The Happy Camper: Top Canoe Questions Asked (and Answered!)

What would you ask The Happy Camper? Here are some of his answers.

Being a blogger, a vlogger and someone that’s canoe tripped a lot, I get my share of questions from paddlers. They range from the intellectual to the simplistic. Some even come from questionable internet trolls. Some are quick and to the point. “Would you rather trip solo or with a large group?  Flat water or white water? Use a beaver tail or otter tail paddle? Cook S’mores or hot dogs on a campfire?” The answers are very much to the point: Solo. Flat water. Beaver tail. S’mores.

However, there are generally some top detailed queries I can bet on getting a couple of times a week.

Here are the most asked enquiries I get that deal with paddling a canoe:

1. Where is your favourite place to paddle?

Tough question. Scenery wise, Killarney is the best. I don’t think there’s any other place in Ontario or even in Canada that has that distinct landscape. For pure canoe tripping, I think Quetico really has it all because it’s got amazing canoe routes, landscape and short portages. It’s really made for the canoe. But for memory sake, Algonquin would be on top of the list. Algonquin is really a silly place to paddle because the average portage is a thousand metres. But it’s that retrospective thing of going back there every year to go to all those places that I went to as a kid. Algoma is one of my favourites too; I paddled there a lot in my pre-teens and adolescence… I could go on forever.

But listing places is not really what I generally do. I usually say that my favourite trip is the next one I’m going on. Sounds like a lame answer, but the reason is that it’s not really about the destination, it’s the fact that I’m going on a trip.


2. What’s the best camp meal in your repertoire?

I’ll catch a lake trout and catch a walleye; I’ll open up the lake trout, put the walleye fillets inside the lake trout, put apples, onions, lemons and seasoning inside, sew it all up, put it in tinfoil and bake it on the fire… it’s great. And it’s one of those things that you can only get when you’re out there and everything goes just right. You might not get the fish, but when you do it’s amazing.

3. What’s new in the latest trends in camp gear? Is there anything new that you’re feeling particularly excited about?

There’s two trends that are going on right now and one I’m really interested in: they’re called stick stoves. They’re stoves that run on small sticks, pinecones and natural elements for fuel. It’s a bushcraft/survival thing, but I’ve been using one for the past couple of years now and they make good sense to me. I’ll bring a [traditional] stove to use as a back up but if you use a stove that just runs on sticks, you can really reduce the amount of gear that you’re bringing out with you, and it can act as a mini campfire—so that’s kind of cool. I have a collection of about six stoves but my favourite is the Kelly Kettle with a Hobo Stove added on.

The other trend is hammock camping. The idea is that you hang a hammock and sleep in that instead of a tent. I’ve tried it and jokingly said that hammock camping is like your first kiss: the first time you try it you think “I’m not sure if this makes a lot of sense” but then you really want to try it again. The bonus of hammock camping to me is that you can really go anywhere you want. If you really want to get away from everybody and from a normal campsite, then you can just put up your hammock between a couple of trees anywhere. And that’s really why I prefer canoeing over kayaking or backpacking or whatever else. It’s really only the canoe that gets you into those small getaway places because you can use the canoe to portage. When you portage you really start to lose the crowd and get away; that’s why I prefer the canoe over any other mode of travel out there.


4. Having good company on a trip is obviously really important. What qualities do you look for in a trip partner?

Well, the main thing is that we all know why it is we’re going out there. So before we leave we say, “Okay, this is what I want out of the trip.” So there are no surprises.

If you want to do a fishing trip, everybody must know that this is a fishing trip. Or if it’s a destination type trip, or a recreational or a family trip, it’s important that we all know that.

The other thing that my buddy Andy has always taught me is that we really don’t complain out there and we don’t try to survive out there; we go out there to live and to rejoice in being there. So, there’s no homesickness. No “Oh I wish I was at home now” or “I think we should end the trip early.” There’s none of that because it’s our choice to be out there. Yeah, the portage might be bad, and you might grumble a bit, but there’s no complaining because you chose to be there. And that makes the whole trip completely different. Instead of surviving, it’s thriving and that’s a huge difference out there.


5. Which celebrity would you choose to take on a week-long trip in the interior?

It used to be Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip before he passed away. John Denver would have been awesome to share a campfire with as well. Then there’s Bill Mason, Sigurd Olson, Eric Morse, Farley Mowat… but they’ve all past away. Gordon Lightfoot would be cool. He’s a canoeist. So is Bruce Cockburn. I wouldn’t even care if they sing around the campfire. I think it would just be cool to hang out together and enjoy time in the wilderness.


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