Camping without campfires

It’s Leave-No-Trace Tuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now.

I’m firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there’s no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape?

So here’s our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can’t see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here.

Strangely, most of the articles and posts I’ve seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible!

And I’ve finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it 🙂

It's #LeaveNoTraceTuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now. I'm firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there's no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape? So here's our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can't see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here. Strangely, most of the articles and posts I've seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible! And I've finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it 🙂 #leavenotrace #lnt #ge_rlparks #goldenears #goldenearsprovincialpark #nocampfires #bcparks #explorebc #backpacking #hiking #hikebc #bchiking #beautifulbc #bigagnes #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt

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The obsession with campfires remains one of my biggest pet peeves when in the backcountry. Here in Canada (and probably elsewhere too), camping is intimately linked to having a campfire, be it for cooking, warmth, or as a TV substitute. They’re in all manner of adverts for camping and spending time in the great outdoors. And so it perhaps no great surprise that when people raised on this message venture into the backcountry to camp, they immediately feel some primal need for a campfire.

The thing is that they are completely unnecessary, borderline useless for cooking (I’ve tried), and damage the fragile backcountry environment to an extent that takes decades to restore. A portable gas stove is so much more efficient, and modern setups weigh very little. It’s the damage and mess that bugs me the most, especially when people don’t reuse an existing scar. As I mention above, there were two fire scars right next to where we pitched our tent, barely 2 metres apart. And when a place looks trashed, people are less inclined to take care and not trash it some more.

And so I do my best to leave places as I find them – or better. If I can walk away from a campsite and see no evidence I was there, I’m happy. That includes campfires. In many places we hike, they’re forbidden anyway (although that doesn’t stop people since enforcement is sadly minimal). And despite my fascination with fire as a youth, I never developed the camping-campfire association.

I’ll admit, then, that I find it easy to not bother with campfires. But I look at what I gain from not having one: no mess, no damage, no smell, no risks, and a clear view. A crackling fire is fine in a log cabin; in the backcountry, I want to hear the sounds around me. A fire draws my eye to its flames: without it, I have the entire landscape to admire. A bright fire accentuates the difference between light and dark: the night is rarely as dark as you think. In the backcountry, I accept there may be mosquitoes, and it may be chilly. I have warm clothing, plus bug wipes and a net if necessary.

I am quite happy to camp without a campfire.

Long exposure

Alpenglow. Flashback Friday to a Thanksgiving 2012 backpacking trip to Garibaldi Lake.

I couldn’t think what to post today, but I have had this photo in mind for a while now. It didn’t feel like a floral-Friday so I went with “flashback” instead. The summer of 2012 was a good one for us when it came to camping. I think we spent over 20 nights in our new tent as the backpacking season lasted until Thanksgiving in October. For the weekend, we called out a hike through Wanderung and headed up to Garibaldi Lake with a couple of fellow hikers.

The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed two lovely evenings by the lake watching the daylight fade. I was even inspired to take some long exposure photos of the lake to smooth out the ripples and get this nice reflection of the distant glaciers catching the last light of the day. Alas I totally missed the superb auroral display that graced the skies on the night we drove home…

The Matterhorn of the Rockies

A few wisps of cloud drift around Mt Assiniboine, and some welcome blue sky after a soggy hike in.

Day two of our backpacking trip into the core area of Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park. We were so glad of the blue sky to cheer us up after the soggy end to the previous day. About half-way through the day, a big thunderstorm caught up with us and pelted us with cold hail. That wasn’t so bad, really, and we were below treeline at the point the thunder and lightning trundled past. But later, as we tired of the ups and downs through the Golden Valley and Valley of the Rocks, the rain returned to sap our remaining spirits. We reached the campground at Og Lake near sunset, at which point the showers turned into a downpour. Og Lake has no shelter of any kind, so we stood around in the pouring rain, miserably eating our rehydrated meals, questioning the sanity of our choice of summer vacation. We were so ready to crawl into our sleeping bags that night.

The next morning was quiet, and we even had a bit of sunshine as we packed up and moved on to the campground at Lake Magog. The rain would return later, but at least we’d managed to pack away a dry tent. And now, at least, we had access to a cook shelter to stay dry.

Garibaldi Views

Garibaldi views: the Table and the north face of Mt Garibaldi from the summit of Mt Price, taken on Thanksgiving 2012

I posted this because it’s a rainy grey Saturday and I wanted to see something nice 🙂

The summer of 2012 was long and dry, and we got out on quite a few backpacking trips. The last one of the year was to Garibaldi Lake on a warm and sunny Thanksgiving weekend. It really did feel more like summer. Like many destinations, Mt Price had been on our list for a while and we were happy to get to its summit and enjoy the incredible views. I usually say that Panorama Ridge has the best views in Garibaldi, but Mt Price is a close second, albeit at the expense of a much tougher hike; it’s not one for inexperienced hikers, which means it’s lovely and quiet, and we had this view all to ourselves.

Real sunshine

Dreaming of sunnier Saturdays in today’s liquid sunshine…

Looks like we’re back into the rainy season here in Vancouver. Time to look back at those glorious sunny days of summer to remind us that it’s not always grey! This photo was taken as we stirred on the second morning of our Cape Scott backpacking trip. The night before had been misty and drizzly, and after we’d come round in the morning, we were kept in the tent a little longer by a passing shower. But it wasn’t too long later that the clouds began to clear and we saw hints of blue sky that gradually turned into glorious sunshine. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and by lunchtime decided that we wanted to explore further, so we packed up our gear and hiked on to Guise Bay where we spent two lovely nights.

Evening light

The clouds begin to clear as the sun goes down. Time to get cozy! But not with a campfire, especially in sensitive alpine areas, and even more especially when there’s a perfectly comfortable hut only 50 m away. If you haven’t guessed, I’m not a fan of backcountry campfires as they’re not in keeping with the principles of “Leave No Trace”. And besides – you can’t see the stars if you’re dazzled by such a bright light! Bring extra clothes instead 🙂

I’ll spare you my usual rant about campfires in the alpine and just direct your attention to the gorgeous evening light hitting the clouds above Mt Matier and Joffre Peak. Well, I would if this photo even came close to doing the scene justice. Despite the advances in camera and processing technology, it’s still hard to capture the full range of light in a single shot.

Moments later the light had gone and the chill descended, at which point we settled in to the hut for dinner and conversation with our fellow hikers.

Flow

Glaciers flowing off the flanks of Mt Matier

Another photo from our hike up to Vantage Peak. The juxtaposition of the mountains, glaciers, and the Twin One valley was beyond awesome. Definitely one of the best views we’ve experienced hiking in this part of BC.