Category Archives: outdoors

Next year

Well with all of my photos from Banff and Yoho National Park posted, I thought I would write what we are thinking of for next year.

The big difference is we are doing a short trip on July 1st long weekend to Yoho National Park to hike Lake O’Hara.  Lake O’Hara has very restricted access but is considered one of the best hiking areas in the world.   So the plan is to drive out and the camp in the rustic Lake O’Hara campground before hiking the trails for two days.

We will take a longer vacation later in the summer.  We will also take Marley along for this one.

Day 1: Drive to Banff, get out and hike up Tunnel Mountain.  Die a little on top.  Walk back down.  Get back into car and drive to Lake Louise campground.

Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park

Basically we never did do this during this year’s vacation because my ankle was so swollen that it felt like it was going to snap.  I want to do this next year.   As for the campground, I loved the Johnston Canyon Campground but Lake Louise Campground is closer to Yoho National Park and there are no reservable spots in Yoho.

Day 2: Hike to Lake Agnes Tea House.  Hike up the Little Beehive and the Big  Beehive.

Another idea from this year that was derailed because of my ankle.  If all goes well, three mountain tops and one cup of tea in two days.  I am more excited about the mountain tops than I am the tea to be honest.

Day 3: Yoho: HIke to the the Twin Falls

Get up early and drive into Yoho and hike from Takakkaw Falls past the Angel’s Staircase to the Twin Falls.  Then back.

Day 4: Walk the Past Trail

It’s not a long trail but I have always wanted to hike the Walk the Past Trail in Yoho.  It is near the Spiral Tunnels and it is littered with the carnage of runaway trains and exploding boilers that plagued the Big Hill during it’s existence.  This history geek in me is looking forward to this.  Since it won’t take long, I plan to check out Emerald Lake in Yoho as well.

Day 5: Columbia Ice Fields

I haven’t spent anytime in Jasper National Park so this will be fun but we are planning to take the Columbia Ice Fields tour as we relocate camp from Lake Louise to the Columbia Ice Fields Campground.

Day 6: Hike to Wilcox Pass

One of the best hikes in Canada, this high alpine pass should be fun.

Day 7: Athabasca Falls and Exploring the town of Jasper.

Day 8: Mount Edith Cavell trail

Edith Cavall Trail in Jasper National Park

Day 9: Edmonton and then home.

A lot is going on here

Jordon Cooper

First of all, thanks to Mark for the photo.  I generally hate photos of me being taken which is why I am always behind the camera but the problem with being a part of a family of photographers is that they have cameras as well.

Now you will notice the pockets in my shorts being wet.  It has just poured and was cold so I put my hands in my pockets.  This resulted in them looking like this.  You win some, you look like an idiot in others.  Thanks to Mark for capturing the essence of what it means to be a dad.

I am off to find my cool, from this photo it looks like I lost it.

Some Thoughts on Camping Gear

Some of you have asked how the gear we used on our trip worked.  Here are some thoughts.

  • Our Chevy HHR doesn’t have luggage racks so we bought a CCM rooftop bag from Canadian Tire.  The reviews were poor because they said it wasn’t water resistant at all.  So we tossed our sleeping bags and some tents into some heavy duty garbage bags.  We had extended periods of rain from Rosetown to almost Calgary.  When Mark and I opened the bag at the Johnston Canyon Campground, it was completely dry.  I am not sure what we did differently that those who had soaked bags but it worked great.
  • Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarspray: Provided waterproofing and UV protection to the tents.  While Mark and Oliver had a great high quality tent, Wendy and I were using a $100 tent from Walmart.  When it rained one night I was laying there going, “this should be leaking” and it never did.  So two thoughts from this:  Walmart tents are not bad for car camping and waterproofing your tent and tent fly is worth the money and energy.  Nikwax says that spraying UV protection on the tents will add years of life to your gear from backpacks to tents.

