Open main menu

First Time In Backcountry for 7 Days Planning Advice

I am a 17 year old guy and am planning a first time backcountry trip on ontario crown land this summer with a friend of mine. We plan to go hiking for 7 days on a large expanse of crown land in northern Ontario. We both want to develop our outdoor skills and crown land seems an excellent place to do so due to the limited regulations compared to the parks. We are both physically able and love the outdoors. Above all, we're not stupid and realize that this is going to require lots of planning and preparation to keep a safe trip. We have months before the trip (either in august or july) to plan.

What can we do to best prepare ourselves for this trip?


Welcome to Trailspace parseeker, you have found one of the friendliest gear review/forum sites on the web.  Nobody will laugh at you or make fun of you because of a lack of knowledge. Feel free to ask questions and they will be answered.

On to your question.

Do several over-nighters first.  The first should be easy to bailout of.  Members here are known to test tents in their backyards.  That will let you work out the kinks and let you start whittling down the extra gear you thought you needed but really didn't.

Have you bought any gear yet?  If you have post a detailed list here. If you haven't don't buy major pieces without checking first. Some things like packs are personal because of fit, size etc.  Others like tents aren't as personal. But we can steer you away from garbage. We will also need to know your budget. 

Where are you going specifically. Have you planned a route yet. If so post it. If you haven't but have a general idea post what kind of weather you will be expecting and what kind of terrain.  A few of the members will probably be familiar with the area you are going to hike, the rest of us won't be and will need to know to give good advice.

There's an area northeast of Cochrane that has a little over 2000 square kilometres. The report says that it's used for fly in fishing and snowmobiling. It say it's largely inaccessible. Does this mean it's inaccessible to hike in or just that there is limited road access? Are there any other good crown land camp areas in ontario that are large enough to spend a week in?

There are some videos on YouTube about camping on Crown lands put up by one of the members of another site I belong to. His online name is PineMartin. Do a search on YouTube for camping on crown lands and you should find them. I put a link below.  I'm not from Canada, but as far as I know from watching his videos, there is plenty of Crown land open for camping. I would check with local agencies that control the Crown lands for more info. There are probably some Canadian websites as well. I know there are some canoeing sites for campers in the Boundary Waters area, but not sure exactly where that is.

You can also find PineMartin on That is a winter camping site, but most of the members are Canadians, so they may have some info for you as well about what to do in the "off season" before the next snowfall.

As for getting ready, spend time online looking at gear lists and also do some reading if you haven't done much backpacking. You can't learn just by reading or watching videos, but you can at least understand the basics. For example, you will need to know how to cook in the backcountry. I understand on Crown lands you can have fires (check to make sure, but Pine Martin had one) but using a camping stove may be more efficient. Meal planning is important. There are lots of recipes online.

Practice at home setting up a tent, packing your backpack, using your stove (some are more complicated than others) and if you are taking a GPS, how it works. Out in the field is no place to discover you don't know how to use your basic equipment. Learn basic map and compass skills. A dead GPS is nothing more than an expensive paperweight. Know basic first aid and be sure to take a small first aid kit.

Here are a couple of links-;topicseen




I don't know anything about the area you are talking about but in general their is lots of things you can do to prepare for the trip. 

July - August, be ready for bugs

I would suggest a full tent rather then a tarp or shelter of some kind, no one want's to get eaten alive.

Get some maps of the area and study them, plan out a route or areas and get information on those areas.  Planning can be lots of fun and should help you with gear choices and the like. 

Talk to the local "land wardens" or what ever they are called up there.  They will know a lot about the area and can help direct you in the right direction.  Remember you don't have to cover a lot of ground unless that is what you are trying to do.  But at the same time, staying at one place for a week can get boring too.  Maybe something like 5 to 10K a day, or every other day.  This would depend a lot on trails or bushwhacking (cross country). 

Learn how to read and map and compass, GPS is great to know where you are, but map skills can save you life. 

