Parks Blogger got in touch with Jesus Gallardo to talk about his recent winter camping trip, and here is what he has to say..
Where did you winter camp recently? and When?
My latest camping trip happened during the remembrance day weekend (nov 10-13) and it was at Algonquin park Mew Lake camping ground.
Was it on a developed campground? or back country?
This time i camped at a developed campground. in the summer i have done backcountry , but in the winter i had limited myself to do only carcamping however this year i plan to go on a couple of back country winter camping trips.
A few words about this recent winter camping experience? (3-5 lines)
My latest camping experience was amazing, the conditions were very unexpected for that time of the year, in november i did not expect to see such a great amount of snow and also it was quite cold during the night, but that is exactly the kind of conditions that i look for when i go camping in the winter. the whole winter setup and environment gives a totally different feel of enjoyment to a camping trip.
How did you choose this location? What factors did you consider while choosing this location?
So far i have chosen Mew Lake because I thought it was one of the very few camping sites that were open during the winter. I went there for the first time last year. and this time i just went again because i like the location quite a lot. However, like i mentioned before, this year i plan to go to Killarney as well where i have read that it is also possible to camp in the winter and back country, rather than a developed camp site. i cant wait for it. The factors i take in consideration is that they offer basic non electric supply.
Have you winter camped before?
Yes, this will be my second winter season of winter camping.
What are some tips that you would like to offer to your fellow winter campers (based on your experience)?
The most important tip i can give to some one about winter camping is: winter camping is a lot of fun and people often miss out on how great it is to be in the outdoors during the cold season because they immediately think they will be too cold. That can totally be prevented and winter camping is fun as long as you are properly prepared for the elements. My most important tip is (sorry got a bit sidetracked) , dress properly. If you are properly dressed, you will not be cold, thus, you will have a great time!
In the same area the rest of my tips are:
1.get the right gear: get an insulated air sleeping pad and combine it with one or two cheap closed foam sleeping pads. get a good cold rated sleeping pad, for the coldest conditions you think you will want to go through. Mine for example is a down quilt good for -20 Deg Celsius. While at it, get a down sleeping bag rather than synthetic, it is warmer and takes less space for packing. just dont get it wet! If you cant get a proper 4 season tent, get a three season one that does not have a lot of mesh and you will get by.
2.get a good pair of winter boots, that are water proof, and bring with you 2 extra pairs of socks.
3.dress in layers, if you dress in layers, it will beat the warmest coat you can think of, and if you dress in layers when you get too hot, you start shedding layers until you feel comfortable. Bring wool clothing. as much as you can get. wool socks, wool base layers, wool insulating clothes. Wool is great for keeping you warm even when wet and it is better managing odors!
What are the top 5 essential gears that you take for your winter camping trip?
Here are my top 5 pieces of gear for winter camping:My camping tent: Hilleberg staika. My down quilt: enlightened equipment revelation. My hobo stove: buschraft essentials bushbox titanium XL hobo stovemy insulated sleeping pad: nemo cosmo insulated. my new under armour fat tire boots.
About Jesus G
I’m Jesus Gallardo, I was born in mexico but have been a Canadian citizen and lived in Canada for almost 15 years. I am an engineer in electronics and I love the winter season. I live in Southern Ontario.
What do you do on those days during your camping trip when the wind blows the rain sideways? We love our Eureka tarp and bug shelter….but sometimes getting 4 guys under the tarp and keeping your gear nice and dry (not to mention blocking a cold wind off the lake) can be a priority! Our solution is to use 2 sil-nylon tarps and a bunch of clamps from Lee Valley. The key is to fold the seam where the Eureka tarp and the sil-nylon tarp meet (green and blue in these pictures) over several times prior to clamping so that you have a water/wind tight connection. It would be nice to pre-cut the tarps to shape….but their rectangular shape does allow you to create a large “vestibule” to keep your gear dry. Enjoy!
Stunning natural scenery, historic shipwrecks, hiking, biking, diving, and more—the list of attractions drawing visitors to the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario is impressive. It’s no wonder that Tobermory area accommodations are highly sought after, particularly during peak periods. Fortunately, there are a number of venues that accommodate campers. Below is a sampling of what a few of them have to offer.
