I Backpack Canada » Packing http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Thu, 30 Jul 2015 19:10:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 4 Valuable Tips for Moving Across Canadahttp://ibackpackcanada.com/4-valuable-tips-for-moving-across-canada/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/4-valuable-tips-for-moving-across-canada/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 17:53:59 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7206 If you’re anything like me, the idea of living somewhere new is an intriguing proposition. New neighbourhoods, new cafes, new pubs, new parks, and new people! I’ve had the fortune of successfully moving across Canada twice, and I have to warn you that while it’s not the easiest thing to do, making that move can […]

4 Valuable Tips for Moving Across Canada is a post from: I Backpack Canada


If you’re anything like me, the idea of living somewhere new is an intriguing proposition. New neighbourhoods, new cafes, new pubs, new parks, and new people! I’ve had the fortune of successfully moving across Canada twice, and I have to warn you that while it’s not the easiest thing to do, making that move can be a highly rewarding experience. In order to make that move a bit easier, I’ve compiled quick list of tips for moving across Canada.

Bus Travel in Canada

1. Transportion

We all own stuff. You rarely notice how much you truly own until you’re forced to box it all up. The whole process can be a bit overwhelming. Suddenly you’re stuck with 10 full boxes and a few pieces of furniture that you need to move from point A to point B. There’s several options for getting you & your stuff across Canada. Including:

A) U-haul

U-Haul can be a great option for getting you & your items to your final destination. Their trucks and large ramps make moving fairly easy. While they may not be the cheapest option, they are fairly convenient. You do have to be brave enough to drive these rigs. If you’re a nervous driver you might want to think twice about this option. I personally went this route and consider myself a fairly good driver. But when you’re driving through Montreal rush hour in the middle of a snow storm, it’s easy to feel the stress. If you’re going this route, take lots of breaks and plan your hotel stays in areas on the outskirts of town to make getting in and out easy. Narrow and winding streets can be a nightmare with these trucks.


B) Book a Semi-Trailer

Many people don’t know this but you can talk to trucking companies and ask if they have a truck leaving from your point of origin that will be going through your final destination. Assuming you’re not moving to the middle of nowhere, there’s a good chance you can arrange something.

Most trucks you see on the road aren’t filled to the brim, so often times you can rent the back part of the trailer. Typically someone will provide you with an estimate based on the size and amount of items you’re moving. There’s a bunch of semi-trailer varieties to choose from – some companies will offer flatbeds, tankers, refrigeration units, I’ve even heard of some company that will fill extra space on empty horse trailers with living quarters. Your best bet is to just phone some local trucking companies and see what they’ll charge. With some careful planning you can book a flight while your stuff is taken care of by the transportation company.

C) Purchase a van

One of my cross Canada moves was actually done in a beat up camper van. I had it stuffed to the max, but only spent a couple grand on it. Once I got settled in my new location I put my van up for sale and parted ways with it. I only ended up paying for gas and insurance. On top of that, the van had a bed in it which allowed me to save a ton of money on hotels by just parking in Walmarts (They allow campers and RV’s to crash in their parking lot).

D) Shipping

Yes, shipping by bus, train, airline, and even post office is an option. This is a great option if you’re only taking a couple of boxes. Check into shipping rates at your local airport, post office and bus company. Many bus companies sell off unused cargo space for movers. Again, the benefit of this route is you don’t have to worry about driving your own stuff.

mail forward

Photo by Tom Woodward (CC2.0)

2. Setup Mail Forwarding

Moving is a stressful time. No matter how great of a planner you are, when you make the decision to move across Canada there’s going to be some bill, some company or government organization that you forgot to update your address with. Head into Canada Post and ask to setup 6 months of mail forwarding. It’s about $50.00 from what I recall and can save you a tremendous amount of headaches. All mail directed to you that arrives at your old place will be forwarded on to your new location. Just be prepared to jump on updating those addresses and contact details within the 6 month period or you’ll be scratching your head when your mail stops showing up.

storage units

Photo by Mike Mozart (CC2.0)

3. Storage

If you aren’t sure how long you’ll be out there, consider looking into storage space. Storage space can be surprisingly cheap if you’re not storing 4 bedrooms worth of furniture. Or better yet, if you have family with some extra space in their garage, consider asking them to look after a few of your things. When in doubt, ask if you’ve used these items you’re thinking about bringing along in the last year. If you forgot about them or rarely use them, consider just leaving them behind. Or consider the tip below.


