MELSAYS PODCAST – EP. 11 – Ellie Greenwood

The podcast is back! After a little break, I’m thrilled to launch new episodes of the MELSAYS PODCAST this week!

My guest for this episode is Ellie Greenwood, she is an ultrarunner who began her ultra career in 2008. In addition to being a 2x 100k World Champion, she also holds numerous course records including the Western States 100 miler, the Canadian Death Race, the JFK 50 Mile Run and the Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run. She also won the 90k Comrades Marathon in South Africa. I’ve had the chance to see her compete and podium at a few local races here in North Vancouver and Squamish so I’m beyond thrilled to have her on the podcast today. 

The podcast is just one click away or you can also listen to it below. If you enjoyed our chat, make sure you subscribe to the MELSAYS PODCAST here -> iTunes and Google Play.

Thank you to CLIF for their help setting this interview up!

How to Travel Light as an Adventure Enthusiast

Packing for any kind of trip can be stressful so trying to pack light when going on an adventure trip can seem even more daunting. However, over the years, I’ve developed a pretty good packing strategy. Packing used to take me 1-2 hours + but now takes me 30 minutes at most. If I’m going on a super technical trip, I’ll start off by making a packing list but most of the time, I don’t even end up using it since it’s become such an automatism. Here are some tips for those of you hoping to improve their packing game!

What my carry-on looked like on my most recent trip to Alberta.

1) Pick the right suitcase. I used to lug around heavy large suitcases but in the last two years, I travel with a carry-on suitcase 99% of the times. The main reasons being:

a) you always usually pack way more than you actually need so it forces you to pack smart
b) carry-on suitcases are free of charge on most airlines
c) light carry-ons are way easier to travel with especially when out adventuring

I’ve been using MEC’s Rolling Continent Carry On Pack because it’s the perfect combination between a rolling suitcase but can also be transformed into a backpack if needed. It’s also incredibly lightweight (only weighs 2.35 kgs) and is filled with tons of different pockets and compartments, helping keep your suitcase organized at all times.

2) Compartmentalize. The best way to stay organize and travel light when bringing tons of adventure gear is to divide everything up in different compartments. That way you can always know where all of your gear is and only bring the essentials.

I used to put everything in different bags but lately I’ve been using MEC’s Packing Cubes, that come in different sizes and colours. What’s key about these cubes is that they’re water-resistant, which is a must when you’re putting muddy or wet gear back into your suitcase after adventuring. The clamshell lid also allows for easy access of it’s content plus there’s a nifty little handle that helps with carrying or hanging. Plus, it helps keep your clothes wrinkle-free!

It’s hip to be square. Keep the contents of your luggage organized and wrinkle-free with this package of three lightweight packing cubes. They are also useful for keeping shoes and dirty laundry separate from the clean stuff.

These cubes come in different sizes.

3) Bring Layers. The best way to keep clothing and things at a minimum when adventure traveling is packing layers. No matter where I’m going, I’ll always bring with me both warm and cool clothing. I’ll focus on pieces that I can layer as depending on the weather and destination, the weather can change in a heartbeat. I also always bring a few pairs of warm socks (which I stuff in my shoes, so they take up less space!) I’m also one to pack 1 “fancy” outfit for any post-adventure dinners or potential outings. Layers also allow you to mix and match your clothing plus, the thing I’ve realized over the years is that you don’t need a different outfit for every day you’re away. I used to bring WAY too much clothing and realized most of it would go unused.

4) Essential Tools. Depending on what kind of adventure you’re heading out for, there are certainly a few essential tools that you will want to bring with you. If you’re heading out camping, hiking, trail running, a multi-tool will be your best friend. Bringing a backpack or water pack or trail running is also a must for almost any kind of adventure. A rain layer is a necessity no matter what you’re doing.  I’ve been packing MEC’s Stuffit Long Jacket because it’s water resistant and packs up into its own pocket. If you’re going cycling, bring a tire repair kit, wilderness camping bring a water filter and a map/compass. I also always bring a headlight, whistle, ear plugs, waterproof dry bag, first aid kit, portable phone charger and a bathing suit, especially if I want to go open water swimming.

