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  • Megan DeLaire

Follow these tips for a safer, more enjoyable backcountry camping trip

Here are a few ways to minimize your impact on the backcountry

The sky glows orange and blue over a lake during sunrise, as seen from inside a tent. Trees are silhouetted in the foreground.
- Megan DeLaire photo

Backcountry camping is having a moment, with many pandemic-grounded Canadians having enjoyed a new-found interest in backpacking over the past year and a half.

Backpacking is an incredible, rewarding hobby but it comes with some important responsibilities. To make sure you’re mitigating the risks and environmental impacts associated with backcountry camping, consider the following:

Hikers and backpackers who aren’t careful can inadvertently leave traces of food and garbage behind that litter the woods, hurt or sicken animals and attract black bears, causing them to become human-habituated and revisit camp sites in search of food. Human-habituated bears are more likely to be euthanized.

This is why the "Leave No Trace" principles of outdoor ethics exist. Visit the links at the bottom of this guide to learn these crucial, basic rules of outdoor exploration before you embark on your first backcountry camping trip.

If you’ve never been backcountry camping, you may want to start with a park that offers maintained backcountry sites with firepits, outhouses and bear lockers before tacking unserviced Crown land trails.

Whether you opt for a maintained backcountry site or pristine wilderness, these are some of the skills you should practise before you go:

• Hanging a bear bag

• Starting and maintaining a safe fire

• Digging and using a cathole • Using a compass and map

• Reading trail markers — also known as “blazes”

And these are the classic 10 essentials you should bring on your first, and every subsequent backpacking trip:

• Map

• Compass

• Sunglasses and sunscreen

• Extra clothing

• Headlamp or flashlight

• First-aid supplies

• Firestarter

• Matches

• Knife

• Extra food

You should also have nylon cord for hanging your food bag so animals can’t reach it, a trowel for digging catholes (a pit for faeces), a bag to pack out all of your garbage and uneaten food, and other essentials like a backpacking tent, pack and good footwear.

Backpacking gear can be expensive, but you can spend less on lightly-used or inexpensive equipment or borrow someone else’s while you’re getting started, then invest in better gear as you go. It’s better than heading into the woods ill-equipped for a backcountry experience.

Here are some resources new backpackers can consult in preparing for backcountry camping trip:

This website:

Leave No Trace (

This book:

“The Backpacker’s Field Manual” (

These podcasts are also a great resource for new backpackers:

Trust the Trail Podcast (

The First 40 Miles (

Backpacking and Blisters (

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