose, the gun is what is going to save your hide. It’s best to have all three though, if you’re able: bangers to detour a bear at a distance, bear spray to get rid of a curious bear at close range (10 to 20 feet), and a 12-gauge for a hostile bear situation. Bear Spray
_Nine-hundred miles east of Anchorage, the World War II-era
Canol Trail winds through the McKenzie Mountains of Canada’s Northwest Territories and into some of the most wild landscape in North America. This defunct oil pipeline, turned dirt road, turned over-grown and washed away wilderness trail snakes from the Yukon border to the rich oil fields of Norman Wells. It’s considered by many to be the most remote trail in the world.
Last year F&S Adventurer Jim Baird and Video Editor Mike Shea set off to ride the trail by ATV without helicopter or plane support. Others have completed Canol on ATV beginning to end, but none have done it without fuel and food drops along the way. Attempting this self-sustained adventure, Jim and Mike leaned hard on their ATVs, their gear, and most importantly, themselves.
This is the the gear they rode, carried and relied upon out in the bush._
Check out the video series documenting the Canol Trail ATV Adventure here!