WILDERNESS TRIPS

PREPARING FOR YOUR EXPERIENCE

Wilderness tripping is an essential part of the Camp experience. Why?

We (and lots of research folk too!) believe that tripping offers a way to develop skills that can be used in your everyday life.

The bonus is that you don’t have to learn these skills in a school – the wilderness is your classroom.

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” – Edward Abbey

The challenges and rewards on trip are similar to ones you’ll encounter in life, and the lessons you’ll take away from your time on trip will help you so many times throughout life. Wilderness trips have a powerful way of teaching you perseverance, trust, teamwork and self-awareness. Many of our campers say they thought they weren’t capable of doing what they did on their trip; but they did, and learned so much about themselves! The wilderness trip setting is a unique opportunity to learn by doing and we believe it will create a lasting and meaningful change on your life.

Each year with us you will take part in a wilderness experience, with the length of the trip increasing with each level. On these trips you will be given the opportunity to channel your natural curiosity, discover an immense respect for nature and even when you face challenges you will thrive and mature in spite of the obstacles in your way.

There are some things you can do before you even get to camp and take off on your wilderness trip, that will help you prepare for your upcoming adventure. Check out these ‘before camp’ tips!

BEFORE CAMP: PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP

The challenge of going on a wilderness trip can have a lot of benefits for both your mental and physical health! To get the most out of your trip, it’s important to take care of yourself leading up to camp and do a little preparation at home.

DISCONNECTING FROM TECHNOLOGY

Leaving your phone or other technology behind can feel a bit stressful, especially if you use them regularly. However, disconnecting for a while can also have lots of positive benefits to your mental health and help you build stronger connections with new friends. If you use a phone regularly, try going a few hours (or even a day!) without your phone if you can – or try limiting your social media time in the days leading up to camp. On the wilderness trip, your counsellor will carry a communication device so that they can check in with the team back at camp – but otherwise, your group will not have any technological devices with you!

Mental Health

Do you have questions supporting your mental health at camp? We have Camper Support Specialists (CSS) at each camp who can help you make a plan with your counsellors to keep you feeling good at camp! Give us a call at 1(888)585-0829 to talk about your mental health at camp, or to schedule a follow up call with the CSS at the camp location you are attending!

If you use technology to calm you down when you are feeling nervous or down, try to brainstorm some other ways you can work through those feelings at camp. Perhaps it’s chatting with a new friend, journaling, playing a game or drawing? There are so many possibilities and your counsellors will help you find your groove.

Physical Preparation

Never been on a wilderness trip before? You’ll definitely meet others in the same situation! Lots of our participants have never been on a backcountry trip, or done other types of camping before. Here are some active ways to get ready for your trip:

  • Fill a backpack and go for a walk (make sure it’s not too heavy!). On trips, the ground is often uneven. Walking up some stairs or up a hill can help you prepare for that extra challenge!
  • Any athletic activity you enjoy that gets you moving or builds your strength
  • If you have shoes you are planning to wear at camp, walk around in them so they are comfortable
  • Get plenty of rest

HYGIENE IN THE WOODS

FOOT CARE

Keeping your feet happy and healthy while hiking or portaging is very important as your feet carry you on your journey! Your counsellors will teach you about proper foot care before you leave for your trip, and hiking boots and fresh socks will be provided at camp. Whether you’re going on a hiking or canoe trip, you’ll want to pack some athletic, closed toed shoes so you can change up your shoes throughout the day.

Where will I use the bathroom?

For backcountry bathroom use, we bring a “poop kit” with us which includes a trowel, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and soap. Depending on where you are camping, there might be established “thunderboxes” (primitive-type outhouses) on your campsite, or you might have to set up your own by digging “cat holes”. Your counsellors will teach you all about what this means and how to do this.

Some people might feel a little nervous the first few times – but everybody’s got to go and you’ll get used to going outdoors pretty quickly! Your counsellors are open and honest, have plenty of knowledge about the best ways to do this, and are happy to answer any questions you have.

What if I have my period?

