Goodwill inspiration: backpacking on the superior Hiking Trail

Written by By Aaron Shaffer, Social Media Coordinator

It’s not often one can say, “I’m on this hike because of Goodwill.” But in this case, that is actually true. Avid followers of our social media accounts may recall this find from earlier this summer. I found a Kelty external frame pack at our St. Paul Goodwill Outlet. I found it while promoting our outlet locations and was inspired, saying something along the lines of, “This pack looks good enough to use! It’s not even that old!”

That thought launched the idea of a trip to the Superior Hiking Trail. These are the steps you should take for a successful, affordable, trip:


1) You need a backpacking pack. The Superior Hiking Trail is, as it turns out, extremely rugged. It’s on-par with many mountain hikes, with the difference being many smaller ups and downs, rather than long ups and long downs. If you’re camping overnight and not just doing a day hike, you’ll need to carry gear, and you’ll need the support a backpacking pack offers. Luckily these can be found at Goodwill locations (or in this case, outlet locations) for very affordable prices.


2) You need a light tent. We made a serious error and brought a heavy 5-6 person Coleman tent meant for car camping, rather than a lighter “backpacking tent.” It’s worth looking for one at your local Goodwill location, because they definitely show up from time to time. Something around seven pounds is ideal, and much less expensive than something a couple pounds lighter.


3) You need high quality, gripping hiking boots. Waterproof is a plus. You can either buy these new or check out the shoe section at your local Goodwill, where there are often used hiking boots available. Make sure they are durable and the tread on the bottom is still thick and “grippy.” The Superior Hiking Trail is tough, and with low-grade footwear you’ll have a tough, and possibly dangerous, time.

4) Lightweight sleeping bags with compression sacks are a must. If you can’t find one at Goodwill there are summer sleeping bags that are affordable and available online. Sleeping pads are another good thing to purchase, and you can buy them used as well – unless you enjoy sleeping on the ground!


5) Cooking gear should be light and OK to bang around. Purchasing a small pot and some cheaper plastic dishware at your local Goodwill can be a great way to stock your camping supplies. A small camp stove is ideal as well, preferably one that just screws to the top of a small propane tank (or you can invest in a small, more expensive, option at an outdoor sports store).


6) Water filtration is important. You can buy a cheaper pump filter for around $25, or you can get water purification drops. Just make sure you check them out before you invest. Healthy drinking water is important. There are creeks and a few lakes along the trail, but you’ll want quality water purification and enough carrying ability to get you through some several-mile-long stretches with no water. You’ll want at least two 32oz water bottles, but if you can swing it – a larger bottle or Camelbak-type device is ideal.


7) Bring rain gear. You’ll want to make sure you at least have a rain coat with you, and thankfully you can find these at your local Goodwill location. You should also bring at least one larger plastic bag. These can hold wet things, double as a poncho/small tarp, or cover your pack if a downpour occurs.


8) Buy or loan a hiking trail guide. The Superior Hiking Trail Association has a fantastic guidebook, and we used both the descriptions of the trails and the maps to plan our route and really know where we were while en route.


9) PACK LIGHTLY! Learn from my mistakes – don’t be me in the photo below! Allow this pack and how heavy it is (roughly 55 pounds) be an example of “what not to do” when embarking on a 16 mile hiking adventure:


10) Plan time to experience the views. The trail guide refers to “sweeping vistas,” and they’re no joke. You’ll see some amazing views – and you’ll be surprised they’re in Minnesota! This photo below shows a sweeping vista from just one of the many amazing viewpoints you’ll see on your hike.


In the end we had a group of four that hiked 16 miles, from Tettagouche State Park and Hwy 1 south to Beaver Bay. We averaged about 1.5 mph, which was much slower than we expected. Next time I’ll continue buying supplies at Goodwill, and follow my own advice: pack lighter and enjoy the view!