GUEST POST: How to Survive & Thrive: Camping in the Canadian Wilderness

Thanks to Jill Kramer for this awesome guest post! Visit her website here.

Oh, Canada! There’s nothing quite like it. The trees, the lakes the….  freezing cold weather! Yes, cold…. very, very cold, even in June. This was one of many realizations I had when embarking on a week-long journey camping in the Canadian wilderness at Quetico National Park. Now don’t get me wrong Canada’s weather is usually sunny and warm by early June, but I think what I had envisioned was more shorts and sandals instead of heavy sweaters and socks.

No matter how well you may prepare ahead of time, things don’t always go as planned. So, here is my list of some things I got wrong and a few things I got right for my 7-day adventure. Hopefully, this will keep you from running into the same snafus as me.

Never underestimate the power of a warm sleeping bag

This trip started like most camping trips with driving to our destination. After my husband and I completed our 18-hour drive from North Carolina to Canada, stopping in Michigan to pick up my in-laws, I was happy to be saying goodbye to our vehicle for a week.

But before heading to our destination, we were fully aware that there was a frost advisory.  So, to be safe we had waited an extra week before starting our trip to let the weather warm up. Even opting for the extra warm and heavily insulated sleeping bags.

That evening the weather had started out very mild and temperature-wise things were feeling nice and cozy. (Like I said I had packed warm sweaters and socks) but then the temperature slowly started to drop down. BBBRRRRR!!!! I have never been so cold in my entire life! All I accomplished that night instead of sleeping was curling into a fetal position, shivering and watching my breath heat up the air.

Luckily, we were still close to the outfitters and after that first night and I was able to rent the heaviest, thickest sleeping bag they had. From there it was smooth sailing for the rest of the week. So, when it comes to sleeping bags go big or go home. (Better to be warm then freezing right?).

Overpacking is a big no-no

We’ve all been there thinking that you should bring a few more last-minute essential items. I can say with conviction when you are trekking around in the woods lugging a canoe, tent, backpack, heavy camera equipment and food, any extra items need to be given a lot of consideration. (I mean do you really need that fanny pack in the woods? Probably not). It’s also worth mentioning that before the week ended, we still had a considerable amount of food left over.

Special pots, pans, and plates? Also, not as much of a necessity as you would think. One of each of those things is plenty, you just end up washing them more often.

Thinking about bringing that fancy camera decked out with a tripod and heavy-duty case? Yeah, a small camera or cell phone works just fine. Pants that unzip and change into shorts? Nope, didn’t end up needing those either. We had failed to realize the amount of weight these items would add to our trip. Perhaps if we had done a trial run this would have been avoided.

Helpful Travel Gear

Now for most people, camping is all about “roughing” it in the great outdoors, but those people probably didn’t get a good whiff of themselves after a few days’ sans shower. That’s where some of these handy convenience items come into play.

Biodegradable soap: Great for washing your hair, body and any camping dishes. Plus, it won’t leave a carbon footprint. After a few days of not bathing this little item was heaven in a bottle. Nothing beats riding yourself of that grimy dirty feeling.

Portable Solar Shower: Did I mention that the lake water was freezing? Just fill it with water and let the sun warm it up. Don’t make the same mistake as me and be sure you let the water warm up first. After that enjoy a refreshing outdoor shower experience. Plus, an added bonus: its super portable and easily folds up in your backpack.

Collapsible Chair: This one is a definite lifesaver. You will never underestimate the power of a comfortable seat when your options are limited to “stump or stone?” for seating. Nowadays, there are even options for chairs that fold up to the size of a small umbrella making them light and convenient for easy travel.

Jetboil: A what???! You say. It’s a nifty little boiler that heats up two cups worth of liquids. It comes with a tiny propane canister the size of a small candle that when lit, heats up in minutes. Great for soup or hot chocolate for rainy days when you can’t easily start a fire.

Bug Repellant: This is an obvious one for a good reason. Mosquitoes and bugs will find you anywhere in the woods, so there’s no point in hiding. Your body will thank you later for being less itchy.

Getting up close and personal with wildlife

Would you believe that the entire week I was in Canada I didn’t see a single moose! Not. A. Single. One! That’s not even the crazy part, the astonishing thing is that I’ve been to Canada three times and haven’t seen one (Maybe four times is the lucky number I guess?).

Even with that continuous stroke of bad luck, Canada did not fail to deliver in the wildlife department. If seeing lots of fluffy critters is your thing then Canada will not displease. Within the first few hours of my trip, I saw not one but two! black bears (thankfully it was inside a van) but still it was a shocking sight. Luckily these bears appeared to be well fed and comfortable, so our rubbernecking hardly seemed to faze them (one was even using a telephone pole as a back scratcher! Ha!).

You will also see many deer, squirrels, birds, rabbits, and foxes just to name a few. A less furry animal alternative you may want to consider is the large amounts of freshwater fish available. If fishing is a past time you enjoy you will not be disappointed. Even if you are not the most skilled fisherman (or woman) you can pretty much cast out a line and reel in a carp, trout, bass or walleye with very little effort. Also, the park we stayed at didn’t allow motorized boats so all the fish we caught and ate were fresh and chemical free.

Final Verdict

So, if glamping with all the modern conveniences such as indoor plumbing and having nearby campers only a short walk away is your thing. Then camping in Canada may not be the right fit. But if being immersed in the wilderness and falling asleep under thousands of stars with only the quiet stillness of the night for company, then you’ve come to the right place. Canadian camping will offer you a unique experience unlike any other. Truly being immersed in nature and not just a cookie cutter version of it.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Jill Kramer, travel copywriter, and blogger, I live in Raleigh, NC with my husband Dan and my dog Maxx. I love to travel and enjoy sharing my journeys with others through writing.

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