I Backpack Canada » Travel Tips http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Sat, 16 Aug 2014 19:43:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 What’s in my Backpack? http://ibackpackcanada.com/whats-in-my-backpack/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/whats-in-my-backpack/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 14:46:21 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5182 What’s in my Backpack? is a post from: I Backpack Canada

With a blog name like “I Backpack Canada”, it’s safe to say I’ve become somewhat of a pro at stuffing (or rolling carefully… when time permits) exactly what I need into my backpack. Throughout my travels, I’ve had many people ask me “What do you pack?”. While my packing list varies a bit depending on season, most of the things I take with me are things I’ll use everyday. With some upcoming trips planned, I figured I would take note of what exactly my process is and snap some photos along the way.

My Backpack(s)

Yes, you saw the “s” with the parenthesis’s around it. I am a two backpack type of traveler. Why you ask? Well one backpack is primarily for clothes, books, toiletries, and general “life” stuff. While the other is my daypack, perfect for camera gear, tripods, water, and a jacket.

Columbia Endura 50L Backpack

This is my big backpack. My 50 litre Columbia Endura is the perfect size for my extended travels. It allows me to carry everything I need for traveling for a handful of months at a time. It comes stock with waterproof hide-able sack, mesh infused shoulder straps, and an ergonomic and high tech spinal support system that allows you to carry your pack for hours without getting sore or a sweaty back. I tend to sweat with nearly every backpack I wear, but the folks in lab coats at Columbia have solved this dilemma. This backpack also comes camelback ready, and is fully adjustable to nearly all body shapes.


Promaster Photography Backpack

While Lowepro’s tend to be more famous amongst traveling photographers, as a travel blogger / writer, I am confined to bringing a laptop nearly everywhere I go. Unfortunately my 13″ Macbook Pro wasn’t able to fit in any of their models so I found myself in a photography store rather than an outdoor store. Sure enough, they had these Promaster backpacks in stock that fit all my needs.

I was completely sold on the incredible amount of pockets, the hip and chest buckles for long hikes, the tripod holder and two side pockets, perfect for water bottles or another small tripod. The insides of the backpack are great as well, as they allow you to rebuild the compartments to fit your camera needs using these thick velcro and plastic pads. Best of all, the Promaster backpack comes with a laptop sleeve that comfortably fits my Macbook.

Eureka! Whipporwice 100 Sleeping Bag

Whenever I’m going to be doing any amount of camping, a good sleeping bag is a must. While there are certainly countless better sleeping bags, what I love about this one is its size. You can literally compress this bag down to the size of a football. It’s also capable of keeping you warm at temperatures as low as -8 degrees celsius.

Camera Gear

Canon EOS 60d

If there is one thing I love, it’s my new baby. For the longest time I had been borrowing my friend/room mates DSLR on account of his disinterest in using it (Thanks Justin!). It was an entry level Nikon DSLR, and while it did the job, I wanted some extra punch. I finally found the courage (and the funds) to purchase my Canon EOS 60d and have yet to look back. I’ve managed to shoot some great video and photos with it, and I’m still learning new things about it everyday.


Canon EFS 18-200 Kit Lens

While it’s just a kit lens, I can’t say enough good things about the 18-200 for travel. A mix of wide angle and zoom makes it perfect for hauling around Canada.

Super-Takumar 1.8 55mm Lens

The hipster in me needed this lens after seeing what it was capable of doing with DSLR video. A retro lens from the 70′s, fully manual and made entirely of metal. It fits on my Canon60d with a cheap little adapter I bought off of eBay. I don’t use this lens nearly as much as the 18-200 Canon EFS, but it is incredibly fun when I do.

DSLR Accessories

I travel with a variety of DSLR accessories, including my remote switch, my Joby GorillaPod Zoom Tripod, my magnetized LCD Viewfinder Hood (great for shooting video), my charger, and of course my camera strap. I also carry around a portable hard drive to backup my photos & video to. I’ve learned the hard way that one should always backup, then backup, then backup some more. Digital files are great, but computers can’t be trusted.


13″ Macbook Pro Retina with Magic Mouse

Yes, I am a laptop traveler. No, I haven’t always been. But now that my job depends on my connection to the rest of the world, carrying around a laptop has sort of become part of me. While I crave days and weeks away from it, I have to admit that I’ve gotten pretty good at shutting it down. By about 5:30 pm I shut down the computer, stop opening emails, and just enjoy the time off. This “always on” feeling so many small business owners and techies have has been proven to cause burnout. I’m trying my best to avoid that.

iPhone 5

As an iPhone owner, I can honestly say this thing has saved my keister are several occasions. From getting lost (thanks Google Maps), to setting Calendar entries for meetups with friends, and most importantly, when there’s no wifi network, tethering is as simple as pie. Within no time I can have my Macbook connected to the web through my iPhone and I’m able to upload photos, post blogs, or just check emails and say hello to friends. A decent phone & plan with a few gigs of data is a must in Canada. You’d be surprised how many places don’t have public wifi, or how common it is to find wifi that is complete garbage.

1 Canada Moleskin Notebook

As a writer / blogger / photographer, keeping notes is essential in making a story that is filled with facts, correct names, and describing the atmosphere of the countless locations I visit. While the notes I leave within these books are ridiculously messy, the book that houses these thoughts is something of a beauty.

1 Canadian Lonely Planet

Despite what others may say, I personally think guidebooks are great! I take one with me nearly every time I travel. They can be a bit bulky, but if I’m ever feeling lost, or am in a place I know nearly nothing about, a quick flip through the pages of old LP fixes me up in a heartbeat. While I don’t recommend following any guidebook to a tee (after all, getting lost is half the fun), they are a great help when you’re in a bind.


1 Passport

I carry mine nearly everywhere I go. You never know when a seat sale is going to pop up, or maybe you met someone who wants to check out Alaska. Having your passport with you can save you loads of headaches. Plus it can act as a second form of ID should you ever be carded at the bar. Apparently Saskatchewan ID’s are most often faked in other provinces due to so few people knowing what they look like. This has led me to several games of “20 Questions” with Bouncers.