This MEC backpack is super easy to pack into your suitcase. It even has a pouch for hydration at the back.

5) A Good Pair of Shoes. The trickiest part of packing for me remains footwear. As someone who likes to trail run, hike as well as road run, do gym workouts, go to the beach, swim, surf, etc. footwear is always the trickiest part because it’s also the heaviest and what usually takes up the most space in a suitcase. I now always pack the following:
a) hiking shoes/boots (depending on the kind of trails I’ll be doing)
b) running shoes (either trail running or road running shoes)
c) sandals/flip flops (for the beach, pool or lounging around)
d) city shoes (heels, slip ons, etc.)

These Keen Targhee III are the perfect lightweight hiking boots to bring with you on a trip.

A few additional tips:
-wear your bulkiest/heaviest items if you can
-roll your clothes instead of folding them
-buy travel size toiletries or put them in reusable travel size containers (less than 100 ml)

Happy Adventuring!

This article was written in collaboration with MEC but all opinions are my own.

Unique Getaway Idea – Nectar Yoga B&B on Bowen Island

If you’re like me, then you’re always on the lookout for unique experiences and getaways.

Since before moving to Vancouver, I had been wanting to check out a super cute B&B located on Bowen Island that I found on Instagram called Nectar Yoga B&B. I had heard that this place was not only a great spot for yoga but also a very tranquil place to stay and recharge for a couple of days.

I had the opportunity to finally to check it out just a few weeks ago and the magical B&B did not disappoint.

Getting to Bowen Island is a quick 25-minute ferry ride that departs from Horseshoe Bay several times a day. Once on Bowen Island, you can easily access to Nectar Yoga B&B either by car, by bike or even just walking or hitchhiking, as a lot of locals do.

Located just off one of the main roads on the island, this beautiful eco-friendly B&B offers its guests 3 different lodging options on its 1.2 acre lot. You can either opt for the Nectar Loft (that can welcome up to 4 guests), the Forest Cottage (that can welcome 2 guests) or even opt for the Garden Suite (which can accommodate an even larger group).

The Nectar Loft offers guests beach style cottage accommodations. The loft is furnished with sustainable and local decor, organic bedding, a Canadian-made pull-out sofa and all-natural beauty products. There is also a kitchenette that is filled with local coffee and teas as well as an area with books, board games and art supplies encouraging guests to get creative during their stay.

The Forest Cottage is a prefabricated building that was delivered to the property by boat as a way to reduce waste, fossil fuels and have less of an impact on the forested area in which it is located in. This west coast beach style cottage has a very homey feel with its cute beach-themed deco and fireplace.

There is also a beautiful outdoor shower on a private deck that features all natural eco-friendly bath products. From the shower, guests can spot local wildlife such as deer and beautiful 100-foot trees. The cottage also includes a mini fridge, local teas, coffee as well as a wide selection of DVDs and books to cozy up with in the evening.

Another reason why this place is so special is because the entire B&B only uses natural cleaning and beauty products to ensure they minimize their negative impact on the environment.

The one thing I was most excited to check out at the B&B, is their yoga dome that is located on property. When you check-in, you can opt for an Evening Arrival Yoga Lesson in the dome followed by a Guided Relaxation. Each morning, you can also start your day with a Guided Meditation and Yoga Lesson, before enjoying the homemade vegetarian or vegan breakfast that is delivered right to your door. Waffles, coconut yogurt, smoothies and fresh fruit are just some of the delicious homemade treats that can be served for breakfast. It’s a healthy and hearty way to start off the day!

During your stay at the B&B, you can also set up an in-room massage or even order a juice cleanse (that is made with seasonal fruit and veggies that are local and organic when possible). To top it off, there is also a Wood Burning Finnish Sauna that you can access on property.

If you’re looking for things to do beyond the property, you will find a little secluded beach just a 5min walk away. The beach is quiet and offers breathtaking views of Horseshoe Bay and the surrounding mountains.

If you’re into hiking, there are also tons of trails on the island to choose from, Mount Gardner being the most popular and longest route.

All in all, the Nectar Yoga B&B is the perfect place to unwind and spend a couple of days focusing on your health and wellbeing while being at one with nature. It’s a true gem and so incredibly close to Vancouver. I look forward to spending some additional time there later in the year.