  • We bought a Walmart two burner camp stove instead of a Coleman stove because they were 1/2 the price, the reviews were excellent and I couldn’t tell any difference in build quality or design between the two.  It worked great.  We didn’t bring my Primus Classic Stove or Mark’s MSR Pocket Rocket but in hindsight, we should have just for making coffee and boiling water. 
  • If you have a Coleman Stove or need some propane canisters, the Real Canadian Wholesale Club has the cheapest canisters in Saskatoon.  They are around $4.   We bought three of them and thought we may need some more but we only used one and a bit.
  • A Red Niteize LED lightI bought Marley a red Niteize LED light for her collar.  She is a black dog and at night, is invisible.  She doesn’t like her natural advantage compromised but I can see her.  Other campers got a kick out of her as well.  We weren’t planning to do any night hiking but I put one on Oliver and Mark’s backpacks.  If we got caught out after dark, I want to see him.  Either way every night when Mark would take Marley for a walk though the campground, you could see this blinking from all over the place.
  • I had bought Wendy a couple of travel tea presses over the years and she offered to use one for coffee.  Big mistake.  I might as well just chewed on grounds.  The end result was not a single coffee.  We bought a GSI Outdoors Coffee Press last week.  Wendy can drink tea and hot chocolate, I want some black coffee. GSI Outdoors Coffee Press
  • We have some nice lightweight sleeping bags but while the air was hot, the ground was cold in Banff.  It got colder at night which meant with the air mattresses, we froze.  Wendy who has never camped before, ever realized that you needed some blankets between you and the air mattress to keep warm.  After Oliver was sick one night and we gave him one of our blankets, we froze.  We upgraded our sleeping bags this week to some four pound sleeping bags.  I had no idea you could sleeping bags for tall people but you can.  Mark and I both got tall four pound bags and since Wendy is confident that she will not hit a growth spurt at 46, she got a regular sized bag.  Oliver already had one.
  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Wendy loves her Olympus OM-D E-M10 II camera but with smaller mirrorless cameras, you have smaller batteries.  Wendy brought an extra battery along but in reality she could have had four or five.  Meanwhile I had two in my Pentax K-3 DSLR and grip and had two extra batteries and never had to use them.   Yes mirrorless cameras are smaller but that size in part comes from a smaller battery.
  • The hammocks were wonderful.  I am glad I bought them.  There is something about a nap in a hammock after a long hike on a cool summer afternoon.  The main difference between mine and Wendy’s hammock is hers had hammock straps while I had to use some cordage to tie mine up.  For ten dollars they are worth it and are easier on trees.
  • I bought a heavy duty pot, tea kettle, and frying pan for the gear.  Looking back, we may just go with our camp kitchen setup for next year.  They took up a lot of space although a decent frying pan seems worth it.
  • No one packed my camping chair but the Compact Lite chairs I bought for Wendy, Mark and Oliver worked out great.  They take up almost no room.  The ones I bought for them are too heavy for hiking but the Helinox Chair One looks great.
  • Get yourself a great camp light.  Wendy bought me a 300 lumen light from Walmart for Christmas.  It lit up our tent brilliantly and was so useful when looking for something in the car or the campsite at night.

Ventura 300 Lumen Lantern

Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park

This is why we came to Yoho National Park.   “Takakkaw”, loosely translated from Cree, means something like “it is magnificent”. The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield.   Its highest point is 302 metres from its base.  The falls drop a total of 992 feet in four distinct steps, first dropping over two narrow plunges hidden within the slot canyon at the top of the falls (neither of which can be seen from the base of the falls). The river then hurtles 853 feet over the side of the Yoho Valley wall, then cascading down a narrow flume-like stairstep for an additional 94 feet.

Yoho is where the big mountains are.  The drive to Takakkaw Falls both terrified and inspired the family.  It was worth the trip before we even got there.  I have never visited the park before and I can’t wait to return next summer.

Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

Some of Parks Canada famed red chairs.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3191Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3212Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

The appropriately named Cathedral Mountain.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3228Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3232Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

The tradition of dunking one’s head in frozen water continues on.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3236Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3251Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

The Natural Bridge

While driving in Yoho National Park I saw a sign for The Natural Bridge.  I would have sworn under oath that it was in Kootenay National Park but I have happy to be wrong and so we went and checked it out.

It was pretty cool and as we were leaving, a family asked if they could have a family selfie with Marley.  Again, who takes selfies with strange dogs in strange countries as part of their Canadian Rocky experience?  Apparently quite a few people do. 

The Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park

Wendy pointed out that it does look like a giant toilet bowl being flushed.  The Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National ParkThe Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park

Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park

So after a fun morning in Moraine Lake, we went to Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen for lunch.  That place is amazing and if you are ever driving by Lake Louise, make sure you stop there for something.

Instead of turning back towards the Johnston Canyon Campground or Banff, I went west towards British Columbia and we spent the rest of the day in Yoho National Park where the plan was to see Takakkaw Falls.  Soon after heading across the border into B.C. and the park, I saw the sign for the Spiral Tunnels.  The inner nerd in me forced me to turn out as we checked them out.

Spiral Tunnels near Field B.C. in Yoho National ParkSpiral Tunnels near Field B.C. in Yoho National ParkSpiral Tunnels near Field B.C. in Yoho National ParkSpiral Tunnels near Field B.C. in Yoho National Park

Quick nerd break to explain why this was so cool. 

To complete the Pacific railway as quickly as possible, a decision was made to delay blasting a lengthy 1,400 feet (430 m) tunnel through Mount Stephen and instead build a temporary 8-mile (13 km) line over it. Instead of the desired 2.2% grade (116 feet to the mile) a steep 4.5% (some sources say 4.4%) grade was built in 1884. This was one of the steepest railway lines anywhere. It descended from Wapta Lake to the base of Mount Stephen, along the Kicking Horse River to a point just west of Field, then rose again to meet the original route.