Backpacker Clothes

3 Pairs of Pants

Yes, I travel with three pairs of pants. No, I do not mean underwear… nice try European English Readers. I mean two legged, colder kind of day, roll ‘em up if you really need to, pants. One casual pair, good for a cold day of hiking, and one quasi-business casual pair, great for a night out. The last pair is usually just a normal pair of denim jeans. Because jeans are awesome.

Columbia Omnidry Rain Jacket

Staying dry and looking good in the rain is almost too easy with this fine piece of outerwear. The Columbia Omni Dry Rain jacket is packed full of futuristic materials that keep water off you. It’s ventilation is great for warm days, but it truly shines on the cold, wet days of Canada. Best of all, it’s incredibly light and packs away quite nicely. I’ll be using this well into the beginning of Canada’s winter.

Cheap Flip Flops

Hiking and outdoor adventures is great, but sometimes a guy’s just gotta relax on a beach with some friends. Queue the flip flops! They also serve another purpose, foot fungus! Hostels are normally quite clean, but start sharing showers with 6 – 8 dorm mates and you increase the chance of growing some serious grossness all over your feet. As they say, safety first, then team work.

Columbia Water / Hiking Shoes

When I travel anywhere, I tend to look for at least one good hike. That could be in a city park, a national park, or just outside in the great outdoors. Having a good pair of trusty shoes that are going to give you ample support, and keep you from slipping on wet rocks can be a lifesaver. My Columbia Water / Hiking shoes are superb for all of this, and they have the added bonus of being a water shoe. If a foot takes an accidental dip into water, the water immediately pours out of these expertly designed holes, leaving you with considerably less “squishy” feet.

1 Bunnyhug

What is a bunny hug? Only the comfiest form of clothing you can find, next to fresh-out-of-the-dryer underwear. A bunny hug is a hoodie. Just a run of the mill jumper with a hood attached. Why not call it a hoodie then? Because I’m from Saskatchewan, and for whatever reason, that is the name for a hoodie where I come from.

3 Pairs of Shorts

While Canada is known to many as a country that is in a constant state of frigid temperatures, that isn’t the case in the summer. Canadian summer temperatures can get up to 35 degrees celsius and even higher in some parts! Having something a little more suited for warm weather is a must. Ensure 1 of those pairs of shorts are of the swimming variety, as Canada is home to countless beaches, lakes, rivers, and ponds, perfect for cooling off.

3-4 Tee-shirts

Lounging around, warm days, or just to layer under clothes, a good plain Tee can set the tempo for the day.

2 Long Sleeves

A man’s got to have a collared shirt, in the off chance that you end up in a fancy unplanned situation. Perhaps it’s a hot date, or a random dinner with friends. The other long sleeve can just be a long-sleeve tee.

8-10 pairs of underwear

The longer I can go without having to do laundry the better, hence the large number of gitch. Boxers or briefs you may be wondering? I choose boxer briefs. Because support.

8-10 pairs of socks

If I could never wear socks again in my life, I would. Unfortunately, for the sake of all people within sniffing distance, socks inside of shoes is a must.

1 towel

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy says: “Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.” Always pack a towel. I prefer the futuristic wicking towels because they pack great. Although I should mention they’re not the most comfy things to rub all over the bod. Sadly, sometimes space > comfort. So when given the option to use a hostel or hotels towel, I’d recommend taking a day off ol’ Scratchy McGee.

Odds & Ends

  • Lock
  • Headlamp
  • Tylenol + Vitamins
  • 1 Pack of Cards
  • Sunglasses
  • Batman USB
  • Pens
  • Pocket knife
  • Toiletries (tooth brush, tooth paste, pit stick, etc)

This is my backpack in a nutshell. It will vary quite a bit depending on seasons and what I’ve got planned, such as hosteling or camping. There are countless awesome products out there dedicated to backpackers, campers, hostellers, and yes, even the flashpackers. I tend to try to keep it all to a bare minimum. There’ll always be someone who can pack lighter, live with lesser. If I ever need to lighten my load, storage is usually readily available in any town or city. My reasoning for bringing what I feel is a good amount of stuff is that when I’m on the road for several weeks up to a few months, sometimes spoiling yourself can make you feel a bit more at home. Even when the bed is not yours, and you don’t know anybody in the city or area you’re visiting. Packing isn’t a science, but having a few loose ideas can help ensure you’re prepared for just about anything the world can throw at you.

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How to deal with Bed Bugs Like a Champ http://ibackpackcanada.com/how-to-deal-with-bed-bugs/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/how-to-deal-with-bed-bugs/#comments Wed, 07 Aug 2013 14:34:16 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5577 How to deal with Bed Bugs Like a Champ is a post from: I Backpack Canada

When you stay in hostels & hotels long enough, you will get bed bugs at some point. It’s just the way it is. No bed is immune to them. From the Ritz, to the budget hotels, to your local hostel. You can’t expect to share a bed with hundreds of travellers and be the lucky one who remains impervious to their nibbles. You might get them in the first week, the first month, or maybe a couple years. For me, it was 4 and a half rotations around the sun after starting my adventures in hostels.

Bed bugs hit the Central District

Upon first glance at the red dotted lines they left, I laughed. “Maybe it’s just a rash”, I thought. It wasn’t. I asked my girlfriend to inspect me further, and we found further bites. Under situations like these, many people will hastily jump to action, blaming the hostel, the cleaners, and even their bunkmates for dragging in these vile creatures. I don’t recommend that route. Travel is met with countless unexpected situations, treat this just like a wrong turn that turned into another ride. These things can be dealt with in a civil manner.

Step 1. Confirm They Are Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are nearly impossible to see, most won’t be seen until they’ve had enough you-juice to fill them up to a visible level. So in most cases, don’t trust your eyes. Chances are you’ll see their bites before them. They feast while you sleep, enjoying what the experts like to call as “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner”, on account of the 3-4 pockmarks they leave in a straight line. Inspect your entire body to see if they got you anywhere else.