1) Cyprus Lake Campground, Bruce Peninsula National Park
Drive-in campsites, back-country camping, or the relative luxury of overnighting in a yurt—Bruce Peninsula National Park, 15 kilometers from Tobermory, offers all of these options at or through the Cyprus Lake Campground on the shores of Cyprus Lake.
The ten yurts book up quickly, particularly during peak season. These circular shelters are 20 feet in diameter, and come equipped with a wood stove, beds, and a table and chairs. An attached large deck and a propane barbeque are part of the package with each yurt. Although the individual yurts are not equipped with washroom facilities, a nearby comfort station offers flush toilets and individual showers. No pets are allowed in the yurts or on the yurt sites.
Cyprus Lake also offers 232 drive-in campsites on three campgrounds, Birches, Poplar and Tamarack. The down side: there are no serviced sites, and, unlike the relative luxury of the yurt campers, the tent and trailer sites do not offer shower facilities, although pay-for-use showers are offered by private businesses near the park.
Those seeking a more rustic experience can check out back-country camping at the Stormhaven or High Dump sites. Back-country sites are booked through the Cyprus Lake Campground and are located along the Bruce Trail. Each of the back-country camping locations boasts nine sites with wooden tent platforms suitable for free-standing tents. No open fires or campfires are permitted at Stormhaven or High Dump, although campers may bring in their own cook stoves. As with many areas in the Bruce Peninsula, back-country campers are advised to follow bear-safe practices with food and scented items.
Cyprus Lake Yurts, Bruce Peninsula National Park
2) Fathom Five National Marine Park, Flower Pot Island
Six tenting sites with wooden tent platforms offer a get-away-from-it-all camping experience on Flowerpot Island. Permits must be picked up from the Park Visitor Centre in Tobermory.
While some campers travel to the island using their own boats, a private tour boat from Tobermory can also be taken to reach the campsites. Although leashed pets are allowed on the sites, campfires are banned. Campers should also bring extra supplies, as sometimes adverse weather necessitates a delay in departure timing from the island.
But camping at this out-of-the-way spot may be worth it for the attractions: the chance to enjoy the scenery, visit a historic light station maintained by the Friends of the Bruce District Parks, and check out the hiking trails, which offer varying degrees of difficulty.
Fathom Five Flowerpot Island Tenting Site (Photo: Parks Canada)
3) Lands End Park
For those who want to be handy to Tobermory, Lands End Park might fill the bill. Located 2.2 km from the town, the park is located on a 70 acre parcel, and offers accommodation for tents or recreational vehicles and trailers on its 121 sites.
The park includes a self-guided hiking trail, a camp store, and various recreational sports amenities such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Canoe, kayak, boat, and bicycle rentals are available. A beach with a swimming area and a shallow wreck a mile away for divers to explore are additional attractions. Fishing and snorkeling are also popular activities.
4) Summer House Park
Located on Miller Lake, Summer House Park is just over 30 km from Tobermory. With 85 acres of hardwood forest, Summer House offers a small network of walking and biking trails, as well as a sandy beach on Miller Lake.
In total, 235 sites are available, some with hydro, water and sewer hookups and others unserviced. Pull-through sites can accommodate larger RVs. Lakefront sites and wooded sites are also available.
Summer House offers children’s programs from July 1 to Labour Day weekend. Adult activities are also available. Watercraft are available for rental, ranging from motor boats and sailboats to person-powered craft such as canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and paddleboats.
Summer House Park (Photo: explorethebruce.com)
5) Harmony Acres
Situated 6 km from downtown Tobermory, Harmony Acres is an option for those looking for a quiet stay surrounded by nature. A radio-free campground, Harmony Acres caters mostly to tent campers. A handful of electrical sites, and three larger sites with 30 amp electrical and water service are available for those with trailers or small RVs. In all, just under 50 campsites are available, including four venues suitable for group camping.
Recreational opportunities include volleyball, frisbee, horse shoes and badminton, while a walking trail offers the opportunity for bird-watching, observing nature, and enjoying native wildflowers. Harmony Acres offers two star-gazing areas, and is a favored spot for night sky photography.
