Hiking tips

With the arrival of the Victoria Day weekend, here are some camping tips

“A rainy weekend doesn’t have to be a miserable weekend for camping. As long as you prepare for the weather, you can have fun,” the scout says

Campers, light your campfires!

Victoria Day weekend, or May 2-4 as it is also known, is the unofficial start of the summer camping season.

Tents are removed from basement shelves, their poles checked for dents, sleeping bags inspected for last year’s odors, air mattresses inflated, rain gear checked for holes, rain boots hike for anything resembling steps etc.

Does the cooler still keep edible foods and drinks drinkable? Are there bandages in the first aid kit? Where are the camping chairs? Should we bring firewood? Are we even allowed to make fires? And what’s the weather like this weekend? Do we have a big tarp to sit under if it’s raining all the time?

And for the perpetually connected, is there wifi in our campsite?

Crucial factors for a pleasant start to the camping season in Ontario.

But Jason Gingrich, Kempenfelt’s first animator with Scouts Canada, says there’s still more to know and check before heading out into the wild, or at least into the wilderness staying within driving distance, when gas costs about $2 a litre.

“The first thing, in a very scouting way, is to be prepared, to have a plan for where you want to go, how long you want to stay there,” the 21-year-old said. “We could have rain, we could have wind; preparing for bad weather is always a good thing.

“A rainy weekend doesn’t have to be a miserable weekend for camping. As long as you prepare for the weather, you can have fun,” Gingrich added.

Preparation, such as having a tarp so you can sit out of your tent, or even having an extra tarp for your tent, depending on its quality. Some materials aren’t as waterproof as you’d like, Gingrich explained, so an extra tarp can go a long way.

Another valuable skill is learning to dry clothes so if you get soaked, pitching your tent in the rain, for example, having a drying rack or some sort of washing line can be essential.

“We (the Boy Scouts) have a thing, never go camping and never expect it to rain,” said Gingrich, a student in the college management program. “Even very experienced campers can be uncomfortable. It certainly helps to have some experience to draw on.

There are dangers that campers should also be aware of, such as being on the water.

“I wouldn’t encourage a May long weekend canoe trip, an expedition,” he said. “It’s early in the year to get out on the water, because the risk of hypothermia is very high. Even if it is over 20 degrees and very warm and pleasant, you will not think about hypothermia.

“But many cases of hypothermia actually occur in the spring and fall. If you end up falling in that water and getting soaked in what could be 15 degree water, just as the sun is going down and the wind is blowing, you may actually be at risk of hypothermia.” added Gingrich.

Then there’s the wildlife, the critters that live year-round where you only visit for a few days.

“You always want to be wildlife aware, Gingrich said. “Fortunately… in this part of the country we don’t have a ton of danger unless you go very far north, encountering moose or even brown bears are pretty rare anywhere near Barrie.

“Black bears are probably the biggest thing you’ll ever encounter and they’re usually quite scared of humans so they tend to leave you alone and they’re generally not aggressive. As long as you don’t interfere with them, they will usually leave you to your business.

But don’t leave food around, and it never hurts to throw a rope over a tree branch and hoist your food high above the ground at night.

Gingrich said camping is also a chance to improve your outdoor skills. Make fires reliably so you don’t use an entire matchbox to get flames, for example.

Go with an agenda: what do you want to do when you’re there?

“We’ve all been locked down for the past two years during the pandemic, so I think this weekend and throughout this summer many families are going to be going outside again,” he said. “It’s so important for young people to be able to develop that resilience, that self-confidence and that problem-solving ability, whether it’s trying to light that fire to cook their lunch on the fire or setting up a tent to the first time.

“They can be difficult or potentially daunting tasks, even for adults. But the process of learning these skills in this safe and fun environment is a great way to develop that resilience, that teamwork, that problem solving and that of course has a lot of benefits even in city life, at the day to day in the city. ”

And don’t forget the tarp.