Taking New Campers Into The Backcountry? Here's How To Plan

Introducing someone to backcountry camping can be exciting and reward but it can also be stressful and challenging. The thought of coordinating such an outing may seem overwhelming but with a few helpful tips, a little bit of luck and a lot of enthusiasm you can do it! Here is some advice that we have learned over the years.

Know The Groups Comfort Level and Limits: To start with you should determine the group’s comfort level with backcountry camping. Have they tripped before? Do they know what they are signing up for? Does anyone have any special considerations that need to be disclosed? Tailoring a trip to the group’s comfort and skill level will be key to the trip's success. Spending 6 nights in the backcountry may not be ideal for a first timer but 2 nights may be tolerable. I would recommend planning a trip around your least confident/comfortable person in the group.

Set Realistic Expectations For The Trip: Backcountry camping is not easy and it’s not for everyone. If you are entertaining the idea of taking new people out to the backcountry, make certain that you set a realistic expectation of what it’s all about. Specifically the physical requirements and the creature comforts that don’t exist in the woods and might be missed.

Include Everyone In The Planning Process: Generally most people want to be included in the planning process. Even though new folks may not have too much to add (given their lack of experience) this can still help to get them excited about the trip and allow them to have a voice in the more generic factors like the dates of the trip etc. It'salso a great excuse to get together for an evening and have some fun (Tips For A Great Map And Flap).

Assign Pre-Trip Tasks To Everyone: In the spirit of involving everyone with the planning, assign tasks to everyone in advance of the trip. This could be as simple as one person being responsible for booking the sites, renting any gear or coordinating meet up locations. Other pre-trip tasks may include shopping for food (booze!) or other essential supplies. Assigning a meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) to peoplemight be taxing for a new camper but they can easily be put in charge of snack items for the day.

Provide Everyone A Detailed Itinerary: Always provide a detailed itinerary to every member of the group. This should include where you are putting in, which lakes that you will be staying on and ifpossible, the sites (if you can provide this level of detail at the time). This not only puts everyone on the same page, but allows them to share the trip details with friends or family in the event (heaven forbid) that something happens.

Provide Detailed Gear Lists and Assign Responsibilities: This might sound obviously but I’m always shocked to hear some of the common camping items that get left behind (like tents) because someoneassumed that someone else was bring it. Assign clear ownership to specific people to help avoid this from happening. The other thing to consideris that inexperienced campers may not know what items to bring on an interior trip. A detailed list will help them plan and pack accordingly.

Loan Out Gear: If you are able to loan gear for others to use, it helps reduce the cost of the trip. It’s difficult to ask a new camper to invest in a $200 sleeping bag and ground mat, but if you have spares, loan them out. People will be much more open to trying interior camping if they don’t have to make a costly investment up front. Once they are hooked they can join the rest of us and spend thousands of dollars on their own gear.

Assign Camp Chores To Everyone: A lot of people are surprised to hear that there are camp chores that need to be completed. These chores typically include setting up the site, collecting firewood, setting up tarps, cooking food, cleaning dishes (probably one of the least favoured chores)and purifying water. Just as with ‘real world’ chores, not everyone enjoys them. It is important that everyone contributes to getting things done around camp. Few things will spoil a trip faster than animosity when one person isn’t pulling their weight.

Review Rules and Trip Etiquette With Everyone: Most backcountry camping areas have rules that need to be followed. For example Ontario Parks do not allow bottles or cans in their backcountry areas. It will be awkward and unfortunate when one member of your party shows up with cans of beer and can’t bring them along. Don’t assume that people know the rules!

There is also a certain etiquette that should be followed when camping. There is no set guideline here but most of the things are common sense. I usually preach safe tripping and reduced impact camping and it’s good to review some of these principles with everyone before heading out.

Full Disclosure: Everyone should be open and honest about their skills and abilties including swimming abilities, first aid training and other applicable skills. Discuss medical history that mightbe applicableand of course allergies. Make sure that everyone knowsthe locations of life safety items like first aid kits, bear bangers/spray, epipens, medications, SOS devices, phones and even car keys.

Share Your Pro Tips: Most campers have learned a thing or two over the years. Most of these lessons (at least in my case) have been taughtby the school of hard knocks. Share your experiences and tips with the others so that they don’t fall prey to the same issues as you once did. The goal is to educate the new campers and for everyone to enjoy their time in the backcountry. Hopefully if you do it right, you will have helped created a camper for life.

Did we get everything? If not or if you have any other tips, pleasefeel free to share in the comments below.