A Beginners Guide to Back Country Camping

It has been nearly a year since I moved from Toronto to Vancouver and during that time, I have tried to explore as much of the B.C. as possible.

They don’t call it beautiful B.C. out here for nothing. From the mountains, to the ocean this place is filled with such beauty.

Since moving here I have experienced the mountains through hiking and camping, the ocean through paddle boards and kayaks. I have seen whales and bears. Every inch offering some spectacular view. It is hard to believe that this is now home.

Over Canada Day long weekend though, I decided to experience something I have never done before; back country hiking and camping at Elfin Lakes.

The Experience 

We left early Sunday morning and made our way up to Squamish. Squamish is abut 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver. You really feel like you have left the city and entered a fairy tale. So much greenery and nature.

We then started our hike. 11KM up the first day, and part of me wanted to turn back for the first 5KM. It was extremely steep and pretty difficult with my backpack, but trust me it is worth it. During the first half of the hike we observed hundred year old trees and waterfalls. The air was so fresh, the views stunning. It wasn’t like any experience I have ever had.

The second half of the hike was gruelling in a different way. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the amount of snow we would have in July. My shoes weren’t quite as waterproof as I had hoped and navigating through the snow while rolling over hills was difficult, but again the views from here were magnificent. Snow capped peaks in the distances, clear blue water peaking out through the iced lakes.

 

We eventually made it to the top, and were lucky that we were one of the first ones there because they only had a few uncovered sleeping decks. We set up our tent with an open view of the endless mountain range. I couldn’t believe that would be my morning wake up.

Then we opened up the grill and started cooking outside in the wilderness while playing card games, drinking from the lake, and cracking open our boxed wine.

We watched the sunset while dancing to some music. Watching the colour disappear behind the mountains was magical. A sense of accomplishment came over me.

An early wake up call, some oatmeal and coffee, and then we started our decent back down. 11KM to go, and again plenty of snow stuck in my shoes.

This was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. Back Country hiking really puts you out in nature, really forces you to put your phone down and appreciate the beauty that is all around you. I cannot wait to experience more hikes and camps like this.

 

Preparation 

As a relatively new hiker, I wanted to make sure that I was as prepared as possible. I knew that I wanted to make sure I had all of the necessities, but also wanted to pack light because I had a 22KM hike ahead of me. It was difficult finding the balance and hard to know exactly what to bring and what to leave at home. Here is a list of some of the essentials that I found helpful if you are hoping to try Back Country hiking and camping yourself;

  • A good backpack: I went with the MEC Mistral 55 Backpack. It was lightweight but had plenty of room to fit my needs. I loved the padded straps to make for comfortable hiking. I also loved the cross wind back, so that it doesn’t rest directly on your back and allows air to flow while hiking.
  • An all season lightweight tent: It is important to have a tent that can withstand the elements, but one that isn’t going to be too heavy during a hike.
  • A sleeping mat: You are going to be sleeping on the ground, so to make the experience as comfortable as possible, you may want a mat to lie on. Having that extra layer also makes for warmer conditions. I went with the MEC Deluxe Sleeping Pad. Light weight, but also extremely comfortable. Easy to inflate and deflate.
  • A sleeping bag: I used my Topquilt sleeping bag. You can find more info on what makes this the perfect sleeping bag in my previous blog post.
  • Layers: Canadian weather can change in an instant and so it is important to bring minimal amount of clothes, but clothes that can be used in the elements. Make sure you have warm socks and layers in case it gets cold at night. Also make sure you have enough dry socks. I learned that lesson the hard way.
  • Bear Spray: You definitely want to be prepared in case you run into any trouble.
  • A whistle: Again, a great way to be prepared in case of a dangerous situation.
  • Food: I packed some instant food from MEC. All you have to do is add water and you have a delicious meal that is easy and light to carry. Way easier than trying to bring a ton of different ingredients.
  • Matches: No matter what kind of hiking trip you are going on, you are going to want to have something that can light a fire.
  • Flashlight
  • Swiss army knife

For a full list of hiking essentials check out MEC’s awesome list. It really helped me prepare for my trip.

 

Safety first

I cannot wait to experience more of B.C. through these excursions and trips, but a reminder if you are going to go hiking and camping be prepared. Know the area, know the route, and let someone know where you are going. Because while the wilderness is beautiful but dangerous all at the same time.

You hear stories of people getting lost and hurt and you never think it can happen to you, but trust me if you aren’t prepared it most definitely can.

Have you every been back country hiking? I would love for you to comment below and share your experience!

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

Topquilt Review: Making camping more comfortable

Since I moved out to B.C. I have been enjoying the great outdoors. I mean with the mountains and the ocean, how could you not want to be outside. Along with my new found love of exploring, has come a passion for camping. Before moving out west, I had never camped in my life and so I will admit it was hard at first. Learning how to pitch a tent, eating food out of a bag, going to the bathroom outside, packing light, and finding the right equipment.

