Why should I choose Black Feather?
Experience: In over 40 years of providing adventure travel holidays, we have paddled and hiked thousands of kilometres with countless satisfied customers. Over 70% of our clientele are returning participants!
Destinations: We travel to the most outstanding wilderness destinations. We've explored much of northern Canada, and have chosen the very best places to go - destinations of national, and even global, significance. A Black Feather trip is a most unique and unusual escape from everyday life.
Variety: We offer the widest range of northern adventures - instructional weekends to get you started and wilderness trips from 3 to 22 days in length. There are choices for every ability - from your first experience to major expeditions for veterans. There are trips for individuals, couples, and small groups, trips for women only, adventures for families, and custom programs for groups.
New Friends: Some of the special rewards of Black Feathers trips are the friendships and camaraderie that develop along the way. People sharing challenges, adventures, and discoveries on an isolated journey quickly forge strong bonds and friendships. Black Feather adventurers from around the world often build lifelong friendships on their trips.
Our Approach: Our philosophy of co-operation and sharing means that the trip becomes a true learning experience. We encourage you to take part fully in all trip activities - from map reading to paddling to cooking. This inclusiveness increases your confidence and helps to ensure that each trip meets your needs and goals.
Great Guides: Black Feather’s guides are second to none. Handpicked, highly experienced and scrupulously-trained, they bring a wealth of skills and knowledge to each trip. They are fun and have a passion for the wilderness.
Office Support: We'll back you up. Our friendly and knowledgeable office staff will make sure that your holiday unfolds without a hitch. When you contact us, you are dealing with the people who run your trip - not a re-seller or a travel agency. Real advice and assistance with flight plans, clothing and equipment planning, and all of those last-minute details is readily available.
Contacts and Knowledge: Our strong contacts throughout the north, and solid reputation for safety and reliability, ensure the support of communities, northern airlines, and the best local tourism partners. Black Feather holds numerous licences in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon as well as for Nahanni, Auyuittuq, Aulavik, Sirmilik and Quttinirpaaq National Parks. Through the northern airlines, we are able to offer special discount rates for flights to your trip rendezvous points.
How do I choose the right trip?
We offer a variety of self propelled adventures. These include Canoeing, Sea Kayaking, Hiking, Floe Edge Basecamps, X-C Ski and Ski Touring, Women's trips and Family trips. You can choose the activity to suit your interest. Trips are graded from skill level 1 (beginner) to skill level 3 (advanced), so you can determine which is appropriate for your skill level.
When is the best time to go?
Our trips have been timed to use the optimal season for that location and activity. Some trips do have multiple departures. Some of the factors people consider when choosing a departure are:
• Daylight: Depending on your chosen destination, the daylight can vary from 24 hours of daylight in mid-summer, to dusk and darkness allowing the viewing of northern lights.
• Water Conditions: Although water levels can change with precipitation, there is typically much higher water with faster current early in the season. The water will be colder in early season, and in most locales will warm up as the summer progresses.
• Temperature: The closer to mid summer your adventure is timed, the more likely that you will have warmer termperatures. However, in Arctic areas, we can always expect a few days of chilly temperatures.
• Precipitation: The precipitation is very much dependent on the location of your adventures. Check with the Black Feather office to get more information about expected rain or snowfall.
• Insects: Bugs are are more prevalent in spring and early summer, but rain can bring them out at any time of the season. The amount of bugs also varies by destination, some areas are fairly bug free, while other destinations enjoy good bug quantities.
Who goes on a Black Feather trip?
Most participants are Canadians - but, expect paddlers from the US, Europe, and Australia - almost anywhere. Our participants share an interest in the wilderness, scenery, wildlife, making new friends, and having an adventure. They are the sort of people who do interesting things, and are fun people with whom to travel. You are going to make some new friends. Over the years the age range of participants has been from young children to active seniors. Other than on the "Family" trips, the majority of participants are 40 to 65. Most have previous wilderness camping experience and canoeing, sea kayaking or hiking skills. Many will also have been on a Black Feather trip previously.
Are there age restrictions?
Except for "Family" trips, our scheduled trips are designed for adults. The level and nature of supervision, and the expectations of the other participants, make these trips inappropriate for children. Younger teens who are travelling with a parent will be considered in certain circumstances. "Family" trips are open to families with children under 18 years-of-age.
If you have younger school-aged kids, you should contact our office to investigate the suitability of their participation. There are adventurous 8-year-olds who have absolutely flourished on trips, and 11-year-olds who we suggest should wait a few years before participating. We want this to be the great experience of a lifetime for your family.
