What do you love - or hate - about camping?


On Cross Country Checkup: Don't forget the bug spray!
There's something quintessentially Canadian about portaging canoes and pitching tents.
But it ain't always easy. What do you love - or hate - about camping?
Do you have a favourite wilderness camping spot? Is there a piece of camping gear you won't leave home without? If you're a kid, do you get dragged along on a camping trip... or do you embrace the experience, mosquitoes and all?
Whether your style is hooking up the RV or backpacking into the wilderness, we want to hear your stories about the best and worst of living where the wild things are.
With guest host Kevin Sylvester.

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Today on Cross Country Checkup, we are hitting the road and heading into the great outdoors. We are talking about camping.

It's a summer tradition: the cooler full of beer, hotdogs, broken eggs and melting blocks of ice. The morning camp coffee as thick as tar -- with flakes of ash floating on top. The giant flame as you light the portable stove.

Of course, there's also the wildlife (hopefully not bears). There's the whistling of the wind in the trees. Then again there's often the rain as you scramble to set up your tent.

There are also, for me, the stars, which I love. The fireflies. Those trails around Lake Louise or the Bruce Peninsula that seem to go on for ever. The clothes that smell like smoke for days and days -- until you finally give in and wash them.

Camping has also been a kind of Canadian rite of passage. In fact it was how we saw Canada as kids in my family. We would go on these cross-country trips in the summer from our home in Western New York to our family in the Okanagan Valley. And I fell in love with Canada, the variety of Canada.

Along the way I've tipped canoes. I've gotten lost in the muskeg around Inuvik. And I've walked across frozen lakes.

New Canadians have this experience. They escape the city, see the spaces that live in the global imagination -- the mountains and rivers that come to mind when non-Canadians hear the word "Canada."

Yes, we have national and provincial parks that are wonders of the world. Japser, Gros Morne, Algonquin, Wood Buffalo, Cypress Hills. I hope you'll tell us about a few more today.

But is camping a tradition that is dying?

Yesterday was National Parks Day in Canada, but attendance at National parks has been dropping. Do we still need the Canadian wilderness experience to truly be Canadian?

And, of course, not everyone likes camping. David Eddie had a good line in last week's The Globe and Mail. Basically he said he never understood why you left the cramped city to be even closer to your noisy neighbours in a glorified parking lot with trees.

Think of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons where Calvin fights his father's constant attempts to get his family camping "because it builds character," despite the giant mosquitos and booming thunderstorms. (A little bit of story here from my family: My Mum wasn't a gigantic fan of the outdoor camping but Dad would always bring along ingredients to cook one gourmet meal, which he'd do the first night to celebrate having set up the tent. That sort of got her into things. It's a good trick I've used in my family as well.)

So we want to hear your camping stories today: your favorites, your nightmares, your survival tricks, your secret campground (will you share that with the rest of us?).

Our question today: What do you love - or hate - about camping?

Do you have a favorite wilderness camping spot? Is there a piece of camping gear you won't leave home without? If you're a young person - do you get dragged along on a camping trip? Or do you embrace the experience, mosquitoes and all?

Maybe you're a new Canadian. We'd love to hear your experiences.

Whether your style is hooking up the RV or backpacking into the wilderness, we want to hear your stories about the best and worst of living where the wild things are.

I'm Kevin Sylvester, on CBC Radio One, and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159, this is Cross Country Checkup.




The Star

Canadian Immigrant

Canadian Newcomer Magazine

Parks Canada: Experience camping

Learn to Camp - a camping resources section with tip sheets, camping instructions, camping recipes and packing checklists from Ontario Parks

Alpine Club of Canada

The Roberta Bondar Foundation



Waist deep in a cool and gently flowing section of The Mississippi near Lanark,casting spoons and spinners that flash in the first rays of morning light, quickly gutting and frying up those fresh and tasty little rainbows and browns and being at one with and alone with nature. Ahh! the bliss! the sheer joy of the moment!

Thomas Brawn,
Orleans, Ontario

 For 20 years as a child and youth worker leading canoe trips to the Massasauga, I enjoyed youth discovering inner strengths, the power of themselves as they met the challenges and learned the skills that are part of the great outdoor experiences

Duncan McKinlay,
Grey county, Ontario


I stopped camping when the sites got too expensive and when they were so packed you had to book months in advance and pay whether you were able to use it or not. When I could decide on a Thursday afternoon that I'd like to go camping the next weekend and be sure of a spot, I camped more weekends than not during the summer. Now I never go.