One of the hardest parts was finding the right sleeping gear that would make the experience comfortable and enjoyable, but that was also easy and light to carry. I am a 29 year old female who is still relatively new to camping and hiking. The thought of carrying a heavy bag up the mountain petrified me. So I reached out to some experienced hikers, and some had recommended gear from Outdoor Vitals. I was pretty impressed with their selection, and decided to give their topquilt sleeping back a try.

After doing a bit of research, I found out that the founder of the company had one goal in mind, to lighten his pack and stay comfortable while in the backcountry. I trusted this brand right away because it came from someone that understood what camping is like and has experienced the difficulties of camping first hand. I knew this product was coming from someone who really understood camping and was excited to give it a try.

About Topquilt 

This weekend, I took it on my first camping trip to Bowen Island and I really did love this sleeping bag. The three best features for me was the fact that it was super light but also durable, it was waterproof and comfortable, and that it could be used for multi purposes.

Extra lightweight  

What I learned was hat this sleeping bag was actually originally designed as as hammock with an under quilt to cut the weight. It was extremely light and didn’t make my bag extra heavy. I was able to carry it up the mountain with ease and didn’t really have to stop for any breaks. It was also very compatible and easy to pack in my backpack.

 

Feels like a down

The second part that I loved was that it was really comfortable. As someone who definitely enjoys my down comforter at home, I had found it tough in the past to get a good night sleep while camping. From the noises of nature, to sleeping on the ground. What I loved about this sleeping bag, was despite it being really light weight, it is a pretty thick to sleep in. The company uses exclusive LoftTek imitation down that acts like an insulation. This is lighter and more compressible, but is still able to insulate even when wet because of the synthetic insulation. No matter what the weather is outside, stay warm, dry, and comfortable even when you are in the middle of the forest.

Since the camping trip, I have found so many other uses for the Topquilt sleeping bag. I take it with me to relax on the beach, for outdoor concerts and festivals, and for cottage weekends. It is so much more than just a sleeping bag for camping trips.

Your personal discount code

Now for the best part, if you use my Outdoor Vital code, you can get 10% off your order of a TopQuilt sleeping bag today. Just head over to their website and use the code “MIAWGORDON” at checkout and make your camping experience so much more enjoyable.

Get outside and enjoy the summer in comfort with the Topquilt sleeping bag. I know that mine will be getting plenty of use camping around beautiful B.C. over the next few months. I cannot wait to see what else there is to see, explore, discover in my new home.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

My top spots in Vancouver, so far

 

Like most Vancouverites that I have met during my 9 month stint here so far, I am not a true local. No I am an Ontario implant. We seem to be famous out here on the West Coast for trading in our cold winters and snow boots for mountains, ocean, and well rain boots.

Since moving here, I have been on the road a lot, but the time that I am here I have been spending it exploring the beautiful landscapes, hikes, activities, and nightlife in my  new home. 

Since I know a lot of us are all in the same boat, I wanted to share some of my favourite moments and places here in Vancouver so far.

1) Hiking 

and the mountain from my balcony. There is something so special about going out and taking in the fresh air. Beautiful views combined with a bit of a workout, what could be better? There are so many incredible hikes that offer something for everyone. I wanted to share a few of my favourite with you so far

  • Joffre Lakes: This hike is a bit outside of Vancouver, located in Pemberton but definitely worth the drive. I have never seen such incredible colours. The three lakes all a different shade of deep blue and turquoise, the trees painted red and orange, and waterfalls around every turn. It was the most magical place I have seen to date. But be warned, this hike is pretty difficult, and will take you about four hours.
  • Quarry Rock: For a much easier hike and one closer to the city head up to Quarry Rock and take in the views from the Deep Cove Lookout. From the dense forest to the beautiful water views, this hike is definitely a must.
  • Dog Mountain: Just 25 minutes from downtown and only about an hour hike, but definitely some of the most spectacular views. You can really  see the whole city, and it sure makes you feel like you are on top of the world. Plus there are plenty of small lakes and streams along the way to stop at. Find the trail head for this hike just past the Bear’s Paw lodge
  • The Grouse Grind: Ok, yes probably one of the busier, crowded hikes in Vancouver, but I feel this is a must for anyone to really call themselves a true local. Commonly referred to as Mother Nature’s Stairmaster, this one is definitely a grind. 2.9KM to the top and will see plenty of incredible trees, trails, and viewpoints. From the top you will see some of the best views of Vancouver.

2) Relax on the Beach 

It is crazy to think we live in a place where others vacation. Just five minutes from my house is the beach perfect for an after work stroll or a weekend of reading. There are some amazing beaches in Vancouver and here are some of the must visits.

