I Can Cook. Now Help Me With The Tarp.

Wind blew the rain into our camp kitchen. We were mostly dry, as dry as we could be after kayaking all day in a steady rain, thanks to the strategically-hung tarp overhead. The leaders decided to push off a day the Iron Chef ODAN edition competition to allow we weary paddlers a chance to make a simpler meal and turn in early. The nine-day Georgian Bay expedition gave us plenty of time to experiment with the camp craft and provisioning skills we had been practicing in shorter trips over the course of a year in the program.

Each skill required another set of skills. We couldn’t hang a kick-ass tarp without having mastered our knots first. The bowline, trucker’s hitch, and half hitch all came in handy depending on whether we were contending with wind, rain, or fair conditions. We couldn’t cook our gourmet, self-dehydrated recipes without learning how to use our MSR Whisperlite stoves: how to take them apart, fix them, and put them back together. We learned how to meal- and fuel-plan for the activities we would be participating in, for the times of year we would be traveling, for the number of people in each cook group. We figured out who had the best arm to get the bear hang hung on the first shot.

During those shorter trips, I tested winter sleep systems and experimented with the amount of clothing I needed for springtime adventures for both in and out of camp. I also happened to learn that I would have liked snowshoe poles to help me manage my backpack weight on a three-day snowshoeing expedition through the crown lands of eastern Ontario rather than fall flat on my face when the shoes gunked up with snowmelt and ice. But I digress…

Group dynamics might have been the most unintentionally interesting part of our camp craft lessons. Twelve of us would roll into camp after a day of hiking, kayaking, cycling or snowshoeing and disperse to set up camp. These three people were always the first to get the tarp up. Those three always started in on kitchen prep. These two always seemed to disappear until dinner was ready. And so forth.

The hours we put in practicing these skills have made me methodical about how I set my camps up now. It could be the reason my friend who allowed me to take her camping for the very first time has agreed to do it again! (Ok, so it was the good weather we had on Georgian Bay but I like to think it was my epic camp meals…) Justin of Wild Adventures Canada likes to say if his clients eat well and sleep well while on trip, almost anything can happen and they’ll still have fond memories of their time outdoors. Camp craft satisfies a basic need in all of us: food to eat, clean water to drink, and a place to take shelter from the elements.  The next step is to elevate my camp craft skills to an art form.

Up for discussion: What’s your favorite part of setting up camp?

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