Tag: camping

Travel Swellness: #GoodTimesOutside camping adventures

 Killbear fam pic

Earlier this summer, MEC and I chatted about ways to enjoy #goodtimesoutside this season, and I know camping came to mind first for me. I’ve been interested in trying it for a few years but the whole idea is daunting when you’ve never done it (other than as a Brownie once). Would I be able to pitch the tent? I had visions of me getting all tangled in the fabric I Love Lucy-styles. Would I go hungry or even be able to start a fire? 

Thankfully, I was able to round up some friends who have camped and were willing to show me the ropes. We booked the campsites (Rondeau Provincial Park  with my friend Ally, and Killbear Provincial Park with my pals Anya, Arthur, and their dog Bun) and leading up to my first camping trip, I pestered my friend Ally with question after question: Where do we do dishes and how? Where do we plug things in? There will be washrooms and showers, right? I knew well enough that for my first forays into camping, car camping would be the best. No portaging for this first timer.

Killbear camping with BJ

Before we went on our camping trip, I had a quick chat with MEC engagement coordinator, Dennis (he’s an avid camper), and learned a few key tips (I also read a few articles online) and before I knew it, the camping weekends were upon us.

Killbear hiking

Here are six things I learned from my first camping trips this summer:

1. Camping is a great way to disconnect from city life. I feel like I came to loving the outdoors late in life. But now, I love being in nature. When I travel, I try to include visiting a garden or park or go for a hike, and when at home, I take my dog, Billie Jean, for walks by Lake Ontario, hike whenever I can wrangle a friend with a car (including visiting waterfalls in Hamilton) so it’s not surprising I enjoyed this aspect of camping.

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And I’m so lucky because my camping trip to Rondeau happened to be the weekend of the Perseid meteor shower. It was so magical to be lying in the dark in the fresh air and seeing so many shooting stars. Ally got some fantastic photos (you should follow her on Instagram for more of her travel photos:  @allycarlson).

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That said, I love nature but I do not love insects. I lucked out on both trips with the mosquitoes and blackflies not being much of an issue. In fact, I barely noticed any at Killbear on our trip in August. And I had minimal interactions with spiders and other buggy creatures. Phew!

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2. Camping calls for a lot of gear. A lot. I don’t know if there’s a way around this. Could I pack lighter? Let me know, avid campers! Both times I started packing and thought, “Oh, it’s not so bad,” but inevitably there’s always so much to bring! From all your cooking tools and food to your tent and sleeping gear, it just piles up. Thankfully, with gear that packs up efficiently (my six-person tent compacts into a bag not much bigger than a rolled-up yoga mat — bonus, it was pretty simple to set up!) and with this awesome MEC Scully 100 duffel bag (which is waterproof) that you can stash smaller pieces into (making packing up your car so much quicker, the task of packing for camp is less daunting. Having all of the right gear can make a world of difference, says Dennis.

3. Make a detailed camping checklist for groceries and supplies. This was actually the first tip Dennis shared with me. “To minimize forgetfullness,” he says, admitting that he once ventured out camping and realized when he arrived he’d forgotten his sleeping bag. My friends and I made a detailed spreadsheet, planned out our meals, and outlined who was responsible for what…and this worked out well, except I didn’t go through the list on my computer carefully enough for Killbear as I forgot to pack garbage bags! Doh! So make a list, and check it twice.

4. Camping without electricity isn’t so bad. Being a camping newbie, I was adamant that our campsites have electricity. But at Killbear, there were no sites with electricity available so we booked a non-electric one. And I realized I didn’t really need it. I charged several portable battery packs in advance of the trip (to charge my phone and lantern), and with a borrowed hand pump, we filled a Casper air mattress (which I had filled with an electric pump at Rondeau), but I actually found a thin sleeping mat from MEC quite comfortable (and much more compact and much less work to fill with air), so I would consider a non-electric campsite again. If I got desperate for an outlet, I noticed outlets in washrooms where a few people were charging their phones

 5. Bring games, activities and music. Dennis suggested bringing cards and camp games so you have some entertainment at your campsite. We brought dominoes, playing cards and another card-based game and it was a fun daytime activity when we were just hanging out at the campsite  The music he recommended both for entertainment but also so that you have some noise going to alert animals like bears of your presence.

 Camping breakfast

6. Camp meals are the best meals. We ate like champs on both trips. Steak and eggs for breakfast. Easy snacks for lunch since we were usually on the beach or out hiking, and usually one fun dinner. We made veggie quesadilla (one of Dennis’s fave camping meals so we took his idea for this dinner!) and with some stellar guacamole, we were literally happy campers. I read up on camping food before our trips and it recommended pre-slicing all of your veggies and it made cooking so much easier. We cooked both on a camping stove and over the campfire and I’d assumed all of our cooking would be on the campfire but I learned that it’s often easier to use a stove. But a must, as I learned, for the campfire? Spider dogs! 

 spider dogs

I think I’m now a camping fanatic. Not sure if I’m game for backcountry camping just yet, but I definitely see lots of car camping in my future. Billie Jean adores it, too! Thanks for helping to gear me up for a new way for #goodtimesoutside this summer, MEC!

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Leave a Comment September 18, 2017

Travel Swellness: Camping with the Cadillac Escalade

Escalade for camping weekend

A couple of weeks ago, I went camping for the second time this summer and thanks to Cadillac Canada, I got to test drive a Cadillac Escalade for the trip.