Having your period on trip is no big deal, and with a little preparation and knowledge you’ll be all set to go on your journey! Your counsellors will teach you all about how to manage menstruation on trip before you head out. Campers who have their period are provided “moon kits” which include tampons or pads, tinfoil, hygiene wipes and bags. Everyone is offered a moon kit (even if you don’t get your period before you leave, you can pack one just in case!). As an added bonus, the exercise you’ll get on trip is also a great way to lessen other symptoms like cramps!

EATING & DRINKING

WATER

Water will be needed in large quantities for both drinking and cooking on trip. Most campsites do not have running water and it would be impractical to carry gallons of water with us all day. Before leaving camp, everyone will fill up their water bottles and a few dromedaries of water. The rest of the water will be obtained from the rivers, lakes, or streams along our path, and treated through water pump filters, boiling, bleach, and/or water purification tablets. This is a very safe and commonplace practice in backcountry travel, and when used correctly, is as safe as drinking water from the tap.

Becoming an outdoor chef

We bring plenty of food on trip to fuel our bodies. As a group you will choose your meals before heading out, and pack all the ingredients to make them. Your wilderness counsellor will teach you how to properly pack a food barrel and how to prioritize which meals to make first so your ingredients stay fresh and delicious! On trip, you’ll learn how to cook over a camping stove. You may even learn a new recipe or try a new delicious meal!

 

PREPARING FOR THE ELEMENTS

BUGS

Black flies, mosquitoes and ticks are a normal part of any wilderness trip. Due to the remoteness of the backcountry through which we travel, there will likely be a lot more bugs than you are used to. We’ll be prepared with bug jackets and bug repellent for everyone’s comfort. Your wilderness counsellor will teach you all about how to check yourself for ticks, and remind everyone to check regularly. If needed, your wilderness counsellor can also help you remove a tick or lessen the discomfort of bug bites.

Just like adjusting to sleeping outside, paddling, and cooking over a fire, bugs are an inevitable part of the wilderness experience! They are one of the most challenging things for campers to overcome, and rising above this frustration is a true test of patience and willpower.

WEATHER

It is almost certain that at some point on trip, we will experience rain or bad weather. It’s all part of the experience! Although it can be tedious, rain doesn’t usually hinder our progress. We take steps to ensure that we keep ourselves and our gear as dry as possible, and try to keep our spirits up! Everyone will get a rain coat and rain pants to stay dry, and all groups pack large tarps and waterproof tents for shelter. We also line our sleeping bags and backpacks with garbage bags to keep those essential items dry. No one wants to get into a wet sleeping bag at the end of a long day!

WILDLIFE

Depending on the area, you might encounter wildlife on your trip. To animal-proof ourselves, we bring bear spray and pack hangs. We cook and hang the packs containing food at a good distance from our tents. Some areas have bear lockers and established cable hangs. Bear sightings are rare on our trips, but we discuss prevention and safety with campers nonetheless.

"LEAVE NO TRACE" PRINCIPLES

LEAVE NO TRACE

Leave No Trace refers to a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors that we follow on our wilderness trips. We take great care to leave the areas through which we travel in the same state as we found them. We bring the bare minimum with us on trip to minimize weight and impact on the environment, and we pack out all our waste, including leftover food and packaging.

Leave No Trace is built on seven principles:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

GENDER INCLUSION IN THE WILDERNESS

Recognizing that prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping are prevalent throughout society, Tim Horton Camps is dedicated to the creation of a safe, secure space for those participating in our programs. We encourage any transgender, trans*, and gender non-conforming campers to contact us to discuss a support plan and the commitments to inclusion made by Tim Horton Camps and how we can best welcome and support you at camp. This includes any questions you have about wilderness trips – we want to make your camp experience the best it can be!

WHAT TO EXPECT ON A HIKING TRIP

On your hiking trip you will get to explore a new place while travelling through beautiful wilderness routes. Before you head out, you’ll pack your backpacks with all the supplies your cabin group will need for your trip. You’ll choose your meals as a group and learn how to safely pack a food barrel so your ingredients stay fresh and delicious!