We welcome a number of older seniors on our trips every summer, and there is no specific age limit to go on a Black Feather trip. If you are reasonably fit, and meet the requirements described in the trip information package, you'll be fine. Please contact our office to discuss your participation if you have any concerns at all.
How big is the group?
The usual maximum of a Black Feather trip is 10 participants and 2 guides. In some situations, we may add to 12 participants, and increase the guide ratio.
Can I register on my own, or do I need a partner?
You can register on your own. On a canoe trip, which we paddle tandem, if you register as a single, we'll pair you up with a canoeing partner. On a typical trip, two-thirds of the group are couples or small groups of friends, and one third are individuals. Larger groups of friends usually opt for a private, custom trip.
What skills and experience do I need?
A trip information package has been developed for each trip and has a detailed description of the skills and experience required for that specific trip.
Each trip is assigned a "Skill Level" from 1 to 3 to assist you in identifying ones that are suited to your abilities. Briefly, they are:
Level 1: no experience required
Level 2: some experience and basic skills are expected
Level 3: more advanced skills and abilities are required - not for novices
When should I register for a trip?
To have a full choice of destinations and departure dates, it is best to book well in advance. We offer an early bird discount to those applying before November 1 - for a trip during the following summer.
How do I register?
You can download the application package from the website and mail, fax, or scan and e-mail the completed forms to our office. We'll mail back a registration package with a receipt for your deposit, along with a clothing list, etc. If you want to secure a space as quickly as possible, you can complete the quick registration form online. You can also phone 1-888-849-7668 (toll free in North America) to check availability and tentative space while you look into time off, flights, etc.
What is a typical day like?
Most days fall into a simple pattern of eat, paddle/explore/hike, and sleep! Here is an outline of a typical day:
• 6:30 am - 7:00 am: The guides get up and start preparing tea/coffee/breakfast. You may wish to get up to do your morning ablutions and to organize yourself for the day. It is wise to have your sleeping bag and clothes packed prior to breakfast.
• 8:00 am: breakfast and clean up (taking down tents, final packing, and loading of the canoes, etc.)
• 9:30 am: route familiarization, stretching, last-minute preparations for the day
• 10:00 am: Each morning, we hike or paddle for about 2 to 3 hours, with breaks along the way for photography, snacks, or answering the "call of nature".
• 1:00 pm: stop for lunch
• 2:00 pm: Each afternoon, we paddle or hike for another 2 to 3 hours. Some days will have side hikes or interesting spots to investigate.
• 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm: The group makes camp for the day. We will choose a nice campsite and set up tents and the kitchen area. Participants are responsible for pitching their own tents, helping with basic campsite chores - such as collecting firewood and filtering water. They will also have free time to relax and enjoy themselves!
• 6:00 pm: Hors d’oeuvres are available, and dinner preparations begin.
• 7:00 pm: Dinner time, clean up, and preparing for evening takes place.
• Optional Evening Activities: An evening hike or other activity may be offered (depending on the group and the guides).
Please note that times are approximate as groups and situations vary. The Black Feather guides will apprise you of the tentative schedule at the onset of the trip, but this may be modified at any time during the trip. In trips 10 days or longer, we generally build in 2 to 3 "layover" days, when we do not move camp, but stay at the same campsite for 2 nights. The layover days give us the opportunity to go on day hikes, do some personal or clothes washing, relax, sketch, photograph, or just hang out. Generally, on a 2-week trip, we would have 2 layover days.
What is the food like?
We literally wrote the book on camp cooking ("Camp Cooking in the Wild - The Black Feather Guide to Eating Well in the Great Outdoors") . You can even order a copy from MEC or Amazon. The meals on a Black Feather trip are delicious and have lots of variety. The food is nutritious and plentiful as this is a very active holiday. We use a combination of fresh, packaged, dried, and freeze-dried ingredients to prepare our meals.
Although we can carry some meat products, a good portion of the menu is semi-vegetarian. We make an effort to use whole grains, as well as local and organic ingredients. We cook over an open fire in our environmental firebox or on a gas hiking/camping stove. Baking is done in large dutch ovens or outback ovens. The guides co-ordinate things, but most people enjoy helping with the food preparation, cooking, and baking. It is a favourite social time - sharing stories and laughs about the day's events. Here are some sample meals:
• Cereals: porridge, 7-grain cereal, granola with yogurt and fruit, muesli
• Main Course: blueberry pancakes, frittatas, peach fritters, french toast, breakfast burritos
• Baking: muffins, cinnamon buns, cornbread
• Soups: We carry lots of soups for cold days ... or any time we want!
