This past weekend I went camping for the first time (in my adult life)! It all started three months ago with a random, spontaneous Facebook call out from someone I had never heard of before.
The pitch sounded exciting and like nothing I had ever done before. Furthermore, if you've been following our brand, Parenting 101 for any length of time, you will know that one of our mandates is to rebuild "the village" that has been lost in recent years. So, what better way to be involved in that, than getting together with some other Dads. I was jealous that I hadn't come up with this idea on my own, but looking at it, how would I have ever done that? I've never gone camping before, and this talk of brands, and sponsors and social media influencing is all brand new to me.
So, I pessimistically signed up assuming SOMETHING would derail either the event, or specifically MY plans to attend this event. But with each passing week, my
excitement grew as the event grew. The
people attending bounced back and forth for about a week until all that remained were five: James R.C. Smith (aka SocialDad) from Vancouver, Stacey Robinsmith (aka A Dad In The Burbs) from Coquitlam, Michael Kwan (aka Beyond the Rhetoric) from Vancouver, Stephen Fung (aka Stephen Fung) from Coquitlam, and me, Dale Allen Berg (aka Parenting 101) from Kelowna. "Dads Go Outside" was quickly changed to #5DadsGoWild and a logo and theme song were composed and we had an event. Next came choosing the dates, and once again I was shocked how we narrowed it down within a week, and after arranging things with our wives and work schedules, we had our dates: September 14 - 16. A location was picked in southern British Columbia and reservations were made. Then the sponsors started showing up. This was legit. The weeks were flying by and this event was getting bigger and bigger. A group chat was formed and we started chatting daily. We started getting to know each other a little bit and for me at least, assumptions were made and impressions were formed based on what and how many GIFs were sent in the chat.
"What could possibly go wrong?"
The summer forest fire season hit and wiped out our campground. I had even driven by exactly a month prior to our trip and stopped to take some promo pictures... but it was closed.
It only took James a few hours to contact BC Parks and have our reservation moved to Manning Park, and we were back up and running again! Online discussions turned to meals and food, tents, sleeping bags and who was planning to bring what.
Soon we were only a week away and then someone noticed the weather forecast... Freezing temperatures and SNOW! The online conversation really got interesting at that point, as we all started panicking in our own ways. This produced an amazing week of promotional content for our trip as we each expressed ourselves in different ways talking about the cold, freezing and snow that loomed in our future.
But for me, and I assume the others too, it triggered some testosterone as it made the trip that much more interesting and a challenge to overcome. Now, I REALLY started to wish that I had some camping equipment.
Stacey started tagging me in posts that highlighted wool socks and thermal long underwear and three season sleeping bags. It was great having someone look out for me like that, but there was no way I was gonna go and drop $1,000 on camping gear just for one weekend. Michael voiced the same thoughts, as he too had never been camping before.
Finally, the big weekend arrived and we all made our way out to Lone Duck One! I got a really late start due to... get this... being a Dad, and I was feeling horrible as I raced to Manning Park thinking I would be the last to arrive. Coincidentally, and very unexpectedly I ran into Stacey and Michael in Hope, BC at the Blue Moose Coffee House. We picked up some snacks and a whole lot of coffee (from these amazing sponsors) and finished our last leg of the trip, heading deep into the Wild.
After initial greetings and realizing we were completely off the grid with absolutely NO cell phone service, we tried to set up our tents and basic gear for the first night before the sun went down. Then it was time for dinner.
As soon as we were unpacked, I had the opportunity to try out a 100% biodegradable BBQ: the Casus Grill, as I was responsible for grilling hamburgers. What a unique product! A biodegradable, 'green' cooking grill made of sustainable materials, that burns for about an hour at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and then you toss it into the fire to dispose of it, briquettes and all. Now, we pushed those grills to their limit as the outdoor temp was hovering around 4 degrees Celsius while we were cooking, but they delivered. Why don’t you be the judge... the pictures speak for themselves.
The burgers were delicious, if I do say so myself and great attitudes and personalities came to light as we were excited, fed and... FREEZING COLD!!! That first night was rough. The other thing I didn't realize (remember... I've never gone camping before) was just how DARK it was. And we all commented on how FAST it got dark. One moment we mentioned that the sun was beginning to set, and then we turned around and couldn't see our own hand two feet in front of us! I grabbed my little LED flashlight that I had so proudly packed, and gripped it between my teeth as I finished cooking dinner. Stephen saw me do this, and tossed me a little product that changed everything.