4. Start Fresh

Chances are the particle board end tables and that ugly hand-me-down futon aren’t really worth all that much. Do you really want to spend money bringing cheap furniture and items that really don’t have that much sentimental value? Consider selling your stuff on Craigs list, Kijiji, or any other classifieds site. You might make a couple hundred bucks. If you’re not picky, you can easily refurnish a new place when you get there.

Yes, you might spend a bit more money, but think of the savings you’ll hang onto by not having to worry about all this “stuff” you don’t really love, and that you don’t really need. A suitcase, a backpack, and a few precious things are really all you need to start new. The rest can trickle in when you get settled. Watch for used items to furnish your new place with. A fresh start is sometimes the best and cheapest option.

Do you have any moving tips or advice? Comment below – I’d love to hear them!

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Make Your Own DIY Backpacker First Aid Kithttp://ibackpackcanada.com/make-your-own-diy-backpacker-first-aid-kit/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/make-your-own-diy-backpacker-first-aid-kit/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 19:13:25 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7163 This post was sponsored by the makers of REACTINE®. All thoughts & opinions are my own. When you’re on the road long enough, cuts, scrapes, bruises, illnesses, and general cases of “not feeling so hot” are all too common. After living and dealing with these uncomfortable experiences on a case by case basis, I got sick of […]

Make Your Own DIY Backpacker First Aid Kit is a post from: I Backpack Canada


This post was sponsored by the makers of REACTINE®. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

When you’re on the road long enough, cuts, scrapes, bruises, illnesses, and general cases of “not feeling so hot” are all too common. After living and dealing with these uncomfortable experiences on a case by case basis, I got sick of having to detour my travels in order to buy something as silly as a single bandage for a cut, but being forced to carry along a whole box of them. While you can pick up pre-packaged first aid kits, you’ll find they’re typically overpriced and usually have some items in them that you’ll never use. The folks at REACTINE® partnered up with me to come up with the perfect DIY Backpacker First Aid Kit.



1. Empty Altoids Tin

The trusty Altoids tin is used in countless DIY projects and crafts. Head to your local convenience store and pick one of these up, share those mints with your friends and family to get rid of them. Or maybe keep a few if you consider bad breath an emergency. In this DIY First Aid Kit we’ll be using an Altoids tin, or if you can’t find Altoids, any sturdy slim case will do. At the end of the day, you just need something that can take a mild beating.


2. Bandages

Small cuts and blisters are all too common when you’re lugging around a bag filled with your life. I’d recommend keeping a variety of bandages, but really any will do. See what you can dig up around your house and throw 3 – 4 of these lifesavers in there. If you’re able to track down a small package of gauze as well, I’d recommend including that in there for anything more heavy duty than a small cut.


3. Mini Ziploc® Bags

You’re going to want to find a tiny Ziploc® bag which we’ll use to keep a few important things dry. You can usually find these at craft or jewellery stores. My wife had a few that she had picked up from Michaels.


4. Pain Management

Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you’re not going to come down with a headache. Even for things more serious like sprains, I like to keep around 6 pills of either Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen. Rather than taking the whole jar, just grab few and throw them into one of those mini Ziploc® bags. I’d recommend using a Sharpie to mark that bag just as a reminder in case you have to store any other medicine in your DIY First Aid Kit.


5. Allergy Relief

Whether you suffer from allergies or not, chances are you know somebody that does. Cutting out a couple of pills from a package of REACTINE® Non-Drowsy Liquid Gels only takes up a tiny amount of space in the kit, and has the added bonus of fighting allergy symptoms for 24 hours. Nothing will make you look like a bigger hero than when that new travel friend of yours is complaining about their allergy symptoms and you bust out your DIY first aid kit and save the day.


6. Tweezers

I’m convinced that there are few things worse than a nasty splinter. Tweezers are small enough that they can easily fit in your DIY first aid kit and can save you from having to deal with the pain and risk of infection that a splinter can cause.


7. Infection Prevention

If you wear contact lenses, or know someone who does, chances are finding an old contact lens case should be easy. Wash it out thoroughly, and you now have two airtight vessels for storing liquids or gels. I recommend storing POLYSPORIN® in one, and any other common ointments like iodine or betadine. I usually use something my family calls “brown salve”, but after Googling around for its name, I found out it’s actually called “petro-carbo medicated salve“. You want to store something that’s going to help with things like bug bites, burns, cuts, scrapes and skin irritations.


