Your Guide to Long Distance Backpacking, Backcountry Canoe Tripping, Hiking, Outdoor Gear and Adventure

Category: Backcountry Canoe Tripping

5 Tips for Planning your First Solo in the Backcountry

Has backpacking or camping by yourself always been a life dream of yours? Does solo adventure seem a bit intimating to you? I hope that by taking you through why soloing is such a fantastic experience and by giving you some practical tips on how to prepare, you will be ready and confident to try out your first solo trip!

Why Solo Adventure is Totally Awesome: 

While I love to hike and camp with friends and family, I gotta tell you that my favourite experiences in the backcountry are the ones that I have done solo. I find that it allows you to build more skills in the wilderness because you are forced to act independently. Essentially, you are not relying on others to do tasks for you and you have to learn through trial and error and overcoming your own challenges. There is something so empowering about being able to navigate the backcountry with your own map reading skills, your own paddle strokes, and your own determination. I promise you that adventuring solo will give you more confidence in knowing that you are truly capable of doing anything you set your mind out to accomplish.

Recenter Yourself in Solitude
Being surrounded by nature in silence and truly soaking up the landscape and beauty around you can be a pretty neat experience. Spending time alone with your thoughts gives opportunity to focus and be fully present in the moment. The alone time can also be great in reflecting or sorting through some inner conflicts, decisions, feelings, that maybe you’ve been putting off dealing with. Solo trips can be the best opportunities to work on your own personal growth. I’ve found solo experiences can leave you feeling centred and refreshed. Afterwards, you’ll reflect on all you accomplished and you might think “Well, hell, I’m pretty bad ass aren’t I?”

Convinced yet? I want to take you through 5 tips that I learned through personal experience that helped me in starting to adventure solo:

1. Practise makes perfect
Believe it or not, the first time I ever camped solo was right beside ‘civilization.’ When I was much younger, I set up my tent in a field at my family cottage to help me practise and get used to camping alone. I remember that night very vividly as I was nervous and woke up many times during the night as every bump had me thinking there was a bear coming to say hello. This set up was perfect because it allowed me to dismiss these fears and get comfortable with camping solo in a safe environment. I recommend trying out solo camping in your backyard, at your cottage, on your friends property, wherever you are the most safe for your first experience. If it takes you more than one practise session to get comfortable riding solo, that’s perfectly fine, remember that there is no rush.

2. Test out your gear beforehand
There’s nothing more stressful than bringing a brand new piece of gear out into the backcountry with no idea how to use it. No cell service means no internet to access YouTube videos on how to put together your water filter, or set up your tent. And whoops, you probably left the instruction manual at home. Make sure you test out all your equipment before you go, practise setting up your tent, using your portable stove, tying up a bear hang, anything you will need to know for your expedition. This will make you feel more confident and familiar with your equipment, and saves any last minute stress in the backcountry.

3. Ensure your first solo trip is an easy, accessible, and short route
Be realistic with you limits and goals when starting out. 3 portages, 4 lakes to paddle, and a 5 night expedition is going to have you way over your head. While it’s great to have ambition, maybe plan that trip for when you have more experience in the backcountry. Having a super intense trip plan is only going to make you overwhelmed, not to mention puts your own safety at risk. My recommendation is plan a trip that requires a small amount of paddling, or hiking and a route that you are more familiar with. In addition, one or two nights will give you a shorter more doable timeframe. This will help you feel more comfortable in doing your first expedition solo.

3. Research and trip plan
Before your trip, make sure to research everything there is to know about where you’ll be going, and how you will get there. Purchase a backcountry map and study it ahead of time to plan your exact route and a general estimate of how long it should take you. Make use of the thousands of online resources on the internet including videos on YouTube, outdoor blogs, and forums. Inform yourself on what gear you will need and what weather you’ll be expecting for your trip.

4. Don’t pack your gear the morning of your trip
I know from personal experience that packing your gear the morning of, will mean you will be rushing around, making you more likely to forget something. Packing well in advance, allows you to ensure everything is ready to go, and every item is double checked on your list. It will also allow you to leave early in the morning which will give you more travel time to get to your evening campsite or destination.

5. Tell your friends and family where your going and when you’ll be back
Inform someone close to you the plans for your trip including when you’ll be leaving, your trip route and your day of return. This will ensure your safety if something were to happen while you are out in the backcountry. It will also give you peace of mind, allowing you to relax and enjoy your trip.