House of Knives
I honestly don’t know what we would have done, had we not been given the Favourlight Rechargeable Headlight from House of Knives. There is no way we could have survived without them. In my opinion, this is a must-have for anyone camping or working in the dark. It easily fits around your head with the adjustable elastic straps, and you can rotate the light up and down to change the angle, and illuminate exactly where you need to. It comes with 6 different modes or light settings, but to be honest I didn't care too much about that. The feature that was invaluable - especially because we had Anker products with us as well (see below) - was that they are rechargeable with a micro USB cable.
One of the most eye-opening details that I learned this weekend about camping was just how dark it gets and how fast it occurs. And when it gets dark... it’s game over! If you’re not prepared before that moment, you’ll be cussing and kicking yourself for the rest of the night. Having this headlight from House of Knives, we were always prepared!
After sleeping for seven minutes, and tossing around for five hours and fifty-three minutes, I dragged my frozen body out of bed and began thinking of clothing for the new day. Having never camped before I was out of my league when packing the appropriate clothes to handle the elements. As I sat shivering in my tent, looking into my bag, I quickly discovered that the clothes I had thrown together were nowhere near rugged enough or warm enough for the weekend. Thank God, Filson saw me coming a mile away.
Established in 1897, and headquartered in Seattle, WA, Filson is the leading outfitter and manufacturer of unfailing goods for outdoor enthusiasts and dumb schmucks like me. They are renowned for making products from fabrics such as heavyweight Tin Cloth and warm Mackinaw Wool, which is EXACTLY what I needed in that moment as my bones were starting to crack and my blood was beginning to freeze. The Filson Lightweight Alaskan Guide was the answer! And by "lightweight" I mean it was still thicker and heavier than ANYTHING I had packed myself! This all-season shirt is made with a 5-oz. cotton that’s pre-washed for a broken-in feel and vintage appearance. The first thing I said when I put on this shirt and the Wax Logger Cap it came with, was, "Oh, I'm not taking this off for the rest of the weekend!" It was SO comfortable, and I instantly recognized that it would last for many, many years, and hopefully a few more camping trips!
Once I was finally dressed and ready to join the others, thoughts of breakfast and warming up were on the forefront of my mind.
You’ve heard me talk about the Blue Moose Coffee House before, but I want to mention them again as they were a part of our trip. Now, unfortunately, I didn’t become a coffee drinker this weekend, but a mug of hot chocolate by the lake while watching kayakers go by, has got to be one of my favourite memories from the trip. Representing the people and parents of Kelowna now, can I ask you how many times a year (or month) do you make the trip THROUGH or PAST Hope, BC??? For me, prior to literally breaking down 5kms outside of Hope last month, it had been EVERY TIME! I had NEVER stopped in Hope, BC let alone spend 24 hours there. It was then, and only knowing that the Blue Moose Coffee House would be supplying beans for our trip, that I went exploring to find this delightful coffee shop that also catered to non-coffee drinkers like me. They had me from the moment I walked in, and now I’ll be stopping there every time I drive to Vancouver!
Trying on the Ben Sherman clothes was the best surprise of the weekend. I had been cautiously optimistic about what the end result might be, and reality far exceeded my wildest dreams. Not only did the clothes fit perfectly, they also enhanced my style and look in a way I wasn’t expecting. For my top, I tried a crew neck jumper in a subtle multicolored micro waffle knit. It was SO comfortable! To compliment it, I wore a pair of skinny stretch chinos which were sharp looking and quite impressive. I couldn't help but thinking that while I felt a little overdressed to be in the wild, with this outfit, I'll be dressed to kill when back in the city teaching at the local college (as well as in meetings representing Parenting 101).
The funniest moment had to have been hiking to Rainbow Bridge in our outfits. We passed two families with four or five small kids, and one of the moms called out to the kids, “be careful please, you don’t want to get that man's nice pants all dirty”.
Another thing I was nervous about going into this camping trip were certain food and beverage conveniences that I rely on at home. For instance, I keep an overstocked pantry filled with chips and cookies and granola bars and other snacks that are quick to grab and easy to eat... even balancing three kids. But what would happen out in the wild when I didn't have the conveniences of my pantry?
Being a first-time camper, and not fully knowing what I was getting myself into with this trip, we encountered some unexpected challenges such as how quickly it got dark in the evenings, and how cold it became when the last rays of the sun vanished. This left us sitting around waiting longer than expected for meals to be prepared and finished.
Thankfully, McSweeney's sent several cases of jerky and pepperoni sticks along with us to sample. We went through more than a package or three of the Cracked Black Pepper Beef Jerky and who can refuse Hickory Smoked Bacon Flavour Pork Jerky?!? I noticed a few things while eating this jerky; obviously the first thing was just how well-spiced it was. There was nothing bland about it, however, the detail that made more of an impact on me was actually how they spelled "flavour" on the bag. It was spelled correctly. Then I noticed the red maple leaf and the statement beside it: "Proudly Canadian". There seem to be fewer and fewer phenomenal Canadian food companies, so I was ecstatic to learn this was one of them.