8. Fire

You never know when you might need to make a fire. Hopefully you’ll never have to rely on these, but having them is smart. You’ve got a couple of options here. You could go for a cheap magnesium fire starter, which has the benefit of countless uses, or just track down a few matches (preferably waterproof).


9. Earplugs

In my opinion you should keep several pairs of these scattered throughout your bag, as you never know when you’re going to have to find them. But keeping a spare set on hand in case of emergency, may very well save you a full night sleep when you’re sleeping in a hostel dorm, or camping near a beaver that’s living up to his busy name.

altoids tin

10. Rubber Band

You never know when you need to keep something together. You’re going to want a strong and thick band, like the ones you find on broccoli bunches in the grocery store. Wrap the rubber band around the packed Altoids tin to keep everything secure. It also has the added benefit of providing grip to the kit in case you ever place it on a hard surface.

Am I missing any other important first aid kit items? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Special thanks to REACTINE® for sponsoring this post and helping keep people safe & healthy during their travels. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

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Best Backpacks for long term travelhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/best-backpacks-long-term-travel/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/best-backpacks-long-term-travel/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 16:12:10 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=6927 Picking the perfect backpack is not an easy task. First off, we have to acknowledge that there is no “one backpack to rule them all”. On the contrary, the market is vast and has a highly diversified supply of zillions of products to pick from. In my experience, choosing the right backpacking backpack really depends […]

Best Backpacks for long term travel is a post from: I Backpack Canada


Picking the perfect backpack is not an easy task. First off, we have to acknowledge that there is no “one backpack to rule them all”. On the contrary, the market is vast and has a highly diversified supply of zillions of products to pick from. In my experience, choosing the right backpacking backpack really depends on two factors: purpose and budget.

Every destination has it’s own challenges and unique requirements. You have to take into account climate, altitude, terrain and most importantly, the main activity of the trip. Mountaineering, hiking, trekking and sightseeing are all activities with very different requirements. The ideal backpack for mountaineering would turn out to be extremely cumbersome for lugging around to hostels.

After you establish the purpose of your trip, there are three key considerations you should always assess before choosing your backpack: your weight, your body frame, and the gear you will take along. What kind of stuff are you going to carry? Are you planning on bringing camera equipment? How much food are you going to need? Do you need compartments for smaller items or only larger items?

There are two types of backpacks:
  • The internal frame backpack
  • The external frame backpack

The backpack you pick depends mainly on your purpose as a traveller. Are you attempting to conquer every hiking trail you encounter? Or are you more of a casual tourist that just needs to keep their stuff organized during the move from destination A to destination B?

Internal or external frame backpack?

Nobody wants to spend a good amount of cash on something they’re going to regret. I will try to help you take the right decision by clearing out the differences between both styles.


External frame backpacks are able to carry much more weight because the packs stack above your head, placing the center of gravity much higher than in an internal frame backpack. And while it’s true that these backpacks can carry more weight, they’re also bulkier, making them difficult to deal with in small rooms and tight spaces.

Internal frame backpacks on the other hand are generally lighter and more comfortable to wear, but have less options for distributing the weight. As their weight concentrates at the middle of your back, they are not so suited for long hikes as they will wear you out faster.

Packing compartments

In most cases external frame backpacks have lots of compartments that allow more options to distribute the weight. That’s something that you don’t typically get from an internal frame backpack. Most internal frame backpacks have only 1 to 3 compartments (top, primary compartment, lower compartment). Less compartments means finding the key to your room could turn out to be the most painful memory of the whole trip.


In an external frame backpack the tubular structure is clearly visible, while internal backpacks look more like the typical bag a kid could carry to school. The tubular structure in this case runs along the spine for lumbar support. Typically, internal frame backpacks are sexier in appearance, some having additional straps and zippers and others including locks to prevent the occasional pickpocket.


The price of external frame backpacks is relatively higher than that of their internal frame counterparts. If you’re on a tight budget and you’re not going to do any extreme hiking, an internal frame backpack might give you more bang for the buck.

Best Backpacks for long term travellers / backpackers

Finding the best backpack for the hostel hopping backpacker is quite a bit easier than the die-hard camper. If your plan is to travel light and move from hostel to hostel, finding a backpack will be a bit easier. 99% of the time, an internal frame backpack with enough compartments and a few bells and whistles will suffice. These are my recommended internal frame backpacks:

Teton-Explorer-4000-backpack-product-shot Teton Explorer 4000 Backpack

Durable and affordable, the Teton Explorer 4000 has (as it’s name states) 4000 cubic inches of storage capacity, which will be enough for 2 – 5 day trips. Many rate it as the best hiking backpack in the market because of the comfort it offers and its ability to store over 15 essential items including a sleeping bag. You can find these for $70.


