Crossing Algonquin 2018

This past February, Eric Batty, Ryan Atkins and I took off on a 10 day crossing of Algonquin Provincial Park from Shawandasee Lake to Deux Rivieres.  I had originally planned it as a 15 to 20 day solo trip covering 165 km but on the advice of my wife, I scrapped the solo travel plan and was happy to have Eric and Ryan as travel companions.  More guys to share the load, break trail, and much safer while crossing dozens of kilometers of ice in an era of warmer climates.

As luck would have it, this area of Ontario had a thaw in mid January followed by a few days of rain before winter shook itself right again and we returned to temperatures well below freezing.  This took much of the deep powder we had and made it hard and even froze a good crust over the lake slush.  I was still confident we would be looking at a 12-14 day crossing.  I planned on traveling 10 km a day pulling a freight toboggan full of supplies each and a pack on our backs.  I knew that was something I could handle in most conditions without destroying my body and feeling like a trainwreck at the end of the day.  Eric and Ryan, both competitive adventure athletes, would hear nothing of it, they were used to fast travel and we ended up doing between 12-17 km a day.

On a trip like this, our day to day grind was interesting to study.  We had three different styles of camping and much of that could be seen in our gear.  I come from a more traditional style of summer and winter travel.  My father was a trapper and I grew up hunting and fishing in Northern Ontario.  I wear wool, lots of it too. Pants, base layers, socks; thick sweaters as my ‘coat’, a homemade 12 oz canvas Anorak for the wind and a homemade beaver hat and seal hide mitts.  I brought a -40 sleeping bag; cold has no place in my life when sleeping.  Eric brought a mid-weight, high-end down jacket with a one piece hood for the cold and a few layers of synthetic softshell coats and pants and a -30 sleeping bag with a windstopper shell.  Being our photographer on the trip, was constantly skiing ahead and falling behind to unpack his camera gear, take a few shots, repack it all and catch up again.  The steady back and forth all day kept him in a sweat longer than Ryan and I.   Now Ryan on the other hand, is a horse of a different colour.  I’ve never traveled in the bush with an ultralight packer before.  He brought a superlight -18 down bag sleeping bag (with an opening on each end!), one change of clothes, one cup that doubled as his bowl (he takes oatmeal in his coffee), one thin down coat for around camp and that’s about it.  His only clothing luxury was a muskrat hat.  By day six he was sleeping with most of his clothes on as condensation in his bag was inside and out.  He never complained though and thought nothing of it.  Eric and I felt lavish with our warmer, bulkier bags. The boys both had to wait every night for the precious real estate to open at the top of the tent where we had our clothes line for all of my wool to dry before hanging up their light technical gear.  We slept in a Seek Outside tipi tent heated by an XL titanium stove and hauled all our gear on 10’ long Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. Freight Toboggans.

When it comes to route choices, the more options you have, the more ideas you get.  We didn’t firmly stick to one route, we picked a direction and changed it as we needed to stay on good ice.  We’re all friends first and we know that teamwork, remaining a cohesive unit and having fun while traveling through such a beautiful piece of Canada is more important than squabbling over small indifferences.  Every teammate brings a different set of skills, new ideas, experiences and even a sense of humour.  It’s these differences that made the days pass with great conversations and tales of travel.  We put one foot in front of the other, thousands of times, talking about differences in tripping styles, alpine climbing, vehicle choices, the effects of Giardia, shooting with film and even ex-girlfriends.  The tent and stove were set up and torn down 18 times, we hammered 8” galvanized nails into the ice to peg out the tent 180 times (how’s the fingers Ryan!?) and we collected, cut and split hundreds and hundreds of pounds of firewood.  Every moment before bed there was something to do, get this, move that, light this, clean that.

The trip was a huge success.  We crossed Algonquin in only 51 hours of travel.  We learned so much about each other, ourselves and our gear.  Looking back at the trip, there’s almost nothing I’d change.  I loved the route, I loved our gear choices and my two partners were fantastic.  When I’m an old man, I might look back at this trip as possibly my greatest outdoor achievement; but therein lies the problem. When you hang out in the company of Eric and Ryan while crossing Algonquin Park in the winter, inspiration and feeling like I can walk on my hands to the North Pole comes easily.  The boys kicked up some big dreams in me and I’m already planning our next winter excursion for February 2019. Who knows, maybe we’ll cross Algonquin again on the longer, west-east route?  One thing’s for sure, the adventure has just begun.

Buck Miller

Photos: Eric Batty

 

Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park

Finally made it out into the woods for a few days.  Ontario is an amazing place to explore in the winter months.  The woods are beautifully quiet and the scenery is stunning.  We spent three nights on the east side of QEII Wildlands Provincial Park and we’ll definitely be planning more trips to explore the area.