Protruding foot

Step 2. Inform Staff Quietly

There’s no sense in screaming at the top of your lungs in hopes that your decibel level will effect the amount of help you’ll receive. Calmly find a staff member at the front desk and pull them aside from other guests and explain that your room may have an issue while showing them the “track marks”. Most people in hospitality have been trained to deal with them upon first glance of the bites. They will advise you of their procedures, and will help you in all ways possible. You might worry that they’ll be mad at you, but know that they are unable to track where bed bugs came from. They could have been in the bed long before you got there. Or yes, perhaps you dragged the critters in with you. It is usually policy for staff to contact any hostels or hotels that you may have stayed in previous to your visit there to ensure the problem is dealt with completely.


Step 3. Wash, Kill, & Decontaminate

Depending on where you’re staying, staff may do this for you if you’d like. If the thought of hotel staff touching your under-gotch gives you the queezee’s, they’ll likely assist you in the decontamination process. When it comes to getting rid of these things, heat is your saviour. Wash everything you’re wearing, everything in your bag, and if possible, the bag itself in the hottest water you can get, followed by drying everything in the hottest dryer you can find. Most hostels and hotels will cover this charge for you if it’s coin operated laundry.

Bags, shoes, and anything else un-washable may not be able to be soaked, so in those cases, a steam machine may be used to heat everything up hot enough to kill the little critters. Other methods include putting everything unwashable and placing it into black garbage bags and leaving it in the hot sun for a day.

Hostel Room

Step 4. Disinfect the Room (Hotel/hostel does this part)

This step usually doesn’t involve you. Staff will likely check surrounding rooms, usually entire floors to ensure the bed bugs haven’t spread elsewhere. Depending on the procedures, they may heat the infected room up to a point where the bed begs & their eggs (yes, they lay eggs, lots of them) will die. Many procedures also include some heavy chemicals, meaning that room is going to be off limits for a few days while everything is dealt with.

Bed Bug Bites

Step 5. Heal Those Bites

Many people suffer from allergic reactions to their bites. Bed Bug spit has a numbing effect on the area, which allows them to bite you through the night, going completely unnoticed until you wake up. While many people find the bite marks will go away on their own after a handful of days, others will require medication in order to heal those marks. My bites unfortunately got infected, leading to a good portion of my arm turning an off-red off-purple. The bite marks began to swell, puss, and bleed. A quick stop at a walk-in clinic, and the doctor prescribed some heavy duty topical hydrocortisone cream along with some variety of penicillin in pill form. Within a few days, I was fully healed, with the exception of some scars. Most people don’t have this reaction, just be wary that it can happen.

Step 6. Speak to the Hotel/Hostel

Ensure that your hotel or hostel understands you’ve been inconvenienced by this situation; however, please note that they have been as well. You can cry all you want, but besides having them comp you a dinner, or a couple beers, or if you’re really lucky, a free night, there’s a good chance you’re not going to see much else in return. You didn’t win the lotto by being bitten by these bugs. You are just another statistic in the widespread travels of these blood-sucking critters. You did however earn a tremendous story, and a few shocked gasps from those who don’t realize how incredible common bed bugs are throughout the world. Wear those bites with pride, and treat them as an education tool to other travellers.

While waving around my own bed bug bites, I had many people ask if I gave the hostel 0 stars on Yelp. I’m sure I considered it, but there’s really no proof, I simply don’t know where I got them. It could have been from a bus, plane, train, or car seat, it could have been from a bed, a towel, who knows. Even if I was 100% sure I got them from a specific place, I don’t feel like that would be a valid representation of the hostel. This kind of stuff happens. Bed bugs are just part of the tourism industry. If I need to get nibbled on here and there in order to experience the world, so be it. Eat me bed bugs!

How to deal with Bed Bugs Like a Champ is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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3 Great Ways to Save Money while Backpacking Canada http://ibackpackcanada.com/3-great-ways-to-save-money-while-backpacking-canada/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/3-great-ways-to-save-money-while-backpacking-canada/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 12:01:19 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4597 3 Great Ways to Save Money while Backpacking Canada is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Canada is a great place to backpack, but let’s face it… it’s not exactly cheap. Many backpackers who travel this northern country recount past trips to Thailand or Cambodia, where they could comfortably live off of $10 to $15 a day. While you’ll be hard pressed to come close to that type of budget while backpacking in Canada, there are a few programs out there that allow you to stretch your travels, while giving you a unique look into real life in Canada.

1. WWOOF Canada

WWOOF-CanadaWhile the name might conjure up thoughts of dogs barking, I assure you that WWOOFing is much more approachable. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is a global network that bring volunteers and farmers together in order to share and promote education, cultural exchange and a community where food, animals, and land are respected and protected. In short, WWOOF is an organic help exchange with farms in almost every province of Canada. You put in some volunteer hours (4-6 hours per day, 5-5.5 days per week) at a farm, and the WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about their unique eco-friendly lifestyle. WWOOFers are expected to help as much as possible and participate with whatever farm related chores that need doing. If you’re required to do any work with machinery check to make sure your annual travel insurance covers that. If you’re a Canadian backpacker traveling within Canada there’s no need to worry as you’re fully covered under Canada’s medicare system. Most farms will allow you to stay 1 week or longer; however some hosts require a minimum of 2 weeks. Work varies depending on the host, so be sure to ask lots of questions.

How to Start WWOOFing

Register to become a WWOOFer, $50.00 for a single membership, or $62.00 for a join two year membership. Details can be found at their registration page. Once you’re paid up they give you access to the full listings where you’re able to find out more information about the hosts, what type of farming they do, and what type of work you’ll be doing in exchange for a stay. You can preview the listings; however, note they’re limited until you sign up.