High Sierra Titan 65

The High Sierra Tech Titan 65 is adored by campers and hikers because of its 65 liters of storage space. It’s durability makes the Titan 65 an ideal candidate for long trips. You can find these from $100 and sometimes cheaper if you’re shopping for used backpacks online.


Osprey Packs Atmos 65

Osprey backpacks come in three models, small (62 liters), medium (65) and large (68) They’re all incredibly comfortable, the fabric is of excellent quality and the flashy colors make the three models quite attractive to look at. Compared to other backpacks offering similar features, the Osprey is one of the lightest in the market, and also one of the most expensive. You can get your hands on one for $ 200 – $400.


Everest Delux Hiking Backpack

The Everest hiking pack has been appreciated for a long time by the travelling community as the most popular entry level bag. It’s made out of 100% polyester and has a capacity of 3,170 cubic inches which is roughly equivalent to 40 pounds of stuff. They sell for around $53.

Arc'teryx Altra 65 Backpack

Arc’teryx Altra 65 Backpack

The Arc’teryx Altra 65 Backpack is used for all sorts of activities such as trekking, normal travel and hiking. Usually, these multi-purpose backpacks have a volume capacity between 73L and 75L. Extremely comfortable, it’s ultra light material is also very durable and doesn’t tear easily,  which of course is an added advantage for anybody embarking on long trekking. I’ve read reviews where people state they have used the Arc’teryx Altra for over 14 months without any visible wear, and I do believe it. This is a very high quality bag that sells for $400.


Gregory Deva 60 Technical Pack

The Gregory Deva 60 Technical Pack has been specifically designed for women. Some of the features include an AFS suspension system, auto-cant harness technology and auto-fit waist belt system. Durable, lightweight and easy on the eye, it’s the ideal entry bag for a serious beginner. It costs around $240.


ALPS Mountaineering Red Tail 3900

Just as the name implies, the ALPS Mountaineering Red Tail 3900 is a backpack specifically designed for your hiking needs. It has a capacity of 3900 cubic inches which translates to 64 liters, which is ideal for 3 – 4 day trips. The top of the red tail extends with a spindrift collar allowing hikers to overpack. It sells for $100.


CUSCUS 6200ci Internal Frame

The CUSCUS 6200ci is a 6200 cubic inch capacity bag with very sturdy stitching and strong zippers. It’s incredibly durable and has the best cost to benefit ratio of this list. It features a sleeping bag compartment, a heavily paddled back panel and high quality shoulder and waist straps. You can find one of these for as low as $40.

How to fit an Internal Frame Backpack?

Looking for advice on how to fit a backpack to your body size / type, check this video out by Tuja Wellness.

Best backpacks for hiking / camping

We’ve covered plenty about internal frame backpacks which are awesome solutions if you aren’t planning on long hiking or camping trips. But extreme trekkers, pro campers, and seasoned outdoorsmen usually choose external frame backpacks as their weapon of choice. This is mainly because they provide greater support for larger loads. If you’re going to be hauling cookware, large amounts of water, a tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag, you’re going to need more capacity than what an internal frame bag can offer.

Here are my picks for great external frame backpacks for hiking and camping.


ALPS OutdoorZ Commander 5350 Cubic Inches

The ALPS Outdoor commander has always impressed because of its versatility, durability and incredible capacity. The backpack can be separated from the tube structure allowing for other items to be carried on the frame, which is a nifty feature specially for hunters. The ALPS OutdoorZ Commander is a very affordable solution at $93.


Kelty Trekker External Frame Pack

The Kelty Trekker is made from polyester which makes it very lightweight and durable. The external frame is built with adjustable suspensions and plenty of additional accessories. You can find it from $127 to $180.


Large Alice Pack w/ Frame

Well suited for people who like to hike a lot, the Large Alice pack is extremely durable, made from waterproof materials with sturdy stitching. It provides an excellent cost to benefit ratio at $62.


Outdoor Products Dragonfly

The Dragonfly is a backpack especially designed for pre-teens and youth hikers. It has a capacity of 2780 cubic inches which is more than enough to meet the usual expectations of a entry level outdoorsman. It features enhanced padding which helps a lot when carrying very heavy loads. The Dragonfly sells at $50.