If I'm being 100% honest, while it was amazing, dried and cured meat such as jerky is still not my favourite. I don't think I would go out and buy a package for a road trip, or the next time I'm going camping. However, I've always been drawn to pepperoni sticks. Now, I'm aware that pepperoni is still a cured meat, but there is something different about it, so, I instinctively kept grabbing bags of McSweeny's L'il Peps when I needed a snack.
It's interesting to note, that I didn't get a single picture of them. I'm not saying I ate every single package before I got a chance to take a picture of them... well, yeah... that's exactly what I'm saying! Trust me, you will too!
On a good day, at the best of times I can’t always make it through the day from the moment my kid jumps on me at 7:00AM to the moment I finally shut down around midnight on one cell phone charge. I know I'm not alone in this. So, out of everything I was worried about regarding this camping trip, having a dead phone was probably my #1 concern. Sure, I had a couple little random promo power banks and battery chargers, but lately they've been glitchy and even my best one, can't get me from 1% all the way back up to 100%.
Imagine my reaction when on Saturday morning I mentioned that I had just put my phone into Battery Saver mode, and James hands me a PowerCore 26800. This beast is the Fast-Recharging Colossal-Capacity Portable Charger From ANKER, America's Leading USB Charging Brand. It absolutely dwarfs my cheap promo power banks as this slick external battery holds up to 10 charges for my iPhone and can charge up to 3 different devices (such as my Favourlight Rechargeable Headlight from House of Knives) at once from its USB ports. A feature I didn't get to try out was recharging the battery, seeing as I didn't drain it in three days, was the dual inputs ports. With a max input of 4A, a full charge takes just 6 hours!
As if that wasn't enough, Anker also gave us a Solar PowerPort, providing us with unlimited power. This gadget is a 15W Dual USB Solar Charger that literally uses the power of the sun to recharge all of our devices. Having phones, tablets and laptops all fully charged over the weekend, took an enormous amount of worry and stress off our shoulders and let us enjoy the weekend - even though we still didn't have Wi-Fi or cell service.
When you think of camping you don’t always think of bringing along delicious bottles of wine and wine glasses, but here in BC, just a few kilometers west of the fertile Okanagan Valley, we were fortunate enough to have a taste of the Okanagan’s best varietals at our campsite.On the second night we cracked open the bottles to enjoy with dinner. While my new friends gravitated towards the Merlot and Riesling, I personally enjoyed the Gewurztraminer varietal best. Bursting with aromas of lychee, apricot and cantaloupe, this sweet wine has a crisp and lingering finish.
I think we all enjoyed having premium wine available and it just goes to show you that you can still class up a rustic, outdoor environment with a well thought-out bottle of wine.
The weekend came to an end far too quickly, and all of a sudden I was opening up my tent on the last morning for the final time. Snow and freezing temps had been forecasted and predicted... however, the sight I saw was anything but that. It was still sad though, and attitudes were a little more subdued that final morning as we began packing up our bags.
I was not ready to pack up and leave. We had so much fun together over the weekend, and were just starting to really get to know each other. I just wanted one more day! Besides, packing up sucks!
The funny thing is that ALL FIVE OF US packed enough stuff for a week - and we still had room left in our Ford F-150 and Explorer. I was by far the most guilty of this, not knowing what to bring. I just kept throwing things into the Explorer. And that was probably the problem. This thing has a seemingly limitless capacity.
I realized this weekend that if I ever want to go camping with my family, I’m going to need a lot of gear - which might even include a new vehicle like this Explorer. It was so nice to be able to use one this weekend!
Let's be honest... I can think of at least 48 ways this #5DadsGoWild trip could have been a complete disaster! For me alone, I had never gone camping before in my adult life. I had never heard of, let alone MET any of these other Dad bloggers before - and no one knew of me. We were all blindly meeting up in a random campground, about three hours away for each of us, after only chatting online about this project. It was supposed to snow. There were bears, and even recent Sasquatch sightings nearby...and did I mention we couldn't start a fire on the first night?
And yet, the five of us bonded as Dads, helped each other express ourselves as content creators, laughed together as inexperienced campers, and in the end we left and went back home as new friends. Thanks SocialDad, A Dad In The Burbs, Beyond the Rhetoric, and Stephen Fung for all the memories. Let's do this again next year!
Disclaimer: This post and the #5DadsGoWild trip was supported by the incredible companies mentioned above. We couldn’t have made this a reality without them, and we truly and sincerely appreciate their help. In choosing which brands to work with, we only partnered with companies who we love and who align with our values meeting a super-high quality standard.