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.

The joys of camping…

Another photo from the weekend’s beautiful sunrise on Golden Ears. A spectacular place to camp but some people really need to learn that their voices carry way beyond their tent, and that yelling to your buds at 5 am is just not cool. Check out this week’s Leave No Trace Tuesday tip from @happiestoutdoors about being considerate of others in the backcountry.

I love spending time in the backcountry, and one of the things that appeals to me is the peace and quiet. It seems natural that leaving the city behind means leaving city attitudes behind as well (though I must admit, I’d like it if city folk could be a little more courteous of their fellow city-dwellers).

Historically, most of the people venturing into the backcountry were people who really wanted to be there for its own sake. My impression – and this could just be the curmudgeonly view of someone getting older! – is that there is now a significant number of (young) people going into the backcountry because it’s cool to do so. They don’t really love it, they’re not there to leave behind the busyness of life, they’re ticking a box, trying to impress their friends and get that ultimate sick Instagram shot.

I suspect most of them will grow out of hiking, taking up alternative pursuits in the process, and of course it’s not my place to say they shouldn’t be allowed in the backcountry. After all, the more people who get out and hike, the more people there will be who think there is value in protecting those areas. But I do feel that people venturing into an environment should go in with a view of adopting the existing traditions and attitudes, kind of like seeing how things are done before making your mark. Is it too much to ask for a little more respect and humility?

Golden mornings

Edge Peak and Golden Ears summit in early morning light, with the waning moon still hanging in the sky

One of the prime reasons for hauling our camping gear up onto this ridge is to enjoy the sunset once night and the sunrise the following morning. I crawled out of the tent a few minutes before the sun poked over the eastern mountains and set about exploring the ridge for the best photo-ops. I particularly liked this view of both Edge Peak and Golden Ears summit, which I could just fit into the frame with the ultra-wide angle lens on Maria’s camera. And to have the moon hanging over Golden Ears in the clear morning sky was just perfect.

Summit celebration

Celebrating at the summit of Golden Ears – a return match 8 years in the making for me. Photo taken by fellow Instagrammer @sonia.sayle – thanks!

Here’s our happy dance at the summit of Golden Ears 🙂 Maria had made it up there back in 2008 but it was my first visit and I was so happy to have made it, especially with the gorgeous evening light. Just glorious…

Golden!

Golden Ears at last! Awesome summiting on a beautiful sunny evening, great light on Robie Reid and Judge Howay. Worth every step 🙂

A rematch 8 years in the making! I conquered the corner that held me back last time and savoured the gorgeous light at the summit of this landmark peak. I’m not a peak-bagger, but it felt really good to make it up there! And to my surprise, the whole trip actually didn’t feel too difficult either, despite its gruelling statistics. Either I’m fitter, or I carried less crap this time.