If You’re Planning on Camping Near Tobermory
The Tobermory area is in high demand during peak season, so reservations may be advisable particularly between July 1 and Labour Day weekend. Some venues require multi-day stays, especially around long weekends.
If making reservations, check out each facility’s cancellation policies. Some demand an up-front deposit and will keep a sizeable chunk of it if you cancel.
Wildlife viewing is one of the draws in the area, but that wildlife includes bears. Many of the venues advocate bear-safe practices, so it’s best to come prepared.
The Massasauga Rattlesnake also calls the Bruce Peninsula home. Though these snakes are generally shy, hikers should be alert to the potential for their presence. Wearing long pants and sturdy shoes or hiking boots, and refraining from reaching into areas where you don’t have a good sight-line of what’s lurking are good precautions.
Many of the parks enforce “quiet time” between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., and some require campfires to be doused by midnight. It’s a good idea to check out each venue’s rules and regulations to ensure they fit with the kind of experience you’re looking for.
There’s nothing like escaping into the wilderness for a few days to make you feel refreshed and energized. Come summertime one of my favourite ways to escape into nature is through backcountry camping.
If you have yet to backcountry camp, I highly encourage you to give it a try. Unlike traditional campground camping, venturing into the backcountry means popping your belongings into a canoe or kayak and paddling out to a more remote location to set up camp.
Whether you’re working up a thirst mid paddle or looking to refill your kettle on site, a water filter will allow you to get water directly from the lake or pond and turn it into clean, fresh water that is safe to drink. This way, you can save the space and weight required for pre-filled purified water and ensure you always have a source for hydration.
Highly Portable and Cheap Options
Lifestraw is probably the cheapest water filter option for the backcountry. It is cheap, portable and very much functional. It makes drinking clean water quick and easy. You can just pop one of these in your jacket or pant pocket and use whenever you want. I know many people who just dip it directly in the lake water and drink. The original Lifestraw is specifically designed for the backcountry and claims to filter out 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoa.
Today, they have a variety of different models intended for a more wide variety of needs and uses.
Ideal for: For solo.
Price Range: CAD $20-$25.
2) LifeStraw Go
If you’re planning to hike on your backcountry camping trip, a water bottle with a built-in filter comes in handy. This way, you can refill while you hike, without feeling weighed down by your water supply. LifeStraw Go has the same functions as the LifeStraw — removing harmful bacteria and chemicals from water — but instead of dipping it in the water and sipping, you can fill the water in the bottle and sip as you go.
Ideal for: For solo.
Price Range: Around CAD $50.
3) Sawyer Squeeze & Sawyer Mini
Sawyer squeeze filters can be screwed to a pouch filled with unfiltered water and the pouch can be squeezed to push filtered water on the other side. This is a very convenient and portable solution for backcountry campers. You can either squeeze the water directly into your mouth or to a water bottle. It is very quick and can easily fill a large water bottle.
There is a mini version for people who prefer more portability and affordability, but the rate of filtration might not be as good as the regular version which means more time to fill your large nalgene bottle.
You can also make a DIY gravity set up with your Sawyer for half the price of other set ups. Check out the below blogs:
Mid range, Productive and Portable
4) Katadyn Vario
Katadyn Vario is similar to its predecessor model ‘Hiker Pro’, but only more advanced. This one has got multiple settings that you can alternate depending on how muddy your water is. The company claims this helps in achieving long life for the filter used.
As for the pump style, it’s a convenient technique to throw one end of the tube into the water and pump fresh water into a bottle. It’s actually a very practical and convenient solution, especially if the water is at a little low level compared to where you are standing.
Compared to the Sawyer, the Vario is a little bit on the expensive side, but it offers portability and reliability.
Ideal for: Solo or for a group of 2.
Price Range: CAD $120
Output: 2 litre/min or 1 litre/min (two setting option).
5) MSR MiniWorks
MSR MiniWorks is a similar product that is comparable to Katadyn Vario. MSR is also a trusted brand and the MiniWorks is priced similar to Vario.
Ideal for: solo or a group of 2.