Three safety switches were built to protect against runaway trains. These switches led to short spurs with a sharp reverse upgrade and they were kept in the uphill position until the operator was satisfied that the train descending the grade towards him was not out of control. Speed was restricted to eight miles per hour (13 km/h) for passenger trains and six (10 km/h) for freight, and elaborate brake testing was required of trains prior to descending the hill. Nevertheless, disasters occurred with dismaying frequency.

Field was created solely to accommodate the CPR’s need for additional locomotives to be added to trains about to tackle the Big Hill. Here a stone roundhouse with turntable was built at what was first known simply as Third Siding. In December 1884 the CPR renamed it Field after C.W. Field, a Chicago businessman who, the company hoped, might invest in the region after he had visited on a special train they had provided for him.

At that time, standard steam locomotives were 4-4-0s, capable enough for the prairies and elsewhere, but of little use on the Big Hill. Baldwin Locomotive Works was called upon to build two 2-8-0s for use as Field Hill pusher engines in 1884. At the time they were the most powerful locomotives built. Two more followed in June 1886. The CPR began building its own 2-8-0s in August 1887, and over the years hundreds more were built or bought.

The Big Hill “temporary” line was to remain the main line for twenty-five years, until the famous Spiral Tunnels were opened on September 1, 1909.

The improvement project was started in 1906, under the supervision of John Edward Schwitzer, the senior engineer of CPR’s western lines. The first proposal had been to extend the length of the climb, and thus reduce the gradient, by bypassing the town of Field at a higher level, on the south side of the Kicking Horse river valley. This idea had quickly been abandoned because of the severe risk of avalanches and landslips on the valley side. Also under consideration was the extension of the route in a loop northwards, using both sides of the valley of the Yoho river to increase the distance, but again the valley sides were found to be prone to avalanches. It was the experience of severe disruption and delay caused by avalanches on other parts of the line (such as at the Rogers Pass station, which was destroyed by an avalanche in 1899) that persuaded Schwitzer that the expensive solution of digging spiral tunnels was the only practical way forward.

The route decided upon called for two tunnels driven in three-quarter circles into the valley walls. The higher tunnel, “number one,” was about one thousand yards in length and ran under Cathedral Mountain, to the south of the original track. When the new line emerged from this tunnel it had doubled back, running beneath itself and 50 feet (15 m) lower. It then descended the valley side in almost the opposite direction to its previous course before crossing the Kicking Horse River and entering Mount Ogden to the north. This lower tunnel, “number two,” was a few yards shorter than “number one” and the descent was again about fifty feet. From the exit of this tunnel the line continued down the valley in the original direction, towards Field. The constructions and extra track would effectively double the length of the climb and reduce the ruling gradient to 2.2%. The new distance between Field and Wapta Lake, where the track levels out, is 11.5 miles (18.5 km).

The contract was awarded to the Vancouver engineering firm of MacDonnell, Gzowski and Company and work started in 1907. The labor force amounted to about a thousand and the cost was about 1.5 million Canadian dollars.

Even after the opening of the spiral tunnels, Field Hill remained a significant challenge and it was necessary to retain the powerful locomotives at Field locomotive depot.

Even though the Spiral Tunnels eliminated the Big Hill, the mountains remained and so too did the Field Hill. The Ottertail revision of 1902 and the five-mile (26,518 feet or 8.083 kilometres) long double track Connaught Tunnel of 1916 were other improvements made to the original line in British Columbia. It was not until the late 20th century when a major new project of 20 miles (32 km) including the 9.1-mile (14.6 km) Mount Macdonald Tunnel reduced the grade to a very manageable average of 0.82%, (maximum 1%) opened in December 1988.

There is a hike along there that we did not take but I intend to next year that should be a lot of fun.

Moraine Lake, Alberta

I should have posted these sooner.  When you take several thousand photos on a trip, you have to edit several thousand photos.  When I mean edit, I mean hit the delete key a lot.

In our last full day in Banff National Park, we planned to hike some of the trails around Moraine Lake.  Those plans were changed when almost all of the trails in the Valley of the Ten Peaks were closed because of grizzly bears.   That disappointed Wendy, Mark, and Oliver but I had a plan B, even if they didn’t know it yet.

As we drove up to Moraine Lake, the sign said the road was closed and three cars ahead of us did the U-turn and drove back down the road.  A Parks Canada employee walked up and waved us past the closed sign so upward we went.  It’s an amazing drive and show a forest that we had never seen before.

We finally got to the full parking lot and parked about a 300 metres down the road which was pretty good considering at times, that road has people parked on it for miles.

The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

After turning my back on Oliver for about a second, he thinks he is in the Logdrivers Waltz and is jumping from log to log to go up the rock pile.  Luckily the kid has skills and made it back to shore.The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

Canoes can be rented for about $60/hour or you can take a well maintained path to the stream/waterfall at the far side of the lake.  We decided to walk.The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkIMGP3016

This is the end of the path but Wendy and Mark decided to test their luck and balance and keep going.The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

Marley decided to test her luck as well and wandered out into the water, fell in, got wet, hit her head and swallowed some water before getting out.  There was a Russian researcher there who had just gotten his permanent residency papers this week and was celebrating with his wife.  They loved Marley’s clumsiness and we had a great chat about the mountains, Trump, Putin, and dogs while waiting for Wendy and Mark to return.

