Guide for Beginners
If you think campgrounds are too civilized and you’re longing to journey off the beaten path and into the wild, then backcountry camping is the challenge you’ve been looking for. Abandoning the conveniences of modern life in favour of living off the grid, even if only for a weekend, is the ultimate adventure. Because there is nothing quite like experiencing the wilderness as it was meant to be – the rewards are endless. Whether you’re waking up next to a rocky mountain creek or going to sleep in a sea of hoodoos, climbing craggy boulders or biking through treed hills, kayaking on still water or hiking through prairie grasses, embarking on a backcountry camping adventure will undoubtedly be a memorable experience.
Even when you’re traveling with others, backcountry camping offers a quiet, peaceful solitude that only the wilderness can offer – it’s an extraordinary opportunity to connect with nature as you never have. Experience the freedom to explore the backwoods, the rainforests, the great wide open – to truly escape civilization, to fully engage with nature, and to wholeheartedly connect with each other. Be a renegade, go all-in, build memories with backcountry camping.
At Off Grid Trailers, our teardrop trailers are designed for traversing the backwoods, finding that perfect spot and setting up camp. Whether you’re camping with the Pando, the Overlander, or the Expedition, our trailers are designed to be the perfect home base.
Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.
Between books and blogs, there’s a wealth of information out there on backcountry camping, the key is to figure out where you want to go and chart your course. That’s right, you can’t backcountry camp without going old school – a defined plan and mapped route along with necessary research (along with some backup plans) is the best place to start. Here are Off Grid Trailers’ recommended tips for where to start:
- Don’t go it alone: Travelling solo in the backcountry, particularly as a beginner, isn’t not a good idea. For both safety and enjoyment, embarking on your journey with a friend (or your family) is the best way to go – experience the unparalleled beauty of the natural world is always better when there’s someone to share it with anyway.
- Watch the weather: As you research where you want to go, be sure to check out typical weather for the area and to read the weather reports. If you’re not experienced with winter camping, you don’t want to get stuck in a spring snowstorm. And even if the forecast is promising, always plan for the worst-case scenario – storms, heat, cold, and wind – and stay current on the forecast as your departure date approaches.
- Do your homework: Uncover and explore all there is to know about the region you’re heading to. If it’s a National Park, check out their website for rules and regulations, if it’s crown or public land, find out where you can camp for free (you don’t want to trespass). Research the potential hazards and concerns in the area from wildlife to natural disasters, from terrain to weather, and from trail conditions to road closures – the Rockies are going to pose different challenges than the Mojave, find out what those challenges are and educate yourself. Be apprised of permitted areas, fire bans, and accessibility and be sure to map out your trip. You can still get paper maps at your local motor association – pick up maps and guidebooks (especially if you plan to hike, boat, or bike overnight) and figure out how long each trip will take you and where you need to set up your home base. While your phone’s GPS may be your go-to, learn how to use a compass and practice orienteering – if your GPS stops working, you’ll be grateful you know how to use a compass.
- Leave a copy of your itinerary behind: Even if you’re off with friends or family for only a weekend, share your itinerary with someone who’s staying behind – it’s always a good idea to let people know where you’re going and what you plan to do in the event of an emergency. Give someone the dates, locations, vehicle information, the planned activities, and the contact information of your travelling companions – and if there’s service, text them to let them know you’ve arrived and are safe – the wilderness is wild, folks, if you get lost or hurt, you want to be found. Plus, it’s wise to keep a card with your emergency contacts’ information (preferably two people) always with you.
Expand Your Skill Set
What you know is as important as what you bring when you’re exploring the backwoods, so if you’re planning an off grid adventure, consider preparing yourself with some basic education. Wildlife and outdoor organizations around the world offer courses in navigation and orienteering, campfire cooking, water purification, wilderness first aid, building shelters, bear and wildlife safety, weather warning signs and safety, proper clothing and layering, and responsible outdoor recreation.
But one of the basic tenets of backcountry and off grid camping is minimizing your impact on the environment. While getting close to wildlife, tossing apple cores in the woods, or leaving organic materials at your campsite may seem like no big deal, they have a major impact on the ecosystem you’re visiting. Programs like Leave No Trace offer courses, tips, and information in Canada, the United States, and Australia on how to minimize your impact on nature while camping.
Your base camp is your off grid home: a tent, a lean-to, tarps, or an Off Grid Trailer. Off Grid Trailers are a versatile option because you can add a tent or awning to the top and the furnace and insulation make them ideal for cold weather camping. But whatever shelter you use, you want to practice setting it up before you leave to ensure you know how everything works and fits together. If you’ve got an Off Grid Trailer, you’ll need a mattress for sleeping on; if you’ve got a tent, you’ll want a sleep mat or air mattress as well. Synthetic sleeping bags trump cotton (they dry quicker) but either way, be sure to use high-quality, lightweight bedding and gear. Be selective and minimalist with what you bring as far seating and supplementary gear like tarps and awnings.
