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Backcountry Basics

There’s a lot that goes into planning a backcountry camping trip. You have to map out your route, organize your supplies, and practice your camping skills to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip.

However, if you’ve only ever camped in a campground, planning your first backcountry trip can seem daunting. Where do you start?

  1. Know your skills:
    • Self-awareness is key in planning any outdoor adventure.
    • Take the time to identify the skills you have (and don’t have). Stick to what you’re comfortable doing.
    • Educate yourself as much as possible before planning anything, utilize online resources, or reach out to friends.
  2. Plan ahead:
    • Know the regulations and special concerns for the park you are visiting.
    • Schedule your trip to avoid high use times
    • Travel and camp in small groups
    • Plan your route
  3. Know where to find information:
  4. Safety, safety, safety:
    • Backcountry travel requires some specialized skills. Safety is of the utmost importance. Visit the backcountry web page for information on Backcountry Safety and Etiquette.
    • Choose a park that matches your skill level.
    • Stay hydrated - have a working water filter with purification tabs as a backup, put on sunscreen, and be aware of your surroundings.
    • Wear your personal flotation device (PFD), have a working water filter with purification tabs as a backup, put on sunscreen, and be aware of your surroundings.
    • It is always best to do things by the book and prepare for any possibilities.
  5. Backcountry campsite:
    • Camp only on designated sites. Keep your group to nine people or fewer
    • Use established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow
    • Do not widen trails or cause damage to surrounding areas. Use existing trails and portages only
    • Walk single-file in the centre of the trail
    • Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary
    • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent
  6. Dispose of waste properly:
    • Minimize waste by packing food in reusable containers
    • Pack it in, pack it out! This includes all trash, leftover food, and litter
    • If an outdoor privy is not available, deposit solid human waste in small holes dug 15 to 20 cm deep at least 70 m from water, campsites, and trails. Replace soil immediately
    • To wash yourself or dishes, carry water 70 m from streams or lakes, and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Dispose of grey water in a pit, not in the water; biodegradable soap requires soil to effectively break down
    • Anglers should dispose of fish remains in fast-moving current or in deep water. Do not leave remains out in open areas or on shore
  7. Leave what you find:
    • Leave any natural object as you found it. Remember it is illegal to cut any live vegetation, harass wildlife or disturb or remove cultural artifacts in a provincial park
    • Be cautious of the spread of invasive species; clean your gear and outerwear often
    • Do not build structures/furniture or dig trenches
  8. Minimize campfire impact:
    • Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and a flashlight or lantern for light
    • Check for active fire bans before you start your trip. Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires
    • Keep fires small
    • Be sure all coals are burned down to a fine ash, and fire is fully extinguished (ashes should be cool to the touch). Pour water on your fire at the end of the night to ensure ashes are cool to to the touch.
  9. Respect wildlife:
    • Observe wildlife from afar, and do not disturb them. Be particularly cautious of your distance during sensitive times such as nesting, mating, raising young, or during winter
    • Do not feed wildlife. Doing so damages their health, alters natural behaviours, and can expose them to predators
    • Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely
    • When camping with pets, keep them under your supervision at all times
  10. Be considerate of others:
    • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail
    • Let the sounds of nature prevail. Avoid loud voices and noises
    • Have a trip goal to leave your campsite in better condition than you found it
    • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience

Pro tip: Visit our backcountry for beginners blog post for more information on backcountry basics.


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