It’s camping season in the Kootenays

Scouts Canada says Canadians camping skills not up to par


The biggest camping weekend of the year will soon be upon us — opening weekend as it were. Yup, it’s the May long. Kimberley and Cranbrook will be like ghost towns next weekend — unless it snows again of course — as one and all fire up the RVs, campers and toss the tents into the trunk of the car. The hardiest will put on their backpacks and head to the hills.

Most people have their camping routines down pat. We know what food we’ll be bringing. From the staple hot dogs over the fire to deep frying turkeys, camp meals can be epic. We know that no campfire is perfect without the perfect camp chair. And whether you’re in an air conditioned (or snow resistant) trailer or a tiny tent, we enjoy sleeping with the knowledge that we’ve left the responsibilities of home at home where they belong.

I would think that most Kootenay residents are fairly confident in their camping skills, most Canadians even. But Scouts Canada begs to differ. The organization recently surveyed Canadians on camping skills and made one remarkable discovery. We lack them.

Scouts Canada surveyed 1,000 Canadians and found some surprising answers to basic camping questions. I’m hoping that those 1,000 people all lived in downtown Toronto. Otherwise it’s kind of embarrassing.

First of all, bear sense. Apparently 8.6 per cent of those surveyed think that the smart thing to do if you encounter a bear is to run. There were other ideas offered such as playing heavy metal on your iPhone, or staring directly into the bear’s eyes to scare them, or this one is a winner — attack first. All in all, 23.2 per cent would do the wrong thing.

Again, I can’t see 23 per cent of Kootenay residents being that unwise when it comes to bear behaviour.

46.7 per cent of those surveyed admitted they had no idea which plants were safe to eat and which weren’t. Now here I’m as one with my downtown Toronto folk. I wouldn’t trust me to pick out any plant in the woods as edible or not. That’s why I pack my cooler full of tasty goodies. No need to forage.

And now for tents. Asked how long they thought pitching a tent would take them, 35.7% said ‘they have no idea’ (suggesting that it might take a while.)

Now here’s the thing. Back in the days of canvass tents, I can sympathize with how long it might take. First you shake out the bag with all the poles, none of which are marked. Then you wrestle with them and change them around and fuss about until you finally have something that approximates a structure. Then you get it inside the heavy canvass and wrestle some more. Sweat vociferously. Swear creatively. At some point your tent is sort of up, maybe with a bit of a lean on it.

But there’s no excuse for this kind of incompetence with today’s tents. The poles are all attached together, the tent fabric light. You basically shake out the bag and the tent puts itself up.

BTW, Scouts Canada brags that the average Scout can set up their own tent in 15 minutes.

The whole mission of this admittedly fun survey was to point out to Canadians that if you had joined Scouts as a young person, you would have developed camping and survival skills so that you wouldn’t “burn tent with hot lantern”; “set up tent facing rain so it filled with water”; “lock keys in car”; “run over my phone”. Okay the last two you probably would do anyway, but if you had been a Scout as a kid, your tent would toasty warm and dry.

You would be happily munching on safe plants foraged from the woods, although hopefully enjoying a hot dog or two as well. You and the bear would have had a peaceful encounter.

And your entire camping experience would be blissful and stress-free. Until you get into a turf war with your camping neighbour about who actually owns this prime piece of Crown land you intend to set your camper upon.

Happy and safe camping season, everyone!


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