It’s the final long weekend of the summer but it’s not an ordinary long weekend.
Due to a near province-wide fire ban on open fires across provincial crown land issued by the Ministry of Environment, camping might not feel the same without the warm glow of a fire in the evening.
To make the most of it, here are 8 tips to help you still enjoy camping with the fire ban in place.
1. Use a camp stove for meals
The easiest way to manage meals without a campfire is to bring along a camp stove. Consider picking up a Coleman stove with multiple burners if cooking for a big group. Another great option is to pick up a backcountry-style camp stove. They’re smaller and lightweight (and a lot cheaper) but you can only cook with one pot at a time. These stoves use either naptha fuel or isobutane canisters. Make sure to pick up the proper fuel when you purchase or borrow one.
2. Plan meals that don’t need to be cooked directly over a fire
Keep it easy and plan meals that don’t require heat to cook. Consider simple meals like cereal, sandwiches or wraps for breakfast and lunch or eating out at a restaurant in or near the park you’re visiting. There are some great rural restaurants to visit. Some of my favourites to roadtrip to? Harvest Eatery and Fresh Market in Shaunavon, JB’s Bistro in Mortlach and Rawhides in Stenen.
3. Use charcoal briquettes if you don’t have a camp stove.
If you don’t have access to a camp stove, consider buying charcoal briquettes to start your fire for cooking. Briquettes are compressed blocks of material like coal dust, charcoal or sawdust. They’re deemed safe and acceptable to use in an approved firebox. Gas barbecues and propane firepits are also acceptable.
4. Take advantage of Saskatchewan’s great night skies and stargaze
Saskatchewan is already famous for its lack of light pollution, so take advantage of the fire ban and go star gazing (as long as the smoky skies clear up). There’s even a chance of seeing northern lights this weekend if you’re lucky with clear skies. Some of the best star gazing locations include Cypress Hills Dark Sky Preserve and Grasslands National Park in the south and pretty much any destination in the north as there are fewer towns and cities.
5. Bring cards or games to play instead of sitting around a fire
The last time I went camping there was a fire ban in place and I admit I felt a little lost deciding what to do with myself in the evenings. I couldn’t sit around the fire like I usually do so I decided to pick up a real book to read. Bring a deck of cards, dominoes or board games to play in the evenings after the sun has set.
6. Bring lighting in the form of glowsticks, flashlights or lanterns
A campfire gives off more light than you might realize, so make sure to pack proper lighting for your campsite. Bring standard items like flashlights, headlamps or lanterns. Spice up your campsite by bringing glowsticks, flameless tea lights, solar lights or even pack a string of rope lights if your campsite has access to power.
7. Pack extra layers for additional warmth
The fire packs a punch when it comes to heat so make sure to bring extra blankets if you’re sitting around visiting. Also pack more layers than you would normally wear. Nights can get cold even in August (especially if you’re further north) so don’t forget to bring a toque and even mitts
8. Go to bed early
Most people are exhausted from the weekly grind, so take advantage of the opportunity and catch up on sleep instead of sitting around a campfire.