This weekend kicks off what will be a summer full of adventures as I travel around my home province for my Discover Ontario series. There will be a lot of camping and road tripping involved, so I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the camping/road trip tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, as well as some of my personal trip essentials.
Let me first start with camping. This summer pastime is essential for my soul to feel fulfilled, which is probably a result of my mother being a huge proponent of it and many summers of my youth being spent in Algonquin Park (the oldest provincial park in Canada and one of my happy places on this planet).
1. Use a tent that you’re familiar with and don’t need instructions to set up. This will save you a lot of frustration, especially if you arrive late to your campsite and need to pitch your tent by camp fire, car headlights, or even worse, flashlight. Over the years my mother has collected a sports store-worthy selection of gear, so I thankfully have a variety of tents to choose from. My go-to is a small dome tent that comfortably sleeps two people. I’ve used it so often I can pitch it on my own without having to read any instructions, and I’m willing to bet that I could also do it blind-folded with one hand tied behind my back.
2. Bringing the right food is an integral part of your camping experience. If you’re a traditionalist and prefer to only use the campfire as a cooking source (opposed to a propane stove), might I suggest looking into foil packet meals? Assembly is done at home, so you don’t need to fuss over any outdoor food prep — just throw them on the grill over the fire and cook accordingly. I started using this method last year and now I’m a staunch believer in its magic. You can even make an egg scramble for breakfast! Here are some recipe ideas from Buzzfeed to inspire you. Also, homemade granola bars — so much better than store-bought!
3. Finally, don’t let super-conservative camping enthusiasts make you think that those tiny, incompetent camping pillows are of any use to you (unless of course you’re portaging or backpacking — that’s an entirely different bag of marbles). Bring your own damn pillow!! Not only will you most likely sleep better and more comfortably, but you can also use it in the car for the ride to your camping destination of choice. This tip also applies to road trips in general, which leads me to my next section…
ROAD TRIP TIPS
1. There’s a beautiful invention that was introduced to me on a fabulously epic road trip I went on in 2009. It’s a hell of a big step forward from its archaic predecessor and helped make our trip so much easier. It’s called the Mobicool, but we lovingly nicknamed ours “Mobi”. It’s a cooler that plugs into the cigarette lighter in your car, eliminating any need for ice (and subsequently any possibility of melted ice leakage in your backseat or trunk). A Mobi is an investment well worth its weight in gold. Not only can you pack food that wouldn’t be especially suited to a traditional ice cooler, but you will also be more likely to avoid relying on fast food joints and restaurants for your meals (also thus avoiding high food costs and unhealthy food options).
2. I really don’t think I need to offer this as a tip, so let me just leave it here as a reminder: music is essential to any good road trip. Make playlists, fill up your various devices, or just listen to the radio — as long as you have a soundtrack, that’s all that matters. During the road trip mentioned above we must have listened to Only By the Night by Kings of Leon some 50,000 times. Now whenever I listen to it, I get flashbacks from that trip. Same goes for Matthew Good’s Avalanche and the trip I took to Italy and France with my high school in 2003. Not only does music provide you with entertainment during the lulls on the road, but it also triggers embedded memories, allowing you to relive your favourite moments from the journey.
3. If you see a roadside attraction that grabs your interest, stop if you have the time. It’s the unplanned moments in any trip that usually create the fondest memories. Although it’s never a planned pit stop, if I’m heading home from anywhere in eastern Ontario, I normally pop into the Big Apple in Colborne. If you love apple pie (or anything else apple-flavoured for that matter), stop here. Plus, stopping every once in a while gives you a chance to stretch your legs.
Now on to my personal list of items I MUST have with me during my summer adventures.
- My prescription sunglasses — I simply cannot function without my aviators (light-coloured eyes = light-sensitive eyes)
- If hiking is involved, I refuse to walk in anything other than my KEEN hiking boots. Those combined with my Wigwam hiking socks got me across Spain without a single blister.
- Wool socks to sleep in when camping. You may be warm enough when you fall asleep but I promise you, unless you have a good pair of socks on, you will wake up feeling rather chilly.
- This is more of a sentimental item: the red Woods sleeping bags that my mom purchased a number of years ago. They’re bulky as hell and hard to roll up, but I’ve used one during nearly every camping trip I can remember. Camping isn’t camping unless I have my red bag.
- To finish, another sentimental item: my neon green Nalgene bottle. I also had this item with me during my hike along the Camino in Spain, but I then gifted my original bottle to my trail mama, Consuelo, once our hike was over. I have since purchased a second bottle and it will be joining me on my many trips this summer (plus it has a silhouette of a mountain lion on it so I think it looks badass, like those old school wolf shirts that are making a comeback).
- My buffalo plaid hat, because, well, I need to rep the tartan of my Scottish clansmen 😉
Camping and road trips go hand-in-hand, and if done right, can lead to some awesome memories. I hope these tips inspire you to get packing and get going on your own adventures this summer!
I can’t wait to be sitting by the campfire in just a few days, and you’re damned right to assume I’ll have my pillow and red sleeping bag waiting for me in the tent.