Winter Treks

Okpik – Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base

Aside from summer adventures, The Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base hosts the Okpik Cold Weather Camping Program, the premier winter camping program in the Boy Scouts of America. The Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base is the site of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Cold Weather Camping Development Center.

All trips are fully outfitted and provisioned, including almost all of the personal gear necessary to stay warm in the winter. A highly trained staff member, called an Interpreter, accompanies all crews on their trek.

Okpik Cold Weather Camping, Northern Tier’s winter offering, is the BSA’s premier winter camping program. At Okpik, Scouts experience a true Northwoods winter: learning how to thrive in subzero temperatures, travel across frozen wilderness lakes and construct their own sleeping structures out of snow. Three types of Okpik experiences are currently offered: Cabin Stay, Okpik Trek, and Dogsled Trips.

2021-22 UPDATES

Registration will open January 26, 2021 at 9:30 am CST.

Okpik will be offering a more standard schedule in 2021-22.  This schedule is included in the documents below.  

Note the following changes for 2021-22:

  • Okpik Weekends:
    • Crews can arrive on Thursday or Friday and choose a 2, 3 or 4 night trip each weekend.
    • Choose an off-peak weekend to get a 25% discounted fee.  Fees are noted in the schedule.
  • Dog Sledding Programs:
    • All programs begin on Friday and end on Monday
    • Check out the new Remote Musher Camp option!

Okpik Programs

 
Introductory Treks: 

OKPIK CABIN STAY participants will be able to experience a full range of winter activities while still being able to enjoy a warm cabin at night. Crews will take day trips out to lakes in the area, learning how to ski, snowshoe and ice fish in the process. They will also learn how to cook breakfast and dinner meals in winter conditions.

  • Minimum age is 11 or must be a registered Scouts BSA member or Venturer by the time of arrival at base.
  • Crews with multiple scouts under the age of 14 are urged to bring additional adult leadership to help manage the needs of the crew.
  • Maximum group size is 11 and minimum group size is 6.
  • Participants will receive the Okpik Cabin Stay Award.  
Intermediate Treks:

OKPIK COLD WEATHER CAMPING WEEKEND introduces camping in winter conditions. Participants will hike out to a wilderness lake, towing their gear in sleds (pulks), set up a campsite and spend the one or two nights camping. In addition, they will be exposed to a wide variety of winter activities: snowshoeing, ice fishing, skiing and even a brief introduction to dog sledding.

  • Minimum age is 14 or 13 and in 8th grade by the time of arrival at base.
  • Maximum group size is 11 and minimum group size is 6.
  • Participants will receive the Okpik Cold Weather Camper Award. 
Dog Programs:

OKPIK MUSHER CAMP provides participants with an introduction to dog sledding. Crews spend their entire weekend with the dogs: going on runs of up to 10 miles every morning and afternoon, providing other Okpik participants with rides, feeding the dogs breakfast and dinner, sleeping in a rustic cabin directly adjacent to the dog yard and cooking meals in the winter. 

  • 2020-21 Season:  Minimum Trip Length: 3 nights (including one spent on base).
  • 2021-22 Season:  All dog trips are 3 nights in length arriving Friday and departing Monday.
  • Minimum age 14 or 13 and in 8th grade by the time of arrival at base; maximum crew size is 7.
  • Participants will receive the Okpik Cold Weather Camper Award and may purchase the Okpik Musher Camp Award. 

OKPIK REMOTE MUSHER CAMP provides participants with an introduction to dog sledding. You will be shuttled to a Dogsled Kennel and setup a basecamp using snow shelters or tents. You will learn and take part in daily chores around the dog yard. You will work with experienced mushers who are excited to teach you all about these amazing animals. Along with daily chores and taking the dogs for runs, you will also have a chance to ski/snowshoe in your downtime. This program provides a great balance of winter camping and the dog program. 

  • 2020-21 Season:  Minimum Trip Length: 3 nights (including one spent on base).
  • 2021-22 Season:  All dog trips are 3 nights in length arriving Friday and departing Monday.
  • Minimum age 14 or 13 and in 8th grade by the time of arrival at base; maximum crew size is 7.
  • Participants will receive the Okpik Cold Weather Camper Award and may purchase the Okpik Musher Camp Award. 

