A Swaggerly Guide to Camping, plus bonus Canuck Mini Vocab Lesson
I know what you’re thinking. It can’t possibly be SUMMER yet, can it? Where the heck did spring go? Fear not, my friends, for I am here to guide you through the steps required to have THE MOST AWESOME camping trip EVER. From the dredges of my own fabulous experiences, I will arm you with the knowledge required to survive not only the great outdoors, but the person you’ll be sharing it with :)
Tip One: That’s what tents are for
Even in the middle of nowhere, you’re never as alone as you think. Hubby and I loved Backcountry Camping at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. There are 1900 sites and more than 2000 km (1200 miles) of canoe and portage routes. You enter the park at an access point and from there on, it’s all up to you how deep you go. Despite its gigantic size, Algonquin is actually a very busy park and everything is superbly well-maintained. There are designated fire pits and every route is mapped with these fantastic signs –>
When setting up camp, fire and shelter are priorities. And in many areas, a Bear Pack. No, that’s not a backpack for your teddy bear. It’s a method of hanging your food and food-scented items (which attract bears) from a tree so that bears (who are very crafty, by the way) cannot access it. Keeping bears away from your site keeps you safe.
After that? Well, it’s time to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. Take advantage of the tranquility, ‘cause hey, at 2AM those loons (a kind of bird) will initiate your wake-up call, which has been known to incite homicidal tendencies (Not in me, of course).
Rather than succumb to technology withdrawal (Yeah, Misty. I’m talkin’ ’bout YOU), may I suggest, since you’ve got all that free time on your hands…
Bow chicka wow wow. Yeah. Hubby and I were taking a “nap” (read: gettin’ it on”) one day in our tent, in a remote area of Algonquin, when the sound of a motor boat buzzed by. We thought nothing of it, until the boat parked in front of our site. Needless to say, clothes were hastily thrown back on and we greeted the maintenance guys.
So, my friends, when this tent’s a rockin’, don’t come a knockin’, ‘cause that’s what tents are for.
Tip Two: Tipping a canoe is fun, but not if you can’t swim
On our very first camping trip together, my husband (then boyfriend) declared that he wanted to learn how to steer our canoe. First I must add that boyfriend, who grew up on the tiny tropical island of Penang, Malaysia, does NOT know how to swim.
Now, for the canoe novice, the person in the back is the one in charge, the one who steers and whose awesome technique is basically responsible for kicking a$$ in high winds and strong currents. Namely, in our family, that person is ME ;) Hubby gets regulated to the front, the powerhouse as we like to think of it. He’s the engine, I’m the steering wheel.
Anyhoo, boyfriend takes the canoe out and within, like, five minutes, tips the thing. If any of you have ever tried, it’s actually HARD to tip a canoe (which, yes, we do for fun. Seriously. Remember the scene in Pocahontas where they whisper under the canoe? Yeah, it’s awesome.) There’s a whole lot of “One two three” and rocking back and forth and “You go that way and I’ll go this way.” So, boyfriend tips and I’m standing on the shore, wondering to myself, “Save the canoe or save the boyfriend?” The canoe is our only way out, and hey, he’s got a life jacket on.Naturally, I saved the canoe.
Okay, okay, I made sure he dog-paddled to where his feet could touch bottom first.
The point of this is, of course, safety first. ALWAYS wear a life jacket. And yep, that means for our dogs too.
People would always look at me and go, “Really?”
To which I reply, “Yes. I DON’T dress up my dogs in frilly clothes, but they do wear lifejackets, for the same reason I do. I can tread water for hours, but not if I’m unconscious.”
When we’re talking about a canoe loaded with gear, a hubby who can’t swim, and two dogs, yeah. I can only save so many all by myself.
Tip Three: Portaging is HOT!
In camping, you will develop a new enemy. The mosquito. You will require defense. My own personal mosquito repellent is… My husband. Yep, something about his sweet Malaysian blood drives those suckers crazy. We can sit side by side for hours and I’ll get bitten once or twice while they’ll attack every inch of his uncovered skin. *sigh* I love my hubby. No, you cannot borrow him. Get your own ;)
Mosquito attacks can be countered with repellents and smoke from the fire, but the time you’re most vulnerable is when you’re portaging. Portaging is the act of carrying your canoe across land using balance and brute strength. Hubby excels at this, and I gotta tell you, it’s a major turn-on.
That being said, it is exhausting and with your arms otherwise engaged, you cannot swipe at those darn bugs.
On one of our first trips, we’d spent the day portaging, canoeing, hiking, and in general exploring the beautiful nature around us. But by the time late afternoon rolled around, we were spent. We had a short paddle, portage, paddle back to our campsite and were really looking forward to resting. Remember those fantastic signs I mentioned earlier? Well, unfortunately we were both too tired to pay attention, and ended up not realizing there were TWO signs beside each other, with separate paths.
When we realized our mistake, we were devastated. Exhausted. Sweaty. Swarmed by bugs. Muscles on fire. We’d just portaged an entire kilometer (0.6 miles) in the WRONG direction.
We looked at each other. And that’s when the magic happened. We gathered up the canoe between us and hauled our butts back to our campsite. Where we promptly collapsed and moaned in agony for hours.
We both look back to that moment as a defining one in our relationship. Hubby even put it in his marriage vows as the moment when he knew he wanted to marry me :)
Tip Four: Tp is your new best friend
Sadly, one of the biggest turnoffs of camping is the lack of facilities. Toilet paper becomes one of those “life and death” commodities. Trust me, I’ve been around and tried just about every kind. In Algonquin, it’s the Thunderbox. A wooden box with a hole in the middle and lid that cracks like thunder whenever it shuts. Just so you can announce to the world that you’ve finished your business.
On the West Coast, in beautiful Strathcona Provincial Park, they actually have outhouses. Squee, right? Okay, maybe that’s just me, but c’mon, hubby and I have shared a hole in the ground, so an outhouse might as well be a royal throne. On our last camping trip with another family, they actually brought a canister of Febreeze for the outhouse. Ha! I’d like to see one of those Febreeze commercials inside an outhouse.
So remember the “Take a penny, leave a penny” rule? Well, in the wilderness it’s “Take a tp, leave a tp.” It’s only common courtesy for the poor souls who might have actually forgotten to pack some. And hey, I like to do my part to prevent homicide :)
Those are just a few of my many fond camping memories. Do you have any to share? If you’ve never gone camping, what’s holding you back? Who’s going to join me this summer?