The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkIMGP3063The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

I need to explain these photos.  Last year while at Sawback, I told the boys that there is a Cooper tradition of dunking you head into glacier waters the first time you head to a new lake or body of water.  There is no tradition, I just wanted to see if I could make them dunk their heads in the water.  This time Wendy and I were no so lucky as they made us dunk our heads in the freezing glacier water.Wendy dunking her head into Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy dunking her head into Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy dunking her head into Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy dunking her head into Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy dunking her head into Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy dunking her head into Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

Just before I did this, I think I said, “Mark hold my camera but no need to photograph this.”  He listens like his mother.

Solid hat don’t you think?

The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

Did I mention I didn’t wear a hat in the Banff heat (and no shade) the day before.  I was burnt.The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

Me taking a photo of a person taking a photo.The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

Don’t worry, it wasn’t a real bear.The views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National ParkThe views of Moraine Lake, Alberta in Banff National Park

While in the Gift Shop, I picked Wendy up a Moraine Lake t-shirt while Mark got her two bear figurines that made her day.  She was still on a high from seeing the black hear the day before.  It wasn’t quite as large as this one.

Vacationing with Mark

Several of you who are parents seem surprised that Mark enjoys going on family vacations still.  Many of you hated going with your parents at that age and some have kids who are resenting going on trips with them.

I don’t have a secret but here are some things I have done so Mark wants to go on vacation.

  • Scott Theede suggested we purchase Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies which is a book that evaluates hiking trails in the Rockies so you don’t take bad ones.   At first glance it seems expensive at almost $60 but it worth it when you consider it is 677 pages and if you are like us, refer to it often.   I have read the book cover to cover and so has Mark.  In fact he wants his own copy.   When we planned this trip (and are already planning the next one), I had Mark plan it as well.  I spent a lot of time getting his input and helping him figure out what he wanted to do and seeing how that can happen.  Mark suggested going to the Banff Upper Hot Springs and spent some time researching fun things to do.  He was also a part of decisions like, “Do we take the dog?”  It was Mark that convinced us that we should.  At the same time he also said, “I’ll help the dog on the Banff Gondola”, a decision that seemed a lot simpler in Saskatoon than it was in line at the base of Sulpher Mountain.

  • Mark and Oliver were comfortable in their own tent.  I kept hearing from people how much they hated sleeping in the tent/camper with their parents and how much of a different it made even as adults to have their own space.  Mark and Oliver have their own space.  They have their own duffel bags, sleeping bags, air mattresses, compact chairs, and gear.   They really appreciated having their own space.  It was worthwhile.   Parks Canada campgrounds only allow for two tents per campground (although I saw some that had a third small one) but I was clear to Mark that if he wanted his own space separate from Oliver, we would make that happen, even if it was a different campsite for him.  I’ll post the gear that we have for the boys in a later post.
  • I bought Mark the gear that he wanted.  In case it rained, he wanted a new deck of cards, a decent lantern for his tent and a great coffee mug.  The cost of all of those things was very low when you consider that they all made camping nicer.
  • I checked out the day’s itinerary with Mark every morning.  Now we have everything planned out a long time in advance but he appreciated the quiet conversation we had about what we were going to do and what ideas he had to make it better.
  • Despite being in the mountains before, this was the first trip he ever took where he was in awe with what he saw.  He fell in love with Castle Mountain and wanted to hang out and linger longer at the lookout.  He wanted to risk life and hypothermia by climbing up a stream and waterfall at Moraine Lake.  I just let him soak it in at his pace.  Same with Oliver.  Oliver’s camera is waterproof and at a certain time he sat on a rock taking underwater photos and was having a blast.
  • He had his own money from work but appreciated shopping with Wendy and I as he figured out what he wanted to get.  95% of that time was mocking what we saw but I know he did appreciate the suggestions on what to get.  My only disappointment was that he never got a onesie.

For next year we have started out debate about what we are going to do (the big picture is using Lake Louise Campground as a base camp to explore Lake Louise trails and some trails in Yoho National Park before pushing towards Jasper).  We are working on a budget and making a list of what gear to upgrade before next year.  He is a part of all of those discussions because I want it to be something we all like, not just Wendy and I.

Mount Norquay

After a day in Banff, I took everyone for a drive up Mount Norquay because Wendy and Mark wanted to see and sit in a Parks Canada Red Chair and I knew two would be up there.  At that point, I didn’t realize the upper Moraine Lake trails were closed because of grizzly bears and I hadn’t thought of going to into Yoho to see Takakkaw Falls yet (nor did I think they would have some red chairs.)

On the way to the chair, I got a phone call asking for Wendy.  She just got the word her father had died.  While she processed that news, a sports car pulls up and a guy and girl pop out because they want to pet Marley.  It was so weird and random but it happened that entire day.

