Bringing Camping Home From Canada: My Ultimate Camping Checklist
Written by Jaillan Yehia
I blog about lots of travel experiences here, like delicious foodie weekends away in the UK or chilled out sunny holidays in the Balearics, but one thing I’ve never really talked about online is actually one of the single most defining travel experiences of my life: falling in love with camping while living in British Columbia, Canada.
You see, before my time living in North America I’d never been camping, and quite frankly I had never wanted to.
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Most of my adult life I’ve been a proud Londoner and a committed city girl specialising in high end travel. I have always lived for art and culture, city breaks and shopping. And I was always happiest at the confluence of those two concepts – in other words shopping while on holiday.
As a city girl I had an innate suspicion of the outdoors, a fear of getting dirty, lost, or stung by an insect. So when friends – especially boyfriends – tried everything to convince me that sleeping under the stars and cooking on an open fire was the best travel experience in the world, I just couldn’t see the appeal.
As a luxury hotel fiend and a lover of mod cons and creature comforts, I felt that sleeping in a construction of my own making, especially one woven out of (gasp) man-made fibres, was a poor substitute for a boutique bolthole in a converted mill or a luxury country hotel in a beautifully restored old farmhouse.
I just couldn’t understand why a muddy field offering no electricity or ensuite toilets would be a desirable holiday destination in its own right – especially in the UK where there’s undoubtedly a cute B&B or cosy pub with rooms within stumbling distance of the place you’ve set up camp. Basically, my philosophy on camping for a long time was: What’s the point?
Writing this now, I find it hard to relate to that person who was so set against the outdoor life, but I can still remember her logic.
Canadian Camping FTW
As soon as I set foot on Canadian soil and took in the vastness of the country, the penny began to drop for me as to why camping was such a sought-after pastime.
This endless, epic, wild and wonderful scenery beckoned you in, demanded you to get up close, to lose yourself amongst it and to give yourself over to it completely. You simply couldn’t do that if you intended to head back to a 5 star spa hotel later that day.
Most camping I went on to do in Canada was a good 5 hour drive from the nearest tarmacked road, not a short walk to a Tesco and a Travelodge, and I think that sense of remoteness helped immensely.
My own first camping experience was far from remote though – it was at Cultus Lake, British Columbia. I instantly fell in love. Looking back it was probably the perfect introduction for a novice camper with its full-on shower facilities, a selection of summer pursuits and a nearby water park. No-one minded if you stayed up late having a few beers either, and that definitely helped me to like it.
I subsequently pushed my comfort zone further, hiking to hot springs, setting up camp by a rushing river, sleeping in rustic cabins buried deep in woodland or at campsites with lake views. My 4 year affair with camping culminated in a 5 day fishing trip to a remote campsite on Nootka Sound with no running water where I caught my first salmon. It wasn’t just the fish who was well and truly hooked.
Things To Love About Camping 1,2,3
All the things I love about camping now are the very same things I feared before trying it:
1. Lack of electricity: I love it when my phone gets no reception, or the battery dies and I can’t reply to emails and texts. Bye bye digital handcuffs for a few days!
2. No proper bathrooms: I love not wearing make-up and frankly enjoy swerving the high standards of hygiene I usually adhere to, and it’s great letting my skin and hair fend for themselves for a change.
3. Being cut off from city life: I love having nowhere to be, enjoying a few days off from the relentless cycle of ordering stuff on Amazon Prime and Ocado, and generally not interacting with modern world for a few days. If you’ve ever thought: ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ however briefly, I can highly recommend a good dose of camping, in as remote a location as you can manage.
One thing I learned about camping and which I’d like to share is the extent to which having the right gear can make or break your trip. In that respect it’s no different to most holidays. Except that if you go for a weekend away in Wales you can easily buy the Ibuprofen you forgot to pack when you get there, but halfway up a mountain, it’s a different story.
So to make this very personal and quite ‘me, me, me’ post a bit more ‘you, you, you’ I want to share my own camping packing list, honed over quite a few trips. This pretty much lists everything I’d bring on a big camping trip. assuming I’d have no access to running water, let alone shops. I hope it’s as helpful for you as it will be for me when I go on my first UK camping trip this year.
My Camping Checklist
When I moved back to the UK from British Columbia I had to leave most of my camping gear behind, but I’ve been sent some great versions of the same items from UK camping specialists Blacks and Millets so that I can re-create the perfect luxury camping experience here in Blighty.
Choosing A Tent
The most important subject you need to put some time and thought into researching before your first camping trip is of course tents. A very close second is air mattresses.
The kind of tent that’s going to make you fall in love with camping like I did is a large tent like the Rydal 500 – something tall enough to stand up in, and my preference is for it to have a porch or vestibule – in other word a boot room, where you can put all your muddy boots and the other bits and bobs you discard before coming inside, so they don’t clutter up your bedroom.
Air mattress-wise I recommend a double height air mattress so that you can be super comfy at night, and don’t risk that awful feeling of waking up and finding your back touching the ground.
Everything I Pack When I Go Camping: The Ultimate Camping Packing List
GENERAL CAMPING ITEMS
Air Mattress – double height is best
Lantern (I prefer a rechargeable lantern which can be charged in your car)
Bedding (sleeping bag or you can bring normal bedding!)
Tarp, in case of rain
Newspaper and firewood, plus firelighters
Axe & Swiss Army style knife
Playing cards, any other games & entertainment (eg: guitar)
Camera & speakers/stereo
Hot water bottle (for cold nights)
A cast iron pan for cooking on an open fire
A pot (no plastic handle!)
A metal grill/grate
Utensils & cutlery
Bottle & can opener
Tea and Coffee (absolutely essential in my book)
Bottled Water (if camping in a place with no fresh running water)
Butter/oil/salt & pepper/condiments
Dustpan & brush
A bag large enough to take away all your garbage from the site when you leave if need be
FOOD & DRINKS
Fruit for snacking
Snacks (trail mix, nuts etc.)
Easy multi-function veggies like carrots, onion, potato – anything which can be roasted whole on the fire
Bread & buns
Beans & sausage & eggs & bacon for cooked breakfast (mandatory in my opinion)
Cheese and / or meat for sandwiches
Marshmallows for toasting on sticks
Protein for cooking on the fire – chicken, burgers, etc.
Beer / Wine /Pimms / Lemonade (but that’s just me!)
Insect Repellent / Zapper
Sun Tan Lotion
Facecloth/ toiletries/wet wipes /hand sanitiser
Any medicine you use – pain killers, antihistamine, antiseptic cream plus a first aid kit
CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
Flips flops or wellies depending on the season – and jelly shoes if near water
A beanie hat (known as a toque in Canada, fact fans) and or baseball cap
Plenty of socks (they tend to get wet/muddy easily)
Warm clothing for when it turns cold – leggings, sweat pants, hoodie etc.
Eye mask / ear plugs in case of party animals nearby
Bikini if needed
Backpack & mini cooler to take on hikes
Floats and fishing gear if camping near water
I loved all my camping experiences from blackberry picking, lake fishing and mountain hikes, to exploring vineyards and taking in scenic views in Canada but we have ALL of those things right here in the UK, and despite what I used to believe, I now know that camping is the best way to discover them.
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