Wilderness Test

Canoe Tripper’s Self Rating Test
(from Canadian Canoe Routes, augmented by Mike McCrea)


1- Can’t swim
2- Average swimmer
3- Can swim while holding paddle
4- Can swim while towing loaded canoe with bow painter between teeth

General Stamina
1- Runs slower than 10 minute mile
2- Can run fast, but not as fast as a bear
3- Can run faster than bowman if being chased by a bear
4- Can run faster than a bear

Paddling Stamina
1- Cannot paddle more than 20 minutes without taking a break
2- Can paddle four hours without taking a break
3- Can paddle all day without taking a break
4- Can paddle all day into a headwind without taking a break or bitching

1- Polyethylene or aluminum rental canoe with minor leak
2- Familiar canoe with painters, bailer and spare paddles.
3- Canoe with full tripper outfitting, including D-rings, spray cover and spare paddle
4- Mythical canoe that is fast, maneuverable, light and durable.


Tripping Experience
1- Last paddled canoe at Camp Sog-ge-can-vus in 1966
2- Went on a trip last year with brother-in-law but ran out of beer and came home early.
3- Canoe trip several times a year in Algonquin or BWCA.
4- Overwintered on last trip north of arctic circle in yurt made of caribou skins.

Reading Water
1- Prefer yelling “Oh $hit” to reading water
2- Can read water well enough to know where gear will wash up
3- Can read water well enough to confidently run class III in loaded canoe
4- Can read water well enough to allow companions to run class IV while portaging.

1- Once walked 2 block to video store instead of driving
2- Can hike 1 mile portage trail with pack while complaining
3- Can hike for miles with pack and carrying canoe while smoking cigar
4- Has permanent tumpline crease on top of head.

1- Can start fire with matches, dry paper and Coleman fuel
2- Can start fire with flint and tinder in dry conditions
3- Can start fire with bow drill in driving rain
4- Doesn’t need fire, eats raw meat

Camp chores
1- Becomes “Invisible Man” at sight of dirty cookware
2- Can wash dishes but the next meal guaranteed to give everyone the trots
3- Can cook or clean but won’t do both dammit
4- Can make four course dinner on day 13 from Ramen noodles and trout

Campsite Selection
1- Chooses tent spot in depression beside leaning widowmaker
2- Chooses well-drained tent spot surrounded by buggy marsh
3- Chooses tent spot with good views and lake breeze to keep bugs away.
4- Chooses tent spot beside spring where previous campers forget 12-pack of beer.

1- Has map, believes the early explorers never needed them, gets lost constantly.
2- Refers to map anxiously every half-hour, has trouble coordinating with actual landmarks, spends some time retracing route.
3- Uses map and compass, calculates speed and time of arrival at intended campsite.
4- Glances at map once on the drive up, memorizes every portage, campsite, river, landmark and compass bearing.
Compass skills.

1 Thinks a compass is a tool for drawing circles in geometry class.
2 Knows one end of needle is supposed to point north.
3 Knows what magnetic declination means, and how it affects his compass.
4 Doesn’t need a compass because flies always land on the north side of moose droppings.


1-Asks companions to carry tp, bug spray and flashlight on after dark forays.
2-Carries tp in ziplock bag under left arm for duration of trip.
3- Uses moss for cleanup and stirs porridge for minimum environmental impact.
4- Borrows hiber plug from Bruin and returns it at end of trip  

First Aid
1. Knows how to use a band aid.
2. Doesn’t faint at sight of someone elses blood.
3. Doesn’t faint at sight of own blood.
4. Didn’t use that body part much anyhow.

1. wears shoes with velcro straps because he can’t cope with shoe laces.
2. Knows the names for 15 knots, can tie 7 of those but only 3 stay tied.
3. Local scout troop calls on him to conduct knot sessions. Ladies in town call him knotty.
4. Can tie all the knots known to man, but chooses to use duct tape instead

1 Compains constantly about anything.
2 Occasionaly complains when conditions are bad.
3 Rarely complains, even under extreme conditions.
4 Laughs maniacly in the harshest of conditions, and yells to the heavens saying, "is that all youcan dish out"

Campfire Camaraderie
1-Every evening gives a slightly different megillah of their encounter with a “killer” weasel.
2-Laughs uproariously at everyone’s jokes including his own.
3-Tells a great story but forgets the punch line.
4-Produces a mix of loud guffaws and stunned silence with his/her cryptic one liners.

Your score
> 60: Reincarnation of Meriwether Lewis but less suicidal
50-59: The Maine Guide License bears your likeness
40-49: Cliff Jacobson wants you on his next trip to show him how it’s done.
30-39: You would have made Eagle Scout if not for that incident with the Girl Guide.
20-29: You have read all Jacobson’s books but still can’t tie a bowline
10-19: "Wilderness" is stenciled on the rear window of your motor home.
< 10: Never leave the house; there are untold dangers in you