For more info on the Nectar Yoga B&B, go here.

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 5 Tuolumne County

Finishing off this Gold Country series today with Tuolumne County. It is located in the Sierra Nevada region and also holds the northern half of the Yosemite National Park. It is one of the original counties of California that was created in 1850.

Sonora and Jamestown are two of the major towns located in the county. Jamestown is a former California Gold Rush Town that has now become a historic region, which has been featured in countless movies and Hollywood productions over the years. It is also home to some local wine tasting rooms such as Inner Sanctum Cellars, that offers 6 different wine varietals such as the Marsanne, Merlot and Barbera.

Inner Sanctum Cellars is renown for it’s delicious wines and also beautiful and original labels.

Sonora on the other hand, which was initially known for its lumber and mining industries is now notorious for being the closest city to Yosemite National Park. The Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is also located in the sector. There are lots of trails to explore right in the vicinity of downtown such as the Dragoon Gulch Trail, which is walking distance from the main strip.

Views from the top of Dragoon Gulch, which is a nice 3.5k loop trail.

Also located in Sonora is the Indigeny Reserve, a family-run cidery and distillery that makes hand-crafted hard cider and apple brandy in oak barrels. They have 160 acres of mostly Granny Smith and organic Honey Crisp apples. They are pesticide-free and produce 500 000 – 700 000 pounds of apples per year. The cidery also prides itself in being waste-free, giving the pulp from the cider and brandy production to local farmers or ranchers. They started in 2008 and released their first cider back in 2012.

The entrance to the stunning Indigeny Reserve, just a few minutes from downtown Sonora.

Also worth visiting in the county is the Columbia State Historic Park, which is a preserved historic downtown of the city of Columbia that originated in 1850. In 1961, it was declared a National Historic Landmark and includes almost 30 buildings that have been preserved since the California Gold Rush. The area operates as an open-air museum, with people walking around in period costumes and running handmade candy stores, stagecoach rides and other period-inspired businesses. Each year, they also organize special exhibits and hands-on activities that reminisce the Gold Rush Days.

The perfect place to have a breakfast or lunch while exploring Columbia – Browns Coffee House and Sweets Saloon.

In recent years, the county has also become a hotspot for the wedding industry and for people looking for rustic weddings, says local marketer and business consultant Tiffany Phillips of GetSocialWithTiffany. The area is also home to many festivals, fairs and even races that attract people from the county and beyond all throughout the year.

For more information on Tuolumne County, go here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Gold Country series this past week. To find out even more about the area, go here. Thank you once again to Visit California for making this trip possible!

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 4 Calaveras County

Destination 4 in my Gold Country series is Calaveras County. Located a little further inland and north, this county has a whole lot to offer.

Downtown Angels Camp.

If you’re visiting the area for the first time, you may be wondering why there are so many frog-related items, signage, etc. in the area and more specifically in the city of Angels Camp. The love affair with frogs dates back to the publication of Mark Twain‘s 1865 short story called The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which was based on a true story about a local gambler named Jim Smiley used to organize some frog jumping bets.  And since 1928, the county has been organizing an annual Jumping Frog Jubilee, which has now grown into an international frog jumping contest. It is the longest running and biggest county fair in the area with more than 50 000 attendees, farm exhibits, cake baking, free entertainment, rodeos, demolition derbys and of course, a frog jumping contest.

But frog jumping isn’t the only thing the county is renown for, the county is also home to 100 miles of hiking trails as well as one of the largest reservoirs in California. Outdoor recreation is one of the main draws of the area, with the presence of river rafting, cycling and equestrian trails in the area. The Calaveras Big Trees State Park is where the sequoias were found in 1853.

The Moaning Cavern Adventure Park is also a big draw in the area. The park offers not only a cavern tour but also the opportunity zip line. The cavern is California’s deepest cave chamber, it takes you sixteen stories underground via a spiral staircase. The cavern tour teaches you the history and geology of the cavern including how the massive stalagmites and flowstones formed and how people first explored the cave. Lengthier tours are also available for those seeking to climb, crawl and squeeze themselves through wilder areas of the cave.

