Finding Nemo

Bicycle-camping may not seem like a bold idea, but we have shied away from it because our canoe-camping gear is too bulky to fit into our panniers. A new lightweight tent by Nemo frees up room for a tiny stove, kettle, and an essential – coffee. We test the new items on a three-day trip to one of our favourite parks, Ruckle Provincial Park on Salt Spring Island.

“I can’t camp without hot coffee,” says Doug. He really wants to try bike-camping. We squeeze our ten-pound tent into our panniers, but there’s no room for the DragonFly stove, fuel bottle, and cooking pots.

Cathy thinks we can manage with cold food. Her suggestions of chocolate-covered espresso beans, caffeine-infused energy bars, and coffee-flavoured Instant Breakfast are rejected, but Doug consents to try a Foldable Pocket Stove with six fuel tabs, weighing 180g and costing $17.50. The package promises that each fuel tablet will boil water for two cups of coffee or one bag of dehydrated food.

Ruckle Provincial Park has 78 walk-in campsites on the coast overlooking Swanson Channel. In summer this is a busy campground, but only two sites are occupied when we arrive on a Tuesday in October. Most of the sites are in an open grassy meadow, where you can watch ferries, sailboats, and seals glide by. The sky looks high-spirited and mischievous, so we choose one of the tent-padded sites at the edge of the forest.

Ruckle has more than fifteen kilometres of hiking trails. Loops of various lengths are possible. Our favourite is the four-hour loop that covers seven kilometres of shoreline, rocky headlands, and coves before heading into the woods, passing through a grove of spooky big trees and through the working heritage farm.

Ruckle is a gentle park. No bears, raccoons, or biting insects to worry about. Carpet burweed is the only hazard, and this invasive plant is contained in a fenced quarantine area. We hear the rumble of ferries and the tap of a woodpecker, but the five deer are silent as they bed down in the grass next to our tent.

How did the new gear perform? The tent didn’t leak or blow away. Being a three-season tent, it was mighty chilly in there when the temperature dropped to minus-two Celsius; thank goodness we had warm sleeping bags. The pocket stove performed as advertised, and it was quiet, unlike our DragonFly, which sounds like a jet engine taking off. The fuel pellets have an unpleasant odour, rather like pigeon poo, a smell with which we’ve recently become acquainted due a pigeon infestation in our building.

Bottom line: with this lighter weight gear, we can bike-camp. We’ll do it again, and maybe try back-packing, too. Seventy-nine isn’t too old for a first backpacking trip, is it?


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