10 Essential Camping Tips

Kevin Callan dishes out 10 essential camping tips to help you make the most of your time outdoors.

Credit: Kevin Callan

1: Get to Know Stick Stoves

Stoves that use sticks, pinecones and other small forest debris rather than a petroleum product are more environmentally friendly. There are a number of them on the market — and even some nifty homemade models. The Little Bug Stove, Vital Stove and Firebox are very effective. The Kelly Kettle, however, is one of the most interesting on the market, thanks to its double-wall chimney. The flames are drawn upward through a fire chamber, reacting like a chimney draft. H2O is held in a water-jacket around the chimney, allowing it to boil incredibly quickly — one litre boils in approximately two minutes.

2: Murder All Deerflies

A deerfly can move at 112 km/hr. Their bites are fierce and painful. They’re also known carriers of such diseases as anthrax, tularemia and hog cholera. Deerflies are attracted to shiny objects, which is why they love to land on your shimmering wet skin after a swim. However, this is their weakness. Roll a piece of duct-tape so the sticky side is face-up and place it on the top of your hat. The shine attracts deerflies — by the time you finish your hike you’ll have half-a-dozen dead flies glued to the tape, just like a strip of flypaper. 

3: Make a Homemade Bag Liner

A sleeping bag liner is worth the extra weight. It takes away nighttime’s clamminess and adds extra warmth during the early or late-season. Back home, you wash the liner rather than the bag. But don’t buy one — making your own is an easy task. Simply fold a regular cotton or fleece bed sheet in half and sew the bottom and halfway up the open side. Insert the liner with the half-sewn side towards the zipper.

4: Meat Packing 101

To keep frozen meat from thawing too quickly, make sure to marinate it (liquid marinade acts as an ice pack), store it in a zip-lock bag and then wrap it in newsprint — or better yet, insulation taken from an ironing board. Meat can also be kept bacteria-free for up to four days by wrapping it up in a piece of J-cloth or cheese-cloth that has been soaked (not saturated) in vinegar. The vinegar smell/taste disappears as soon as the meat is cooked.

5: Get Decked Out

A spray deck dramatically reduces the amount of water that gets in your canoe and allows you more control in open water. It also is very effective at cutting wind resistance. Further, your gear stays dry in the rain and you keep warmer. As an added bonus, keep the wind-deck on the canoe when it’s loaded on your vehicle — it cuts wind resistance while you’re driving and lessens fuel consumption. 

6: Make the Best Jerky

Making your own jerky is easy. Lean round-roast or chicken work well. Even Tofu can be used. But turkey is the best. Slice the meat across the grain and marinate for two to four hours in 1/2 cup of Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 cup of soy sauce and 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar. Then, lay the slices across oven racks and dry overnight (eight to 12 hours) with the oven set to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If it snaps in half when bent, it’s done. Munch it on-trail or even add to soup or stew at day’s end.

7: Fight the Incredible Bulk

It is not weight but bulk in your pack that is the main problem. Your sleeping bag can be the worst offender. To fight bulk, choose a down-filled bag, rather than synthetic. Down can be squished to the size of a miniature football, especially if stored in a compression sack. Another option is to pack the sleeping bag loose, using it as filler for all the empty corners of the pack.  

8: Master Egg Storage

Never break eggs and store them in a container. It might be an ingenious way to keep the eggs from cracking on trip, but once the egg leaves its shell it instantly becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Instead, buy fresh eggs from the farmer’s market — they haven’t been sitting around as long, ensuring they last at least three times longer. And the best place to store them is in the carton they came in, stuffed in the centre of your pack or duct-taped firmly under the seat of your canoe. 

9: Easy Fire Starters that Work

• Cotton ball dipped in Vaseline

• Strip of inner tube

• Ball of steel wool

• Strips of wax paper

• Pieces of wax crayon

• Birthday candles or tea lights

• Dryer lint 

• Duct Tape coated with a few squirts of bug repellent

• Squirt of alcohol-based hand sanitizer 

• Lip balm

• Chips — Doritos or Corn Chips work the best

• Ping pong ball

10: Perfect the “Canadian Stroke”

The Canadian Stroke is just an extended J-stroke — in fact the original name, the “Knifing J,” is a better label for it. It starts off the same as the J-stroke, but rather than pulling the blade abruptly out of the water after the J is complete, the paddle is “knifed” forward (blade sideways) under the surface of the water until about halfway through the recovery. This saves both time and energy as you bring the paddle forward for the next stroke.

Interested in a canoe adventure hosted by Kevin Callan? Find out more HERE.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2014 issue.