Each area is different in "Accessibility"  If it is fly-in only you are going to have to either stay close to the edge or figure out some form of transportation in and out.   But the land manager should be able to let you know.  Also maps will help with roads and trails.  


welcome to TS.

Two suggestions,

take less than you think

go on a two night trip as as practice

Fist time back country trip? Sounds like fun!

May I ask how much experience do you and your friend already have? Any scouting experience? First aid instruction? Family camping trips?

Is this trip to be a backpacking trip where you camp in a different spot every night ( or most every night ) or will you be hiking in to a base camp and then enjoying day hikes and exploring the area from that base?

Callahan hit the nail on the head I think, I also believe it would be very wise to go on a few “shakedown” trips  beforehand.

Even just overnighters in the back yard with the gear you have is instructional. Do try to work in a two night trip beforehand, if you can.

Lets see -

1)      You’ll need to start planning out a menu, then assemble all that food and see how much it weighs. Seven days’ worth of food is quite a pile! Heh, at home cook and eat what you intend to bring, and how you intend to cook it in the field, even if that means building a cookfire in the backyard. – The first time you try a new recipe or food item or stove or cooking over a fire should not be when your way out in the sticks!   

2)       Same thing goes for the rest of your gear of course, cobble together what you have and see what will do, what you might need to make and even what you might want to purchase before you go. Do an easy overnighter or two, then a two night trip if you can. I wouldn’t worry to much about fancy gear myself. Start with what you have, try a few overnighters and see if you feel the need for fancier stuff.  I never bothered with a tent or sleeping bag when I was your age and made do just fine with ponchos, tarps, wool blankets and the like, but I knew how to operate that way, was used to it and I was young and tough and comfortable enough on summer trips.

3)      Get some maps of the area you want to go, and spend some time going over them with your companion planning out where you want to go. Be sure to plot out contingency plans if someone gets injured, you run low on food or the weather just turns real foul and the like. I’d recommend you be conservative for this first trip and not try to cover to many miles, bag to many summits or go to remote.   

My first unsupervised five day trip was at about that age, but I’d had lots of experience with the boy scouts and many shorter trips. I still carried way to much stuff, but I had lots and lots of fun on that trip!  By contrast, I have nephews about your age who are afraid of the dark, can’t swim a stroke, haven’t a clue about first aid and wouldn’t have a clue what to pack on such a trip ( I’m working on them! ).  I can tell your light years ahead of my nephews though, if nothing else because your eager and willing to learn and to get out in the backcountry.

Would it be wise to borrow a PLB? I definitely wouldn't plan to use it but "hope for the best, prepare for the worst" comes to mind. I would like to work on wilderness survival skills for fun, such as shelter building and collecting water, primitive fishing etc as well as navigation skills and using a "natural compass."

We're taking a trip to some outdoor stores to talk to some of the guys there and see what's available.

Studying and practicing wilderness survival skills is always a very good idea and also fun, but don’t be so foolish as to expect to be able to trap, catch or collect a significant amount of the food you’ll need on this upcoming trip.

 Browsing in stores is always fun, but bear in mind the sales clerks  ( who may or may not have any actual wilderness experience ) make a living selling stuff – They will gladly pile fifty pounds of very expensive gear on your back. It’s always best to determine what you feel you need first, then go hit the stores to find the best deal on it.  

Like a I wrote above a great place to start is for you and your friend to sit down and plan a menu for this trip. It needn’t be expensive and you can shop in your usual supermarket.

Buy the stuff, and see if the two of you can actually carry it all! Then eat the stuff and nothing else for seven days and see how you feel.     

You might be surprised…

Me, I know what I can carry, cook and live on for a week or two. My list does vary some, but it’s been developed and tried out over a rather long period of time. I’m worried that unless  you already routinely cook for yourself and have some camping experience under your belt you may be overlooking this very important first lesson.  

So why not dream up a food budget for the trip and post it here? Then we can count calories, figure out how hard to prepare and how heavy this stuff all is.

