We canoed. We camped. We swam. We played. It was a Canada Day long weekend to remember.
We are new to the backcountry camping game. In fact, this was our first time. But we’re now 100% hooked. There is something so special about trekking into the wilderness with nothing to rely on but yourself, your gear, and each other.
Thankfully, we have some pretty amazing friends who coordinated our entire expedition, from researching backcountry campsites at Kejimkujik National Park (or simply “Keji”… or sometimes “Kijiji”) and waiting by the computer until the moment that registration opened for the season, to booking canoes, navigating us through the waters of Kejimkujik Lake, and filtering liters of lake water to keep us hydrated.
We left early on Friday morning (Canada Day!) and arrived at Jake’s Landing, Keji’s boat rental hub, at around noon. We picked up our canoes, loaded in our gear, and headed for site 20.
Like I said, this was our first time backcountry camping or canoe camping, and it was also Dallas’s first time in a canoe for any real distance. We weren’t sure how she would react, but she handled it like a champ. Our gear filled the middle of the canoe, and I wanted to be able to grab on to her in case she made a break for it, so we decided it would be best to put her up front with me. She was nervous and excited, which meant she whined a lot… but she stayed put.
The six-kilometer paddle to site 20 took us three hours, at a very leisurely pace. We arrived in the late afternoon, set up camp, and rescued a lost family (for real). After that, we spent the rest of the weekend relaxing by the campfire, taking in some incredible sunsets on our private beach, and thriving in the great outdoors.
Each backcountry campsite at Keji is equipped with a picnic table, a firepit, a supply of firewood, and an outhouse. This makes things a lot easier.
It really was the perfect weekend. The weather was incredible, there were hardly any bugs, and I can’t imagine anyone else I’d rather spend time with than these five humans and four dogs. The paddle back on Sunday was a bit rough because of the wind, but we made it without incident in about an hour-and-a-half.
Having completed our first backcountry camping trip with our dog, here are what we consider to be the “essential items”…
Because Dal is so low maintenance, our must-have items for camping with her are pretty basic:
- Lots of food and water (or a water source and a friend with a handy water filter),
- A collapsible or foldable food dish (one should be enough unless your dog is a grazer – Dal downs her food in seconds, so as soon as she’s done we can just refill the dish with water),
- A blanket or towel to sleep on in the tent,
- A leash,
- Poop bags (so we can respect the adventurer’s golden rule: “take only pictures, leave only footprints”),
- A clip-on LED light (so we can see her in the dark – we like these ones),
- Dog bug spray (we love Beat it Total Happy Pets Spray from One Earth Holistic, a local company, purchased at The Healthy Bug in Halifax), and
- Tweezers for tick removal.
That’s it! If you’re going to be canoeing, we would add a dog life jacket, or at least a harness so you can pull them out of the water if necessary. And if you’re going to be hiking to your campsite or portaging, we would add a dog backpack so they can “carry their own weight”, i.e. their own food.
Have you been backcountry camping or canoe camping with your dog? How did it go? Any tips or tricks? What are your must-have items for camping with dogs?