S-ZONE Sport Outdoor 60L Military Camping Hiking Trekking Backpack

S-ZONE Sport Outdoor 60L Military Camping Hiking Trekking Backpack

The S-zone sport outdoor 60L Trekking Backpack is one of the most beautifully designed of the list. I really appreciate the foam back panel which helps the pack to stay cool and dry. It also has a compression lid on the top that allows an extra load of gear beyond it’s native capacity of 60 liters. Great value at $64.


High Sierra Sport Company 40

The High Sierra Sport Company 40 is specifically designed for a one or two day trip. This is an extremely comfortable entry bag for younger hikers taking their first steps into the outdoor scene. It sells for $100.


Mountain smith Eagle – Youth External

The Mountainsmith Eagle External Frame Backpack is another backpack specifically designed for pre-teens. It’s outward appearance may not be so captivating, but it has a respectable capacity of 45 liters and features an external frame made out of 6061 aluminium alloy. It includes a mesh back panel, a top flap with a zippered pocket, a rain cover and deluxe shoulder straps. You can find it for $75.


ALPS Mountaineering Bryce Nylon Ripstop External Frame Pack (3600 cubic inch)

One of the most durable of this list, theALPS Mountaineering Bryce pack includes a high quality telescoping frame, hydration compatible, ventilated lumbar support, and mesh pockets. Sturdy, durable and highly reliable it has a 60 litre capacity and sells for $159.

How to Pack a Backpack Properly

Looking for more information on packing your backpack the right way. Check out this great video by REI.

Looking for something more Waterproof? Check out my post on Waterproof Backpacks and Dry Bags.
What kind of backpack are you using? Comment below or tweet me @ibackpackcanada, I’d love to hear from other backpackers!

Disclaimer: Links to Amazon are affiliate links which earn me a small commission if you purchase anything through them. Support I Backpack Canada and shop! Or support yourself and save, your call!

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5 Things You Need To Bring Camping With Youhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/5-things-you-need-to-bring-camping-with-you/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/5-things-you-need-to-bring-camping-with-you/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:43:51 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7030 Wouldn’t trekking through the wilderness be so great if everything simply fit in your pockets? Unfortunately, unless you have one of those fancy inflatable Houses, you probably won’t be going camping without a backpack anytime soon. Filling it up can sometimes be too easy. We’re constantly reminded to prepare for the worst. Then also reminded […]

5 Things You Need To Bring Camping With You is a post from: I Backpack Canada


Wouldn’t trekking through the wilderness be so great if everything simply fit in your pockets? Unfortunately, unless you have one of those fancy inflatable Houses, you probably won’t be going camping without a backpack anytime soon. Filling it up can sometimes be too easy. We’re constantly reminded to prepare for the worst. Then also reminded to pack light. What needs to make the cut in your pack? Without further ado, let’s get into the items I think you absolutely should bring on your next camping trip!

1. A Knife

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife runs about $15 – $20 and the knife is well worth the cost. The one I linked above does slightly more than function as a knife (it has scissors, nail file/screwdriver, and tweezers), which makes it good for both daily usage and camping trips. I’ve had my own for around five years; I bring it everywhere because I use it almost daily, and I can personally attest to its dependability, though I have to admit those scissors are just a  waste of space.

Bringing a on your camping trip is a must. A decent knife can save your butt, and can be used in a variety of situations, including cutting rope, sharpening sticks, and even as an emergency weapon (albeit a Swiss Army Knife may not be a very effective one).

While there are definitely better knives out there, for entry-level campers the Swiss Army Knife is a great item to bring with you when you’re camping.

2. Cordage

The next essential for camping is cordage. Having rope can come in handy, especially for survival purposes. It’s cheap, and serves countless purposes, from bundling wood, to tying up an injury, or just hanging your wet clothes to dry. I personally use this small Bear Grylls bracelet cordage when I’m out in the sticks. While I may not think all that highly of Bear Grylls, his products are surprisingly decent.

Some varieties of cordage are brightly colored and highly reflective, making it a very handy tool for survival. Another product that you might consider is the Kelty TripTease Lightline, but I can’t say too much about this as I haven’t used it before. You can use cordage for quite a wide variety of things, such as attaching your gear to your pack and making a hammock.