• Breads: bagels, dense rye breads, tortillas, pitas
• Baking: Logan bread, Irish soda bread, yeast breads
• Fillings: Mennonite sausage, cheddar cheese, tuna, salmon, hummus, black-bean dip
• Salads: lettuce, sprouts, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots
• Fruit: apples, pears, plums, oranges, dried fruit
• Sweets: granola bars, cookies, chocolate, gorp
• Hors d’oeuvres: cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, mixed nuts, quesadillas
• Main Course: stir fry, spaghetti, curried rice, lasagna, Moroccan stew, turkey pot pie
• Salads: Greek salad, caesar salad, cabbage salad, tabouli salad
• Desserts: fresh fruit, brownies, mousse, apple crisp, rice crispy squares
Teas: black and herbal teas
Coffee: Black Feather’s famous custom roasts: fair trade, organic, dark roast regular coffee and Swiss-water-process de-caffeinated
What if I have a dietary restriction?
Occasionally we have people with dietary restrictions. The application form has a section where you can describe your dietary restrictions. In some cases, our packing centre staff can simply adjust things to suit your needs. In the case of a more-restrictive diet or a serious food allergy, we will work more closely with you. You may request a copy of the menu to help identify problem meals. You may also be asked to bring substitute ingredients for some of your meals - to ensure that your needs are met.
What about alcohol?
The menu does not include alcoholic beverages - with the exception of wine with dinner on the first night or two. You are welcome to bring your favourite refreshment for the campsite - and most people do! Please use unbreakable, leak-proof containers.
How fit do I need to be?
Most participants are of average or above average fitness for their ages. The trips are very active - 4 to 6 hours of activity most days, setting up camp, exploring the area on foot, taking optional hikes into the mountains, etc. You certainly don’t need to be an athlete, but you’ll have more fun if you arrive in good shape. We have a suggested preparation program that will help get you ready for your expedition. It covers educational preparation, equipment you’ll need for the trip, and a suggested skills and fitness program.
What if I have some health problems?
Many participants have health concerns (e.g., medications, allergies, chronic conditions, old injuries, physical limitations). For most people this will not exclude them from safely enjoying a Black Feather trip.
If you have any doubts about your ability to safely participate in the trip, please call to discuss your situation. If you (or we) are still concerned, we will make sure you have accurate information about the trip to share with your physician before making a decision regarding your participation.
The application package contains a confidential "Medical Information Form" designed by Black Feather’s consulting physician. Please fully complete your form so that your guides are aware of any medical concerns or needs. If we spot anything that concerns us, we will contact you. You should also bring two sets of any important medications, eye glasses, etc.
Where do I sleep?
We provide high-quality, custom expedition tents. These are fairly-roomy, 2-person, dome-style tents with a vestibule. We typically sleep 2 to a tent. You may reserve a solo tent for an additional charge. If you have a suitable tent of your own, you may bring it.
Are there bears and other wildlife?
On many of Black Feather's trips we are traveling in bear territory. We may see, depending on location, black bears, grizzly bears or polar bears. We employ a variety of practices to reduce the chance of a surprise bear encounter. Using food caches, air-tight and animal-resistant "barrel" packs for food, careful food- and garbage-management practices, maintaining very clean campsites, changing campsites regularly, etc. minimizes the likelihood that our trips will attract bears. As a back-up, we carry bear spray and "bear bangers". In some locations, we carry a firearm, with guides who are licenced and qualified in its use.
We may also encounter a variety of other wildlife: caribou, wolves, muskox, fox and raccoons, to name a few. We will practice safe viewing procedures and ensure the safety of both participants and animals.
What do I have to bring?
You will get a detailed clothing and equipment list in your registration package which will be specific to the type of trip you are registered for. You likely have most of the items that you'll need, but the list includes a fairly-warm sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a good rain suit, a wetsuit, and a waterproof pack of some sort for all of your personal gear. We also have some rental items available. Please contact our office for a complete list of what we have to rent.
Can I bring my own tent, paddle, PFD, etc.?
Yes. If you are going to bring your own, just check off the appropriate boxes on the application form so we know what to pack for the group. We provide good gear, so if you prefer to use ours you’ll be happy.
What do I do with my travel clothes, etc. during the trip?
In most of our 'northern' locations, extra items can be left at our packing bases. These things include your traveling clothes. Valuables such as cash, credit cards, passports, etc. should either go with you on the trip or left in a secure location.
How much do I tip the guides?
Gratuities are, of course, optional - but most people do tip their guides. The usual range is $7 to $12 per day per guide, or something in the range of 2.5% to 5% of the trip fee per guide.