Cheap Night in the Woods

Cheap Night in the Woods



Last week I took an overnight trip to a favourite spot of mine. It was a solo adventure with my sidekick Bear. I deliberately tried to take as little baggage as possible to show everyone that you can have a cheap and enjoyable night in the wild. These days backpacking gear is revolutionary, but can be quite expensive. From down sleeping bags that nearly require a financing plan to tents that cost more than a monthly rent payment. I am a firm believer of the old adage “you get what you pay for.” That being said, you don’t need all the bells and whistles to ease your way into a good adventure. There is plenty of camping gear inferior to these high cost, state of the art items, that will do the trick for the recreational woods dweller. If you are looking for a more serious load-out, you should check out my piece Twelve Days of Bush Living On Your Back.


Here is my line-up for the most recent outing

The main objective of our recent trip was to look for ducks. There never needs to be an objective besides relaxing, but on this day ducks was ours. We arrived at camp around 4pm and stayed till 10 am the next morning. Just enough time to scout for some birds in the evening/morning and spend a relaxing night by the camp fire. Although we sighted none we did spot one bald eagle and the loons who always navigate these waters.

All my gear for the outing fit easily into a 65 litre multi-day pack with room to spare. How could I manage that with the tent and sleeping bag, on top of everything else you ask? Well the thing is, I didn’t pack any of those items. At this point some people might be saying  “What? No tent?”  Well I ask you to please relax, you’re too tents. It is not mandatory!

My shelter for the eve consisted of a 8 x 10 tarp that I purchased from Canadian Tire. It cost a measly five dollars. It is enough to keep me dry if needed. Spruce boughs and a very light foam cushion was used for the bedding. The foam could be omitted, but the ground was damp so I appreciated the lift provided by it. A small wool blanket and some merino wool under-gear kept me warm throughout the night. For extra warmth (because it did drop to 5 degrees and start to rain moderately heavy), I wore my green Gortex pants and coat. This getup was purchased used from the army surplus for VERY good price of $120. It wasn’t necessary though. Any decent outer shell would work in this situation. That’s of course, if you didn’t mind a burn hole or two in it from the raging evening fire! So you should wear something old if you’re worried about that. For a final touch of protection I donned a winter cap. Your biggest loss of heat is through your noggin.

All packed up and ready to rumble. Notice the spruce boughs used for cushioning. Please use them sparingly.

For cooking purposes I took one pot, enough food for the evening/morning and the necessary cooking utensils. All your really need here is a fork, knife, spoon and drinking mug. For gathering wood I brought along my small hatchet and a collapsible buck saw. My meal on this particular night was moose and peppers. The smell of it cooking over the toasty campfire was divine.

As always I also brought along my first aid kit, sufficient rope and a headlamp. For luxury purposes I decided to throw in my wind-up radio to enjoy a few tunes. If you look in the pictures you can see my life jacket (PFD) is in attendance. I maneuvered to this particular spot by way of canoe and hiking.

At the end of the day, it is very possible for anyone to experience a very affordable overnight adventure. You would be surprised how refreshed you feel after a good evening in the elements, even though you may be a little crumpled in the AM. I know most people would prefer the tent idea, especially in the summer when bugs are galore. Personally, I would rather a tent then as well. Although I have pulled it off and woke up with more than a couple blessed fly bites. At that time, a bug jacket does wonders. But in the spring, fall or even winter, when insects are to a minimum, it is a unique experience to be in the open. Just make sure you have sufficient amounts of fire wood cut to last you through the night.

I hope you all try to dip into a trip sometime soon. Take the plunge. Go outside your comfort zone a little. And most importantly, enjoy the peacefulness of the wild!

If you have any questions or need advice, email me at


An open fire in front of your shelter. One of life’s simple pleasures.



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