Wendy soon joined us and as a family we walked down to this meadow and took in the views of Banff and the Bow Valley.

I should also take some time to point out that earlier in the day on the way to Banff and Sulphur Mountain, Wendy had her own bear sighting.  We were driving down the Bow Valley Parkway and a black bear popped up over the guard rail.  We had seen another black  bear and we are pretty sure we saw The Boss, a giant grizzly bear beside the road but they were in the middle of a bear jam and out of principle, we didn’t stop.  Wendy just mocked people for being stupid.  So when we saw this bear and we were by ourselves, Wendy was so pumped up.  It was hilarious and she was on a high all day.

Mt Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkIMGP2878Mt Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkIMGP2881The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National Park

I am not sure how it happened but it looks like Mark got a hold of my camera.The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkIMGP2907The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkIMGP2920

I was accused of giving Mark the finger here but I think the photographic evidence is solid, I was just pondering what a bad kid he is.The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National Park

We met this guy (or gal, I really have no idea) on the way up.  Wendy took some photos and we kept going.  On the way down he (or she) was in the exact same spot.  It was probably pondering what a bad kid Mark was as well.The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National Park

Lake Louise

We headed out to Lake Louise for the day while in Banff National Park.  We got up early from the Johnston Canyon Campground and headed down the Bow Valley Parkway.  The plan was to hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House but my ankle was still swollen, I was still running a fever from being taken off the medication for my ankle.  We got there in good time and got a good parking spot (Parks Canada staff running the parking lots makes it run  very smooth).  As we walked up the path to the Tea House, I realized that a combination of rain, a fever, and a messed up ankle, I needed to understand my limits.  We’ll head back up there next year.

Before anyone feels sorry for us, did I mention we were still on the shore of Lake Louise?  It’s pretty spectacular view and we were about to find out that our fellow tourists were pretty great.

Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkIMGP2683Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkIMGP2695Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkOliver at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper, Mark Cooper, and Oliver Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper, Mark Cooper, and Oliver Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National Park

From there we headed down the mountain and stopped at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen

Laggan's Mountain Bakery and Delicatessan

Everyone I know that has been to Laggan’s raves about how great it is.  You have to see and smell it to believe it.  Wendy picked out some Jamaican Patties and got use some of the best pizza I have ever tasted.  The bakery is worth the stop if you are even close to Lake Louise.

Johnston Canyon

We hiked last Johnston Canyon last year.  It was packed and I didn’t really like it at all.  This is the photo of it that has stuck in my memory.  Way too many people.

After hiking to Silverton Falls and checking out some of Castle Mountain, we came back to the campground while Wendy slept off a headache in her hammock.  After dinner, we went back to a now empty Johnston Canyon and hiked up to the lower falls.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National Park

As we crossed this, we learned that Marley hates heights and really hates boardwalks.  She refused to walk across it unless I told her it was okay.  She would constantly look back at me and wait until I told her it was okay and then she would walk very low to the ground. This scene was repeated over and over again throughout the hike.  As long as she didn’t look down, she was fine.  If she did, she wasn’t happy.Johnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Growing up in Calgary after my dad left, we had no money at all.  Johnston Canyon was our summer vacation.  We would come up and hike the canyon and then have lunch at Sawback before heading back home.  It has always been a special place to me.  We always hiked it on a non-peak day so it never was packed like it is most days in the summer with people parked for miles in either direction.

Hiking it after dinner when the hordes have left was the Johnston Canyon that I recalled growing up.  Only about 20 people on the trail, let’s of room to explore, no idiots with selfie sticks whacking me on the head.  There were just a few people wanting to pet Marley which was a trend that would only escalate as the week went on.  It was a lot of fun.

If you are going to go in July or August, don’t go during the day.  Go early morning (before 8 a.m.) or in the evening (after 7:00 p.m.).  It is a way nicer hike on an empty trail.

Castle Mountain

After hiking up to Silverton Falls, we drove further down the Bow Valley Parkway until we got to the base of Castle Mountain and stopped at the site of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp used in World War I.  It’s not a proud part of Canada’s past.

Castle Mountain Internment Camp in Banff National Park

Life at the camp was brutal.  Rations were poor, abuse was widespread and some froze to death during the winters.  They were essentially used as slave labor to build the Banff National Park infrastructure.

From there we checked out the Castle Mountain lookout which had a Canadian Pacific rail line go by it.

Views of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National Park

I am not sure what happened here but both Mark and Oliver just stared for ages at Castle Mountain.  For Mark it was almost a spiritual experience.  Finally he goes, “So this is why you love the mountains.” 

Views of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National Park

Then as we were talking, you could hear the familiar sound of a eastbound Canadian Pacific train coming in the distance.

A Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkA Canadian Pacific train heads east along the Bow Valley near Castle Mountain in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National ParkViews of Castle Mountain and the Bow Valley in Banff National Park

Silverton Falls

On the second day there, we had planned to hike Johnston Canyon in the morning and then do Silverton Falls in the afternoon.  As Wendy blogged, I ran a high fever with an ankle feeling like it was going to snap for most of the trip.  She was exhausted as well so we slept in.  By the time we got up and going, the line to Johnston Canyon went a kilometre or so down the Bow Valley Parkway in each direction.  We hiked it last year and it was insanely packed with tourists.

Instead I drove down towards Castle Mountain and pulled into the parking lot for Rockbound Lake.  There is a short hike to Silverton Falls which I had never done and it looked like fun.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we met this camper from Wicked Campers.  The paintjob stood out just a little bit.

Wicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkWicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkWicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

With Mark turning 16, he is thinking of the kind of vehicle he wants, in part so he can travel with it.  We had a long discussion about GMC Safari’s and Chevy Astro vans on our way along the trail.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

After 400 metres or so, you come across this stream running down from the waterfall.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Then you start to climb up to the falls.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

A rockslide took a toll on the trail at this point.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Finally you get the falls which unlike Johnston Canyon, have no safety railings along the path.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

It’s a great view across the Bow Valley.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Finally it was back down the flank of Castle Mountain and back to the parking lot.  The hike is under a kilometre long and we met a total of 12 people on it which is far different then Johnston Canyon.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon Campground

Well we are back from vacation in Banff National Park and later Yoho National Park.   It was a great week but once that almost didn’t happen.  A few weeks ago they took me off my antibiotics because they thought they had killed the infection (again) and of course we know what happened.  In three days I was overwhelmed with fevers and extremely sick just before the holidays.  So I was back on my medication but it takes weeks for it to catch up to the infection.

The day  before we were to leave, I was really sick.  It had gotten worse and I was really suffering.  I went to be knowing that all I wanted was to sleep for the next week.

I got up early last Sunday and felt even worse.  I talked to Wendy and said that her and the boys should go without me.

They loaded the car and went to leave.  I had gotten some sleep and felt a little better. I didn’t feel strong enough to go but I had some food and talked it over with Wendy and decided to go.  I did warn her that I may do nothing more than sleep all week.  She was okay with that.

We had intended to leave Saskatoon, contact some friends and grab some coffee as we passed through town.  Now we left Saskatoon really late and it was going to be a rush to get to the campground before nightfall.

Sadly we were very  early onto a horrible motorcycle crash.  Guy on a road bike, wet highway, looks like he lost control.  When we got there, he was lying on the highway and being held down.  It was a horrible sight but ambulance was on route and First Responders were already there.

We rolled in Johnston Canyon Campground around 9:00 p.m. and Mark and I rushed to set up the tents.

This was Wendy’s and mine tent.  I know it’s massive.  It is an eight person tent that I picked up at Walmart a few years ago.  I am not a big fan of Walmart tents but I bought some Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof and applied it.  The SolarProof protects the tent from UV radiation at higher altitudes while making it waterproof.  We did get some heavy rain a few days and nights and we never had a leak all week.  Several times I found myself laying in it and going, “this should be leaking” but it wasn’t.

Our tent at Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

The tent doesn’t come with a ground sheet.  So I decided to pick up some tarps.  I measured the tent spent $3 on tarps from Dollarama and used Gorilla Tape to fasten them together created one.  The ground sheet saves the bottom of the tent and acts as a bit of a vapor barrier between the tent and the ground.

A five person tent at Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

We had some tents already but my brother Lee gave this tent to the boys when he upgraded.  The 8 person tent served as home for Wendy and I while Mark and Oliver lived in the smaller five person tent.  It’s a three season tent with a big vestibule.  They loved having their own space.  The fact that it came from their uncle and aunt made it even cooler for them.

The only complaint was we never had a night where I felt 100% confident that we would not get rain.  Oliver really wanted to “sleep under the stars”.  Either that or he really wanted to see what else was going on while he slept in the tent.

An eight person tent is too big for two people but one can stand up in it and there was room for our queen sized air mattress.  Since I had a dog sleeping in my arms every single night, all of the space we could get was needed.

I had purchased Wendy a hammock for Mother’s Day.  I gave strict orders to the boys that this was Wendy’s hammock.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

I had my hammock as well.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

According to this, I was late giving the edict that this was MY hammock.  By the time I went to lay in it, it had already been infested.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

You have no idea how hard it was to get them out of this tent.  There was one of them in it the entire time we were there.  Mark called it a Bear Taco.

This is Wendy getting everything set up.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

Something is wrong with this photo.  There are only three lawn chairs.  Obviously they were packed when I wasn’t planning to come out.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

Wendy had some help from Marley in setting things up.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

This is the view from the back of the campsite.  Just through the trees is the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway which thrilled all of us when it rolled through between five and ten times a day/night.  Some might have found it bothersome but we loved it.  The railway were such a big part of the story of Banff National Park, it was cool to hear them roll through, even if it didn’t make for the best alarm clock.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

I had originally wanted to stay in the Castle Mountain Campground because of it’s location but you can’t reserve there.  In hindsight staying in a place with a hot shower was the right decision.