Escalade in Killbear Provincial Park

It’s actually the first time I’ve driven an Escalade, and I was pretty stoked about it. Actually, I was pretty stoked right up until I got in the car and realized how enormous it is. As I’ve only been in an Escalade a handful of times as a passenger, I didn’t realize there are two rows of seats behind the driver, and just how much more massive it is than the other SUVs I’ve been driving (like the Chevy Equinox, GMC Acadia and Buick Envision). How big is it? I didn’t even have to do anything (such as wave to ask them to let me go through) and drivers readily made room for the Escalade so I could get by; people in my neighbourhood could see how this vehicle was not going to make it through the narrow two-way street I live on.

Escalade with Bun and Billie Jean

I was pretty intimidated and nervous behind the wheel at first, and especially so when parking underground (where space is tight and there’s all sorts of columns to maneuver around). I did eventually feel more comfortable driving it once we were out of the city (where traffic was less hectic).

The things I came to like about the Escalade as I drove it and had it for our camping weekend?

  • While you may not think of an Escalade and camping as going hand in hand, camping calls for so much gear, and we were three people and two dogs, and once we put the last row of seats down, we were able to easily fit all of the piles of gear and food. And we were all seated comfortably even with all of our supplies, which was great as we ran into traffic heading out of the city making for a long time in the car.
  • The sharp lines and boxiness of the car; I’ve always been more partial to more boxy cars versus ones with more curves to its silhouette. So aesthetically, it resonates with me.
  • Our Escalade colour, the Crystal White Tricoat, is a gorgeous, almost pearly, white.
  • The luxe, buttery interior. I  jokingly told my friend it made our camping trip into a glamping trip. Also, because it is so spacious, in an emergency, we could all sleep in the vehicle if we came across a bear.
  • The head’s up display on the car’s windshield. Not having to glance at the screen but having my speed and the GPS directions on the windshield (the head’s up display is when this info is projected onto a film on the windshield) so that I can keep my eye on the road is very helpful. I especially found it helpful in the Escalade because I found you could easily be driving quite fast without it feeling like you’re speeding. Being able to have my speed in front of me on this display helped me stay within the speed limit.

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So while the size was intimidating to me, the vehicle did turn out to be a great option for our weekend in the wilderness at Killbear Provincial Park. And I will say, the size of the car and how smoothly it drove did make me feel safe.

As for how camping itself went, I’ll be blogging about that soon. Spoiler alert: we (thankfully) didn’t encounter any bears.

Escaled with Billie Jean chilling

Leave a Comment September 6, 2017

Travel Swellness: Camping getaway in a Chevy Trax

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On my the fourth road trip of the summer, I went camping for the first time, and I loved it. More on that in a future post.

For this road trip, I was looking to try a car I’d never driven before so for this camping weekend, thanks to General Motors Canada, I had the chance to test drive the Chevrolet Trax. I will say, when I checked it out online, I was skeptical about whether it’d fit all of the camping gear, food, and my dog, Billie Jean. It is definitely much smaller than the other SUVs I’ve driven recently, such as the Buick Envision, Chevy Equinox and GMC Acadia.

So how was the Trax? When I picked up the car, it was indeed as petite IRL as it’d looked online (it’s category is indeed small SUV). This made the car way easier to park and simple for sometimes hectic city driving, so it definitely gets points for that. Much like the Chevy Cruze I drove the WayHome, it was a breeze to park in my cramped underground parking garage.

Billie Jean in Chevy Trax

I did get concerned as I started packing the car for the weekend, though. Trunk space is limited. Once I put in one large MEC bag of gear and my carry-on bag, and it was essentially full (save for some nooks and crannies I was able to stuff small, soft items into). Thankfully, my friend knew that the flap that covers the trunk space can easily be removed, and once we took that off, we were able to pile much more gear into the back trunk space.

Chevy Trax_camping in Rondeau

From there, we put the rest of our stuff into the backseat, leaving one spot for Billie Jean to sit. It was tight, but we made it work. So ultimately, the Trax is just big enough for a camping trip for two to three people. Although, I should mention that we ended up bringing more gear than we needed (such as an extra sleeping bag, some awkward-to-travel-with chairs, and some sleeping mats, we didn’t end up using).

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The soft lines of the car make it a really cute and fun SUV, and so in that way, I think it was perfect for our little girlfriends getaway. We both thought it handled well on the road and appreciated the blind-spot assist (we took turns driving that weekend) and we loved being able to connect our iPhones with Apple CarPlay. I thought it was well designed and I appreciated the black finishes (all of it felt sturdy and well-made). In terms of what we didn’t love: we found that the backseat headrests get in the way of looking through the rear window when driving; and while not a big deal, I did miss having that compartment you’ll often find between the driver and passenger seat (I usually find this cubbyhole helpful for storing things like maps and sunglasses). And the trunk doesn’t feature a button to close it (and we went into the trunk a lot over the weekend since it served as a storage space for our food and some gear).

Since I’d be primarily driving a car in the city and only doing getaways calling for a lot of space (like this camping weekend) occasionally, I think this car makes a lot of sense for someone with a similar lifestyle.

I have another two road trips this month so be sure to check back to read about my camping and driving adventures. And if you’re an avid camper, I’d love to hear any tips and tricks you’ve got!

Leave a Comment August 18, 2017

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