The zip line is located just a few steps away from the cavern and offers a twin 1/4 mile zip line experience with incredible views of the local valley. It’s a great activity to do with the entire family.

One of the main towns of the county, Murphys is recognized as a culinary centre with a large offering of independent restaurants and shops. There are more than two dozen wine tasting rooms just on Main Street. Murphys is also the birthplace of local favourite Gold Country Roasters, which is THE place for coffee in the county and beyond.

All of the local shops and restaurant in Murphys have been preserved so well.

In addition to attracting the outdoor and culinary types, the towns of Murphys, Angels Camp and Arnold are also a very popular destination for the motorcycle community. Hundreds of motorcyclists cruise around the windy country roads of the county and populate the roads throughout the year.

Just some of the hundreds of motorcycles that roam through the area every week.

For more information on Calaveras County, go here.

Check back tomorrow for my final Gold Country destination – Tuolumne County.

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 3 Amador County

This week’s 3rd Gold Country destination and my personal favourite from my most recent trip to the area is Amador County.

Located in the Sierra Nevada, Amador County is home to some of the best wineries and cutest little historic villages in all of California. The beautiful rolling hills and sun-drenched area has made it a prime location for family-run wineries. Wineries such as Vino Noceto (“California’s Sangiovese Specialist”) and Iron Hub (which has the prettiest tasting room in all of California no doubt), offer award-winning food-friendly wines and the most luxurious wine tasting experience. A lot of these wineries are solar powered and use their properties to educate locals and tourists alike on the art wine making.

Vino Noceto produces 10 000 cases of wine a year and once a year, during the 1st weekend of March, they organize a “Behind the Cellar Doors” event, where the public gets to learn about the evolution of wine with tastings from the barrel, bottle to vintage wines.
This family-run winery distributes its wine only locally so paying them a visit is well worth it!

In addition to wine making, the area is renown for its top notch farm to fork restaurant selections including, Plymouth’s Taste Restaurant, which not only has vegetarian offerings but also a full vegan menu. It’s the best place for a date night or an elegant evening of fine dining. The use of local and fresh produce is key to chefs and restauranteurs in the area.

This is a pb&j sandwich done dessert style. The most delicious!

A must-visit in the area is the historic village of Sutter Creek, named after prospector John Sutter. There are tons of unique accommodations, shops and bars to check out on the village’s main drag.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the area, The Foxes Inn, is a beautiful Victorian gem dating back from the mid 19th century. Their sumptuous guest rooms take you back in time and offer a royalty-like stay. Plus, their quality chef-prepared 2-course breakfast is cooked-to-order and features some of the most delicious local produce.

You sleep like a king or queen in this vintage bed!

Outdoor enthusiasts won’t be disappointed as there is ample terrain to explore in the county. The Eldorado National Forest is a wonderful option for hiking, camping and fishing. There are a handful of lakes and reservoirs to also visit. Plus, with the county’s 10,000-foot rise in elevation, you can even do some winter activities like skiing or snowshoeing in the colder months on the slopes of the Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

Amador County is without a doubt one of the best kept secrets of Gold Country and California as a whole. An absolutely charming region!

Tomorrow, the Gold Country series continues with – Calaveras County!

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 2 El Dorado County

Today’s Gold Country destination is El Dorado County. The county is located entirely in the Sierra Nevada and ranges from the western foothills to the High Sierra in the east.

This is the location where gold was found for the first time!

Situated just a 45 min drive from Sacramento, El Dorado County is where James W. Marshall discovered gold in Coloma on January 24th 1848. Soon after, the population of the area exploded with miners hoping to strike it rich. Today, the area is home to more than 181 000 residents.

These days, the area is known for its wineries, 26 miles of biking and hiking trails, pristine public lands, glamping tents as well as fun outdoor water activities on the American River.

White water rafting has become a huge attraction in the area, thanks to companies like Raft California, that offer a multitude of organized excursions from a simple rafting trip to rafting and wine tasting, camping and so on. Rafting with the crew from Raft California, was hands down one of the coolest experiences of my life!

Talk about a thrilling adventure. I would go white water rafting again in a heartbeat!

