Camping season here in Alberta is off to an awesome start! I sat around a beautiful campfire on the weekend with friends from all different lifestyles and backgrounds, from different places around the world and I couldn’t help but think about how lucky we were to be there in the same place enjoying the same fire. So many folks around that circle have camped all around the world and it was amazing to sip our drinks and listen to each other tell stories and laugh, and laugh and laugh…
Choosing a campsite takes time and planning. I have to give credit here to my partner who does it all! All I typically do is pack the car and show up ready to have a good time– but if I were going to pick the site, here is where I would start:
1. Know your audience!
Your campsite choices will vary depending on the needs of the people you are camping with. If you are headed out with seasoned backpackers, you may not need to consider showers or a pool, but if you’re camping with friends who have never left the city (yes, they exist), you may need to find a spot with amenities such as showers or concessions.
2. Prepare for the environment
Knowing where you are going, what the weather might be like, and what kind of activities might be dictated by the environment can really enhance your experience. I remember the first time I went camping in the mountains–I had prepared for beautiful weather and fun on the water, but not for the inevitable chill when the sun set and we’d been in the glacial lake! Luckily, I did bring an axe and my trusty firestarter and we killed the evening hours by learning to start fires from feather sticks and ferro rods.
Rock squirrels are no joke. It’s the rabies. You heard it here first.
It is important to know what kind of wildlife you might encounter: for your safety as well as theirs. In the Canadian Rockies it is super important to be bear conscious. If you are camping in the Arizona desert, you need to know about rattlesnakes, and more importantly rock squirrels. Yes, they are real, and yes, I am being serious! When camping in the highlands of Scotland you need to prepare for sheep and the odd cow as well as really big (but generally harmless) spiders. You get the point – different places, different locals! Sometimes the greatest source of comfort you have is the Helle Utvaer on your belt, and at other times, it’s knowing that the spiders are creepy, but they can’t hurt you.
4. Food & Snacks
No matter where you go, you have to bring things that will enhance the journey. Do you have a favorite candy? Bring it! Chips?! Bring them too! Do you have one of those camping sandwich press things? They are amazing and a totally fun way of making very different dishes. There are a million social media reels on camp cooking, and I think trying something new creates a fun event to fill some of the hours. Food has a way of creating memories for me. A friend of mine brought a cast iron plate camping last year and made pizza from scratch in the fire. It was one of the best pizzas I ever ate and it was equally as fun to mix dough fireside. Of course, there is always something to be said for the humble hot dog!
One of the best tools I have for this type of adventure is the UCO flatback grill. It’s super light, goes anywhere, and doesn’t take up a ton of space. Mine fits in my panniers so it comes on bikepacking adventures and every riverside fishing trip– cause you never know when you want a hot snack, and firepits aren’t always available.
Forgetting your s’mores is the first cardinal sin of camping.
Camping can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. There are a million styles, more gear than a person could ever research, front country, back country, off grid, bushcraft, glamping, cottage life, you get it. Be prepared for what you’re getting into and there will be nothing left to do but hear embarrassing stories about your pals’ childhoods, hear terrible jokes, and enjoy your favorite candy with your favorite people under the stars.