 

Freight Toboggan Packing System

Duffel bags, hockey bags, tarps, bungee cords, carabiners….we all pack our gear in different ways and hope it stays where it belongs.  If you are like me, I always find 5 minutes down the trail I have to stop to adjust everything I thought was strapped down solid when I left camp!  Having a water bottle held by a carabiner clipped to whatever you can clip it to, with a bungee cord holding your camera bag down and a duffel bag bulging over the side of the toboggan catching drag drives me crazy!

Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. is now offering a packing system designed with easy packing and efficiency in mind.  Toboggan tanks and top bags keep your gear in place, contained and packed properly.  Toboggan tanks allow you to load all of your camp gear and personal belongings you don’t need while trekking into a streamlined bag with an easy to use closure system.  Tanks are strapped down with the main lash line.  The top bags sit on-top of the tank and have their own straps fixed directly to the toboggan.  This allows access unhindered by the main lash strap.  The top bag is where your change of clothes, lunch, camera, first aid kit, drinks, maps, anything you need during the day gets packed.  No more unstrapping everything to find an extra pair of socks or dig out your camera!

Check out the webpage for more details on our new packing systems.

http://www.whiskyjackoutdoor.com

 

Crossing Algonquin 2018

3 guys, 2 weeks, 1 park.

Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. is a proud supporter of the upcoming Crossing Algonquin 2018 Expedition.  Starting in the south west corner of Algonquin Provincial Park, the team is going to head north east, through the park and finish the trip in Deux Rivieres, Ontario.  The trek is to celebrate the Parks 125th Anniversary and promote the parks backcountry as a place to explore and protect.

Along the way the team will be hauling their gear on our freight toboggans and using our new toboggan tanks and top bags.  We’re pretty excited to be a part of this trek and will be following along as the crew complete the ~150 kms of lakes, portages and trails.

Follow the journey on the Crossing Algonquin 2018 Facebook page!

 

Toboggan Accessories!

We now have toboggan accessories available including our tump straps and lashing gear!

Available soon we will have 6′ toboggan tanks and 6′ top bags available.  Both bags are made with 1000D Cordura and custom built to fit the Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. Freight Toboggan.   Tanks are approximately 150 L and top bags are approximately 95 L.  Contact us at whiskyjackoutdoorco@gmail.com for more details.

 

Ontario Winter Camping Symposium

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We are very excited to be a sponsor of the 1st Annual Ontario Winter Camping Symposium!  Come and join us on November 25th at the University of Waterloo.  They have a great line up of speakers including Jim Baird, Kevin Callan, David Lee, Martin Pine, Marion and Duane Sonntag and Tierney Angus.  We’ll be there with some other fantastic vendors, stop in and say hello!

Find out more information at http://www.ontariowintercamping.ca or check out the Facebook page for the latest details.

Tickets are available here, get them before they are gone!

New logo released!

Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. Logo

Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. (18x24) 3

Now that the winter season has wrapped up, I’ve had some time to work on the new Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. logo.  I’m definitely better at building freight toboggans than I am designing logos, but I’m pretty happy with the final result!  What do you think?

Most of us are busy preparing for our first canoe trips here in Ontario (myself included), I’m very excited to get out on the water and into the backcountry.

Ever look at maps of your favourite areas and wonder what it would be like to experience them after a deep freeze in the winter?  I’m planning summer trips but can’t help but file away some possible routes to try in the winter!  Plan early and experience the most out of every season!

https://whiskyjackoutdoor.com

#nature #winter #outdoors #getoutdoors #lovewinter #wintercamping #simplyadventure #wildernessculture #hiking #lifeofadventure #liveoutdoors #goexplore #lovelifeoutside #exploreontario #camping #canoeing #backcountry #freighttoboggan #bucksaw #exploremore

Temagami

Had an amazing trip testing the latest toboggan in Temagami.  We hauled through all kinds of weather, snow conditions and terrain.  We saw everything from slush, standing water, sticky wet snow, beautiful crust and at last hard wind-swept ice (Guess what our favourite for pulling through was!)  Our freight toboggans were ready for more long after we had exhausted ourselves.

Tired of waiting for summer to arrive to get back into the woods, get out and enjoy winter camping with a Whisky Jack Outdoor Co. Freight Toboggan.  Explore More.

https://whiskyjackoutdoor.com

#nature #winter #outdoors #getoutdoors #lovewinter #wintercamping #simplyadventure #wildernessculture #hiking #lifeofadventure #liveoutdoors #goexplore #lovelifeoutside #exploreontario #camping #freighttoboggan #bucksaw #exploremore

Finally some snow!

Finally managed to get out of the shop long enough to take one of the newly designed toboggans for a run on some fresh snow. It glided beautifully, even in some slushy conditions.  Looking to Explore more this winter? Be sure to check us out.

https://whiskyjackoutdoor.com

#nature #winter #outdoors #getoutdoors #lovewinter #wintercamping #simplyadventure #wildernessculture #hiking #lifeofadventure #liveoutdoors #goexplore #lovelifeoutside #camping #freighttoboggan