The area is also filled with tons of cute farm to fork cafés such as The Argonaut, which is located just a stone’s throw from the river and the historic Sutter’s Mill Site, where gold was first found.

The first covered bridge in California was built in Coloma.

In addition to the protecting the rich history of the area, locals have worked hard at protecting the local environment and unique lands such as the Lake Tahoe area since the 1960 Winter Olympics hosted at Squaw Valley Ski Resort.

El Dorado County is an easy getaway to the Californian countryside for anyone coming from Sacramento and beyond.

For more information on El Dorado County, go here.

Tomorrow’s Destination – Amador County!

5 Counties Worth Visiting in Gold Country – Pt. 1 Sacramento

Thinking of heading to California this summer? Why not check out beautiful Gold Country? It’s now just a quick 90-min direct flight from YVR to Sacramento, thanks to Air Canada‘s new daily non-stop flight. Gold Country is without a doubt one of the most underrated areas of California. It has so much to offer – from its incredible history, to diverse landscapes, excellent wine and culinary experiences, just to name a few.

It was such a privilege to be able to take Air Canada’s inaugural flight to Sacramento!

I recently had the opportunity to explore some of Gold Country‘s most unique counties thanks to Visit California. Today we explore the 1st of 5 counties – Sacramento!

Sacramento

Did you know that Sacramento is the California’s state capital? Located right on the American River, this culturally and historically rich city offers its 500 000 residents and tourists, a plentitude of activities for history buffs, foodies, recreation enthusiasts, coolness seekers and beer drinkers. With more than 2 dozen museums, including the California State Railroad Museum (the biggest railway museum in North America) and the the Crocker Art Museum (which boast most than 18 000 works of art and is a great place for families and events!), the city of Sacramento will not only entertain you but also educate you on some of America’s most important history.

This is part of Cyrus Tilton’s exhibit entitled “The Cycle”. He was awarded the Crocker Art Museum’s inaugural John S. Knudsen prize for his overall body of work last March but sadly passed away before his exhibit was put up in the museum.

In 2019, the city will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad. Sacramento used to be the western terminus of the Pony Express (which was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail before the telegraph was established in 1861!) and then Transcontinental Railroad. The city used to be the furthest west you could go before reaching San Francisco.

Old Scaramento allows visitors to go back in time and rediscover the 1800’s. Due to serious flooding issues resulting from its proximity to the American River, Old Sac is now approximately 9 feet higher than in the 1800s. As a visitor, you can see some of the city’s remains and really get a feel for what it was like to be in an area that was bustling thanks to the Gold Rush in the 1800s.

Sacramento is a great destination for runners and cyclists because there are tons of beautiful trails to explore. The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail leaves Old Sacramento and takes you on 32-miles along the American River. There’s also the Folsom Lake Trail than spans 34 miles and the Sacramento Northern Bike Trail, just to name a few. The city is also renown for it’s great running races such as the the CIM (a Boston qualifier event) and the American River Parkway Half Marathon.

I loved discovering cool local neighbourhoods when I travel so was excited to find out about Midtown and Lowbrau, thanks to the Sac Brew Bike tour. One thing visitors will notice is that the city is decorated with an abundance of beautiful street art. Also, the region of Sacramento has more than 60 breweries and used to be the biggest area in the world for hops before prohibition. Thanks to organizations like the Sac Brew Bike, the area is trying to bring back the hops to the city.

The entire Gold Country is renown for it’s farm to fork type-dining, a movement that sources local and fresh produces for its local consumers and restaurants. Many of Sacramento’s restaurants follow this practice, notably Lucca former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s go-to restaurant.

All in all, a visit to Sacramento will not only fill your cup of history but also culture, good food and good times!

For more information on the new Air Canada direct flight between Vancouver and Sacramento, go here. Thanks to Visit California for setting up this trip.

Tomorrow’s destination: El Dorado County!

5 Things to do on the Ventura County Coast

Ventura County Coast is a beautiful coastal area located just north of Los Angeles. The area encompasses Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme. There are lots of amazing outdoor adventures that can be had in the area so I’m sharing with you today some of my favourites.