Joanne Munday,
Ottawa, Ontario.

I've been camping since I was 18 months old and I'm now a 30 year old mother of two. All of my favourite memories of my childhood are camping memories. When my younger brother and I were young camping at Kilbear Provincial Park (our favourite park) we imagine that Peter Pan  lived on the rocks behind our campsite, we played with our imaginary Peter Pan for years. My oldest child, who is now 3, started camping at 2 1/2 months and I hope that my boys discover Peter Pan on my families old campsite. 
I have car camped across Canada from Newfoundland to B.C. and even the Yukon. I've backpacked many Ontario trails and the Chilkoo. I've canoed much of Algonquin Park. I look forward to passing my love of camping and the amazing country we live in. 

I'm so glad you are talking about camping today.

Meghan van Asseldonk,
Halton Hills,
Acton, Ontario


We camped as a family for many years and our scariest experience was having a Balm of Gilead limb fall once on our new car and another time on our tent trailer. Our 2 girls were sleeping on the side that the limb fell down on during a storm. I heard the crack and the limb coming down and hitting the camper. I called out, "Are you girls OK?" They were and the trailer frame saved them. Needless to say, we no longer camped under trees. In the piston area these trees are beautiful shade trees but vulnerable to wind storms without showing any evidence of being weak. Sand Bank Beach resorts put us up in a lakeside cottage since our camper had to be repaired and that was pretty nice.

Carolyn Carkner,
Milton, Ontario.

My 17 year old daughter just gave her acceptance speech this week for the 2012 National Earth Day scholarship. This is what she said in that speech:

"Wow! It truly is a tremendous honor to be standing up here today. I just came in from the Rockies where I am working as a camp counselor and waterfront instructor at YMCA Camp Chief Hector. A few hours ago I sat down for breakfast and was in awe. I looked around to see the excitement of all the kids, their excitement to be there, and I thought about how incredible it is that they are here and for many kids it's their first time away from electronics and being completely immersed in the natural world and they are so happy.

I thought about what an exceptional opportunity it is for me to be a part of their experience to be able to stand back and appreciate the camp's incredible work to give kids a chance to be environmental stewards. It is such a step in the right direction."

Steve Smith,
Canmore, Alberta.


My favourite story was one time we camped at Johnson's Canyon in Banff National Park. There was a female light coloured brown bear with 2 cubs in the area. We followed all the rules about handling of food. Our neighbours across the way were not fo diligent. They had just purchased eggs, bacon, ham, bread and lettuce and kept the food in a cooler on the picnic table. According to them, that was OK by the parks staff! The female bear came into the area, opened the cooler with absolutely no trouble or damage to the cooler. The bacon, ham, eggs and bread were completely consumed and the lettuce trail left behind let the parks staff know which direction the bear had taken to leave the area.

Margaret Lounds
Sidney, British Columbia.


I have been canoeing with three other women for years. We are all over 60 years of age. We canoe on weekends in the spring but once a year we go to a provincial park for a week to camp and canoe into the interior, portage our own canoes. We have been fortunate to canoe the French River, Killarney Park and Algonquin Park many times. The best part is being away from busy jobs, to laugh, paint, photograph the stunning scenes and cook gourmet meals on a dragonfly camp stove. In fact, I have been drying veggies as we are leaving next weekend. Downside of camping....none.

Deborah Napanee,
Kingston, Ontario. 


As the Chair for the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, I have been privileged to discover the power of families, organizations and researchers across Canada and the US who celebrate getting outside. Research shows that getting outside like going camping can help our mental and physical health, such that we create positive and engaged communities, develop closer connections to place, and support an ongoing love of nature. 

Those experiences that your listeners are sharing are a mainstay of our Canadian identity-development, supporting human and place attachment, that contributes to an ongoing sense of place, which is arguably the key to living a more sustainable life. As one of my wise teachers says, 'we need to live like we plan on staying' and connecting with the wild and wonderful parks and protected areas around Canada, we are creating a cultural and ecological contet to our lives.

Thanks again...please send people to www.childnature.ca for more research, resources, and mapping opportunities for getting outside across Canada.

Nick Stanger
Chair- Child and Nature Alliance of Canada.

Trip to the Yukon and Alaska, hiked the Chilkoot Trail, paddled the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson, toured the Kenai Pen in Alaska and took a cruise ship from Seward back to Van. Had a great experience on the Yukon River at Fort Selkirk where we had a sing-a-long with all the other paddlers and the local natives and then we had an impromptu square dance with all having a great time.

