10 Tips To Help You Survive A Brent Run

The Brent Run is a canoe route in Algonquin Provincial Park that travels 81km north from Canoe Lake to the town of Brent. The route itself, while spectacular, really doesn’t vary too much from other routesthat The Park has to offer. What does make this particular route different is that it has gained a cult following over the yearsthat canoeist/masochist use totest themselves by completing this 162km round trip in as short a time as possible.

Attempting a Brent Run is not a task to be taken lightly. To safely complete this challenge you must be experienced, physically prepared, mentally focused and even get a little lucky. For those brave enough (err dumb enough) to attempt a Brent Run, we thought that we would lay out some helpful hints and tips to helpbetter your chances ofsuccess.

  1. Know What You’re Getting Into: If you think that this is just another canoe trip, you’re wrong! The idea (and allure) of The Brent Run is to travel as quickly as you can. This means that you’re travelling fast and light and you need to plan accordingly. Undertaking a Brent Run is not a decision to taken lightly and you should have considerable canoe and backcountry experience before attempting on.

  2. Read Other’s Accounts: There are not a lot of accounts online about Brent Run experiences, but there are a few. Seek them out and read them. I guarantee that you will learn things that can help you on your trip. In 2011 there was limited information available and our entire Brent Run trip was planned based on the personal account of 2 other paddlers. I would recommend starting withwww.brentrun.me and going from there. Thissite will give you all the details you need to complete a Brent Run. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have completed a Brent Run and ask them questions.

  3. Be In Shape: Completing a Brent Run is grueling and exhausting. Regardless of the shape that you are in, you are going to get burnt out, but the more prepared you are physically the better off you will be. There is a combined total of 20km of portages on this route. Can you walk 20km? Can you do it with the added weight of a canoe and pack? Can you do this over uneven terrain while climbing a hill and swatting at mosquitoes? And that’s just the portaging element, there is still 142km of paddling. Total body fitness is key along with strong cardio.

  4. Be Mentally Focused: This is a challenging one to really prepare for but at least recognize that you will need to be mentally tough and focused on this trip. If you have properly prepared and looked into other’s accounts, you should have a good understanding of what you are getting yourself into. Do not go into this trip unprepared or cocky. Trust me. Recognize that you will be physically exhausted, mentally drained and sleep deprived.

  5. Study The Route and Map Closely: There are 2 great Algonquin Park canoe maps available. One is produced by The Friends of Algonquin Park and can be purchased for only a few dollars. The other is produced by Jeff’s Maps (www.jeffsmaps.com) and I highly recommend this quality resource (see our article on Jeff’s Maps HERE). Review both maps and glean as many details as you can about the route that you will be taking. This includes which lakes you will be paddling, where the portages are located and the length of the portages. Topographical maps can also offer up some important details so spend time map reading before setting out. GPS are handy, but don’t rely on them exclusively.

  6. Plan The Dates For Your Trip: Well naturally you’re going to do this, but consider the time of year that you will be tripping. I have always planned my trips around the Summer Solstice to maximize the amount of daylight. A reality of the Brent Run is that you will be paddling at night which is not an easy task. The moon can also play a big factor in this, but don’t rely on having a nice bright moon as Mother Nature may have other plans. Another factor to consider is the time of year and water / air temperatures. Cold weather and water temperatures can lead to fatigue much faster and pose a serious concern to your safety.

  7. Determine The Best Time To Start Out: This is an interesting question to try and answer. At what time of the day should you set out and start your Brent Run? I have heard of people leaving early in the morning, the middle of the day and even late in the evening. My preference is to start early in the morning (4am or 5am) to maximize the daylight but I think that this more or less boils down to personal experience and preference. The 2 most challenging areas to paddle at night are Otterslide Creek and The Petawawa River between Perley Lake and Catfish Lake. You may want to consider traversing these sections in daylight hours.

  8. Plan Out Your Food and Water: I cannot understate the importance of water and food. Make certain that you have a reliable water filtration system (THIS is a great option) as well as an electrolyte replacements system such as Gatorade or Nuun. Food is equally important for this trip. You will want food that is light but packs lots of energy. I would also recommend that you sticks with foods that you’re familiar with; don’t try to introduce something new into your diet. It is also recommend avoiding energy supplements if you haven’t used them before.

  9. Necessary Items to Bring: Packing light is essential, but there is a fine line between too much and too little. An important element to consider is also how you plan to carry your gear. I would recommend 1 backpack that can store all of your gear. This can be carried by one person, while the other portages the canoe. Recommended items are: first aid kit, water filter and water bottles, food, sunscreen, bug spray, rain gear, camera, a warm layer of clothes, matches/lighter, headlamps, extra batteries, map and compass, knife, duct tape and toilet paper.

  10. A Positive Attitude and a Sense of Humour: Although this appears in the 10 spot, it is no less important than any other point on this list. You will struggle to stay positive. You will struggle to remain focused. You will (likely) want to drown your partner at some point in time on the Brent Run. Stay connected with your partner, talk about whatever you have in common, crack jokes, sing songs, do whatever you can to remain positive and you will find the trip far more enjoyable.

It is important to point out that this article is an opinion piece. We recognize that there are many other ways to prepare for a trip of this nature and we welcome others to share their opinions with us. If you want to just sit back and watch Mark and I torture ourselves during our 2014 Brent Run please see the video below. I will also include a couple of links below to other Brent Run resources if anyone is interested. If you are contemplating a Brent Run we will be happy to answer any questions and provide our perspectives and if you do brave The Brent Run, circle back with us and let us know how it went.