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7 Common Camping Myths

Tim Foley
September 21, 2017

For the purposes of this list, we’re talking about back country camping (canoeing, portaging, hiking) in Ontario, Canada.

Myth #1: Camping Food = Dehydrated Food

While a camp dinner can certainly consist of good ‘ol KD or pre-packaged dehydrated meals, it doesn’t have to. It can also consist of delicious, healthy foods that will nourish and replenish, and can be (and have been) the highlight of an entire trip. As camping affords more time for the basic necessities of living, cooking (as opposed to assembling or re-hydrating) a meal becomes much more pleasurable, and is often the best part of the day. Depending on the length of your trip, and how much weight you’re willing to carry, options range from marinated pork chops to pizza to cakes and muffins.

Head to bulk food stores for staples, and check out Kevin Callan’s "The New Trailside Cookbook" for tons of great camping food ideas. (Kevin makes a mean bush Irish stew - with dumplings!)

Myth #2: The Best Time to Camp is the Height of Summer

In the city, summer in June and July is about as good as it gets - long hot days, and nighttime temperatures that don’t dip too low; seemingly the perfect time to go camping. In the bush in Ontario however, June and July is the height of bug season (blackflies, horseflies, deerflies, and mosquitos), and without adequate protection, they can act as a persistent annoyance, or can be tortuous to the point of abandoning a trip. Late August and into September sees the bug count diminish to near zero, so for lazy summer days without the bugs, consider booking your trip later in the season, or if you do go out in June or July, be sure to bring bug nets and netted shelters (bug spray alone won’t cut it) - unless you want to be a prisoner in your tent.

Myth #3: Back Country Camping Dangerous Due to Bears and Other Predators

Ah yes... the ever present bear fear. While bears and other predators certainly need to be respected, and campsites need to be run in such a way as to keep the probability of a bear encounter low, in actuality, you can consider yourself in fairly rarified company if you even see a bear on a trip, let alone have any interaction with them. As long as food prep and eating areas are kept separate from sleeping areas, no toiletries, cosmetics, or food are consumed or stored in tents, and all food is stored overnight hung away from the campsite, there isn’t any reason for any animals (including racoons, skunks, or even mice) to come poking around camp. A tip: while you may adhere to these common sense principles, the previous tenants of the site may not have, so always scout a site first for garbage or food scraps that may have been left in the fire pit or tossed in nearby bushes before setting up camp.

Myth #4: There’s No Need to Pack Warm Camping Clothes in Summer

It’s always a good idea to pack warm camping clothes with a thermal base layer when camping no matter what time of year. Why? Because Mother Nature can throw a curve ball that, if you’re not prepared for it, can leave you shivering and miserable. For example, this year in Temagami, Ontario on July 11th, 2016 the temperature reached 31°C. On the morning of July 15th, 2016 the temperature was 10°C. Add rain and getting wet into the equation and you have conditions that can lead to things like hypothermia. The moral of the story? Always bring an extra layer of camping clothing just in case.

Myth #5: The Easiest Way to Purify Water in the Back Country is by Boiling It

You can boil water as a means of purification, but this task is much better handled by use of a camping water purifier, as boiling water is time consuming, requires fuel or fires, and in the summer requires one to let the water cool down before drinking. Often times, one thinks only about water when one becomes thirsty, which means a long wait if you need to boil water to quench your thirst. Modern filters feature extremely fast flow rates, and protect against common hazards (parasites, bacteria) that are present in back country waters.

Myth #6: You Can't Make a Campfire When it Rains

This one always surprises us. When it’s raining is the best time to have a campfire (provided it isn’t too windy); simply set up a ridge line and a camping tarp over the fire area high enough to be out of the reach of embers, build a modest fire and keep the fire at a suitable level (don’t build a bonfire) - et voila - instant comfort and hot drinks while the storm provides entertainment around you.

Myth #7: Camping in the Cold Isn’t as Much Fun

Sure it is! Not with the same gear and equipment as summer camping (nylon tents and light sleeping bags)* but with the use of canvas tents and wood stoves, it is possible to achieve both comfort and warmth, and to hang out in a tent with only t-shirts on even in February.

Check out these videos for more info:

Interested in trying out Winter Camping?
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* Ultra hardcore types will argue that you can use nylon tents and sleeping bags to camp in the winter, and you can, but moisture buildup in clothing and tent is an ever present danger. Without a stove it is very difficult to dry out properly, so multi day trips become more difficult as the days go on, and if it does go wrong, frostbite and the loss of toes and digits can be the result. “Cold camping” is best left to those with experience and very good gear to rely on.

Tim Foley

Tim grew up spending summers and much of his spare time in the backwoods of Northern Ontario and has been canoeing, camping and hiking ever since. When not running the Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co., you can find him riding his bike, hiking the Bruce Trail, canoeing, or clearing trails, cutting firewood and testing gear out in the bush.
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