Price: CAD $110
Output: Upto 1 litre/min.
Gravity Filters – The most effective, reliable and ability to filter large quantity of water
A gravity filter lets the water flow through the filter bed by gravity instead of being pushed through by a pump or a high static head of pressure. This makes it a convenient setup to filter relatively large quantity of water that can be used for cooking and drinking purposes.
6) Platypus Gravity 4L
The Platypus GravityWorks is probably the most popular gravity filter among backcountry campers. It can transform four litres of contaminated H2O into drinkable water within a mere 2.5 minutes. This filter includes two four-litre reservoirs: one for dirty water and one for clean. With a lightweight design and convenient hanging loops, this system is ideal for setting up at a campsite after a full day of paddling.
Ideal for: medium to large groups, for backcountry cooking, and generally for filtering large quantity of water.
Price Range: CAD $140.
Output: 1.75 liters/min.
7) Katadyn Gravity Camp 6L
It’s lightweight, it’s a beast, and it’ll turn mud into clean water. Katadyn Gravity Camp works similar to Platypus and comes for a lesser price. You can also get a 6L bag as opposed to the 4L offered by Platypus.
Katadyn has been gaining popularity in the recent years, however many still consider Platypus the classic option, and love the quality and reliability of the product.
Ideal for: medium to large groups, for backcountry cooking, and generally for filtering large quantity of water.
Purchasing a second-hand trailer earlier this spring provided the impetus for my partner and I to get out and see some of the parks on our never-been-to list. Though we’d visited Sauble Beach a few times when a family member had a cottage there, we’d never camped at Sauble Falls Provincial Park and had long been curious about what it had to offer. Sauble Beach really gets hopping in the summer, and we prefer things a little quieter, so we opted for a June visit.
We arrived at the park on a Wednesday after a four-hour trip, pulling in at the gatehouse just after 5 p.m. A note taped to the window alerted us to the fact that office hours were over. No problem, we had a reservation, so after picking up a park information guide we proceeded to our site.
Pulling into our site was relatively easy, with lots of clearance and a good straight line to back up the trailer without encumbrances. Our particular site, Site 100, was level, with privacy provided on three sides by a tall, thick cedar hedge. We could even glimpse the Sauble River through the trees.
View of the Sauble River from our site
We’d elected to stay on the East Campground, since the sites looked more spread out than on the West side, particularly when it came to the electrical-serviced locations. As we strolled over to the comfort station and checked out some of the other sites available, we felt we’d made the right decision. While sites offered varying degrees of levelness and privacy, they were, for the most part, reasonably spacious.
When we walked through the non-serviced sites later in our visit, we almost wished we were still tenting. Many of the non-serviced sites on the East Campground were surrounded by trees, and it looked like a great place to camp.
There was also a small wooden dock joined to the riverbank a few metres from our site. During our stay, we saw several campers coming and going with kayaks and canoes, so it got good use.
After supper, we decided to take a quick walk over to the upper end of Sauble Falls. Though there’s a paid parking area for day use, we didn’t need to take the vehicle—it was a short stroll from our campsite. All we had to do was go out the park entrance and cross the Sauble Falls Parkway and we were at the top of the falls.
We made our way across the bridge to read information boards outlining the history of Sauble Falls and the previous uses of the Falls to power a sawmill and provide hydro-electric energy. There are some picnic spots near the top of the falls and at a quiet point upriver, and we could hear the muted roar of the falls themselves. With dusk approaching, we opted to head back to our site and save the trip along the southeast portion of the falls for the next day.
Checking Out the Falls
Thursday dawned sunny but cool, which we didn’t mind since earlier in the spring there’d been a bit of a heat wave. The relative inconvenience of finding the gatehouse closed on arrival was balanced out by the fact that staff delivered our receipt, our reservation slip, and our vehicle pass to the site on Thursday morning.
After breakfast, we crossed the Sauble Falls Parkway, and this time we made our way downhill along the southeast side of the falls, following a combination of paths and wooden stairs.
Viewing platforms provided vantage points along the way, but for my money, the best view of the falls was from a clear area on the shore at the bottom of the falls. From here, we could look up to the left and see the water cascading over the step-like rock formations.