Volk Van Hove,
Coquitlam, British Columbia.


We have just reached our home after listening to your program on our drive home from camping in Algonquin Park. My son and I, (age 6) have just finished our 4th canoe trip this year. We have been camping together every year since he was 9 months old. He first travelled via backpack into the Algonquin Interior and now is an avid camper. We have had friendly encounters with bear, moose, various snakes, turtles, birds, pine martens, fischers and more. We love the serenity, quiet, exertion of portages and paddling and really the smell of nature. Noisy campers and motorized boats drive us crazy - momentarily - but we quickly appreciate that we all camp differently.

Sarah Harrison-Cragg,
Collingwood, Ontario.


I wonder if any of your listeners have any successful tactics in how to get along with other campers who play loud music and or run a generator into the wee hours. I bet there are some creative remedies. I'd love to hear them.

John Grogan
Robson Valley East, British Columbia.


I am 15 years old and live in Guelph Ontario. I wanted to say that I love camping, because it reminds me of how much we all rely on electricity!

Audrey Palmer,
Guelph, Ontario.

Are you aware of the Parks Canada program that provides lessons on camping to people new to Canada?  This past spring they hosted the program again and all the "grads" went camping in the rain one weekend in May or June. I like to think of it as "How to Make Friends with a Coleman Stove".)

Anne Scholefield
Burnaby, British Columbia.

I have always loved camping and for many years it was in tents but about ten years ago I decided to get off the ground. After a tent trailer and a boler, got a an old 70s camper for my truck. It is handy to have a propane fridge and the furnace still works but I seldom us it. I also like to go fishing when camping. Nothing is nicer that fishing under the midnight sun on one of the great Yukon lakes that is surrounded by mountains. Catching is secondary just being there is important. Work commitments have limited my excursions this year. I hope to get out a couple of times more before Thanksgiving.

Denis O'Brien,


 I grew in the big city - downtown Toronto - and every summer I headed north to Temagami to summer camp. I spent seven summers canoe tripping throughout northern Ontario and Quebec (love that Canadian Shield country) but the trip that changed my life took place in the Northwest Territories. 

I was 18, just finished high school and nervous about heading to university in the fall. I went on a 2 month whitewater canoeing expedition from outside Yellowknife to the Arctic Ocean. Despite many challenges along the way (blackflies aplenty, 10+ days of portaging across the tundra, dumping canoes in big whitewater) I finished that trip a different person. I was more confident, sure of myself and ready to take on the world. I'd also fallen in love with Canada's North, so much so that after graduating from university, I moved to the Yukon and have made my home here ever since.

I don't get out canoe tripping the same way anymore and have moved on to "car camping" at the many amazing sites around the Yukon, but your show today is making me want to pack up my gear and head out for a few weeks on the land - thanks,

Caitlin Kerwin,

Just a suggestion, but if some of your listeners really want to enjoy the privacy of the great outdoors on a more intimate level try camping in the "off season". My wife and I decided a few years back to explore the penninsular region know as the Gaspe in the waning warmth of September, and althought the nights were a bit chilly, there were literally no other campers, not to mention people in general.

Jon, Montreal.


In the summer of 2009, I cycled across Canada and camped along the way. I was with a group of 25 other cyclists on an annual bike trip called the Tour du Canada. We shared the responsibility for cooking suppers. A truck carried all the gear so we could bike comfortably to the next campsite. My most unpleasant experience was enduring a thunderstorm which put 5 cm of water in the tent, soaking my sleeping bag and keeping me up all night. No fun to cycle over 100 km the next day. My favourite times were watching sunsets and the sky in the early morning. Cycling from Victoria to St. John's and camping along the way is a great way to experience the country.

John MacMillan
Toronto, Ontario.

Most of my youth camping experiences were with my church youth group. One that has stayed with me is when we decided to roast cornish hens for our first meal, a reward for a long hard trek to the campsite. For safety, we took the hens frozen. Solid. It wasn't very hot weather and so by the time we started dinner, the hens were still frozen. At 3AM, we devoured those hens. They were the best.

Janette Byun
Grande Prairie, Alberta. 


One of our most unforgettable camping trips was during the late 60's when we took the three kids camping near North Bay in a camping trailor.  Of course our male dog 'Corkie' a medium sized, long-haired black mongrel accompanied us. Come evening, weforced 'Corkie' out of the tent trailor because he was panting so much that he vibrated the whole vehicle, keeping us all awake.