2. HelpX

helpx-canadaHelpX is almost identical to WWOOF, however they aren’t limited to organic farms. HelpX is an online listing of hosts that include everything from B&B’s, organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, ranches, lodges, backpackers hostels, and even sailing boats who invite volunteers to stay and work with them in exchange for food and accommodation. I personally find the HelpX website to be a lot easier to navigate and find information about Canadian hosts. There’s typically more images and more volunteer reviews of hosts which ensures your stay will be a safe one without any weird surprises. You can find out easily what type of category your host falls under, and where they’re located along with what type of work they need help with. Note: If you’re not from Canada and plan on doing any heavy duty work with farming equipment, be sure to shop around for a cheap travel insurance package that covers accidents. Accidents are rare, but they do happen and it can’t hurt to be covered.

How to get started on HelpX

You can view a lot of the listings for free; however you’ll need to create an account. In order to get detailed listings though, you’ll need to register to their premier helper membership, which costs $29 dollars for 2 years. HelpX isn’t limited to Canada, you can find hosts in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and USA as well. Their listings are neatly organized and are typically very detailed. HelpX also has a companions section where you can meet other volunteers to work with, as many of the hosts require more than one worker.

3. CouchSurfing

couchsurfing-canadaIf the thought of herding cattle and helping garden doesn’t entice you, there is of course Couch Surfing. Hosts from all over the world, including Canada, will happily let you crash on their couch for an allotted amount of time. The idea behind Couch Surfing is very much a “pay it forward” type of concept. Couch Surfers expect that travellers will eventually settle down, and once settled down can become hosts themselves; thereby expanding the network and allowing for a “give & take”. Obviously people don’t want you crashing on their couch for long, it’s good to ensure that both host and couch surfer are on the same page when they decide when and where they’ll meet up and how long the stay will be. It’s expected that when you’re couch surfing to keep your area tidy, help out around the house with chores, and while not “necessary”, it’s good manners to treat your host to a free meal, or at the very least buy them a beer. Be helpful, after all they’re giving you a place to stay for free!

How to get started Couch Surfing in Canada

First you’ll need to create a profile, upload some photos of you, and explain to the network who you are. Be yourself, explain your interests, passions, etc. Then you’ll want to ensure that you’ve got some favourable reviews and possibly confirm your identity with a credit card. Some hosts will only accept those who’ve been given the “thumbs up” by other couch surfers, however if you’re friendly just as many don’t require it. You can increase your references by participating in Couch Surfing in your local community before hand, or by being a host for a while. Best of all, it’s completely free! For more about Couchsurfing check out their Tips Page.

If you’re planning on doing any amount of long term travel in Canada, joining even one of these communities can save you weeks on accommodation costs ($35 x 14 days = $490, based on Busy Season Downtown Hostel Rates), leaving you with more cash to spend on tours, food, and good times! While all three of these programs are fairly different from one another, they have a lot of things in common. By participating in these communities each offers a great way to save money, a safe way to meet people from all over the world, and a unique way of learning about a completely different region of Canada you might not have been exposed to had you stayed on the “backpacker trail”.

Hear of any other great ways to save money while backpacking Canada? Please feel free to share in the comments!

3 Great Ways to Save Money while Backpacking Canada is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Interview with Canadian Travel Blogger Brendan Van Son http://ibackpackcanada.com/interview-with-canadian-travel-blogger-brendan-van-son/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/interview-with-canadian-travel-blogger-brendan-van-son/#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2012 12:58:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4172 Interview with Canadian Travel Blogger Brendan Van Son is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Social media has been changing the way we interact, keep in touch, and meet new people. Through the use of Facebook Groups & Twitter, I’ve managed to meet some incredible people. After meeting so many other people that are passionate about travel, I felt inspired to change it up a bit. I’ve interviewed hostels in the past, even a Moose Travel guide, so I figured it was time to interview the travellers. Brendon Van Son has been on the road for almost 3 years now, and I thought it would be great to hear about his thoughts on his home province of Alberta, and see what kind of advice he could offer on exploring Canada. Check out his travel blog at Brendans Adventures.

Q. You’ve been on the road for almost 3 years now, what do you miss most about Canada?

My family and friends. The road is filled with great people to miss but there is nothing like being with your good friends and family. I go far too long without seeing them. I honestly don’t miss the cold. I do miss a good poutine though!

Q. Being from Alberta, what is “THE” Alberta Experience? Hiking in the rockies? Trailblazing through backcountry powder? Dawning on boots & hat  and hitting up the Stampede?*

Yeah, I would say it has to be the Rockies. Moraine Lake near Lake Louise is still to this date my favourite natural site in the world. I have been there dozens of times since I used to work as a guide in the area, but seeing it never gets old. If you can get to Calgary Stampede, do it. That is my favourite week of the year whenever I’m home for it.

Q. What’s one place in Canada that you’ve never been that has recently been added to your bucket list?

I never really had any interest in heading north before, but after having such an amazing time in Antarctica I would love to head north in Canada as well. I’d want to see the Arctic as well as I’d love a chance to see the polar bears.

Q. If someone were to clip your wings tomorrow and you were forced to settle back down in Canada, what city would you live in and why?

It would be between Vancouver and Victoria. I love the West Coast. I love that you can ski in the day and then walk around in a t-shirt later on. I love having the ocean and the mountains both at my disposal. And on top of it all they are both great cities to live in, and they are warmer.

Q. Canadians are known for their stereotypes (Poutine loving lumberjacks / apologetic beer drinker / hockey fanatic / Understanding eco-hippy) - where do you fit in?

I probably fit slightly into just about every one of those stereotypes. I’m probably the exact person people think of when they think of Canadian: hockey fan, beer and whiskey drinker, poutine lover and I am a little bit hippie even though I’ve worked as a lumberjack as well haha. I love the Canadian stereotypes and I don’t think I realized how much I fit them until I got out of the country.

Q. The most majestic Canadian beast is…

The Rockies because there is no where else in the country that will make your feel so small and insignificant yet prideful.

Q. What’s the first thing a new visitor to Canada should eat, drink, and visit?

The first thing a visitor to Canada should eat is a stack of pancakes with either maple syrup or chokecherry syrup on it. You should then wash that down with a glass of Crown Royal Whiskey and then go check out the beauty of Vancouver Island.