OKPIK DOGSLED TREK – A step up from the Musher Camp, the Dogsled Trek is intended for those who have some dog sledding or winter camping experience. It involves taking 18 Alaskan Huskies out on the ice for two nights! After setting up a base camp, crews will explore the pristine and remote Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness on morning and afternoon runs of up to 10 miles. Participants should be prepared to run, hike, or snowshoe several miles in addition to dogsledding.

  • 2020-21 Season:  Minimum Trip Length: 3 nights (including one spent on base).
  • 2021-22 Season:  All dog trips are 3 nights in length arriving Friday and departing Monday.
  • Minimum age 14 or 13 and in 8th grade by the time of arrival at base; maximum crew size is 7.
  • Participants will receive the Okpik Cold Weather Camper Award and may purchase the Okpik Dog Trek Award if at least 2 nights are spent out on the ice. 

REMOTE DOGSLED TREK: A step up from our Basic Dog Sledding programs, the Remote Dog Sled Trek is intended for those that have previous dog sledding or winter camping experience.  This program will travel more significant distances from the Northern Tier Base, sometimes even departing from or returning to another location all together.  Crews will get a more robust winter experience, in more extreme conditions.  This program is better suited towards those with previous winter camping experience.  

  • 2020-21 Season:  Minimum Trip Length: 3 nights (including one spent on base).
  • 2021-22 Season:  All dog trips are 3 nights in length arriving Friday and departing Monday.
  • Minimum age 14 or 13 and in 8th grade by the time of arrival at base; maximum crew size is 7.
  • Participants will receive the Okpik Cold Weather Camper Award and may purchase the Okpik Dog Trek Award if at least 2 nights are spent out on the ice. 

Winter Adventures


Northern Tier is the site of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Cold Weather Camping Development Center. Okpik Cold Weather Camping, Northern Tier’s winter offering, is the BSA’s premier winter camping program. At Okpik, Scouts experience a true Northwoods winter: learning how to thrive in subzero temperatures, travel across frozen wilderness lakes and construct their own sleeping structures out of snow. All trips are fully outfitted and provisioned, including almost all of the personal gear necessary to stay warm in the winter. A highly trained staff member, called an Interpreter, accompanies all crews on their trek.

The Okpik program is hosted out of the Charles L Sommers Wildernes Canoe Base, located outside of Ely, MN, on the very edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Four types of Okpik experiences are currently offered: Cabin Stays, Okpik Weekend Samplers, Okpik Treks, and Dogsled Trips

Cabin Stays

The Cabin Stay program is designed to introduce younger scouts to the idea of winter camping. Cabin Stay crews stay in a heated cabin each night, but fully explore the winter wilderness during the day. Cabin Stay participants may learn how to cross-country ski, snowshoe and ice fish.

Okpik Weekend Samplers

The Okpik Weekend Sampler is designed to teach Scouts the basics of winter camping. In this program, crews will pack their gear onto sleds (or “pulks”) and head out into the wilderness to spend 1-2 nights. Scouts will learn how to set up a winter campsite, how to build snow shelters and how to cook meals at low temperatures. In addition, they will get to try out a full array of winter activities.

Okpik Treks

The bread and butter of the Okpik Program, Okpik Treks provide older scouts with the opportunity to test their camping skills in a true winter wilderness. Crews travel by ski, snowshoe or foot into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) for at least two nights, learning how to travel efficiently and enjoyably in the more difficult conditions of the Minnesota winter. Crews can expect to travel between 5 and 15 miles on their trek through a remote winter wilderness.

Dogsled Trips

Okpik Dogsled Trips are designed to teach Scouts how to care for and run sledding dogs. There are two types of Dogsled Trips: Musher Camps stay in a heated cabin on base, and take the dogs out for half-day and day-long runs; Dogsled Treks head out into the wilderness with their dog teams and camp with the dogs out on the ice. In both experiences, Scouts will take ownership of a team dogs, learning how to feed, house, harness, and otherwise care for them.