Beside us, were a couple of older guys in a large pup tent who were having a great time drinking, telling jokes, drinking, laughing and did I mention they were drinking?  Anyway about 2:00 a.m. when all were settled down and in a deep sleep, we were awakened by all this growling and carrying on outside. Apparently another dog had entered Corkie's territory and they got into a spat. The fight continued into the side of our neighbours' tent, collapsing it. The two men got all excited and by the time they crawled out Corkie had put the run to the intrusive dog. 

Well they were thoroughly convinced that Corkie had tackled a black bear and had put it on the run. They were so grateful that they offered to share their bottle with us, meanwhile praising our dog as a sure fire hero. Even the next morning when we were all up, they again blessed Corkie and told everyone within earshot of his heroic deed. We just couldn't tell them the truth as it would have spoiled a good tale that I am sure they would have carried with them for the rest of their lives.

John & Jo Broughton
Kelowna, British Columbia.

Camping was a good way to holiday having with seven children on the cheap in the sixties. Each year we would buy a $10 permit that would allow us to get into any Ontario provincial park for the whole summer. We would pack up our little tent trailer pulled by a station wagon. No radios and electricity or indoor plumbing. In those days, it was cold water showers too. Bacon and egg breakfasts over a Coleman stove was one of the best things to smell in the morning. We would play card games by lantern late at night. Sleeping arrangements you ask? We all would take turns sleeping on a mattress in the back of the station wagon.

I remember one particular night in a park in Manitolan Island not sleeping all night as I was worried about two of our children who were sleep walkers in the trailer across the camp site, for fear they would get up and meet a bear that were in the vicinity. Haven't thought about those days in forty years. It was fun.

Catherine McKeon
Goderich, Ontario.


Now almost 60, I've lived in BC for almost 40 years, some of it homesteading, where camping was a way of life. Still is, in a small way, as I sleep outdoors on my covered patio for the summer months. 
Raised in southern Ontario, our 2 weeks of camping every summer still bring fond memories of wilderness survival trips, learning to sail, and creative projects I still use with young ones. I even remember the camps names, Wabanaki and Tinawatawa.
I have even been caught singing some of the old camp songs too - "Do your ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro..." ."I have lost my underwear, I don't care, I'll go bare, bye, bye, long john's...", B-I-N-G-O, Donkey Riding, Found a Peanut", Kookaburra, Land of the Silver Birch, Kumbaya, "On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese, I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed..."And, of coarse, on the bus it was "99 bottles of beer on the wall..."
The other day I found myself paddling a canoe after many years and was right at home in the stern steering us just where we needed to go. Good ol J stroke came right back. I know I could still catch a fish with a safety pin, sail a boat, recognize edible plants, tie a bowline, make a shelter and start a fire in the rain. 
I believe that camping experiences provide life long practise for life, and what wonderful memories.  I wish every child could have these experience.  Camping creates survivors.
Marcella Andrews,
Vancouver Island, British Columbia.


Robert Bateman began to quote a cartoon in which one boy asks another "What do you want to be *if* you grow up?"

He had a good point. Mr Bateman suggested that adults the young people in our lives on a weekly hike. It is most unfortunate, but I would argue that it is a challenge nowadays to find children who are healthy enough to handle a weekly two-hour hike. I certainly know many grownups who cannot handle it.

I have been chronically ill for many years. I cannot go camping. I have never been to Algonquin Park. I do not expect to swim in a lake this summer. I wish it were otherwise.  

If we want to get outside as Canadians and enjoy our country's landscape, we have to start rethinking our whole lifestyle. Without healthy food, healthy environment and healthy air and water, we have no way to enjoy the outdoors.

If we do not guard your own and our children's health, we cannot expect to be able to enjoy the landscape. We need to be stewards of our environment and stand up for our rights to live healthy lives. 

Let's set our priorities and not take for granted our ability to enjoy the outdoors. The next generation deserves to go outside. I challenge Canadians to think about this and about the points which Robert Bateman raised.  



My father considered himself a "sport", not an athlete and viewed camping in much the same way. His favorite line was "If you can't do it in a Holiday Inn, it's not worth doing".

When I was 14, he relented. We set off with a camper trailer attached to the back of the big Mercury, and set up camp somewhere in the Finger Lakes, on a hill, in the rain, in the dark. The next morning we arrived, before breakfast, at a hotel, yes, a Holiday Inn,in downtown Rochester and spent the rest of the weekend enjoying all of the outdoor "activities" that a family could do there.