3. A Compass

I won’t say much about having a compass. I believe you should always carry one around with you when you’re out camping, especially if you’re in an area with poor cell phone reception. It doesn’t have the be the fanciest most expensive compass, but something that can re-orient you is key. Of course, you should also know how to use a compass, but I’ll leave that to Wikihow to explain (I’m a lousy teacher).

Compass prices range from $10.00 – $100.00 depending on the quality and brand you’re after. :

Suunto M-3DL Compass

Suunto A-30L Compass

Silva Sighting Ranger CLQ Compass

4. Fire

Keeping warm is incredibly important for survival. If you’re going to be staying in an area with low elevation (< 10,000 – 12,000 feet), then you won’t have many issues with making a cheap lighter work. However, at higher elevations, due to the lack of oxygen in the thinner atmosphere, finding a lighter that strikes all the time can sometimes be a difficult task.

I’ve found that cheap Bic lighters that you can get at the gas station for a dollar or two work most of the time. However, I’m sure some die-hard campers would spit, snarl and scream at that notion. Sure, you can fight with striker sticks, matches, and or just rubbing sticks together and saying a prayer, I’m a bit of a lazy camper and have no shame in letting technology help me out.

If you’re looking for refillable lighters, I personally like Zippo lighters even more than the cheap Bic lighters. The Ultimate Survival Technologies Floating Lighter (seen above) is actually a waterproof-floating zippo style lighter, which is handy if you’re going to be on or near water at any time.

If you like to be extra careful, I’d recommend carrying a few waterproof matches as well as a Carbon Strike Fire Starter which produces sparks for those hypothetical emergency situations where none of your lighters make fire.

5. Water

Staying hydrated while outdoors is just as important as staying warm. Water is probably one of the most important resources, so finding a suitable container for it is important because you don’t want to risk having any contaminants in it. A good water bottle can be used to boil water or to melt snow, giving you a source of fresh water in a survival situation.

I use a Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Bottle because it’s both light and sturdy, and I usually clip this on to one of my belt loops (so I guess it isn’t really a “pocket item”). These are currently $25 – $32 USD on Amazon. An important thing to note is to avoid getting a double-walled container. Although they keep cold drinks cold for the entire day, the added insulation makes it difficult to boil water in when you aren’t near safe water. Or just be a smart camper and carry some Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets

I hope you enjoyed this article! Remember to follow us on social media using the links below.

Disclaimer: The links on this post will send you to Amazon Products with my personal affiliate code. If you purchase anything Amazon will share 4% of the profit with me. It’s not big money, but any bit helps keep my site going.

Special thanks to @fakejourneys for contributing to I Backpack Canada! 

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How to Survive 2 Day Train Trips Like a Champhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/how-to-survive-2-day-train-trips-like-a-champ/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/how-to-survive-2-day-train-trips-like-a-champ/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 17:50:46 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5372 One of the best ways to truly see Canada is by train. By traveling with VIA Rail you’re able to truly appreciate the vast distances of this massive country. While it is in my opinion the most romantic way to travel, after 24 hours on a train you can start to feel a little too […]

How to Survive 2 Day Train Trips Like a Champ is a post from: I Backpack Canada


One of the best ways to truly see Canada is by train. By traveling with VIA Rail you’re able to truly appreciate the vast distances of this massive country. While it is in my opinion the most romantic way to travel, after 24 hours on a train you can start to feel a little too “seasoned”. Having recently taken several multi day train journeys across Canada with VIA Rail, I thought it would be great to share some of my tips.


1. Pack food

VIA Rail is famous for it’s incredible Dining Cars, their food is second to none! Unfortunately they aren’t located on every train; instead, a Snack/Lounge Car will take it’s place which does serve pre-made meals and offers snacks and beers; however, if you want something a little more healthy than pizza, beer, or a bags of chips, I would suggest making a stop at a grocery store and pick up some fruit or veggie trays. Or for those more adventurous, consider sampling some Canadian Junk Food.

On 2 day journeys this is particularly true. Stops are few and far between, and having something set aside to snack on can make all the difference in your comfort level.


2. Power can be a Commodity

VIA Rail’s cars are for the most part from the 1950’s. Despite their age they’re still comfortable and ride the rails as smooth as ever. But like anything built in that generation, certain things weren’t included off the assembly line that today many feel might be a necessity. For instance, the thought of each person requiring an outlet to power a laptop or charge your phone wasn’t at the front of engineers minds.

Fortunately VIA Rail has outfitted most of the lounge & snack cars with at least a couple outlets for passengers to share, as well as providing each economy seat with an outlet; however, if you travel in the berth section, you may find yourself confused as there are no outlets in this section. Working from the comfort of your berth or watching a movie in bed is pretty much out of the question unless your computer can hold a charge for more than a couple of hours.

Riding in Economy and working is surprisingly comfy so you might be better off going that route should you require to keep up with work. While I can’t say enough good things about VIA Rail, I feel if somebody is going to pay more for a lot of extra comfort, an outlet per bed just makes sense.

via rail train shower

3. A few Travel Items to bring

If you’re planning on riding in economy for more than a day, there are a few things I recommend bringing.

  1. Earplugs – drowning out the noise of children and the occasional loud train whistle can make for a better sleep.
  2. A good book or two – what better way to kill time on a multi day train ride.
  3. Baby Wet Naps – Feeling a bit gross in economy after going a day without a shower can make travel quite uncomfortable. Keep your face, hands, or body clean with the help of these trusty fellows.
  4. A pillow or Pillowcase stuffed with some clothes – Sleeping in economy can be difficult, having a neck pillow, or a pillowcase stuffed with some clothes can give your neck some extra support on these long train rides.
  5. Toiletries – such as toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc
  6. A Change of Clothes 
  7. Music 
  8. A camera
  9. A laptop – if you plan on working or watching movies on the train, a laptop is a must.

4. Stay Connected without Wifi

Many people are shocked to find out that VIA Rail doesn’t have Wifi on all trains. Given the remote areas that the train goes through, it’s fairly easy to understand why that is. While it would be nice if Wifi was as prominent on trains in the rest of Canada as it is in the Corridor (Windsor Ontario to Quebec), there is an alternative.

If you have a smartphone that allows tethering (iPhones, Androids, newer blackberries, etc) along with a plan that allows it, you should be able to stay connected and quickly grab your emails as you pass through a region with 3G. Sometimes these hot zones can be quite small, so play it smart. Grab what you need online and then leave the less important things (i.e. updating Facebook status) until you’ve got what you’re after.

Pro Tip

Consider phoning your cell phone provider to temporarily upgrade your data usage for the month that you’ll be traveling with VIA Rail. I had my plan temporarily upgraded to include 6gb of Data, unlimited long distance, and all the other bells and whistles you could really need, all for under 90 dollars a month. As soon as the travels were done, I called them up and went back to my regular cell phone plan.

5. Get Comfy and Meet your fellow passengers

Two days is a long time, and while you may plan on finishing a book, don’t be afraid to wander to the snack car to grab a beer and converse with some fellow travellers. I’m always surprised by how easy it is on the train. Socializing while being transported from one place to another isn’t typically done; however, VIA Rail doesn’t just break the mould, it completely shatters it. Where on planes you’re encouraged to stay seated at all times, and bus’s tend to be rather quiet, VIA Rail is fine with people walking around. Stretching your legs and meeting new people is half of the experience. You’ll find that you’ll meet some interesting people from all walks of life that may end up being a new friend by the time you get to the next station.

7. Ask Questions

The staff on VIA Rail are known for being some of the friendliest people, if you find yourself starring out a window, asking yourself “What am I looking at?” – stop an employee and ask them. They ride these routes countless times, and most have a superb understanding of the routes the train takes.

rocky mountains trains via rail

8. Relax

Part of the beauty of train travel, is that your brain isn’t required to be “on” at all times. There will be times when you’ll think “Well, I dont have to worry about the next stop, as my stop isn’t in another 20 odd hours”. Once you’ve come to terms with the speed of trains, you’ll soon realize that it’s okay to shut off for a few hours. Catch up on sleep. Catch up on a book. Travel doesn’t always have to be “Go! Go! Go!”. With the gentle rocking of the train, the rhythmic clicks caused by sections of rail, the distant sound of a train whistle, you can’t be held to blame for nodding off, so enjoy it!

Special thanks to the folks at VIA Rail for having me aboard their train and giving me access to shoot photos & video. 

How to Survive 2 Day Train Trips Like a Champ is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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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 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 […]

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.

What’s in my Backpack? is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Packing Tips 101http://ibackpackcanada.com/packing-tips-101/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/packing-tips-101/#comments Sat, 26 Sep 2009 10:51:22 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=685 Packing Tips 101 is a post from: I Backpack Canada

packing tips 101The Canadian climate can be very harsh to those unaccustomed to it. Packing for your backpacking trip across Canada isn’t exactly the easiest trip to pack for. The weather can go from a sweltering 35 degrees Celsius in summer, to a frigid -45 degrees Celsius in winter. The way you pack will really depend on when you’ll be in the country. Check out the Ultimate Packing List for Backpacking Canada if you need some suggestions. Once you have all the items you need, fitting them into a 60+L backpack can be like Tetris level 30, it’s just plain tough. But like in any game, there are cheats, tips, and pointers to help get you through. Class shall begin, now!

