Spring arrived early in Western Canada, but it’s still only early May and the entire summer camping season is just getting started. Whether you’re heading into the backcountry for the first time or setting off on a lengthy through hike, here are 10 tips to help you camp more this summer:
How to Camp This Summer
1. Go camping for a month this summer – Brendan Leonard, the author of the entirely rad blog Semi-Rad.com broke it down last year using 16 weekends between May-long and Labour Day. During that time, Americans steal 34 days off from the Monday-Friday grind, while we Canadians manage 36 days – 12 X 2 day weekends + 4 X 3 day weekends.
2. Make it a MicroAdventure – Alastair Humphreys’ MicroAdventure concept makes getting out for a weekend adventure possible for everyone, no matter where they live. He’s based in London and manages to find more unique adventures than I do here in the Canadian Rockies.
The basic framework is: sleep outdoors. Don’t use a tent. Pack light. Plan simple. Seek wildness. Challenge yourself.
For 2016, he has a handy list of monthly suggestions, too, including taking advantage of the summer solstice, camping under the blue moon, and checking out the Perseid meteor shower.
3. Leave No Trace – Take a few minutes and read over the Leave No Trace Principles, as these simple steps make sure that you not only enjoy a night out under the stars but also insure you don’t harm the environment while doing it. Key points include minimizing/eliminating impact caused by campfires, camping on durable surfaces, and where to go number 2.
4. Find the Right Campsite – Sadly, Hipcamp isn’t available in Canada just yet but its an absolutely amazing resource while traveling in the USA. Find, reserve, and go camping at over 280 000 camping spots located on everything from private land to public parks.
5. Head deeper into the Backcountry (responsibly) – Every summer, I read about epic backcountry adventures that went off without a hitch. I also hear about plenty of stories that end with mountain rescue saving the day.
I think we should all spend time in nature and we should push our limits, but let’s just agree to do it responsibly by simply pushing our comfort limits rather than ignoring them completely. My favourite anybody-can-do-it adventures include Hiking to Berg Lake in Mt Robson Provincial Park, Paddling to Coronet Creek in Jasper National Park, and bike touring the Kettle Valley Railway in southern BC.
If those trip ideas sound too easy, you probably have your own ideas for an epic trip.
6. Eat Better Food – Backpacker’s Pantry and other dehydrated store-bought options have improved, but they are loaded with sodium and taste awful after 2-3 days on the trail. Andrew Skurka, best known for his solo long-distance backpacking trips, has an excellent 14K-word ebook called Backpacking Food that will teach even the most seasoned hiker delicious (and sufficient) ways to replace the calories burnt on the trail.
7. Save Money on Gear – I’m going to break a myth right now. You don’t need expensive outdoor clothing, a fancy three-season tent, or a lightweight sleeping bag to head into the backcountry. While backpacking in Patagonia, I met plenty of people who’d successfully hiked the W in Torres Del Paine using a $15 supermarket tent. I don’t know where you’ll camp this summer, but I can almost guarantee it won’t be as windy or rainy as southern Chile.
You don’t need expensive gear to get outside. You just need to go!
8. Spend Money on Gear – To wildly contradict myself, outdoor equipment does have it’s perks. I am fortunate to work with outstanding companies like Eddie Bauer but I can honestly say that their equipment doesn’t make my outdoor adventures possible, but it does make them easier. It’s worth investing in quality gear if you will use it regularly.
My rule of thumb is simple: I buy gear I need, not gear I want.
9. Buy a tent, not a bivy sack – Last summer, when I bikepacked the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail, I spent most nights in an Outdoor Research bivy sack. By the end of the trip, I wish I’d replaced it with a one-man tent.
At one point during the bike trip, I woke up thinking I’d camped beside a dead animal or fresh cow dung. Sadly, the smell was my bivy sack.
The biggest difference between a tent and a bivy? The ventilation required to avoid those funky smells that build up over time.
10. Don’t let instagram ruin the environment – This point cannot be understated, especially to the dozens of budding instagram influencers with massive audiences. Wield your influence wisely; don’t set your tent up, even temporarily, to get a killer image in the perfect landscape if it’s an illegal campsite. It will lead to more people doing the same, which will eventually lead to these pristine and protected wilderness areas being, well, considerably less pristine and protected.