State of the Arts

Victoria Ward

If I can like camping, anyone can

Many years ago I was an urban creature. I wore lots of black, smoked, spent many evenings in theatres, second run cinemas, bars and some dubious places that I now reflect on with nostalgia; who was that person taking cabs to and from all-night warehouse parties with groups of hipsters in varying degrees of intoxication? It was fun for sure but I would be hospitalized now if I attempted to keep up with my former self. Then I met my partner. No shrinking violet to all night festiveness, he ultimately prefers sunlight and wilderness settings.

He took me camping. Yes, at age thirty-something I had never been camping. My family had a cottage so I knew how to use a canoe and make a bonfire but putting the canoe over your head and making the bonfire from wood not bought at a store was certainly new. We trekked into Algonquin Park with as much proper stuff I could put together. I think for the first trip I brought lipstick and a cheap duffle bag instead of a knapsack (which I didn’t own, I mean really, what stylish urban lady would own a knapsack?). I learned the hard way how important great camping gear is. Today I am outfitted properly with my own sleeping bag, huge but attractive knapsack, proper shoes and I bring lip balm as my only concession to make-up.

What was and still is the most significant factor in going camping and my evolution into someone who enjoys it is that we spend much of our day painting and drawing on our site. We don’t move around and get all physical; we prefer to plant ourselves and absorb what is around us so that we can make some art.

There are all kinds of plein air artists and mythology surrounding ‘painting in the open air’. Back in the day I thought such activities were for senior citizens who wanted to get creative and watch birds at the same time. I no longer hold such urban, elitist opinions about… well, anything. Once I figured out how to paint (and that is a huge over statement because I still think I have way more to learn) I found that making pictures from what I was seeing while the sun and lake sparkled in front of me felt closer to God or the mystery of life than I had ever gotten. A sublime feeling of confidence in my mortality rested in me while I sketched. It could be that sketching outdoors with the most rudimentary materials (you can’t bring a 3D printer portaging) brings something very honest into focus. Your technology is limited, your food and water are limited but your imagination and your thinking can get as vast as the universe. I’m doing a very poor job of describing the experience here. But then describing the act of creating visual art is always going to be a poor job isn’t it?

Pop up gallery Algonquin style
Pop up gallery Algonquin style

Now we always bring some art making materials into Algonquin on what has become an annual event. This year sadly we will not be going with our most dear camping partners; we will be treating a couple newcomers to the exhausting but edifying activity of camping. We will bring some extra materials for them to see if they would enjoy the act of drawing or painting. If not, no problem, we’ll just be down by the beach making art, let us know when cocktail hour begins.

Planning for a camping trip can be almost as enjoyable as the actual camping. You get to buy wine in a Tetra pak, mini-cereal boxes and crazy things like lots of chocolate and fancy dried meats; things you would never eat regularly. I feel sorry for vegetarians on camping trips because there is nothing like bacon cooked outdoors over a fire. My brother and his wife are Mountain Equipment Coop five-star campers who make espresso and have steak. I love camping with them. We are more modest in our approach. I found that making tandoori chicken, bagging it and then freezing it is a good meal. And who wouldn’t love curry in the middle of the woods?

Over the years my friend Heather and I perfected a camping list that I would like to share. Heather deserves most of the credit because she is waaaay more organized than I. She can think in terms of emergencies which is awesome. We did include recipes originally but have fun, be creative and remember if you can cook it before hand and bag it and freeze it, that’s the way to go. Just add some art supplies and you are set for the perfect plein air weekend!

Here is the official Heather Johnson and Victoria Ward camping- prepared-in-point-form-manual:

Algonquin Park Camping list and rules
no glass or metal is allowed in the park
do not bring make-up or any scented items

don’t drink the lake water
you can get super dehydrated while camping so water is essential
each person should bring at least one large Evian water bottle for the trek in
there is a pump you can buy with a filter for collecting more water during the trip
you can also use iodine tablets and put herbal tea bags in the bottles to hide the taste
if this does not appeal to you, you can boil water but it takes forever…

call to book a campsite
call to rent a canoe
call to rent a car
test any equipment a week before so you can get it fixed in time (stove, flashlights, lamps, tents, water pump, etc.)
check batteries, fuel level
buy groceries
prep first meal and freeze meat portion
fill water bag and bottles
get cash

no toiletries or food allowed in the tent, they must be hung from a tree so please keep this in mind when you are packing
share as many items as possible, e.g. toothpaste, deodorant, soap (please use environmentally friendly products at all times)
don’t bring anything too valuable in case you drop it in the water or leave it out in the rain
take things out of their packaging and put them in PLASTIC, e.g., Tupperware, Ziploc bags, etc., because you will have to carry out all of your garbage
freeze meats

