Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Canada

First Backcountry Adventure

The summer prior to our first season hunting (2014) we decided to go on a backcountry scouting trip with a few friends. We planned on hiking in and spending a single night then hiking back out late the next day.

So, not having any gear we went to MEC and picked up a MEC Cragalot 50L climbing backpack. It was big, was comfortable in store and under $150. Then we picked up a Hennessy Expedition Hammock ($189) and figured we were ready to sleep in the mountains…..

For our food we went with MREs, Meals Ready to Eat. A stoveless military meal kit that used heat packs and water to warm the food. While providing good calories they are bulky, heavy and taste like the cardboard they are packaged in. We had minimal backcountry clothing and I know most of my gear had a high percentage of cotton in it (big no no!).

The hike in was beautiful as we followed a river valley in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Our camp location was about 7km in with little to no elevation gain and we chose a great little spot just up from a creek bend so we had access to water and fishing.

Camp was set up quite quickly as the hammocks are super easy, simply hang between two trees and tie down the rain fly. (There were guy lines everywhere!) At this point we had seen two deer heading in, both does, and lots of sign which was promising.

Just before sundown we got to watch a cow moose and her calf move along the creek about 100 yards from camp and we all went to bed in good spirits!


Being as inexperienced as we were, we did not bring sleeping bags. We figured a cotton bed sheet (I KNOW!) and our clothes we wore that day would be fine. Well the clouds parted to a beautiful starry sky and all the days heat was lost. Our hydration hoses icing up made us believe we hit 0 degrees Celsius.

My only source of warmth was an emergency blanket from a first aid kit. It did little to stop the shivering. Couple the cold with the noise of the blanket and I did not sleep well at all.

During the small bit of sleep I did manage we were all awoken to a large animal walking through the camp, later to be identified as an Elk by footprints in the morning. Luckily for us it did not get tangled in any guy lines!

By first light we were all huddled around trying to light a fire. We were all shaking so bad that we couldn’t keep a BIC lighter lit. Once fire was going it took a good while before we all warmed up!

A lot of very important lessons were learned on this inaugural backpacking trip and ones I will not soon forget!

Here are my top lessons:

  • NO COTTON!!!! Once wet (this includes sweat) it does not dry and sucks the heat from you.
  • Plan for a colder night then forecasted, you can always unzip or de layer to regulate heat!
  • Hammocks while comfortable allow the wind to rob heat from your backside.
  • MREs are heavy, bulky and have far too much packaging that needs to be packed out.

With research and the proper gear my backcountry camping gear has become much more sound. This has even allowed me to spend a night in the foothills in December just this past winter and I was quite comfortable!

My current list includes a Sea to Summit Talus II sleeping bag, a Klymit Insulated V Sleeping pad, Stone Glacier Sky Archer 5900 pack, a MSR Hubba Hubba tent, and my clothing is all polyester blends or wool!

So I beg you, learn from my mistakes and save yourself the miserable, and dangerous experience of being ill prepared in the backcountry!


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