Here we are on the heels of another camping Season! In Southern Alberta, this means the weather may be volatile, we may be camping with seasoned outdoor enthusiasts or camping with friends who have never spent an afternoon in their yard, let alone the woods! So how do we enjoy ourselves? What do we do with the endless hours with no TV, no sports, no social media?!
As an experienced camper, here are some tips that I’ve picked up along the trail that have always served me well!
This may sound like a bit of a no-brainer because it is often the surroundings that brought me to my destination in the first place. But: if you can figure out what made the place special to the folks who built the campground, then you have access to amazing hikes, deep histories, sometimes museums, even UNESCO heritage sites! It’s great to be immersed in the stories of what makes the places we camp unique.
It used to be that sitting around a campfire meant that I ate too many chips or an entire box of Dad’s Cookies and drank ALL the drinks. There’s nothing like staring into the fire, telling stories and connecting with loved ones, making your friends laugh - but if you need to keep your hands busy (like I do), it’s great to spend that time learning something new! A few years ago, I picked up a Mora Companion and a UCO firesteel and learned to spark a fire without matches. This skill has come in handy while backpacking many, many times since - and still impresses my friends! Another really cool activity, that I have not mastered at all, is spoon carving. It doesn’t take much as far as tools go - the Mora hook knife and carving knife are great for this. Over the course of a weekend, you can start for yourself a stunning collection - or send your friends home with unique, beautiful & useful camping souvenirs!
The worst thing that can happen on a camping trip is to get too cold. Often when you get cold at camp, it becomes tough to warm up again, making the whole trip miserable. We have all been there - we got too sweaty during the day and didn’t have great gear to change into, or we got caught in the rain and couldn’t warm up again. This sucks, and it is for this reason I ALWAYS have an extra pair of wool socks on me. I am a huge, HUGE fan of the Woolpower 400 socks. They are heavy enough to keep me warm but light enough that I can hike in them. Merino wool is amazing. It’s naturally antimicrobial, it’s warm when you need it to be - even when wet - and keeps you cool when you’re heating up. After a day of hiking hoodoos or mountains, exploring wetlands or fossil hunting on the riverbanks, I loooooove to slip into a different pair of socks to keep me warm and cozy for hours around the campfire before tucking in for the night.
Merino Wool socks are warm, breathable, and anti-microbial!
You’re going to need it for your campfire, and you know what they say: if you chop the wood yourself, it warms you twice. Woodcutting is satisfying and fun, especially if you have a great axe! An axe can be a bit of a showpiece, but more than this, a quality axe is safer and easier to use than the rusty old clunker you found in the garage. When I started camping, chopping wood made me feel self-reliant and confident in a way that I didn’t expect, and it helps me feel like I am contributing in a significant way to the comfort of those I am camping with.
Lastly, I would suggest that you share your camping experience with folks you’re keento learn new things with, folks you want to grow with - that you aren’t afraid to be vulnerable with. Camping brings out the very best in me, as well as the very worst (if I get cold…)! We all have unique skills and experiences; why not share them?
Enjoy your summer, be bear safe & have an amazing time exploring!