Then when we got that part figured out we’ll move on to hammering out the specific itinerary of the trip, and then we can start on the rest of the gear.

I wasn't expectng that at all. I wouldn't last long attempting that:). We'd bring all required food but try to do that on the side and see if anything comes of it.

Also, would you recommend sharing a tent or each bringing a solo tent. I'd be perfectly okay with it but some guys feel weird about that sort of thing. It's not really different from the sleepovers everyone had when they were younger. What are the pros and cons in terms of setup, bear safety, etc?


Two in a tent is probably lighter than two tents for two people

Only one foot print instead of two in a small space set up.

You have some company if you have to hunker down for awhile


  Snoring - bring ear plugs and Benadryl (if not affected) to get to sleep.

  You probably won't sleep as soundly until you both get used to the tossing and turning.

  Disturbances for the 2AM bladder calls.

  The light goes out for everybody - unless you get an ok to keep reading.

  You don't have a back-up tent incase of a (rare) accident.


  Bear safety depends upon how you protect your food not who you have or don't have in a tent with you.  Just leave the food outside.

I've slept with 3 in a small two person tent.  You sleep spoon fashion and everybody agrees on the ballet to turn onto the other side.

Welcome to trailspace parseeker, alot of great advice, don't take them lightly, do go out on a night or two to test your gear before you go on a 7 day trip!
Some things I do to prepare for long trips are: exercise, start eating smaller portions to shrink stomach on first days (its better to eat more on the later days when your body is exhausted),  make a gear list of everything you will take, test everything out to make sure it's functioning, check the weather, speak to the people in charge of the area you are backpacking (ask about regulations such as fire, ask about weather once again, ask about any specific danger such as bears, any misc advice). 

Use Excel to make a gear list of what you and your friend are taking, I would also advise to mark the weight so it's evenly distributed, take into consideration food and water which are variable weights. Here is what you will need in no particular order:

1. Proper clothing.

2. Backpack.

3. Tent.

4. Food.

5. Cooking system, for this trip use a canister stove.

6. A Bic lighter to start a fire.

7. First Aid kit.

8. Toiletries.

9. A pot and perhaps a pan.

10. A water container and water treatment.

11. A map, compass, and maybe a GPS receiver.

12.  A sleeping bag and sleeping pad.

13. Some rope to hang your food from animals.

14. Flashlight

That's pretty much all you need, I apologize if I left something important out, but I don't think I did.  I suggest sharing tent, cooking gear, fire starting, water filtration and hanging system. It's a good adventure for you to go out and practice wilderness survival skill, but be aware, it's all fun and games until something goes wrong and you get lost, injured, lose your gear, get separated from your friend or something of the sort, so be careful and plan for all those things. If you want specific advice on gear just ask, check out this thread so you can save some money and make some fun gear, and check other posts on gear selection! Have fun man! =)

If you would share a 2 bed hotel room with  the friend you are going with you probably won't mind sharing a tent (another reason to take a practice overnighter). The weight difference between 1 and 2 man versions of most tents is not that much and you can split it between the two of you.  At your age I didn't have to worry about watering the plants at midnight (thankfully still don't) but a two door tent is still nice because you each have your own vestibule and can get to it without crawling over each other. 

This is another thread for you to look at. What's in your survival kit?

Is where you are going well traveled?  If it is not then taking a PLB might not be a bad idea, considering your experience level and if you can borrow it for nothing why not?

Thanks, does anybody have any suggestions for a two person tent under $200?  I am 6'6" and my friend is about 6' - 6'2".

If you are going to do a lot of backpacking with your friend and sharing your tent.  I would suggest a 3 person tent over a 2 person.  The extra space will be welcome if you have to hole up in it for a while. These are some tents for sale at right now.

This is an excellent 2 person.  It would probably take a light snow load in case you get an early dusting in the fall. The HUGE mesh side appears to be closeable.