Address Labels – Perfect for tagging those expensive valuables you’re still unsure whether you should bring. Laptop, iPod, that $1200 Nikon Camera. Should you have the misfortune of losing it, my good friend Karma may help you out and allow that item to find it’s way back to you. Zing!

Book Covers – The ultimate in James Bond-esque disguisery, allowing you, the lost tourist, to mask the fact that you are a lost tourist. Keep your cool, gradually flip to your hidden map page, and walk on like nothing ever happened.  Pah!

Plastic Wrap – Keep a couple sheets with you at all times. Works wonders in placing over shampoo bottles before closing the lid. Adds that extra security that is sometimes needed if you’re afraid to put on that fancy shirt only to find out it has a dirty goo stain. Goo!

Water Bottles – If you hoard your flight tickets, maps, postcards, but always find you rip and tear them to shreds. Try rolling them up inside a waterbottle. They’re kept airtight, and can be cut open when you get home, allowing you to cherish torn free photos, maps, and what-nots. Kablahm!

Roll them clothes – If you’re new to travel, this may come as a shock. But rolling your clothes is the best way to squeeze more clothes in, while keeping them relatively wrinkle free. Not only do you save room, it’s a lot more easy to organize as well. Keeping structure in your backpack is essential, unless you like digging 10 minutes to find a clean pair of socks. Smack!

Plastic Bags – Keep a few spare bags to put your worn and stinky clothes in, keeping the rest of your wardrobe fresh and stink-free. Toss in some dryer sheets for some added smell security. Wiff!

214759009_75d436cddc_bSplit up your money – You wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, so why keep all your hard earned cash in one pouch? Hide some cash in random places, don’t worry about forgetting where you put it. If you really need it, you’ll find it. Even if you don’t, what’s better than finding money you forgot about? Bling!

Plan the weight of your items – When packing items into your backpack, place all lighter items at the bottom of your bag, work your way up to medium weight items, followed by the heaviest items.This technique works as it causes your back to take more weight than just your shoulder. If you’re going to be wearing that pack for a while you might as well be comfy. Oof!

Flip the batteries – If you have a flashlight or headlamp, flip the batteries around so the proper contacts are NOT touching, this way, if during transportation that button gets hit, you’re not going to grab your flashlight only to discover it has since turned into a pale dead glowstick. Click!

Don’t carry gifts and souvenirs – If you find something that you know your friend MUST have, don’t bother carrying it around wasting your space. Ship it away ASAP. No sense having to throw away your third favourite t-shirt in lieu of that stupid wooden ornament. Stupid!

Photocopy security details – Keep some photocopies hidden of your passport, flights, or any other important documents in the off chance you lose something. Having those photocopies can speed up this unfortunate kick in the butt. Thud!

Congratulations grasshopper. You just passed Packing Tips 101!

Students, should you find anything worthy of adding to your Sensai’s list, please comment. Type!

Packing Tips 101 is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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The Ultimate Packing list for Backpacking Across Canadahttp://ibackpackcanada.com/the-ultimate-packing-list-for-backpacking-across-canada/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/the-ultimate-packing-list-for-backpacking-across-canada/#comments Thu, 17 Sep 2009 18:51:11 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=686 The Ultimate Packing list for Backpacking Across Canada is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Packing ListPacking for the first leg of your journey can about as stressful as a glass shard in your foot. Having to decide what to bring and what to leave can cause some people nausia, headaches, and even heartburn…well, maybe not that last one… Either way, I took the liberty of using PackWhiz, a great online tool designed to help lazy people create packing lists. With a few clicks, out came “The Ultimate Packing List for Backpacking Across Canada“. I included everything I thought necessary for a backpacking trip in Canada. The list is intended for both males and females, so boys, don’t be shocked when you see Female Hygiene Products on the packing list, I would suggest ignoring that. Unless you’re the kind of guy who packs for every kind of emergency.

Either way, print it off, it should make having a case of the packing-worries a thing of the past.

Click Here to View The Ultimate Packing List

The Ultimate Packing list for Backpacking Across Canada is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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