We made a note of the numerous picnic tables scattered around in the area, and paused to take a seat to relax, take in the view, and listen to the rumble of tumbling water.
Viewing areas along the way provided the opportunity to get a close look at the falls.
A broad clearing on the shore of the river provided a good vantage point to see and hear the falls.
When we’d had our fill, we walked along the shore to catch the stairway leading to the West Campground. A number of platforms along the way provided an opportunity to rest the legs, a feature I appreciated since I’m still recovering from knee surgery a few months ago. The climb was gradual enough that I was able to handle it with ease.
Turning to the left at the top of the stairs, we checked out the large pavilion, the kids’ play area, and the comfort station, complete with a small laundry facility. Then we sauntered along the roadway to check out some of the West Campground’s serviced sites. Here, we found the sites deeper but narrower than on the East Campground. This portion of the campground was well above river level, and fences had been built at the back of the riverside sites for safety.
On the other side of the roadway, some of the sites backed onto ample green space consisting of a long, treed hill, with more elbow room between sites than on the river side.
Some of the West Campground sites on the opposite side of the road from the river backed onto a hilly treed area.
Our exploring complete for the time, we headed back for lunch, then decided to tackle the 2.5 km Sauble Trail branching off the East Campground. One of the other campers had told us that the Trail provided a view of some impressive trees. Noticing that we required canes to assist with walking, he suggested we tackle the trail starting with the right-hand loop. It was the opposite direction to that recommended by the brochures available at the trail head, but this branch of the trail did prove to be more level, and therefore more suited to our needs, than the steeper up-and-down of the left branch of the trail loop.
The trail proved to be a foot-path suitable for walking single file, and somewhat overgrown in spots, perhaps because it was early in the season. Poison ivy made an appearance in several locations along the way, so I was glad I’d worn long pants.
No bikes are allowed on the trail, and I felt that given the winding and wooded nature of the path and the potential for unplanned close encounters with someone coming the opposite way that this rule made sense.
We knew from the start that we likely wouldn’t make it all the way around the trail, and were right. We turned around just before the half-way point and made our way back to the trail head. Still, we were glad we’d checked it out. It was nice just to be surrounded by trees, and the blue-sky day made it that much more pleasant.
Sauble Trail - Open area of trail
Sauble Trail - Towering Trees
That night, we enjoyed a campfire under the watchful eyes of chipmunks and a seagull. Although there were other campers the sites were by no means full, and it was a quiet evening.
Friday morning was departure day for us. With the 2 p.m. checkout time, we were able to tackle the teardown of the campsite at a leisurely pace.
We made our way to the trailer dumping station, conveniently near the East Campground. It seemed cramped and congested compared to some other campgrounds I’ve seen, and the person ahead of us had parked in a way that blocked the road, so we had to wait until he finished, backed up, and went around the loop before we could get in. I was glad that we were here on off-peak and not during a busy weekend. Still, the facilities provided did the intended job, and we were soon on our way.
Overall, we counted our first campout of the year, and our first in our new trailer, as a success, and agreed we’d put Sauble Falls on the list of campgrounds we’d gladly visit again.
Aqua Quest Guide Silicone tarp: Last year was a year full of wet weather. My tarp was there with me through all of it, and continuously assists me in enjoying the outdoors even when the outdoors isn’t bright and sunny. My tarp is 10’x 13’ and what I like most about it is it fits into a bag the size of a Nalgene bottle. It has a centre loop on the top of the tarp which makes it easier to hang in difficult environments, and it is strong, but still light. Being outdoors in wet weather is much more comfortable when you are nice and dry under a great tarp. I can hang my tarp over the fire pit (be sure it is high enough to avoid it melting or catching on fire) and still enjoy being outdoors, sitting by the fire and being in nature, even in the pouring rain. It is a must for anyone who likes to camp, regardless of the type of camping, and will ensure you can always enjoy being outside, even when it’s not dry out. It is also great protection for you from the sun and gives you some much needed shade on those extremely hot days or shelter from the wind as well. This tarp has become one of my most favourite pieces of gear and there are few places I would venture without it by my side.