I hope all of these tips help you in planning your first solo trip in the backcountry. Remember to relax, have fun, and take the time to enjoy every moment. Allow yourself to make mistakes, after all that’s how we learn and develop our skills. Remember that confidence might take time, keep at it and continue pushing yourself to step outside your comfort zone. I promise you that it will bring you a totally different experience of solitude and self empowerment.

Good luck on your journey and Happy Trails.

The Magic of Killarney: the Story of my Most Memorable Backcountry Canoe Trip

About a year ago I applied for a job at an outdoor gear company and they asked me to write a story about the best outdoor adventure experience I’ve ever had. I ended writing this story and getting the job, and it still remains my most treasured experience in the backcountry. This is that story:

The Magic of Killarney

It’s not everyday one gets to see the northern lights, have a howling match with a lone wolf, laugh hysterically with your best friends around the campfire and then climb the highest peak in a provincial park all in 48 hours.

These magical events, come together to form my best camping story.

This summer I worked at Killarney Provincial Park where I spent the summer educating Park visitors about the history, ecology, and importance of the landscape that inspires outdoor enthusiasts to visit year after year. To say the least, I was obsessed with my job. Every moment of my time was spent exploring the Park, from hiking nature trails, canoeing, fishing, and biking down the highway surrounded by trees and black bears (including one that bluff charged my bike, but that’s another story in itself). Working at Killarney, I knew I had to take advantage of my time in one of the best Parks in Ontario. I proceeded to book solo interior canoe trips for every single day off I had for the months of July and August. I was able to see, and experience some of the most beautiful lakes and camping sites in the Park. Killarney became all that I could speak and think about. I couldn’t contain my excitement when a couple good friends contacted me and said they were coming up for a backcountry adventure. Little did I know, Killarney was creating magic and patiently waiting for their arrival.

Around 8:00 pm, a coworker burst through the staff house, declaring the northern lights were on full display. I raced out the door to find that sure enough, colours were dancing on the horizon, just in time as my friends made their arrival to Killarney. We couldn’t believe we were witnessing the northern lights together and we took it as a sign of good fortune. That night we camped out together at the town lighthouse, stories of our summers faded into whispers, and eventually we drifted asleep to the sounds of waves from Georgian Bay crashing upon the rocky shore.

In the morning took down camp, loaded up our car, and headed out to Bell Lake. The skies were clear and the sun was shinning, and I was in utter contentment as I was finally sharing with them the landscape I had fallen in love with. After two portages, and paddling three lakes, we finally arrived at our site on David Lake, which was situated on sparkling turquoise water, with the white LaCloche Mountains glimmering in the distance. After a successful and fancy backcountry meal featuring steak, green beans and red wine, we sat around the fire, star gazing, our laughs echoing amongst the rocks and white pine. Mid conversation, we were interrupted by a wolf howl coming from across the lake, we gasped in excitement. One of friends, Jade, had spent the winter working at a wildlife centre with wolves, so she proceeded to have a howling match with the lone wolf. Upon realizing the wolf seemed to be getting closer, we promptly asked her to stop, which gave opportunity for a barred owl to thankfully take over the conversation. We sat on the edge of our site listening to the wolf calls fade, as the moon rose higher in the sky casting a glow on the lake. We turned to each other in disbelief at the utter magic that this trip seemed to be presenting us.

The next morning we awoke, feasting on a filling backcountry breakfast, and packed up our site as fast as we could. We paddled over to a trail head located on a portage connected to David Lake that lead up to the highest elevation in the Park called Silver Peak. Our hiking boots led us along rocky lookouts, forested valleys, and finally up the mountain for the ultimate view at the top. Breathtaking panoramic views of the Park, Georgian Bay, Manitoulin Island, and Sudbury left us awestruck. After having our fill of the views, we made out decent back down the trail, finally returning to our canoe and racing into the water to cool down. We were exhausted and still had our return journey back to our entry point to complete. We proceeded to paddle and portage back, encouraging each other and dreaming of the hamburgers we would cook upon our return to civilization. Our three-seater canoe was soon filled with loud singing as we belted out classics and camp songs to help us get through the last stretch.

We arrived at our entry point just as the sun was dropping over the mountains, making it back to civilization just in time for the last order of hamburgers and beers. We recounted the events of the weekend with one another, laughing and eyes glimmering with happiness, we couldn’t believe our luck.

 In the past 48 hours, the Park had presented its best material for my friends, and just like me they had become enraptured with Killarney. It is this reason, that it remains my best camping trip because I was able to share with them this special place that is so dear to my heart.

For more details on interior camping in Killarney Provincial Park check out their website and make sure to trip plan, book your sites online and purchase a Park map.

What’s your most memorable camping trip? Comment Below!

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