I was introduced to the fun of sleeping under the stars and enjoying nature for more than just a day at a time, late in life. Like many things, my best friend Greg shed some light on the incredible amount of fun one can have camping and hiking.
It is really too bad that I came into this hobby and activity so late in the game (2001, when I was 21), because of where I lived—close enough to the Canadian Rockies that I could have enjoyed camping and hiking every weekend—in the almost 10 years that I lived in Calgary prior to living with Greg—and not gone to the same place twice. It isn’t that my family didn’t enjoy experiences nature, but that we just went on short, day walks only.
view from campsite, Stawamus Chief—near Squamish, B.C.
Of course, car camping is only possible with a vehicle of some kind, therein lies the problem for us in Vancouver, and one of the reasons why we haven’t gone camping or hiking very often in the last 7 years. Renting a car or using one from the MODO car co-op can be pricey, for one. Secondly, it must be said that the Coast Mountain range is not the Rockies. Going from sea-level up maybe 700 ft. isn’t even close to the same as rising high above the earth from 4,000 ft in Calgary to the top of the mountains, with an elevation gain of maybe another 1000 or more ft!
With the short summers we have in Canada, it’s important to get outside as much as possible during July and August. If cost, time and desire is available, I love to go back-country camping—that is, extended hiking for several days at a time, camping in the backcountry—and would like to do more of it in the future. I remember the few back-country camping trips on trails in Jasper and Yoho national parks (part of the Rocky Mountain chain) vividly. The trails there are well-maintained and offer a variety of views and wildlife.
If you aren’t up for a long—camping trip, car-camping can be a great alternative. This type of camping is great for those with larger groups (I would only go on long hikes with Greg because, otherwise I’d feel as though I were slowing everyone down, etc.), children or elderly people—as well as for those that are either not physically fit enough or not interested in a gruelling week of hiking 10 to 25km per day.
So, what do you need in order to have an enjoyable car-camping trip?
Check out this list of Car Camping Essentials
First, prepare your car for the camping stuff. It should have enough space to adjust all the things that you want to take, be it food or anything else. For this, you can add a 4wd storage box in your car that will help you keep things organized and occupy less space. You can fit the stuff in it and place it in the car’s boot. Now let’s read on to know the essentials to carry:
1) Something to sleep in—a tent, an RV/camper, or similar.
An MSR Three-Person Tent seen with my Sand-Free Multi-Mat, used to sit on while eating/relaxing.
2) Something to eat—you don’t have to have a bbq, stove or campfire. . .non-heated food works well, too. You can pack sandwiches, chips, etc. or get more creative. I prefer to take a small camping stove and some food that I want to heat up:
Greg, making popcorn—a definite camping essential!
This Gigapower Manual Stove by Snow Peak sits on top of a can of fuel and is extremely light (great for backcountry camping) and portable. We also like Snow Peak’s titanium pots, which are light and durable.
3) Something to sleep on. You don’t necessarily have to buy sleeping bags and pads if you are just car camping. Instead, you can bring along your comforters/duvets, blankets and pillows from home. Camping in the Rocky Mountains, it tends to get very cold at night, so I prefer to have my mummy sleeping bag and a comfy Thermarest blow-up pad to cushion me from the hard ground.
4) Lighting. I like using headlamps (good for heading to the toilet in the dark), but also portable flashlights and lanterns for inside the tent. We’ve had our LED headlamps for 10 years now. There are new, fancier ones out there, but ours get the job done well enough.
5) Entertainment. I usually find myself content just sitting and enjoying Greg’s company while we stare at our natural surroundings, but I also enjoy watching movies (on a laptop, iPad or iPhone), reading or writing whilst camping. These activities are nice if you plan on staying at the campsite for more than 1 night, especially, or you don’t plan on hiking or walking much during the day.
6) Napkins and Plastic Bags. These are needed for when you’re eating and for your garbage, which should never be left in the tent with you (nor outside. . .and that goes for food of any kind, too).
7) Water, and possibly a filter. There may or may not be running water where you go camping. . .and you may or may not want to boil it. I am currently looking for a water filter that isn’t too clunky to come with us backcountry camping.
- Comfy shoes, for hiking/walking—even to the outhouse/port-o-potty.
- Titanium sporks—we’ve had our Snow Peak ones for 10 years and love them for work lunches and camping trips.
- a Cooler for keeping drinks and snacks cold—great for the drive to the campsite, picnics along the way, etc.
- gloves, booties, warm clothing