  • Kits Beach: This is the place to be in Vancouver. It is definitely one of the busier beaches, but it is a great spot to interact and get some games going. Grab a group for spike ball or beach volleyball. Go for a dip to cool off. It is also a great spot to grab some nearby food and hang out with friends for a picnic. I also love eating at the Boathouse, it has great views of the beach and is the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
  • Spanish Banks: Just a little ways down from Kits Beach is Spanish Banks. It is a quieter spot if you are looking for a more tranquil beach experience or just to escape the busy city feel
  • Third Beach: Located in Stanley Park (what better backdrop for a beach) Third Beach is a great place to go swimming in the park. There is plenty of soft sand to set up shop and the shallow warm water makes for a great place to go for a dip.
  • English Bay: Right down the road from my house, this is my favourite beach because of the proximity. It is so easy to go explore after work. Again, there are lots of places to grab some food and head out for an evening picnic. A great spot to relax and unwind.

3) Sip some craft brews 

One thing I learnt when I moved to Vancouver, was that it has an incredible crafter beer scene. There are so many unique and quirky microbreweries to explore. I highly recommend taking a stroll on a Saturday afternoon in East Van and checking out some of the breweries in the area.

  • Brassneck Brewery: This was the first brewery that I visited and it did not disappoint. With over 50 unique beers to choose from and a very at home feel it is a great place to gather the group. I loved the reclaimed wood furniture and the chalkboard menu.
  • Main Street Brewery: Located in a beautiful heritage building it is a bright and fun place to grab a drink. High ceilings and high stools almost give it a cafeteria vibe. I love that there is a slew of seasonal brews to choose from.
  • Faculty Brewing: I love that the speakeasy vibe here. You feel like you are entering a dark, hole in the wall. A quieter spot to enjoy a delicious Oaked Stout.

4) Explore the food of Commercial Drive 

I have really enjoyed exploring the food scene here in Vancouver since the move and have particularly fallen in love with Commercial Drive. It is a funky part of town that stays away from chain restaurants.

  • Cafe Deux Soleils: I was told that this was a staple of the Drive and had to come and give it a try. Not only do they have everything from delicious breakfast to dinner choices, they also have live entertainment. Enjoy everything from poetry readings to standup comedy. This spot really has it all. 
  • Bandidas Taqueria: This vegetarian Mexican restaurant is the perfect comfort food spot. They make their tortillas in house, have a load of local beers, and even offer a full day breakfast menu.
  • Havana: I love this spot because of the year round patio and delicious sangria. I also love that the menu is always slightly different so you never get bored. The perfect place for friends to get together for Sunday Brunch. 
  • Addis Cafe: One of my favourite restaurants in the entire city is located on the Drive. I have a love for Ethiopian food and Addis is next to none. This is a cosy and casual spot with authentic Ethiopian food. You can bring your own wine, or try their traditional coffee. 
  • Kishimoto: In my opinion, this is the best sushi spot in Vancouver ( I know that is a tall order) but the line outside would also agree with me. From the food presentation to the actual taste, they have really perfected the art. They don’t cut any corners from fresh wild salmon to their edible flower garnishes.

5) Get a sweat in

Sure, when the weather is nice I have really enjoyed working out outside, but let’s be honest it rains a lot here in the winter. I still love to keep up with my fitness even when the weather outside is frightful and have found some amazing local gyms that make working out fun.

  • The Practice Studio: I started working out at the Practice Studio about four months ago and absolutely love it. From the awesome instructors to the unique classes it has really made fitness fun. They also offer a Whole Life Practice so that you can focus on improving all areas of your life form coaching to nutrition.
  • Spin Society: This was the fist class I went to in Vancouver and fell in love instantly. I have always been a big fan of spin classes because of the high intensity and low impact. I loved this class because it literally felt like a workout dance party that targets your entire body.
  • Pure Barre Vancouver: Let me start off by saying this class really scared me because I am so uncoordinated, but you really get such a good workout. I love that it targets muscles I didn’t even know I had through very precise movements.

6) Camping 

While I haven’t had too much free time to explore the beautiful camping spots, it is something I am really looking forward to getting out and doing more of this summer season. I love how naturally beautiful Vancouver is, and how each camping experiences offers an opportunity to see a different side of that beauty.

So far I have just been able to experience camping at Half Nelson. The views from this spot were incredible and there were plenty of mountain bike trails in the area.

I cannot wait to get to know more of this amazing city as I spend more time exploring. I have truly fallen in love with this city in the short time span, and can see why so many people make the move.

