Happy camper compendium: How to pack for the backcountry, start a fire, stay safe and other tips

10 ways to help you be at one with nature

"Keep close to Nature's heart," pioneering naturalist John Muir once said. "Break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."

Excellent advice! The only thing we'd like to add is a few ideas on how to follow it. As you get ready to break away from urban life, consider coupling Muir's recommendation with the tips below.

Build a fire from anything, anywhere, safely

flint and steelNo pit? No problem. Get all fired up with these blaze-building instructions from Forest Technology instructor Chris Klitbo.

Avoid a bear attack

bear in albertaWhile we may seek to immerse ourselves in nature, there are some aspects of it best enjoyed at a distance. With bears, that means hundreds of metres.

In those rare instances where that distance is unexpectedly lessened, these tips, also from our friends in Forest Technology, are worth a look.

Avoid food poisoning, too

how to pack a coolerWhile wildlife is part of what make camping trips memorable, the same can't be said about some microscopic creatures that might turn up.

“There’s bacteria everywhere,” says NAIT food and catering services sous chef Roberto Valencia Robles (Baking ’11, Culinary Arts ’12) of the great outdoors. “It’s not an operating room.” Here are his tips on how to keep them out of your cooler.

Get insight from a pro

born to the wild by rob kaye

During more than three decades working with Parks Canada, Rob Kaye (Biological Sciences Technology – Environmental Sciences ’76), developed a unique relationship with the backcountry that he'd later chronicle in his self-published memoirs, Born to the Wild.

While it's not guide to camping, it's rare and entertaining insight for anyone with a love for the exhilarating, restorative nature of, well, nature.

Use our amazing car-camping list

john caldwell, nait forest technology instructor

In 2011, Forest Technology instructor John Caldwell (class of ’94) spent three weeks managing a camp for more than 100 firefighters who battled the Slave Lake blaze.

How did he make roughing it a bit smoother? By making sure he had the right things to make the place as homey as possible. On your next car-camping trip, you can too! Here's Caldwell's list of supplies.

Go public

tent in back country

The vast majority of land in Alberta is public – that is, it's there for us to enjoy. We asked a NAIT grad and wilderness tour guide about how to have an off-grid camping adventure safely and respectfully.

Don't get lost


Losing yourself to the experience of nature is great. Just don't get lost in the process. If you do happen to wander too far off the beaten track, here's how to find it again.

And don't get bit by a tick

spraying insect and tick repellent

Getting bit by a tick sucks – literally. These little bugs are waiting in the tall grass and low-lying vegetation and they're out for blood. What's more, they can carry Lyme disease, a serious illness caused by a bacteria spread by infected deer ticks.

That's not to say there's any reason to be afraid. Instead, be cautious. Here's how.

Pack properly for the backcountry

backcountry hiker

You may have to pack less and lighter, but that doesn't mean you have to skip out on the creature comforts.

Here, veteran long-haul hiker Andrew Johnson (Machinist ’04) shares his list of 20 essentials he never leaves home without.

Get there and back safely

road trip

It wouldn't really be getting away if it didn't take some time to get there. That means making sure your vehicle is up to making the trip.

Before you go, run through this five-point DIY inspection to get you to your destination and back home again – safe, happy, and with your spirit feeling squeaky clean.

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