Q. What’s your local Canadian go-to beer/liquor/beverage of choice?

When I drink beer in Canada it’s a bit of a mix and really depends on the time of year. If it’s winter there’s nothing that warms me up like a Sleeman’s Honey Brown. In the summer time I love a Big Rock Grasshopper. If it’s REALLY cold out I stick to whiskey.

Q. Enough about Canada – what have you been up to lately?

You know, travelling the world, seeing the sites, taking some pictures. I’ve been working hard on my website Brendans Adventures which has been a lot of fun. A couple months ago I also started a travel magazine called Vagabundo Magazine which is ready to publish the second issue in April. I’m very excited about that venture!

Q. Any tips, advice or wise words you can share with those who want a piece of your lifestyle?

Join me, there’s lots of room on the bus/train/boat for you and I’m always looking for people to tag along. The truth is that if you want to travel the world just do it. Stop telling yourself that something is holding you back, you are in control of your own life’s path.

 Special thanks to Brendan for taking the time to answer some questions about Canada and his lifestyle as a pro-traveler. Be sure to follow Brendan’s travels on Twitter @BrendanVanSon.

Interview with Canadian Travel Blogger Brendan Van Son is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Buy your HI Hostels Membership Online, Pump Fist, Save Money http://ibackpackcanada.com/buy-your-hi-hostels-membership-online-pump-fist-save-money/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/buy-your-hi-hostels-membership-online-pump-fist-save-money/#comments Tue, 07 Feb 2012 12:45:09 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=3985 Buy your HI Hostels Membership Online, Pump Fist, Save Money is a post from: I Backpack Canada

The largest hostel network in Canada is that of HI Hostels. From the big cities, to the small towns, to the wild, off-the-beaten-path hostels that make you think “No way! There’s a hostel there?!”. Chances are if you find yourself doing any amount of backpacking in Canada, sooner or later you’ll end up with your head on one of their pillows. Something many people don’t take advantage is their HI Memberships. Canada is not the cheapest place to travel, so every little bit counts. Thankfully the folks at HI Hostels have recently made it a bit easier to get their card in your hands.

Marian Gaborik Pumping Fist

Yeah! Pump that fist Marian!

HI Hostels is officially selling memberships online! All you need is a trusty Credit Card along with your details to get the ball rolling. Of coarse, you can always pick up a membership at one of their 300+ membership sales agents across Canada.  If you plan on backpacking for more than a week, the membership literally pays for itself. I should note that I am in no way being sponsored by HI Hostels or anything crazy like that to post about this (although… I am always open to discussion… wink wink). I just thought reminding people to save money was a noble cause, particularly because I’ve been so broke lately.

So what kind of benefits & discounts do you get for becoming an HI Member

  • On average you’re looking at saving about $4.00 off at hostels in Canada. You’re also going to score cheaper hostel rates across their global network of hostels (over 4,200 locations!).
  • For the Canada Travelers, you’re looking at over 420 discounts across Canada. By simply flashing that mighty card-of-awesomeness you can save money on bike rentals, bus travel, car rentals, brewery tours, scenic tours, whale watching, zoo’s, museums, art galleries, and hot springs, just to name a few.
  • The HI-Comm ekit phone services also comes with every membership. This acts as a suped up international phone card, email account, and voicemail where friends can leave you messages while you’re on the road.

The hosteling network in Canada continues to grow and expand to new regions of Canada. It gets me absolutely pumped up to see that happen, and I personally look forward to adding new hostels and areas on my bucket list. Hostels really do determine the ease of travel for young adults. Without HI Canada, travel in this vast country would be much more expensive.
Get Your HI Hostels Membership today!

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7 Must-Have FREE Canadian iPhone and iPad Apps http://ibackpackcanada.com/7-must-have-free-canadian-iphone-and-ipad-apps/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/7-must-have-free-canadian-iphone-and-ipad-apps/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2012 15:52:19 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=3793 7 Must-Have FREE Canadian iPhone and iPad Apps is a post from: I Backpack Canada

There are over 500,000 apps available in the iOS App Store, with downloads numbering over 18,000,000,000 to date! That’s a lot of zeros fellow Apple Fanboys & Fangirls. While I’m sure that 80% of the Apps on the App Store are completely useless, I’ve come across 7 apps in the remaining 20% that are perfect for anyone spending any amount of time in Canada. So without further ado, I give to you 7 must-have Canadian Apps.

1. NFB Films for iPhone & iPad (National Film Board of Canada)

The National Film Board of Canada (or the Office Nationale du Filme du Canada if you’re French) is an Academy Award winning public film producer and distributor funded by the Canadian Government. They’ve produced over 13,000 productions in their long history, and have won over 5,000 awards. Being a Canadian organization, they have both French & English divisions, which means a LOT of multi-lingual content to consume.

NFB Films is available for iPhone and iPad, and has built in support for Airplay. The app has over 1000 movies available, including documentaries, animations, and full length feature films. If you know you’re going to be out of wifi range, you can even save the movies to your device for up to 48 hours for offline viewing.

Highlights include How to Build an Igloo, The Award Winning animation “Cat Came Back”, and William Shatner Sings O Canada.

2. Air Canada for iPhone

Hate keeping track of tickets but love flying? Air Canada for iPhone can give you a leg up over other travelers. This app gives you the ability to Check-In to your flight through you phone. If you’re still an old fashioned checker-inner no harm. There’s still plenty that you can get out of this app. From Finding & Tracking Flights, booking flights, upgrading to executive class, interactive shopping, to even selecting your seat on the flight.

If you fly Air Canada often, or have family who does, this is a great tool to keep in your pocket and help stay up to date on all relevant travel information.

3. Explore Canada Like A Local for iPhone

Need inspiration on where to go, what do to, and when to see it on your next travels through Canada. The explore Canada app is the perfect companion for exactly that. Browse by location, theme, user-submitted travel lists, or use their live map, which allows you to find what’s near you. The Explore Canada App integrates with Foursquare very nicely. This allows you to check in to hotels, hostels, tourist destinations, and scenic views extremely easily.