Hiking routes are typically 1-3 hours away from camp, and you will travel to your destination by bus. During your trip you and your cabinmates will sleep in shared tents, carry all of your food, clothes, and gear in hiking packs, and cook all of your own meals over camping stoves. You will learn skills such as navigation, weather prediction and setting up a camp site. Hiking trips allow you to experience new things, connect with nature and focus on taking care of yourself and others. These trips will challenge your teamwork, communication, and leadership skills as you manage obstacles and challenges that are brand new to you. These demanding but manageable situations will teach you that you are capable of lot more than you think.

This year, you’ll put leadership skills into action on your wilderness trip. You’ll have a chance to be a leader within your cabin group, assuming the role of “Leader of the Day” on trip. More ownership will be handed to you and your cabinmates over trip tasks and navigation.

What to pack: Whether you are going on a hiking or canoe trip, you’ll want to pack some athletic, closed-toed shoes so you can change up your shoes throughout the day. Keens (athletic, closed-toed sandals) are good too! There will also be some at camp that you can borrow. For clothing, you’ll want to pack clothing that is comfortable to move in!

WHAT TO EXPECT ON A CANOEING TRIP

If you have never canoed before, you and your cabinmates will have a canoeing lesson before heading out. If you have, it’s a great time to refresh your skills! You will also learn to portage, which means carry a canoe from one body of water to the next. When you’re on a canoeing trip and you reach the end of the water, you need to get your canoe and all your gear to the next body of water!

After you’ve practiced your canoeing skills, you and your cabinmates will pack up your gear (including lifejackets and paddles) and head out on your trip! Canoe trip routes are typically 1-3 hours away from camp, and you will travel to your destination by bus. On these trips, you and your cabinmates sleep in shared tents, carry all your food and gear in backpacks, cook over a fire, and practice the technical skills of paddling, portaging and backcountry camping. You will learn skills such as navigation, weather prediction and setting up a camp site. Canoe trips allow you to experience new things, connect with nature and focus on taking care of yourself and others. Wilderness trips will challenge your teamwork, communication, and leadership skills as you manage obstacles and challenges that are brand new to you. These demanding but manageable situations will teach you that you are capable of lot more than you think.

As you progress through your years in at camp, you’ll get more opportunities to put your leadership skills into action on your wilderness trip. More ownership will be handed to you and your cabinmates over trip tasks and navigation. You’ll also get a chance to be a leader within your cabin group, assuming the role of “Leader of the Day” on trip.

Camps that offer canoe trips:

Tim Horton Camp Whiteshell
Camp des Voyageurs Tim Horton
Tim Horton Memorial Camp

What to pack: Whether you are going on a hiking or canoe trip, you’ll want to pack some athletic, closed-toed shoes so you can change up your shoes throughout the day. Keens (athletic, closed-toed sandals) are good too! There will also be some at camp that you can borrow. For clothing, you’ll want to pack clothing that is comfortable to move in!

LEADER OF THE DAY

On your trip there will plenty of opportunities to learn about leadership, and decision making in a real-life situations. One of the ways this will occur is through “Leader of the Day”. You and a cabin mate will be assigned to a day (or portion of time) on trip where you will be responsible for some of the major group decisions. This can include:

  • Ensure on-time wake up, staying on schedule, and arriving to site before dark
  • Direct the course of the trip
  • Navigate using maps, compasses, and make sure you are still on track
  • Make decisions on when to stop for lunch, take breaks, change route or plan if needed
  • Make decisions about how to safely cross portages, double back to check on people in the group, help with canoes or packs if someone is having trouble
  • Make sure tasks are evenly divided between the group
    make sure “Leave no Trace” principles are being practiced
  • Keep the groups spirits up, and encourage a positive and supportive environment
  • Make sure everyone stays hydrated and is applying sunscreen
  • Support your counsellors with the daily debrief.

This list gives you an idea of what Leader of the Day is all about. Your counsellors will still be supporting and guiding you through this process but the main decisions are up to you!