1) Go hike on Santa Cruz Island with Island Packers – Head out for a day-long adventure from Ventura Harbour to Santa Cruz Island, the largest island in California. There are 3 mountain ranges, canyons, springs and streams to explore as well as coastline cliffs, sea caves and stunning beaches. It’s the perfect place to go for a day-hike or swimming and snorkelling around their pristine beaches. It takes just over an hour to get to the island with the Island Packers boat. While on the island you will be able to spot tons of local wildlife such as birds, foxes and maybe even whales. We saw tons of local dolphins on our way there. It’s also possible to camp overnight as there are lots of camping sites available on the island.

2) Go for a run at San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura – This multipurpose trail runs along the ocean past the Ventura pier. Along the way, you will see a few local surf spots, lots of pretty places to picnic, kitesurfers, volleyball nets as well as majestic sand dunes. The paved trail also goes past the Ventura County Fairgrounds and then connects to the Seaside Wilderness Park. You can easily park along the street close to the entrance of San Buenaventura State Beach.

3) Relax at the Residence Inn Marriott Camarillo – This luxurious property is located just a few minutes away from historic Old Town Camarillo, where there are lots of shops and restaurants to check out. The Residence Inn Marriott offers guests a wide array of amenities – they have a basketball and tennis court, a pool, state of the art gym as well as free breakfast in the morning. The hotel is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of exploring around the area. Some rooms are even come equipped with a full kitchenette so that you can make your own meals, if you’re planning a lengthier stay.

4) Explore the Oxnard coast on a Jet Ski –  Located in the Channel Islands Harbor, Southern California Jet Skis offers 1-2 hour jet ski rentals so that you can head out and explore the Oxnard coast and open ocean. Chances are, you will spot local wildlife like dolphins or even sea lions during your excursion. It’s a great way to also check out the surf at Silver Strand or off the Oxnard Shores. Once you’re done riding, you can grab a post-excursion snack at Honey Cup Café located adjacent the departure area.

5) Surf at Port Hueneme – Nestled between Oxnard and Ventura, this little oceanside community offers gorgeous sandy beaches and quality surf spots for locals and visitors alike. Port Hueneme Beach Park is a beachbreak located on the north side of the pier. It’s right by the walking and biking trails so the commute to and from the beach can be done easily.

Other activities worth checking out: Ventura Pop Up Yoga in Marina Park – outdoor donation based yoga classes, catch the sunset at Surfer’s Knoll beach, walk along the Ventura boardwalk and pier.

For more information on Ventura County Coast or more travel recommendations, go here. A big thank you to the Ventura County Coast for their help setting up this trip!

A City Girl Goes Camping: Camping Tips for New Campers!

Since moving to British Columbia last year, I’ve learned a whole lot about the outdoors but one area that I still consider myself a newbie in is camping. That said, thanks to MEC‘s gear rental program, last summer I got my first taste of camping and was pleasantly surprised by how fun and easy the whole experience was.

As a girl who grew up outside of Montreal and then spent most of her adult life in downtown Toronto, camping was never a part of my life. Before moving to Vancouver last year, I 100% considered myself a city girl. Fast forward a few months later, I would say that I’m now close to being 50% city, 50% nature. There’s still so much for me to learn about camping and the outdoors but working with MEC and being surrounded by so many adventure enthusiasts has really taught me a whole lot about the great outdoors.

So I wanted to share with you today some of my newfound wisdom and tips for camping so that all you who want to give camping a go or who are still novices to camping, can have a great time!

1) Packing – One of the major differences between going camping and going to stay at a hotel or an Airbnb, is how you pack for a camping trip. There are so many more variables to think of and therefore packing for a camping weekend can be more complex but it really doesn’t have to be. If you’re simply going car camping for the weekend (and don’t have an RV or van to store all your camping stuff in), I would first suggest making a packing list. I would also suggest breaking that list down into different categories: clothing, sleeping, food, safety, entertainment, transportation, etc. This will help get you organized and can easily be cross-referenced as you’re loading everything into the car.