I’ve used this with great success in the past when visiting a new city. Big thanks to the Canadian Tourism Commission for building this app. It’s been a great inspiration for finding new things to see and do.

4. World Nomads French Language for iPhone

While this app is no replacement for taking actual french lessons, there’s enough in here to help you out in a pinch, should you be hanging out in the French parts of Canada. The World Nomads French Language App provides some basic phrases for everything from Food, Transportation, Introductions, and Safety. My personal favourite phrase World Nomads decided to include is “Ces drogues ne sont pas a moi!” – which translates to “Those drugs aren’t mine!”

5. CBC Radio App for iPhone

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been a part of Canadian culture since 1936. The CBC Radio App is the perfect addition for any traveling audiophile or news fanatic. This app grabs live feeds from CBC Radio 1, CBC Radio 2, and CBC Radio 3. You can browse by musical genre, or by city. The app also allows you to listen on demand to Arts, News, and Regional programming. While all this streaming content is great, my favourite feature of this app is that it lets you find out the CBC Frequency for any city across Canada. One of my biggest beefs with CBC is finding their station in cities I’ve never been to. It jumps all over the place, so having an app tell me exactly where to turn my dial is awesome!

6. CBC Hockey iPhone App

If you’re a hockey fan that wants to be kept in the loop this app could be your new best friend. The CBC Hockey Night in Canada app lets you track upcoming games, scores, hockey news, schedules, and even watch video. You can even find out player stats throughout their career. This app is perfect for the regular hockey watcher or the die-hard GP measuring hockey fan.

7. TimmyMe iPhone App

Tim Hortons is a Canadian addiction. If you are amongst those affected by it’s meth-like qualities, this app should help you get your next caffein fix quick. TimmyMe grabs your current GPS locations and lets you know where the closest Tim Hortons is to you. This app works in both Canada and the United States. There’s a few other features, but in all honesty they’re pretty boring, like Nurtitional Info and your Tim Card Balance Check. This app really has one purpose in my mind – Find coffee near me, now!

Bonus! Whaddaya App – A Newfoundland Translator App / Soundboard

Hands down my new favourite app. While its not technically free, at $0.99 it’s just about. Simple, quick, and funny! Whaddaya App allows us mainlanders the opportunity to understand what the heck it is those Newfoundlanders are saying. For those who are unaware, Newfoundlanders tend to have a thick and unique accent. A must have app if you plan on setting foot on the rocky shores of Newfoundland & Labrador.

My favourite phrase I’ve picked up from this app is “Stay where ya’at ’til I comes where ya to!”, which roughly translates to “Stay There, I’ll be there shortly”.

Price: $0.99

This app is available for Android too!
Download Whaddaya App from the App Store

Have you come across any awesome free Canadian iPhone Apps? Share in the comments below!


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Air Canada VS Westjet VS Porter – A Canadian Airline Comparison http://ibackpackcanada.com/air-canada-vs-westjet-vs-porter-canadian-airline-comparison/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/air-canada-vs-westjet-vs-porter-canadian-airline-comparison/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2012 15:52:56 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=3391 Air Canada VS Westjet VS Porter – A Canadian Airline Comparison is a post from: I Backpack Canada

The Canadian Airline industry has never been all that friendly to its consumers wallets. Sure they might give you a free coffee & juice on a flight, they might even include some Bits & Bites if you’re lucky. But complimentary service aside, sometimes it doesn’t feel like they have the “people’s interest” in mind. Recent headway made in the way airlines are able to promote flights without including taxes & surcharges should help regular folks like us out a bit, but at the end of the day, flying within Canada is and always will be expensive. In an effort to make it easier to decide which Canadian airline deserves your precious Bobby Bordens ($100 notes), I’ve decided to put together my thoughts, along with the thoughts of some fellow Canadian travel bloggers into the ultimate Canadian airline comparison. Let it begin!


Porter Airlines

I’m starting with the little guy first. If you don’t recognize the name Porter, chances are you’re from Western Canada. Porter is a regional airline headquartered out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. They’re hands down the smallest airline in terms of size and numbers. This can be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where you’re trying to get to. Porter operates primarily in Eastern Canada and parts of the United States. So if you’re looking for flights anywhere west of Thunder Bay, Ontario you’re better off looking at the other two airlines. However, if you’re after friendly service, competitive rates, and the opportunity to fly into (or out of) downtown Toronto like a rockstar, Porter could be for you. Did I mention there’s free liquor served on board?



  • If you’re in downtown Toronto, you can walk, take the TTC or better yet the FREE Porter shuttle. This saves a lot of money on cabs out to Pearson.
  • Regular seat sales can save you up to 50% off!
  • Complimentary snacks in the Downtown Toronto Airport lounge (Starbucks Coffee, tea, water, juice & cookies)
  • Complimentary WIFI in the Downtown Toronto Airport lounge
  • In-flight liquor is FREE!
  • Complimentary meals
  • Friendly Stewards & Stewardesses
  • Stylish staff uniforms
  • Planes offer plenty of leg room
  • VIPorter for Frequent Porter customers


  • If you’re a nervous flyer, the smaller planes might freak you out
  • Less luggage space compared to Air Canada & Westjet
  • No food outlets in Downtown Toronto Airport
  • Propellor Planes are noticeably louder, especially if you’re sitting in the mid cabin.
  • Single Seat Class (Sorry business tycoons, you have to sit with us smelly normies)
  • No in-flight entertainment

Here’s what other Canadian Travel Bloggers have to say about Porter Airlines:

Jodi Ettenberg Legal Nomads
I love flying Porter. I confess that I was initially drawn to them due to the sheer adorableness of their mascot, but even without the cute-factor, they’re a great airline. Free WiFi and snack lounges at many Canadian airports, available to all Porter clients (not a business class-only lounge), food box on the flight and a big glass of wine too (if that’s your thing).”
Brock Groombridge Backpack With Brock
If I had the choice between Air Canada, WestJet & Porter, I would hands down fly Porter. Living in downtown Toronto I can literally walk to the island airport. But that’s just icing on the cake. Their staff are incredible – making you feel very welcome, comfortable and important even if you are paying the lowest fare on the plane. The planes are sleek, they have LOADS of sales so if you are willing to wait for a sale you can often get a substantial discount and as Jodi explained, you never go hungry (or thirsty for that matter). I think they’ve done a commendable job branding themselves with a clean cut, trendy image.”



