Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)?
This northern Minnesota wilderness is the eighth largest in the continental U.S. at 810,088 acres.  Its northern boundary is contiguous with the Canadian wilderness, Quetico Provincial Park, creating a 2 million acre wilderness area.  Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, this area is accessible only by foot or canoe and limited by a quota system to preserve the wilderness experience.

Do I need previous canoeing and camping experience to come on this trip?
No previous experience is required.

How physically demanding is this trip?
At times, this will be a strenuous trip.  Every person, including the trip leader, must carry canoes (by yourself) and equipment along the portages.  Some of the portages are long, steep, rocky, and wet.  Packs and canoes weigh in excess of 50 lbs.  We will sleep in tents, but we will be in the weather.  With this said, if you are in good physical condition, you should not have a problem with the trip.

Do I need to have any special equipment?
Yes, you need to bring appropriate clothing, sleeping gear, eating utensils, and course related materials. See the equipment list page for specific items.

What are the “facilities” like when camping?
Each campsite has a “wilderness latrine” which is a nice toilet seat covering a rather large hole.  We bring our own toilet paper and close the lid after use (no flushing required!).  Any biodegradable items can be placed in the latrine, but plastic or cotton feminine products should be packed out (bring along a supply of ziplock bags).  It is best to “do your business” before leaving camp, but if you “gotta go” while we are traveling, you dig a hole 6″-8″ deep, 200′ from a water source, and bury the waste.

How is trash dealt with on the trip?
Visiting a wilderness area requires a “leave no trace” ethic.  This means that what goes into the wilderness comes out.  The food we take is dehydrated and packed to reduce paper and plastic waste.  No bottles or cans are allowed in the BWCAW.  Wilderness latrines are present in each campsite, but are not garbage cans and should be used for the intended purpose only.

Who cooks and takes care of camp activities
All students share in the responsibilities of camping including cooking, cleaning up afterwards, setting up and taking down tents and tarps, and fire making.  We are a team and work together to make the trip successful.  You may not have experience in these activities but you will learn.

Is this a class or a camping trip
It is both.  Experiencing a wilderness area is the most important learning activity and this occurs all day, every day.  Beyond this, students learn the common plants and animals of the area, examine the role of fire in this ecosystem, learn about American Indians of the region, and reflect about his/her experiences.  We will spend time during the remainder of the semester to explore other topics associated with wilderness.

Can I take this class if I plan to play sports or be involved in extracurricular activities?
Several sport teams begin practice during the time we are camping including football, volleyball, cross-country, and soccer.  However, you must visit with your coach to determine if you are allowed to miss practices during this time BEFORE you submit your application.  Soccer and cross-country teams have in the past allowed students to go on the trip without further consequence.

Are there any special rules for students going on this trip?
Students must abide by Nebraska Wesleyan University Student Code of Conduct, which disallows any illegal drugs or alcohol consumption.

Will taking this trip cause problems with me moving into the dorms?
No.  In July you will receive your dorm assignment, so you get to move into the dorm 10 days earlier than most students.  You move into the dorm and set up your room on Sunday, August 6, 2017.  We will have a Sunday evening meeting (@ 5:00 p.m.) and meal to get acquainted then you sleep in your dorm for an early departure (@ 5:00 a.m.) the next morning.  We return to campus on Tuesday, August 15th, so you will be back to participate in all of the New Student Orientation (NSO) activities on campus along with the other first year students.

What about shoes? Do I have to have boots?
Previous year’s classes suggested that Keen sandals (or any other sandals) are BAD ideas for portaging.  One student said his basketball shoes worked fine–but remember, you will be walking into lakes and through mud while portaging, so they will be ruined for indoor use.  You will want shoes or boots that have support for your ankles and no openings where mud/rocks/dirt can get in to give you blisters.  If you buy new footwear, break them in well in advance!

What if I have other questions?
Send Dr. Bricker an email ( or telephone him at his NWU office: 402-465-2446.