2) Gear – In my experience thus far, I have learned that gear can make or break your camping experience. If you’re a city person like me, chances are you probably don’t own very much or any camping gear at all. Thankfully, MEC has a great gear rental program, which is available across Canada that allows people like us to rent all sorts of amazing camping gear at a super reasonable rate for your upcoming camping trips. You can rent anything from tents, to sleeping pads, sleeping bags, backpacks, kid carriers, etc. You can even rent a canoe or kayak, if you’re thinking of portaging or even doing some water sports while out camping. Rentals are available either daily or weekly.

If you’re like me and hoping to have a ton of camping experiences this summer, you can also purchase some of the best and top of the line camping gear at an MEC store or even online. For someone like myself who spent most of their life in a city, walking into a MEC is like a kid walking into a candy shop. This week, I had the opportunity to try out MEC’s Cabin 4 tent, which was totally revolutionary for me. Not only was it incredibly simple to put up (even a rookie like myself was able to figure it out and put it up in under 10 minutes!) but it was also tall enough so I didn’t have to crouch when in my tent. I could easily get changed and stand up in the tent, which brings the comfort level up a big notch. I also used the MEC Reactor 6.5 Sleeping Pad, which is a super comfy self-inflating pad that makes sleeping in a tent that much more enjoyable. Goodbye uncomfortable sleeps! And did I mention my MEC Hut Booties? As someone who always has cold feet, these are a game changer!

3) Food – Camping food doesn’t have to be boring and tasteless. Thanks to all the options that are now available, cooking while in nature is easier than ever. There are lots of great ways make food while camping. If you’re not someone that likes to cook, there are plenty of dehydrated snacks or even meals that you can purchase in advance and just re-heat or add hot water to. There are many vegetarian and vegan options to choose from, so being plant-based while camping isn’t an obstacle at all.

You can also make meals ahead of time or pack a lunch that you can store in this large MEC Muskoka Soft-Sided Cooler, that is light, durable and waterproof. You can also opt to bring some cooking items like this Primus gas stove or GSI percolator for your morning coffee or tea.

It’s also important to make sure that you dispose of the food your bring with you or any waste you create while cooking or even camping properly. For more information, I highly recommend you check out this post here (which also includes lots of great other camping tips).

4) Safety – Though I have yet to learn everything about camping safety, there are a few key things I now keep in mind when preparing for a camping trip or going camping. Packing things like a whistle, bug spray, first aid kit, headlamps, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, etc. is important. Since I am now camping in BC, I’m also careful to not leave any food in the tent or close to my tent. I’ll keep the food stored in a sealed container if I’m car camping. I pack lots of water and additional snacks for hikes and runs and I also make sure that someone outside of my camping group knows where I am and how long I’ll be there for. It’s also important to respect wildlife. Though it may be exciting to spot eagles, deers, bears, chipmunks etc., on your adventures, it’s important to not feed them and give them their space, not only for our own safety but also for the safety of the animals.

5) Entertainment – Not sure if it’s the city that made me a restless person or maybe it’s just my personality but one of the things I struggle with the most in life is not being able to just sit still or relax. And with camping being all about relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, this definitely comes as a challenge for me. That said, there are many ways to stay entertained while camping and tons of things to do. If you want to be active, chances are there are some trails located close to your campground, so going for a hike or a trail run (like I did below at Golden Ears this past week!) is a great way to not only get some fresh air but also discover the area.

A lot of campgrounds are also located close to a lake, an ocean or even a river, so going for a swim or taking part in some water sports (kayaking, canoeing, SUPing, etc.) may also be a possibility.

If you’re someone that prefers to lounge a little more, reading a book fireside on a MEC Park Chair or bringing portable boardgames or outdoor games like Bocce Ball is another way to have a great time. The reason why I’ve been loving camping is because it forces me to ditch my electronics and in many ways makes me feel like a kid again, just being outdoors and finding creative ways to pass time.

I’m really excited to take my camping experience to the next level this spring and summer. I’m even thinking of going from car camping to trying out camping in the backcountry… Got some camping tips that I didn’t mention in this post? Share them with me below!

If you’re planning a camping getaway for the May long weekend or later on in the summer and want to get more info on the MEC gear rental program, go here. For more camping tips go here. For a full camp kitchen checklist, check out the following article here.

This article was written in collaboration with MEC but all opinions are my own.