Prepping for a 1,300-kilometre canoe trip across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut
With summer upon us, the North beckons me once again to adventure. This time I'm heading out with Alex Kozma to the Mackenzie Mountains to start a 1,300-kilometre journey from the Yukon/NWT border to the Arctic Ocean. I'm calling it the Goba Expedition. 'Goba' means 'dawn' in the language of the Northern Slavey people, whose traditional territory we'll be traveling through. As we'll be heading steadily eastward towards the rising sun, it's an appropriate moniker for our journey.
I've travelled much of Canada's wilderness by various means, but there's a distinct blank spot in the northwest of our country that I've never properly explored, so this expedition will lay a line through the heart of it. This journey promises maximum diversity—from mountain rivers to big lakes to upstream grunts and overland portages—we'll experience every tripping condition imaginable from our start in the boreal forest to our finish in the barren grounds of the Arctic.
As usual, I'll be paddling the toughest, most versatile tripping boat out there: the Esquif Prospecteur 17. Made with bombproof T-Formex material, this Jackknife of canoes will be nimble in the whitewater of the Tsichu and Keele Rivers that flow out of the Mackenzie Mountains, move quickly against the upstream force of the Great Bear River, ride high and dry in the big waves and water of Great Bear Lake, and be ultra-tough while being dragged and bashed through tree line to access our final run down the Coppermine River to the Inuit community of Kugluktuk.
Complementing the Prospecteur 17 will be our North Water Spraydeck, which will keep our boat dry in the whitewater and wavy big lakes, as well as keep us cozy and warm those days when the north wind brings down cool weather and dips the temperatures into the single digits. Our canoe will be propelled by our trusty Grey Owl Bent Shaft touring paddles on the deep water and the burly Grey Owl C1 paddles for the rocky Tsichu and rapids of the Keele and Coppermine.
For comfort and safety in the canoe, we'll be wearing Kokatat Maximus Centurion life vests along with Kokatat NeoZip Long Johns to keep us buoyant and warm in the icy waters of the North and to cushion our shins during downstream lining and upstream dragging sections of the journey.
In camp, we'll be cozy in our Thermarest Questar -6C sleeping bags paired with the four season comfort of our NeoAir Xtherm sleeping pads, nestled in the shelter of our MSR Remote 2 tent. We'll cook over fires a fair bit, grilling grail, bull trout, pike and other delicacies of the North—but when we want to fire up a quick meal, we'll use the always-reliable warhorse MSR Whisperlite stove. My Whisperlite is over 20 years old and still as good as the day I got it. As part of the MSR system we'll be using the MSR Alpine 2 pot set—as good over a stove as an open flame. It's a truly indestructible kitchen essential. Food-wise, it'll be cowboy coffee and oats in the morning, meat and cheese for lunch, and delicious Happy Yak meals for dinner—with some fresh fish mixed in too, of course.
Day-to-day clothing includes the Fjallraven High Coast trouser and Abisko trekking shirt. These pieces are quick-drying, robust and good looking to boot—built for the grind and grime of a long-distance wilderness journey. For inclement days, my rain gear is comprised of the Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket and Beta AR pant—waterproof for the most miserable of days.
All this gear provides us with the tools we need to get the job done. Now it's up to us to physically and mentally embrace the mission—moving through space and time, fully immersed in a wilderness environment that will become home for the summer.
Follow our journey along via our inReach Mapshare tracker starting today at share.garmin.com/Goba for a daily haiku from our camp that shares an essence or moment of the day. Have a fabulously adventurous summer!