Dale Robinson,
Thorold, Ontario


I hate camping - damp small tents, mosquitos, pit toilets - but in two days I'm going anyway, with partner, two kids and dog. Thinking of taking a quick hypnosis course.

MaryLou McRae
North Saanich, British Columbia.


We have 5 children and the May babies were in tents by July. We have many great experiences and family memories that I don't think we could ever have gotten in hotels and motels. I personally never camped until I left home so it was a live and learn kind of game while my husband had a few years under his belt. So off we would go for sometimes a couple of weeks with 2 tents, a kitchen tent, a homemade kitchen box and everything needed in one van.

Just last year approximately 20 of us, aunts,uncles, Nanny and children arrived in New Hampshire at the peak of the hurricane that hit last August. Most of our children are in their late teens and early 20s and our campground was in the process of flooding from the massive amount of water that was falling. So the Phinney/Quinn families helped move everything from the campground's little shop while at the same time keeping an eye on the rising water. This experience did not deter but I think gave everyone a sense of the power of working hard together in order to help someone else out.

The joy of eating together, sitting around the campfires has made our families closer. The cousins are friends as well as cousins. Looking forward to doing it again this August with members between the ages of 70+ and 12 weeks all enjoying one another can life get much better than that.

Val Phinney,
Rothesay, New Brunswick.


I have just returned from Europe where my son and I spend ten days camping. We travelled by car through France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The camping there is quite different - not necessarily based on a natural beauty site. We found there were four different types of camp grounds - one for families, one for sports enthusiasts, one more regular type and one for more quiet camping. We chose the Green or quiet camp grounds and found them to be excellent - no generators, no noisy neighbours partying all night. 

The grounds themselves were mostly open areas but the facilities were great. They all had bathrooms and showers. Several had restaurants and one had a pool. Almost all of them asked if you wanted to order croissants or bread for the morning. I have camped a lot over the years in the Rockies and around B.C. and I love the natural beauty of Canada but camping in Europe was a very pleasant experience and, the money you save on accommodation allows you to enjoy some wonderful European restaurant meals.

Shelley Rowe
Victoria, British Columbia.

Everyone has mentioned people bringing music or lights while camping. Please tell people to leave their TV's at home. I've camped since before I could form memories. When Dr. Bondar mentioned not touching the walls I had to laugh. Nor did we have a floor in our tent so we would dig out a small hallow for hips and shoulders for a better sleep.

You can eat as well camping as you can at home. As for bugs - go to bed when they come out and get up at 3:00 am to have a campfire and enjoy the "evening". My parents taught us that and I've done it with my children. No bugs - no slathering bug yuck on your skin.

I shouldn't say this but I'm almost 57 now and when I can't get camping I camp in the backyard - worknight or not, nice weather or not. Hopefully the show get everyone out eating and sleeping under the stars.

Deborah Bogaerts
Kingston, Ontario.


My family and I love camping and now that I am retired and the kids are grown and gone, my husband and I still enjoy camping whether it is for a night or two nearby or cross country. In 2010 we left 2 days after I retired on a 9 month trip in a 9 foot pickup camper. Our friends questioned our sanity and said they didn't think a marriage could survive 24/7 in a truck cab and 9' camper but 9 months of travelling all secondary roads and smaller across Canada and the USA we arrived home laughing and still in love, both of us commenting on it being the best trip of our lives.

What a great way to see the country, wildlife, scenery and meet people from all walks of life. I kept a detailed journal of our costs and posted a blog for others to follow our travels. It was as cheap or cheaper than living at home. We feel our provincial and federal governments should make camping an easier and cheaper activity as it is such a healthy, educational and bonding experience. In a world of "getting ahead", "keeping up with the Jones'" and "having all the comforts", we find it amusing that when people get those two weeks of holidays a year, where do they head...out into the wilderness to "rough it."

Susan Poirier
Enderby, British Columbia.


We have done all sorts of camping - wilderness camping in Ontario and BC, group camping at folk festivals, scout camps, camping with infants, camping with sullen teens and car camping at all points in between. But just recently we camped in the Wasagaming campsite, next to the Clear Lake town site in Riding Mountain National Park, south of Dauphin, Manitoba. We were in a beautiful treed site with few neighbours and close enough to bike into town to enjoy local musicians, great restaurants and the beach on Clear Lake. Love it!

Michelle Nyquist,
Dauphin, Manitoba.