I Backpack Canada » Packing http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Tue, 24 Feb 2015 16:26:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 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

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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.

dill-pickle-chips

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.

macbook-pro-retina

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

macbook-pro-retina

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.

Passport-Pocket-Underwear

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

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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

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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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