Backcountry Tenting

Camping at the Bowron River

One of my favourite places is the Bowron Lake canoe circuit. I’ve done the circuit many times and in an array of company. This summer we’ll make the trip with 14 of us spread across 5 family units. Our skills and experience with camping, canoeing, and other outdoor adventures, greatly vary. These next few posts are for the benefit of the group as they prepare for this trip.

This trip consists of 7 nights in a tent. Being warm, dry, and out of the wind is essential to having an enjoyable trip. The first time I took a group of boys around the circuit we had 6 straight days of blue skies and hot weather. A few years later I was with a group of boys that had 6 days and nights of steady rain. A few storms pushed us off the lakes early. The point is, you must be prepared for the full range of weather.

As you will need to carry everything and stow it in the limited space of your canoe, weight and bulk are considerations. Choose a tent that packs relatively well and is light. You won’t be spending much time in your tent outside of sleeping so do not worry about having more space than necessary for that activity. Also keep in mind that there are designated tent pads and you don’t want a tent larger than these. Occasionally these tent pads are small decks that will keep your tent off wet ground. Most often they are simple flat dirt squares ringed by treated wood beams.

A dome tent with a removable fly is ideal. If it is particularly hot you can remove the fly for greater air flow while keeping the bugs at bay. I recommend a tent where the fly completely covers the tent. There are cheap dome tents that are single walled with a little fly that covers the top of the dome. These are not ideal. In very rainy conditions the tent will be quickly saturated. If this is all you have available it is essential to bring a good tarp that can be strung up to completely cover the tent. I bring such a tarp regardless of the quality of my tent.

The fly on this tent gives complete coverage to the mesh tent beneath it.

The ideal tent will have:

  • A ground sheet
  • The main tent
  • A full fly
  • Tent pegs/nails
  • Tarp (12’x12’) optional
  • Paracord 50’ optional

Your ground sheet protects your tent from the wet ground and will help keep the interior of the tent dry. Sleeping in a puddle is not ideal. If your tent does not have a ground sheet you can purchase a small tarp or light plastic for that purpose. Lumber wrap (Tyvek) is ideal for a lightweight ground sheet. The ground sheet should be completely covered by the tent above it. If the sheet extends out past the base of your tent the water shed by the fly will be collected by it. Ensure your ground sheet does not stick out past the fly else you may be building a pool to sleep in.

A dome tent with an entrance on both sides is helpful but not necessary. Look for something that includes mesh for air circulation. Some cheaper dome tents require that you feed your collapsible poles through a long sleeve. This can be terribly annoying when putting the tent up. It’s not a show stopper but I’d look for a tent where the main tent clips to the poles.

This tent clips to its poles rather than being threaded through a sleeve.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a full fly. When setting up your tent the fly should be tight and away from the main tent. Good air circulation between the tent and the fly will help keep water out. Even with a good fly you should consider a tarp and rope that you can string up over your tent. The Bowron Chain can get so much rain over many days that even the best tents can become saturated.

In September 2021 we had an intense downpour one night. We’d been camping at the chute and in the morning made our way down to McCleary Lake. The group ahead of us had set their tents up in front of the cabin. At about 4am they woke to find the water in the lake had risen so much it was inches from their tent. Quick action saved them from a bath. Even quicker action was needed to rescue one of their canoes which was floating away.

Staying warm and dry is essential to an enjoyable trip.

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