Knapsack x 3
stuff sack x 2
Cooler bag
Mini-ice packs
bungie cords x 9
rope (x4 in total) and string (cotton)
duct tape
clothes pins (8+ per person)
water pump
big plastic jug
blue water bag
portable saw
collapsible shovel
Leatherman and Swiss army knife
gardening gloves with leather palms x 2 (for rowing, carrying stuff, using the hatchet, pulling rope, fending off mosquitos, holding on to a hot frying pan)
waterproof matches (Coleman are best)
newspaper to start fires
2 mini-towels
1 large towel
tarp (more than 2 in total if possible)
for eating area
to cover stuff in the canoe if it’s raining
paddle x 2
lamp for eating area x 2
lantern for in the tent
S-hooks for lamps x 4 (plus a bunch more)
mosquito netting
mosquito netting hat
big garbage bags x 9
small garbage bags
art stuff
books, magazines, cards
Stadium chairs x 2

tent with fly-sheet
extra tent pegs x 6 (in tent bag)
or foam for under sleeping mats
sleeping ground sheet to cover ground under the tent (in tent bag)
rollies mat x 2
sleeping bag in pillow/stuff sack x 2
flashlights x 2
enough fresh batteries to reload each flashlight – Black Everready = 2xDs, Brunton = 4xAA, Blue Coleman = 2xAA
First aid:
band aids
DEET/bug spray
something for bites and rashes (e.g. AfterBite)
tensor bandage with clips
Gravol (ginger)

biodegradable soap in a plastic, resealable bottle (for you and the dishes)
toilet paper x 0.5/person per day each in a separate Ziploc bag
feminine hygiene products if required
tissues (small packs)
toothbrush x 2
toothpaste x 1
deodorant x 1
lip balm
hair control (clips, elastics, bandana)
contact lenses or extra pair of glasses (as backup for lost/broken glasses)

CLOTHING / person
rain gear (coat with hood, pants)
hiking shoes
shoes that can get wet (sandals or Crocs) for portaging and swimming
bathing suit
several pairs of socks (for warmth and fending off mosquitos)
long pants x 1
long sleeved shirt or t-shirt x 2
something warm like a fleece jacket or sweater (you can use this item to stuff the pillow sack)
a hat (not straw, must fit securely on your head,.e.g. a baseball cap or Tilley-style hat)
knee braces or other athletic support items if required
underwear x 3
sports bra
shorts x 2
t-shirt x 2
tank top x 2

For eating
knife, fork, spoon x 2
plate x 2
bowl x 2
plastic mug/bowl with handle x 2
individual water bottles
insulated mug x 2
cook stove – SMALL
fuel (propane, cooking gas, etc.) for stove
pressurized fuel bottle

For cooking
frying pan
pot with lid x 2
serving plate x 2
serving bowl x 2
bodum-style coffee filter for smaller pot
cooking utensils: flipper, ladle, wooden spoon
any other item that you will need to make your meal
dish towel to dry dishes with
sponge to wash dishes with
cloth napkins x 4


2 thoughts on “State of the Arts”

  1. Hi Victoria..
    We went round The outer Hebrides a few weeks ago in my husbands toyota carpenters van ( de-racked) I thought we were the only people who took half the house with us. Nowhere near as organised as above list ,although might be useful to refer to in future (minus cultural differences). As long as we have our coffee pot and faithful Tilley and abag of sweets and biscuits we generally have a good time. Always bring my art stuff and rarely pin myself down to doing any. It will be a priority next trip. My husbands brother lives in Canada and when they next visit England we are meeting on the Isle of Skye for a camping trip. check out my post ‘Lovely Lewis and Hats off to Harris’ !
    Regards Nicole
    P.S Can’t believe you typed out that entire list…….

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