Pack Smart. Pack Light. Pack Right.
The season, length, and destination of your backcountry adventure will determine what to pack as far as food, shelter, clothing, and supplies. If you’re tenting and backpacking, for example, you’ll need to pack much more sparsely than if you’re taking an Off Grid Trailer. As always with camping, coolers versus refrigeration will also impact your grocery list. However, Off Grid Trailers does have some basic tips to packing smart, light, and right whatever your situation:
Unless you’re an ultimate foodie and what you eat in the woods is a source of true pleasure for you, you’ll want to keep the camp cuisine simple – stick to the minimalist mindset. Since you’ll likely be cooking over a fire or on a 1-2 burner stove, you’ll want to rely on simple staples: fresh produce, nuts, dried fruits, and premade meals (think homemade granola bars, breakfast muffins, stews and curries, as well as easy to grab and eat foods).
While some prefer ready-made, freeze-dried foods, we like to make simple meals from scratch with a trusty cast-iron pan: skillet oatmeal, bacon and eggs, beans and rice, or fresh fried fish. You can find a ton of one-pan cast iron skillet camping recipes online. For day trip snacks, smoked sausage, cheese, and crackers, trail mix, and protein bars. Don’t forget the camping classics though: coffee and hot cocoa as well as hot dogs, smokies, and marshmallows over the fire. And always remember to hydrate! Instead of a case of water bottles, pick up a portable water distilling system and bring one bottle.
If you’re camping in an Off Grid Trailer, you’ve got a sink, stove, and hot water on demand (and maybe even a fridge), but if you’re taking the car and tenting, you’ve got to bring a camp stove with you to boil water and wash dishes. Either way, you’ll need the basics: utensils, cups, bowls, plates, pots, cast iron pan, oil, spices, kettle, French press or coffee pot, and roasting forks. Of course, you’ll want soap, a lighter, and fuel too.
Backcountry camping can be dangerous and there are some supplies that are crucial to safety and survival (even if venturing away from your campsite isn’t on the itinerary). Off Grid Trailers recommends making room to pack these necessary items:
- A first-aid kit– It might be a no-brainer, but a lot of campers forget first aid kits. Ensure yours is equipped with common medical supplies like medical tape, gauze, antiseptics, tweezers, tensors, and safety pins. If anyone has allergies, keep epi-pens and emergency medication here too.
- Bug spray and sunscreen– You might be used to cities that spray for bugs, but the wilderness is… well, the wilderness: bugs aplenty. And, of course, don’t forget sunscreen, there’s nothing worse than scratching bug bites through a sunburn – and you’re going to be outside almost constantly.
- Headlamps and flashlights – Okay, flashlights are a given, but a hands-free light is helpful (especially at night) if you’re traveling or cooking in the dark – remember there aren’t going to be other campers with lights and fires nearby.
- Matches and a lighter– You’re doing this old school, so even though lighters are effective, bring a big box of wood matches just in case. You never know when lighter fluid runs out and if you’re going to need a fire ASAP.
- Knives– Not just cooking knives, but multi-purpose pocket knives. In the wilderness, a pocketknife can be a lifesaver and it will, of course, come in handy.
- Duct tape– Plan for the worst, duct-tape is the ultimate repair tool.: a hole in a water bladder, a broken tent pole, missing guylines, or broken shoelaces.
- Phone charger– While paper maps are essential, downloaded maps and GPS on your smart phone are also important. If you’re traveling with your Off Grid Trailer, we’ve got USB ports in the cabin, but a portable charger is always handy for emergencies.
- Soap and Hand Sanitizer – Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to be dirty – avoid spreading germs and prevent infection by washing hands regularly and using hand sanitizer.
- Emergency blanket – We’re not talking about a regular blanket here, we’re talking about a space blanket (a lightweight, compact, low bulk blanket made of heat reflective, plastic sheeting). You might never need it, but if you’re in a hypothermic situation, it will save your life.
While you don’t want to be overloaded with clothes and toiletries, you also don’t want to be missing essential items. Whether you’re planning to kayak, downhill mountain bike, canoe, hike, hunt, fish, rock climb, boulder, birdwatch, sand slide, surf, or just hang out, what you bring for clothes is dictated by your activities. Research what’s needed for the outdoor activities you’re planning and pack accordingly. And always leave your deodorant and scented lotions at home – they can attract insects and wildlife.
The Wilderness Awaits
While backcountry camping requires a lot of education and preparation, its benefits extend beyond your imagination. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start small with a weekend trip close to home. Then the next time, venture a little further out. Take courses, read books, get to know your gear, and learn everything you can about camping in the wild. But remember to slow down, breathe it all in, smell the redwoods, touch the moss, swim in the lake, listen to the wildlife, and gaze upon the night sky – after all, that’s why you’re out there.
Want to learn more about Off Grid Trailers?
Off Grid Trailers are designed for backcountry camping. With strength, durability, and comfort, they can traverse any terrain and withstand the elements – they’re built for your next adventure. Contact us today to learn more.