Getting Uncomfortable: Backcountry Camping (Portage Trip!)

Camping is the best way for city slickers like me to disconnect for a bit and enjoy the great outdoors… so I can realize sleeping in a tent sucks and I can gain an appreciation for my bed 🙂 Jokes aside, it’s a fun experience where you not only get to enjoy nature but challenge yourself to ‘survive’ and bond with your fellow campers. You’ll have to canoe and portage to your campsite, carry enough supplies, cook your own food, start a fire, pitch tents, and perform other basic survival skills you should probably know but don’t. It’s not for everyone, but for those who want to dive in, read on!

Sections:

My story – Advanced backcountry camping for beginners

As in most typical immigrant households, I didn’t grow up getting sent to camp during summers or going on family camping trips so I never experienced actual camping… not even glamour camping. Why would my parents flee their home country, to come to beautiful urban Toronto, and then go live in the wilderness for a while? It doesn’t make sense to them.

However, I LOVE the outdoors and have always wanted to go camping after seeing all the fun things white people do at camps in movies and TV shows (it turned out to be nothing like those). Luckily I made friends who felt similarly and wanted to try out this whole camping business. Unluckily, we had ALL never gone camping.

A friend of mine decided we should go to Killarney Provincial Park, which has some of the more difficult trails but is known to be more beautiful than the popular and ‘mainstream’ Algonquin Provincial Park. He booked one of the remaining sites on Lake Nellie which has some of the clearest water in the whole park. This is when we realized how screwed we were, as the camp site was about a 25km canoe ride + 3.5km portage away from the closest access point to the park. Even for experienced campers this was a tough route.

We considered cancelling but decided to just wing it. We went crazy researching about and shopping for supplies since we literally had no camping gear and wanted to be over-prepared versus the alternative. I was particularly afraid we wouldn’t get to the campsite before dark which would be bad, you do not want to canoe in pitch black trying to find your campsite.

The day came and it took about 8 hours in total to get to our campsite with the canoeing and portaging. It was super intense but very rewarding and overall had a really great time. Lake Nellie was absolutely beautiful, you could see ten metres all the way to the bottom cause of how clear the water was. We survived and figured stuff out as we went, and I’m sure if you did it you would too!

camping-laying-on-rock
Relaxing after canoeing and portaging for 8 hours
camping-canoeing
The squad
canoeing-portaging
Dying
camping-mashmallows
Treats!

Excuses you will make, and how to deal with them

1. I don’t have time to plan it

Get these easy steps done and you’re 80% done:

  1. Find a group of friends who want to go, set a weekend
  2. Book a campsite
  3. Book a tent and canoe

Then just find the millions of camping packing lists, delegate and buy everything in one or two nights, and you’re set!

If you’re not sure what food to bring and want to keep it simple, bring the mini-gas stoves with mini-pot / pan for anything that needs to be cooked, and eat:

  • spam
  • instant noodles
  • corned beef
  • freeze dried packs of food
  • nuts/dried berries
  • jerky
  • granola bars
  • sandwiches
  • beans
  • pasta

2. I can’t carry a canoe (portage)

I still can’t carry a canoe alone. Just get two or three person canoes, if one person can’t carry it have two people, if two people can’t, get three people.

3. I have no survival skills

Great, you’ll learn a lot on the trip then 🙂 YouTube and Google whatever you’re not sure about to go, and you’ll figure it out as you go.

The question that makes it obvious

Are you going to be lazy and put off trying camping which you’ve always wanted to try, or just do it?

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