Assorted Thoughts on Location and Sleeping While Camping and Assorted Photographs I Took Yesterday

Camping and sleeping warmly and safely in the boreal forest - like firemaking - takes careful and considerate preparation. You must take nothing for granted and explicitly plan and prepare for poor weather, unsafe terrain and your own health and mental attitude.

To wit: While trying to snugly slumber in the wilds I have shivered in the middle of an August night in the interior of Algonquin park, been plagued by mosquitos in torn tent another year, was rudely interrupted from a deep sleep by a bear at my tent, kept in terror by the incessant spooky clicking of a bark beetle, had a a very cold face and nose in minus 25 degree Celsius winter temperatures, suffered from a rotator cuff injury in the dark and the loneliness of the wild French River and suffered a sore back and hips for not bringing a mattress on which to place my sleeping bag.

Temperature and Weather

Whether it is freezing cold or hot and humid, you need to maintain your core temperature from within and without. I will speak more to cool than the heat, as I have little experience camping in the heat.

Tips to stay within a comfortable range include adequate hydration (drink lots, and on a really cold night don't be embarrassed to bring a big bottle in the tent with you so you don't need to venture forth - you know what I mean). On cold nights, drink warm drinks and do some exercise before getting into your sleeping bag - Nalgene bottles filled with boiled water (and wrapped with material so that you don't burn yourself) will work to keep you warm for a long while. Stones heated in or by the fire will work in a pinch, but be sure to wrap them in wool or other natural fabrics before holding them closely to you.

Wear layers and woolen socks, and shed and add these as necessary. Your head sheds a great deal of heat - your mum was right. Wear a woolen cap and keep that heat in. Eat fats along with protein - butter, margarine, oils. I need roughly 2000 calories (200 lbs + the few that my New Year's Resolution will hopefully deal with, male, 36 yrs) to maintain my weight sitting at an office desk and engaging in normal daily activities. But canoeing, setting up camp, gathering firewood, staying warm, and not watching television for hours at a time will necessitate you taking in maybe twice that or more (in really cold weather and under duress like portaging, mountaineering etc...).


Where you camp makes a huge difference. One side of a lake channel may be illuminated by the sun, the other shaded by an island. I balance the sun with the wind, so I carefully observe wave patterns, foliage coverage, flat areas and rocky-outcrops to decide on the best site. On a flat exposed area, even in the sun, warmth is blown away, tents can be upended and the experience is rather disappointing. A site with southerly sun exposure is best , if only to have the sun awaken you and to provide a beautiful sunset in the evening.

When setting up your tent and camp - avoid gulleys, or natural water courses. Dried up river-beds may appear to provide shelter, but even without the river, rain settles in puddles there. Insects like muskeg and overgrown brush areas and make their appearance most in the evening before dusk. A light wind will help blow these away (as will some smudgy smoke from your fire).

Observe the foliage around the site for spiky, or poisonous plants - you don't want to be popping out of the tent in the middle of the night for nature's call and end up knee deep in noxious plants.

Look up - look for wind-damaged trees on the verge of collapse, look for dangling branches (or 'widow-makers'). These branches will drop like a spear or a club and end your trip abruptly. And of course look up for cliffs and rocks waiting to drop like ripe fruit.

Trails in the woods sometimes signal natural roadways for fauna - I awoke once to the splashing of a baby moose beside my tent in the water. He had come down for a drink and lost his footing. I stepped out of my tent to find his mother lurking behind my site and I stood staring at the moose as we both realized I was in between the mother and child. I slowly retreated to the side behind a tree. Moose can kill and bull mooses in the rut are the craziest creature in Canada - they will charge and attack anything that bothers them in a hormone-driven rage. I think I would rather be attacked by a black bear than by a bull moose.


More soon. Basically, you need to have the right gear or to make the right gear.


More soon. The backcountry amplifies illness and injury, so be prepared and be wary.

Mental Attitude

More soon. As the Dalai Lama says 'You must have a positive mental attitude!'.

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