Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wanna Wanigan.

Wanigan an Ojibway word loosely translating to "kitchen" is debatable item in canoe camping. Some swear by them other swear at them. Growing up my Dad's Wanigan was a staple of our canoe trips. I remember it fondly, it was about 15" square, checker board drawn on top, a piece of seat belt strap as a tumpline. And most of all it was my seat in the canoe, dead centre. One year along the Saugeen river, seeing as the top of the box was slightly taller than the gunwale I lost my balance and toppled in the water, only to be swiftly grabbed one handed and dragged back to my seat by my Dad making sure I was still happy and laughing about the situation!.

Any way back to the purpose of the Wanigan. It is used to carry all of you crush-able kitchen wear. Pots, plates, utensils, and every other knik-knak that you would need in the kitchen are all neatly stored in this box and is easily accessed anytime with out opening packs etc. A lot of people draw boardgames on the lid and perhaps attach a cutting board to the bottom of the lid, making it a very functional piece of camp gear. Building them can be as simple or as ornate as you want, Some fiberglass the inside to make it somewhat watertight. Some people just a larger metal tin, or plastic tool box. I know some people are like "Why lug this massive wooden box and make a second trip on a long portage?". I will tell you why, when speed is not a part of your trip, when having a slower paced journey, when camp craft, camp baking, or lay over days are part of you trip . You have a flat surface as soon as you reach camp, and you always have a seat along the portage and at camp. Wanigans are usually carried by a tumpline, but people attach shoulder strap, or even by old pack frames and carry them with that. All great ideas, just like the Wanigan itself is. I think that they will increasing become more popular among the people looking to take camping back to its basics, even though your bringing more?

I think that building a Wanigan is going to be one of my summer projects. It will be nice to have certain items in one spot, that does not require unpacking when the trip is over. I will definitely post again regarding the build when it happens.

Bill Mason's small Wanigan from "Waterwalker".

Bill Mason's Tin Box Wanigan also from "Waterwalker".

A side access Wanigan. (site)

Contoured to fit hull of canoe.

A user made pine Wanigan, Beautiful!. (site)


  1. Did you ever end up making a wanigan? Have you seen many folks in the backcountry toting one? I'd love to know!

  2. It would have been nice if you had linked to my original post about the wanigan I built and you pictured here in your post - " Contoured to fit hull of canoe.". You seem to attribute all other photos you included.