There were only four showers for 100+ campsites but it was enough.  There was a bit of a lineup in the evenings but most people took really quick showers (although Wendy waited as a women took a 40 minute shower one morning).  The one oddity of the campground was there was two plugins in each washroom which were always being used as people charged everything from laptops computer to cameras and phones.

Parks Canada staff kept the washrooms immaculate although one of them said, “It’s not that hard, people are really good here.”  I’ll take her word for it but the fact remains those washrooms were the cleanest of any campground we had ever seen.

The campground wasn’t that large and was extremely quiet.  We were surrounded by Americans and Europeans for most of it.  It was hectic in the morning as everyone got up and got going, then it was silent for for most of the day as everyone was gone.  It got slightly busier at night but mostly people flaked out after a long day of hiking.  There were two cycling clubs there who were working out together in the mountains all day long.  Most of the noise was people slowly cycling by.  If you are looking for a nice campground, this is it.

Having a Bag for Adventure

This is one of the more popular posts I have written at work.  I thought I would put my own spin on it here.

Years ago I was reading Lifehacker and read about the Go Bag which they defined as a bag that you had packed and ready to go for any adventure that came your way.  After a particularly bad summer with Wendy’s depression, I made up a bag for her and she loved it.   It evolved over the last couple of years but we had made them up for Mark and Oliver as well and they leave them packed and ready at the front door ready for a moment’s notice.

They have made travelling way easier because all I have to say is “Grab your Go Bag” and we are ready to go.  No packing or fussing.  It’s all there and ready to go and it makes it so much easier to go and do stuff.

30 litre backpack

It starts with a bag.  Some people overthink this and go all out or it ends up holding them bag but all you need is something to toss your stuff in you aren’t embarrassed by.  We just use backpacks.  For Mark, he just grabbed his “last year” pack that has seen some wear and tear but is still fine.  We got Oliver an inexpensive pack from Canadian Tire that was on sale for $15.

SKROSS backpack

If you don’t have one, the best place to get them is Wal-Mart or Bentley when they are on sale.  It doesn’t need to be amazing, it just needs to hold your stuff and be ready when you are.  If you can’t find one that you like, check out Winners.

If you know you are going to be shooting and need your camera gear around, check out the Manfrotto Off-road camera backpack (it’s available in 20 litre or 30 litre versions)  The bottom half of the bag holds your camera gear, while the top half of the bag holds your other stuff.

Manfrotto Off-road camera bag

The coolest feature of the Manfrotto Off-road bags is their external frame.  Wendy and I both have them for hiking and when we want to go on a photo centric trip.

Mark has a Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW

No internal frame but it works pretty well for him.  It’s the same kind of thing as the Manfrotto Off-road.  The bottom have holds his DSLR and a few lenses while the top holds a jackets, drink, and other stuff he may need on a photo centric trip.

Your Rugged Adventure Camera of Choice

If you are looking for a rugged outdoors adventure camera, check out the buyer’s guide I wrote for work.  There are times when you want all of your gear.  There are also times when you need a bag full of gear and a camera to capture your adventure.  For those times I recommend a ruggedized compact camera but really any decent compact point and shoot will do.

I personally like the Ricoh WG-5.  It is 16 megapixels, waterproof, crush proof, HD video and made for adventures.  Make sure you toss a 32 GB card in it and have a backup battery.   With it I can capture all sorts of great moments with still or videos. 

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

Gerber Ripstop I Knife

I always travel with a multi-tool so this is just for times when I need a small blade (I hate using the blade on a multi-tool).  It’s only 3 ounces which is light enough to toss in and forget about it until you really need it.  Plus, you are going on a day trip, not doing a combat tour. Leave the fixed blade, serrated edge, hardened metal knife at home with your camping gear.  The reason you want this around is to cut pepperoni for a sandwich.

Having crossed into the U.S. border many times with a knife in my bag or vehicle, it is a lot easier to say to a border official, “I have a small jack knife in my bag” than a hunting one.  It is a lot less questions about what you plan to do with it.

Multi-tool

I own some great multi-tools but my favorite one is a generic one that I got for $10 at Wal-Mart.  It has multiple tools, grips that don’t hurt my hands and has lasted several adventures and crisis around the home.  You can pay more than $20 but at the end of the day, mine has lasted me really well and there are all sorts of ones to choose from.  If you are determined to get a high end multi-tool, you can do no better then the Leatherman CX Skeletool.  At a mere 5 ounces, it is the lightest multi-tool on the market.  One word of warning, it’s blade comes out of the packaging really, really sharp.   Rub your finger across it and you are bleeding all over your new multi-tool.