I would love any suggestions on your favourite spots to visit so please share some in the comment section below.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo,

Mia

How Priority Pass makes travelling a breeze

Looking for the perfect gift for dad? Well I have a great deal for you, but before I get into that, I wanted to share my experience with Priority Pass with you. 

This past season with the Saskatchewan Rush and the National Lacrosse League, I have sure racked up the air miles. I have been traveling pretty much every weekend for games, and it seems the airport security now knows me on a first name basis. Needless to say, I have probably spent more time at the airport then in my own bed over the last six months.

I used to dread the airport. Long lines, long waits, uncomfortable seating, and loud talkers had me on edge, but I wasn’t an elite status member for any airline, and I wasn’t willing to pay the high prices to sit in first class lounges.

That was when another frequent flyer friend let me know about Priority Pass, the largest independent airport lounge access program in the world. The prestigious program was just what I was looking for. The lounge creates a comfortable,  a quite getaway in the middle of all the airport chaos.

About Priority Pass

While there is no need for travel status with Priority Pass, they definitely treat you first class. Membership offer so many amazing amenities to help me relax before catching my flight. So what exactly is included with Priority Pass?

  • Free pre flight drinks, including beer and wine
  • High speed internet so I can get my work done while I wait
  • Magazines and newspapers to read so that the time flies
  • Some of the lounges even have beds and showers to freshen up before a connecting flight
  • Clean washrooms and no waits

And the list goes on.

How to sign up for Priority Pass

The benefits of this program seemed amazing to me, and as someone who has taken over 35 flights this year alone, it was a must. Registering for Priority Pass is so simple. It is really just three easy steps.

  1. Head to their website and choose the membership plan that fits your travel needs. Then you fill out the enrolment for, which only takes a few minutes.
  2. Once the registration is completed you are in! You receive a confirmation email immediately.
  3. Priority Pass is just one click away. Download the mobile app to get your Digital Membership Card  right to your phone and get flying.

Priority Pass Deal of the Day

Priority Pass really makes the long travel days seem more relaxed and enjoyable. It has made my experience so much better that I wanted to share with all of the travelers in my family.

My dad also travels the world taking pictures for the National Geographic, and so I thought this would be the perfect present for him. The best part is, Priority Pass has a special Father’s Day deal going on right now for the special dads in your life.

Right now, Priority Pass is offering a Father’s Day discount. You can get up to 15% off your membership plans. Meaning that a regular membership that would cost you $99, is now just $84! A 10 visit plan that would normally cost $249, is on sale for $211. And an unlimited plan, that would usually cost $399 is 10% off. The perfect gift for the traveler in your life. Get the perfect gift at up to 15% off for the traveler in your life today

 Priority Pass has made my traveling experience much easier, enjoyable, and relaxing. It is a great way to take the stress out of your trip from take-off to landing. 

Why you need to visit Phoenix’s growing craft brewery scene

With the warmer weather finally here, I am sure that patio beers are on your mind. When I visited Phoenix, Arizona I was surprised to find out that their craft brewery scene was as hot as the weather.  In fact, at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in Denver (basically the oscars of beer) four Phoenix breweries took home awards.

In the last year or so, the city has seen a run of craft beer bars, new breweries, and new local brews popping up all over the area. The total craft breweries in Phoenix surpasses 50, and so I just had to check some of them out for myself.

I joined forces with Arizona Brewery Tours. I really loved working with AZ brewery tours because they offer private brewery tours that fit your particular taste buds and beer preferences.

Stop #1: Helton Brewing Company

Our first stop of the night lead us to Helton Brewing Company, a cozy newly renovated brewery located in an old tire warehouse. The spot includes a beautiful outdoor beer garden, games, live music, and of course an endless drink menu. I loved that the fact the owner of the brewery created most of the furniture inside by hand and really cares about the product he produces. My personal favourite drink was the IPA, a perfect balance between citrus, floral, and fruit. Enjoy it with their delicious shrimp watermelon salad.

Stop #2: Mother Brunch

Next up was Mother Brunch. A fun family run brewery with a chalk list filled with their hand crafted beers. Julie and her husband William are serious beer nerds, and that shows clearly in their delicious drinks. What I really loved about this spot was the combination of delicious drinks and comfort food. The contemporary pub food has a unique twist. You must try the jalapeño infused mac and cheese. You will be licking your plate clean.

Stop #3: North Mountain Brewery

The last stop on the trip was North Mountain Brewery. This place is like a real life Cheers, the set where everyone knows your name. NMB celebrates the history and art of the Arizona desert culture. The decoration of this cozy microbrewery celebrates the history of brewing, and how the creation of beer has brought societies together. The goal here was to create a community feel, and they hit the nail on the head.

I was blown away by the quality of the breweries in Phoenix. Each one had its own personality and speciality that made each one unique. I wish I had more time to explore and discover the amazing breweries spread throughout the town.