Mountain Hardwear Hammerhead 2 , Reviews, For Sale for $101.74

Big Agnes Madhouse 3

Convertible 3-4 season tent.  I suggest this one because you live in Canada and this tent would probably extend your hiking season for you.  It is heavy and it does not use clips to attach the tent body.  This is better structurally but can be a  pain to put the poles through.


For Sale  $194

The 2 person version is available at for $215.

These 2 tents are similar, except pole structure., For Sale $213, For Sale $175

What I like about these tents is that you can use trekking poles to hold up the center section of the vestibules and make an awning.

At you have:

I have Alps Mountaineering Zephyr 3 and Chaos 3 tents.  Both are well made and use heavier cloth and zippers than most lower priced tents.  I recommend the Extreme for you because of its size (the 2p is 7'8 and the 3p is 8' in length) and because its pole design should decent strength.

Alps Mountaineering Extreme, 2p reviews, 3p reviews

3 Person $203  2 Person is $168.

Thanks a lot for the links. I tried creating an account on geartrade but only U.S. residents can order from them. It's a shame beause they have some amazing deals.

Read the fine print. That hammerhead 2 on gear trade doesn't come with a fly.

Tent with a fly ,  i.e. make sure to have fly is a very good idea.

Being your first trip get a tent that is between 50%-100% larger capacity able than the number of people sleeping in it.

REI gear sale is on now, so it is a very good time to buy if you need some thing and get a 20+% discount on that item.

There are many of tents to chose from at that price range, the best advice I can give you is to look at the dimensions. You and your friend are tall guys, some tents go from under 82 inches long to over 92 inches long, consider the lenght of your sleeping bag and mat, you don't want it to be rubbing against the inner of the tent, also go for something around 60 inches wide for comfort, just measure yourselves side by side to see what's the best width for the tent. There are other things to consider which you might have seen such as weight, material, being side entrance or front entrance, vestibule size, warranty, free standing or not, wind resistance, etc...

2 entrances is a good thing and with a vestibule at each entrance.

Free standing is very helpful too.

parseeker, just a quick mention for ya. When looking at tents pay I wouldn't pay much attention to their specified dimensions.

Many companies base their dimensions on grommet to grommet measurements and not the actual interior measurements.

Keep this in mind when looking at specs. 

Hi, parseeker;

You're in Canada, so you have access to the MEC website. Whether you buy a tent from them or not, the specs there are much more thorough than anywhere else. And the reviews aren't just the good ones! For example, as mentioned above, they actually have drawings of how big the interior space is, including height, width and length. VERY helpful.

I would definitely borrow a PLB. If something goes wrong, you'll be almost certain of getting rescued. Remember, things that would be just a nuisance closer to home (like a sprained ankle) can be fatal out in the bush.

And seconds on the full-fly tent (with two doors and two vestibules) and a family-size jug of DEET. The blackflies are a killer.

All tents I've had provide the actually living space floor dimensions, but the best way is to try the tent at a store before making the purchase. I just recently purchased a Tarptent Stratospire 2 for me and my wife and they were pretty dead on with their measurements, my Hilleberg Allak is too at 91 inches.  Now a Big Agnes Seedhouse 2 is 84 x 52 inches and the Copper Spur 2 is 90 x 52 inches, 6 inch difference there, and its from the same company so they must have been measured the same way.  Some tent inners come at different angles from the floor up, which is something else to consider. I'm just saying all this because they are both tall guys, I'm only 6ft 1 and I wish they made longer tents as it is!

I have had convos with both BA and Eureka and both have confirmed that their listed dimensions are based on grommet to grommet measurements.

The BA rep stated that it is somewhat of an industry standard. 

No matter how you slice it, will be better to go for a longer tent rather than a shorter. I never had a big agnes or eureka tent btw, but if the seedhouse and tents of the like are that short grommet to grommet I'm sure parseeker would do better looking at the longer ones. But good luck par, let us know how your planning is going!

September 28, 2020
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply