A Short Guide to Joyful Hiking and Camping
Four Besiders share their tips for increasing your enjoyment and reducing the chances of mishaps outdoors.
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Nature sometimes teaches us the hard way: stuffing a backpack as if you were going to a cottage for the weekend, dressing your kids in forest green and then losing sight of them, trying to light a fire with a wet lighter, eating cold oatmeal all weekend. Fortunately for us, many outdoor enthusiasts have already blazed the trail of our potential mistakes. Four forest connoisseurs have shared with us their tips and tricks for a happy and pleasant getaway. Whether it’s how to pack for a long hike, how to be adventurous and daring as a family, how to get by with five essential items, or how to create a gourmet menu while camping, these “Good to Know” skills are sure to lend a boost to your next adventure.
Packing for a long hike
with Sophie P.-Voyer
“I’m really geeky!” Sophie hunts for excess grams of gear with as much gusto as she devours kilometres in the mountains. In her Montréal paper-making studio, the inveterate hiker offers us a host of tips on how to pack strategically for a trip to the highest peaks.
Every hike has its own equipment. From one adventure to the next, each location, each trip, and each season has its own set of factors to take into account. Going on a summer hike in Québec? Don’t forget sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
Light bag, happy walker. Rule of thumb: the bigger your bag, the more you’ll fill it. Choose an optimally-sized backpack, without being too ambitious — we all know what it’s like to stuff a suitcase until it explodes.
Good things come in small packages. The same goes for all your containers — don’t get carried away. Whether it’s coffee or sunscreen, transfer the amount you need into a smaller container.
No need to bring the contents of a walk-in closet. What about clothes? Sophie suggests bringing one warm sweater. For the rest, “whether we’re going for three days or three weeks, it’s two sets of clothes.” A t-shirt for the day, one for the night, one pair of socks for the day, one for night, and so on. Wash them as needed, rather than lugging around a pocketful of dirty socks.
“Don’t pack your fears!” When in doubt, stick to this simple phrase, her best piece of advice. It does a great job of quieting all the “just in cases” weighing down our bags.
Rain or shine, the pilgrimage is not over. Lighter, sleeping bag, overnight clothes… you’ll have a very hard time in nature unless you keep these essential items dry at all cost. Choose bags (dry or compression) that protect your valuables from bad weather.
Divide and conquer. Sophie likes to group her items by category — food, sleep, safety — in small bags. She also stresses the importance of putting the heaviest items at the very bottom and storing them by order of frequency of use. For example, put the kitchen set and sleeping bag first. Essentials such as sunscreen or snacks should be kept in the most accessible pockets.
Find more advice from Sophie about packing for longer trips in the series “Good to Know.”
Family fun in the outdoors: achieving the impossible
with Jamillah Jean
Very proud of her two young outdoor enthusiasts, Jamillah likes to recount that her son climbed the Draveur Acropolis when he was only four years old and that her 11-year-old daughter often guides other young adventurers. Founder of Hike Mtl, Jamillah wants to pass on her passion for the outdoors to her children, but also to provide them with role models they can relate to. She organizes nature outings that focus on the inclusion of Indigenous people, Black people, and people of colour. Her tips may give you the courage to venture out as a family.
A matter of pride and responsibilities. When camping or hiking, kids appreciate small tokens of trust. “For example, as soon as you arrive at the campsite, give them specific tasks, like helping to set up the tent.” Try showing them how to interpret the trail markings and letting them take the lead.
A bag for each kid. Jamillah also lets the kids carry their own backpacks, which contain plenty of water, snacks, and an extra layer of clothing. Children will be happier with more autonomy, and you’ll be happy to carry a lighter bag.
Appropriate clothing. Jamillah suggests choosing comfortable and colourful clothing that will be easy to spot, even from several metres away. It’s also best to pack different layers in case of changing weather.
A healthy dose of motivation (and snacks). Stay positive, celebrate the small and big successes. In addition to verbal support, Jamillah also believes in the power of festive snacks to boost courage. Dates and almonds are great, but Jamillah likes to make trips to the wood unique. Little chocolate chip cookies might help motivate the troops!
One step at a time. If this is your first time in nature with little ones, start with a short adventure close to home. Next, a one- or two-hour hike with a slight elevation gain. With each outing, your children will be able to add kilometres and surprise you with their resilience. If you need inspiration for trails to explore, Jamillah recommends visiting the Rando Québec site.
Check out the series “Good to Know” for more of Jamillah’s tips for adventuring in nature with kids.
The five basics of a forest adventure
with Alexis Pageau
You need to start with the basics. And who better to teach us than a wilderness enthusiast who, on any given day, is likely to disappear into the forest? Photographer and adventure videographer Alexis explains the five categories of items that you should always bring to the forest, whether for a three-hour hike or a three-week expedition.
- Fuel. Fuel, of course, means fire. As well as being an indispensable source of heat, fire helps boost morale. Alexis advises that you keep a lighter in your bag, but also an ignition system that performs in all weather conditions, such as waterproof matches stored in a waterproof container.
- Cover. When it threatens to pour, you need something to take cover: a tarp! Alexis recommends always having one on hand. The size will depend on your adventure, but it can be used as a shelter (if only for staying dry while cooking your hotdogs), as a blanket, or even as a receptacle to collect rainwater.
- Knife. Forget your paring knife. We’re talking about a portable tool that is up to whatever task you require: cutting kindling, untying your rope, cooking, building a shelter, or even making a trap.
- Container. It is imperative that you bring plenty of water on all your nature outings. Think you need a litre of water? Bring two! Choose a container that meets your needs. A lightweight metal bottle is a great option. It is durable and allows you to boil the precious liquid directly over the fire, ensuring it’s drinkable should you run out of safe water and have no way to treat what you find.
- Rope. Alexis favours a parachute cord, which is particularly versatile and strong for its size. In addition to using it to stretch out the protective tarp as soon as he arrives at his campsite, he uses it as a clothesline, as an emergency shoelace, or even as fishing line, by untying a few strands.
Find Alexis and his tips for camping with these five essential items in our “Good to Know” series.
Feast in the wilderness: cooking local flavours
with Elisabeth Cardin
In the middle of the forest, author and gatherer Elisabeth Cardin (L’érable et la perdrix and Le temps des récoltes) concocts dishes that could have come straight from the kitchen of a gourmet restaurant. She shares some of the tricks she has developed over the years, both through her passion for botany and by learning from fellow chefs.
Local and delicious. Before visiting a region, find out about local producers, local specialties, and seasonal vegetables. Take inspiration from Neuville corn in August or Gaspé lobster in June. These gifts of nature will be easy to find along your journey.
Just like in your kitchen. “Some people are embarrassed to make food for themselves as if they were at home.” She doesn’t necessarily advise bringing your mandolin, but suggests a cutting board, a good knife, a Québec oil, vinegar, and herbs (her personal favourite is angelica, which you can even grow at home or get from local producers).
Delicious Weeds. “I learned to recognize weeds during my botany training. At some point I realized we were actually throwing away a lot of food!” For her recipe of the day, Elisabeth simply stopped along the road to pick edible and easily accessible, plants. Her foraging basket is well stocked: daisy, yarrow, tufted vetch, chickweed: all plants that will give her dish a unique taste. If you’re wondering about the flavours, Elisabeth just smiles: “You can’t explain it; you have to taste it!”. There are many wonderful resources to get started in foraging, such as the book, Forêt, by Gourmet Sauvage, or Elisabeth’s podcast, Manger le territoire.
Check out our “Good to Know” series to learn more from Elisabeth about cooking local while camping.
For over 20 years, Atmosphere’s mission has been to help outdoor enthusiasts discover the full potential of Québec’s territory. The company offers carefully selected products that allow enthusiasts of all levels to enjoy their outings with complete peace of mind. Because every moment spent in nature should be magical, no matter the conditions.
Léa Beauchesne prefers escaping to wide-open spaces away from walls and asphalt. Journalist and creator, Beauchesne likes to play with words and images to create timeless moments where humans and nature collide. She doesn’t like to worry, except when it comes to the environment. You’ll most often find her in the mountains at the end of a climbing rope, on her bike, or on her skis, surrounded by too many dogs and preferably just one other human.