Reflector Oven
Credit: Kevin Callan

1: Keep Veggies Fresh

Vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and celery will last much longer if you first float them in a sink of cold water and two tablespoons of chlorine bleach. Allow them to soak for a few minutes, air dry them and then pack them away. The bleach will kill any spoilage-causing surface bacteria. 

2: Fuel Savers for White Gas Stoves

Wind can rob your white gas stove of unbelievable amounts of fuel, so make sure to place an aluminum windscreen around, and under, the stove. Even on warm, windless days, the screen will help cook dinner far more quickly. Only fill fuel containers to three-quarters. No pressure can be created if it’s full and the stove won’t light properly. And remember — it’s easier to boil when the canister is full and simmer when near-empty. 

3: Carry a Reflector Oven (pictured)

A reflector oven can dramatically alter a trip. Once you try one, you’ll never camp without; the benefits definitely override the weight and bulk. Imagine fresh bread, pita pizza, blueberry pie, brownies and muffins — all on day 10 of a 20-day trip. Reflector ovens are made of either lightweight aluminum or stainless steel and are concave in design. By placing the oven beside the campfire, the radiant heat is reflected inside and evenly bakes whatever is sitting on the wire rack within.

4: Is It Done Yet?

There’s no need to keep lifting a pot lid to see if the water is boiling. To speed up boiling time, and to save fuel, place the pot lid on upside-down and pour a small amount of water into the depression. When the water in the lid begins to form small bubbles, the water inside has reached a rolling boil.

5: Spruce Goodness

When boiled, new needle growth at the tip of a black spruce tree makes for exceptional tea. Pine and balsam fir needles also make an excellent, vitamin C-enriched tea. As the needles mature, however, they lose their citrus taste and gain a strong resin tang. They can also be added to cookie and cake mix (especially good in shortbread). Spruce-tip salad dressing can be an amazing addition to your camp meals — make by mixing 1/2 cup of spruce tips with one cup of red wine vinegar and a 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns.

6: Tie a Bowline Knot 

This is the best method for forming a non-slip loop. It’s considered to be the King of Knots and has the advantage of having that catchy “rabbit and the hole” chant to help you remember how to tie it. “The rabbit comes out of the hole, round the tree and back down the hole again.” The hole is a small loop formed by twisting the rope; the rabbit is the free end of the rope; and the tree is the other standing part of the rope. For added security, end the knot with a figure eight or two half-hitches.  SEE A DEMO HERE.

7: Understand Map Scale

The detail of each topographical map is relative to its scale. The smaller the scale, the less detail. Maps range from 1:10,000 to 1:100,000. For backcountry use, the most common scale is 1:50,000, meaning one centimetre (3/8 inch) on the map is equivalent to 500 metres (1,600 feet) on the ground. This scale covers the most ground per map and still has suitable detail. However, if you require more detail on a specific area (i.e. a long series of rapids or cliff face), use a 1:25,000 scale.

8: Get the Knack of Untying Knots 

To help untie jammed-up knots, quickly and firmly twist the portions of the rope outside of the knot back and forth, while pushing in slack at the same time. The system is based on “compound sliding;” the same process that makes it easier to insert a bathtub plug when twisting and pushing at the same time. 

9: Read Map Contours Like a Pro

Beware of wavy brown lines on a topographic map. These are called “contour lines,” and each profile marks where the position of the land is above sea level. Every fifth contour line, called an “index contour,” has the elevation marked somewhere along its length. Each type of map may vary, but the vertical height between each interval is usually 10 metres. The closer the lines are together, the steeper the grade. If they happen to cross a riverbed, you’re guaranteed there’s a major waterfall. Also, the flow-direction of a creek or river is determined by having the closed ends of the contour lines (the tip of the “V”) point upstream.

10: Be a Better Best Friend

Your dog can be a real pleasure to have on a camping trip. Just remember it needs to be cared for as well. Pack a sleeping pad for the tent and even a mini sleeping bag for cool nights. There’s insect repellent for dogs, which contains fewer harmful ingredients. A slab of foam padding glued to the bottom of the canoe provides a perfect spot for the dog to sit on, and gives it a place to call its own, which in turn helps keep the dog under control. An umbrella holder can be attached to the gunwale of the canoe to help prevent the pup from getting heat stroke. There are even dog-specific PFDs. Also, make sure to pack pup-specific items in your first-aid kit: 

• Buffered aspirin (Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are toxic to dogs)

• Hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting)

• Tweezers (great for porcupine quills)

• Ear syringe

• Pepto Bismol

• Eye rinse solution

• Vet-Wrap bandages (used for dressing horses’ legs)

Interested in a canoe adventure hosted by Kevin Callan? Find out more HERE.

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2014 issue.