WestJet Airlines

Westjet is the second largest airline in Canada, providing flights to 71 destinations across Canada, The United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean. They’re headquartered out of Calgary International Airport in Alberta, but also have a hub in Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario. Westjet is a non-unionized airline, which means strikes are practically unheard of. The same thing can’t be said for Air Canada…*Cough..Strike Much?..Cough*.

Westjet is known across Canada as being the “funner” of the three airlines. Stewards and Stewardesses are encouraged to show some personality and have fun on the job, which ultimately leads to a more pleasant flying experience. Flying has become such a sterile activity in recent years, its a refreshing change to see real people behaving like they would with their friends.

While I have nothing but good things to say about Westjet’s people and service, they’re entertainment consoles are sucky in comparison to Air Canada’s. Their satellite TV’s tend to drop often, and don’t even bother turning them on if you catch a redeye flight. Infomercials and News on Repeat will be all that greets you. Not their fault, I know, but if you can’t sleep during the night flights, you might as well gauge your eyes out.

If Westjet were to ever upgrade their entertainment units they could totally drop to one knee and pop the question, and chances are this guy would say yes!



  • Friendly & Fun Staff
  • In-flight Entertainment (Satellite TV)
  • Customer Service that cares (They actually reply via Twitter)
  • Free Coffee, Tea, Pop, Juice, and their famous Bits & Bites
  • More legroom than Air Canada
  • Westjet Dollars to help save on future flights


  • Satellite TV is occasionally out & if you’re catching redeye flights expect infomercials.
  • Movies are Pay-per-view
  • Less destinations throughout Canada

Here’s what other Canadian Travel Bloggers have to say about Westjet Airlines:

Doreen Pendracs Travel Diversions With Doreen
When flying in Canada, I normally try to fly with Westjet. Why? Because the staff is friendlier, they’re more helpful and efficient, and you need to be at the check-in just 30 minutes prior to boarding. I really feel valued as a customer, and now with the Westjet dollars they give you for flying with them it’s even better! I haven’t flown Porter yet as they don’t service my city (Winnipeg) but I’ve heard nothing but good things about them as well.
Jeannie Mark Nomadic Chick
Despise Air Canada. Always fly Westjet if I can. They were horrid when my ex’s father died. Instead of being helpful, they offered a flight to Winnipeg. My ex is from Saskatchewan. Nor did they offer bereavement rates. Westjet pulled thru, so they had me at “hello”.”
Gillian Duffy One Giant Step
I also prefer Westjet over Air Canada. Friendly, funny staff who act like real people who just want to help you out. I like the personality. Air Canada is too corporate in their image.”
Dustin Main Skinny Backpacker
A little bit of an echo in here now, but in the past I have preferred Westjet because they staff were typically more friendly and laidback than Air Canada. Now that points are involved in my life and I’m traveling outside of Canada so often, Aeroplan and the Star Alliance win me over. I just ignore the staff anyways.”


Air Canada

Air Canada is Canada’s largest airline, currently providing service to 178 destinations. They’re headquartered in Montreal, QB and were one of the founders of the Star Alliance Program. For those not in the know, the Star Alliance Program is a network of global airlines, created to offer customers a smoother travel experience when grabbing international flights. While Air Canada remains the most travelled airline in Canada, it’s had a bumpy past. In 2003 Air Canada had to file for Bankruptcy protection, and it seems there’s always talk in the news of its financial difficulties or of an upcoming strike.

This might sound bleak, but if you’re anything like me, smiles and fun personalities won’t entertain me longer than a few minutes. Air Canada‘s on-demand entertainment consoles make those long flights a breeze. They may not win the most awards for happy faces and fun memories, but they get the job done.  I like to compare Air Canada as sort of like ordering a burger & fries. You know what you’re getting every time. It might not be the best item on the menu, but it’s good enough. Seeing as Air Canada has the most destinations, a good points system (if you know how to use it!), and reasonable rates, I see nothing overtly wrong with saying Air Canada is pretty okay!



  • On-Demand Entertainment Consoles on most flights. (Free movies, tv, and music)
  • Largest number of destinations across Canada
  • Frequent Seat Sales
  • Star Alliance Partner
  • Free coffee, tea, juice and pop
  • Aeroplan Rewards for Frequent Travelers


  • Not the greatest customer service
  • Occasional union strikes
  • No complimentary meal on domestic flights
  • Aeroplan Points Expire so read the fine print or talk to a customer service representative.

Here’s what other Canadian Travel Bloggers have to say about Air Canada:

Candice Walsh Candice Does The World
Westjet has the best customer service, in my opinion. Air Canada, however, has the best rates out of Newfoundland…and beggars can’t be choosers.”
Ayngelina Brogan Bacon Is Margic

If Air Canada and I were dating, our relationship status on Facebook would say – it’s complicated. I can’t really decide how I feel and every time I feel like breaking up they win me over again.

Leigh McAdam Hike Bike Travel
I will usually fly on whoever is cheapest. As much as I find the folks at West Jet friendlier, I find the AC planes, especially on longer flights more comfortable and I like their entertainment system better. Also points eventually add up with Air Canada and I find their Aeroplan program to actually be pretty good. West Jet now offers an improved frequent flyer program where you get West Jet dollars – I forget the percentage of every fare – maybe 2%. Then you can you use that money towards a flight at anytime. The only downside is the credit takes almost a month to post to your WEst Jet account. If I lived where Porter flew I’d be trying them.”
Nicole & Cameron Wears Traveling Canucks

We fly out of Vancouver a lot and, unlike most of the responses in this thread, we love Air Canada and avoid WestJet. We has some bad experiences with AC many years ago, but in the past 5 years we have been very impressed. We really like the newer planes that Air Canada has and find its entertainment much better than WestJet. I need a little more than a smile to be satisfied with an airline’s service, expecially on long haul flights.