Adventure Medical Kits Adventure First Aid 1.0

Adventure Medical Kits Adventure First Aid 1.0

This first-aid kit is affordable and covers all the minor medical issues you might encounter, from headaches to allergic reactions to cuts. Plus, the carrying case has room for any extra medicines you need to pack along.  Like any first aid kit, take a look at it before you need it and add to it what you see fit.  We bought our First Aid kit for $10 from Walmart and it came with an even better equipped kit we leave in the car and a smaller kit we toss in Mark’s bag.

Beyond Coastal Active Face Stick

Beyond Coastal Active Face StickThis sunscreen from Beyond Coastal uses natural ingredients such as coconut oil and beeswax. The result: a face-stick formula that’s easy to apply and stays with you for hours. Bonus: Because it goes on thick, it also prevents windburn.

Off! Active Spray

Off! Active SprayMosquitoes are attracted to body heat, so as you and your family work up a sweat, you can become more appealing to these hungry pests. OFF! Active® products are great for giving your family on-the-go mosquito protection.

I think mosquito protection is a matter of personal preference.  I tend to not use it until it is really bad when I am up north.  That means when I need it, I generally want to use the stuff with Deet.  Since we do a lot of hiking and walking when out, I prefer the Off! Active Formula in the smaller spray bottle but your preference may vary.  The importance is to find a product that keeps you from being eaten alive.

Deodorant

Yes, I have a sensitive nose and yes I may hate body odor as much or more than most of you.  I can’t control how you smell but  I can control how I smell.  I prefer to smell like Old Spice Bear Glove.

Toothbrush and a Small Tube of Toothpaste

I am not one of those that need to brush their teeth 10 times a day but I do prefer a clean mouth after a day of hiking or photography.

Hand Sanitizer

Because I hate dirty hands.  I get one of those small travel ones from Dollarama.

Moleskine Notebook and Pen

Moleskine Notebook

What do you do if you come across a great idea in the middle of a road trip?  Share it with friends and family knowing that haters going hate.  Or do you write it down like Henry David Thoreau would do?  You know the answer.  Grab yourself a decent notebook and a Parker Urban Roller Ball pen.  I find the drive back from any adventure is the best time to plan for your next one.

Extra socks

Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks

Something cotton and goes with both shorts or khakis.   Get the Men’s Merino Wool Hiking Crew Socks.  If your socks or feet get wet from water or sweat, it makes for an uncomfortable day.  Instead pack a pair of these amazing socks in your pack and change when you need to.  They are perfect for getting you through your day and good looking enough to get you through the evening.   Of course you probably have a pair of socks you have already you can use.

Van Heusen Men’s Short Sleeve Oxford Dress Shirt

Van Heusen Men’s Short Sleeve Oxford Dress Shirt

This is something to wear once your day of adventure is done.  Whether you are going out for a nice dinner, meeting up with some friends or just want to feel good on the trip home, this is the shirt you toss on.  It’s wrinkle resistant, comfortable, and has a timeless and classy look to it.

Nalgene Water Bottle

Nalgene Water Bottle

You can pay big money for a water bottle.  Here’s some advice.  Don’t.  Get a Nalgene and it will last forever.  The narrow mouth makes for an easy drinking experience on the road or the trail. The closure and bottle create a leak proof system with no o-rings that can fall out. All Everyday bottles are made with Eastman Tritan and are resistant to tastes and odours.

Energizer Vision LED Head Lamp

Energizer Vision LED Headlamp

Whether you have to navigate by map in the dark, barbecuing late at night or hike into a cabin or campground, having a hands free light in your bag is a huge plus on a trip.

Clif Bars

If you’re stuck on an airplane or just want to avoid fast food on the road, these bars, will keep you going with 250 calories and 43 grams of carbohydrates.  They aren’t bad but they do recommend you drink a fair amount of water with them.  The biggest advantage is they won’t melt and won’t leave you feeling gross on a road trip.  That being said, some of you prefer the iconic Eat More chocolate bar.  It doesn’t provide the same energy boost as a Clif Bar but it doesn’t melt like other chocolate bars.

A pair of under $40 headphones

Panasonic RP-TCM125 “Ergo Fit” headphones

Since these will spend a lot of time in your bag compared to how much time they will spend in your ears, I suggest the Panasonic RP-TCM125 “Ergo Fit” headphones.  They are The Wirecutter’s budget pick and former overall best in ear headphone pick.  If you find them on sale, you can pick up a pair for $15.   They sound better and more comfortable then the pair of Apple headphones that came with your phone or iPod.

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard with $250 on it

BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard

Technically this goes in my wallet but it’s a big part of my travel arsenal.  Your bank may or may not have a similar option but if it doesn’t, you can get a BMO Prepaid Travel MasterCard.  It works just like a regular MasterCard but it is prepaid.  You can add money to it from an ATM or if you are a BMO member, it is linked to your account.  If you have an emergency, you can pay for a motel room, a tow, or grab a meal no matter how bad it gets.  Not only that but once you have that money down on it, you know that you are good to go for any road trip at any time.

Since it is prepaid, there is no interest or debt to pay back later.

So that is my bag.   Let me know what you think of it.