We also like the fact that Air Canada is a part of the Star Alliance and Aeroplan. We have Aeroplan credit cards, so often times we can double dip the points when purchasing flights and hotels using our credit card. For us, WestJet’s lack of partnerships globally has almost pushed us exclusively to Air Canada.


So who should you fly with in Canada?

It’s clear there is no right answer. When it’s all said and done, it comes down to what type of things are important to you during air travel. Do you need good customer service, a warm smile to greet you boarding you on the plane? Then you might be best suited for Westjet, or Porter if you’re out east. If you’re an entertainment junkie who partakes on flights longer than a few hours, and just so happens to be an airline points hoarder, Air Canada’s probably your best bet. Regardless of whomever you decide to go with, Canadian Airlines are after all…Canadian. Expect apologies when your flight is delayed, expect a helping hand if your flight is cancelled, and one of my fondest memories, expect an open liquor cart when your plane has technical problems that require a couple hours of mechanical work before departure.

Special thanks goes out to the Canadian Travel Blogging community who helped bring their two cents to the table!

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Get Eco-Friendly at The Planet Traveler – North America’s Greenest Hostel http://ibackpackcanada.com/get-eco-friendly-planet-traveler-north-americas-greenest-hostel/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/get-eco-friendly-planet-traveler-north-americas-greenest-hostel/#comments Mon, 31 Oct 2011 14:00:26 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=3509 Get Eco-Friendly at The Planet Traveler – North America’s Greenest Hostel is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Finding The Planet Traveler Hostel is incredibly easy, even for a small town chump such as myself. It’s located between two awesome and eclecticToronto neighbourhoods, Little Italy & Kensington Market. Rising slightly higher than the nearby buildings, a grid of solar panels points toward the sky, gathering light to feed the bowels of this building. No, this is not a bio-dome. Nope, definitely not a hippie commune. Welcome to North America’s most eco-friendly hostel, The Planet Traveler!


A warm welcome from a green building

Stepping into the downstairs lobby, it feels as if I’ve traveled to the future. A future inspired by the aesthetic design of Apple Inc, with all of the added benefits of sustainable living. In this future, staff wear cool t-shirts, buildings have awesome modern Canadian art on the walls, and travelers try to leave as little impact on the world as possible. It takes me a second to realize that this is real. Why aren’t more places like this? My curiosity was getting the best of me as performed an ocular pat-down of the hostel commons area.


One of the friendly staff members, (also sporting a cool t-shirt) showed me around this modern building. He covered the rules of the hostel, and explained the kitchen etiquette, and then gets into what separates Planet Traveler from the rest of the gang. He explained there is free wifi throughout the entire hostel & several iMac’s situated in the lobby (free to use), should you not be a laptop traveler. A commons area on the main floor allows guests from all over the world to socialize, and another on the 5th floor patio, which offers the best view of downtown Toronto that I’ve ever seen. (See last photo in this blog post! Yea, that good!)


I was then taken to the beating heart of the hostel. I looked through the glass door as the staff member informed me what steps are being taken by the hostel to ensure the smallest ecological footprint is made. The solar panels located on the roof aide in the electrical consumption of the building and also heat the water throughout the hostel.

Planet Traveler Commons Area

Photo by

After pulling my jaw off the floor, I’m told that the entire building is outfitted with LED lights, which allows the entire hostel to be lit by the same amount of power that a typical household toaster would use. A smile creeps across his face as I’m visibly blown away by this information. Clearly the staff is proud to work here. Why wouldn’t they! This place is awesome!

Friendly & Happy Hostel Staff

While making my way to my room, I bumped into another staff member. She was on cleaning duty, but I managed to pull her away from work long enough to chat. She was from Germany and had been working at Planet Traveler for almost a month. I asked how she enjoyed working at this eco friendly hostel. She warmly smiled and told me how much she loved it. She explained that the entire staff are able to switch jobs whenever they want. If she wants to be at the Front of House checking guests in, she can, if she’d rather keep to herself that day, she can do room cleaning.

Planet Traveler

Photo by

Having worked at several hostels before, I know how nice it is to get out of doing the same job over and over again. This community mentality really seemed to help. Staff & guests are warm and inviting and generally seem to have the same mentality towards this movement. “These places are great for everyone, hopefully someday all hostels & buildings will be built this way” explained one of my fellow guests.


This hostel takes green to a new level!

I checked into my room expecting the same modern and eco-friendly treatment. I wasn’t disappointed. Clean white walls, fresh linens, and a duvet that was practically begging me to sleep with it. A calming green warmth surrounded the room, allowing me to feel like I’m both in luxury, and in nature. I looked around for the source of this feeling, and spot the upper window pane. A lime green piece of glass tweaks the harsh sunlight, cooling off the room and putting me into a happy state of mind.


Photo by Planet Traveler

Planet Traveler has done everything in its power to promote these feelings of quality, security, and clean ecological living. You don’t have to sacrifice electricity, hot water, or the comforts of home in order to be “Green”. Technology exists to make the impact of our own existence a small afterthought, but it requires clever designers, smart people, and eco conscious members of the community to make this type of living happen.


Photo taken from Planet Traveler Rooftop Patio!

Travelers are beginning to realize that they have an impact on the places they visit, something that’s easily visible at the Planet Traveler. If you’re in Toronto, and care about the world at all, be sure to book a reservation.

Planet Traveler

(647) 352-8747


Special thanks to the folks at Planet Traveler for helping out during my recent adventure in Toronto. All opinions expressed herein are my own. Disclosure Boom! 

Get Eco-Friendly at The Planet Traveler – North America’s Greenest Hostel is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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