Kentucky Lake, BC

My friends and I treat camping as a competitive sport, and each year we try to find the next greatest spot. Criteria are it has to be near a lake or river, have something interesting to see or do and isn’t too busy or too far away. This year we explored Kentucky-Alleyne Park, just outside of Merritt. It was just beautiful, both lakes are a stunning turquoise blue, and we were able to swim, fish and hike to our heart’s content.

Sharing beers around the fire later that evening my best friend and I reminisced about our camping trips together since we met in high school 17 years ago. We laughed remembering some of the more ridiculous escapades, like the birthday weekend I brought plenty of booze but after waking up with a killer hangover  I realized I’d forgot water and could only quench my thirst after an hour-long drive back to town. Or the time she caused the bottle depot to be evacuated after discovering someone had mistakenly deposited an open pack of soggy hot dogs into the recycling bag, which then sat in the sun for 2 weeks during a heatwave.

Our site at Kentucky Lake

After several more horrifying and hilarious stories I realized that we had both become better campers by learning from our mistakes – my current approach to camping prizes enjoyment, cold beer and comfort and over a warm 12-pack of Caribou, a couple of burnt weenies on a stick and passing out in the back of my ‘97 Rav 4.

Actual contents of my cooler for an overnight camping trip many years ago – I was so proud of my inclusion of a refreshing fruit snack I took a photo!

Whether you’re a glamper or a minimalistic backpacker, chances are you’ll agree that the most satisfying beer is the one enjoyed outside. I can’t count how many times the only thing that got me through the last half of a hot hike was the thought of a cold beer and a good meal waiting for me back at camp. It’s a feeling I think everyone deserves to have, and so I would like to share with you a few of my hard-earned lessons and field-tested tips to make the most of your next camping trip.

I’m smiling at the summit of Okanagan Mountain Park because I packed two beers on ice!

I will only say this once, but I’ll say it with all the emphasis I can muster – DO NOT BRING GLASS! Even with the best of intentions bottles drop, and that one missed shard might be found later by someone’s unsuspecting foot. For nature lovers the trend towards glass bombers in the early days of craft beer was frustrating, but thanks to an increase in availability from mobile canning even some of the smallest breweries now have cans.

Cans offer easy portability and no risk of broken glass – making them trail and beach friendly. Hidden Swimming Spot, Thompson River, Kamloops

The other cardinal rule is PACK IT IN, PACK IT OUT! If you managed to get it there, there is no excuse for not taking it away with you. Bring at least two garbage bags with you – one for trash and one for recycling – to reduce confusion (and accidental evacuations) bring a clear bag for bottles. Even better, bring an extra bag for litter and leave that place looking better than you found it!

Picture yourself here – Camping at Manning Provincial Park, Hampton Campground

At Private and Provincial Campgrounds you’re permitted enjoy a beverage at your site, but expect to stick to enforced noise curfews and no off-site beers unless carefully disguised (beer koozies, coffee cup, or insulated mug). Rec Sites and “bush camping” are more relaxed around noise and consumption, but please uphold the Campers Code of Conduct and respect your neighbours (if you have them) by either keeping it down after 11:00pm or dropping by with a beer and an invite to join the party.

The Stanley Growler really does keep your beer cold for 24 hours, and insulated mugs maintain the chill along with being discreet

Thanks to the BC Ale Trail, it’s easier than ever to plan a craft-beer-focused camping trip (or to conveniently plan a trip that just happens to wind up in the same places as amazing breweries – so weird, right Honey?). Bring an insulated growler for fills. Keep in mind that 11% barleywine might taste amazing after dinner at home, but that around the campfire or on a hot beach you’re better off sticking to lighter and less experimental styles. Breakfast Stouts are as appropriate as coffee and Irish Cream to start your day, you can’t go wrong with a good Pilsner (or lager if you’re into that sort of thing) and ISAs are the better choice for day drinking than 7% bitter bombs that leave you delirious in your hammock before the sun has even set.

The primary concern of car campers will be bringing enough beer and ice to avoid an emergency supply run mid-weekend. Make the most of your cooler space by freezing jugs of drinking water and packaged items (like bacon), chill everything else before packing and keep your cooler in the shade, insulated with a towel or blanket. Ice Blocks last longer but are bulkier than cubes, free up more room for beer by planning meals that don’t need to be refrigerated.

The author, enjoying a hammock n’ chill sesh after an 8k hike to Inland Lake, near Powell River

I love backpacking in the mountains, but I can’t find the motivation to hike uphill in +30° heat without the promise of a cold one at the summit. One side benefit of converting to ultralight gear is more weight allocation available for beer! Packable hammocks are my favourite piece of light gear as they can replace a tent, sleeping pad and chair in the summer. Cans again have the advantage, once consumed and crushed they are easy to stash away for the return trip. Keeping beer cold is another issue, which can be solved either by a makeshift cooler (dry bag and ice cubes) or a cooler sling or backpack with a cooler pocket. Or plan your route to coincide with a glacial stream or lake – nature’s own rapid-chill fridge.

DIY dry-bag cooler. Wrap in a towel, then a garbage bag (for accidental leak protection) and tuck into your backpack for an ice-cold beer at the top of the trail

There are still several good weekends left this summer to get out into the local – or more distant – wilderness with good friends and good beer. Some helpful resources to plan your next trip are BC Recreation Sites and Trails, BC Provincial Parks, Campnab, which helps find last-minute reservations at popular Provincial parks and, of course, BC Ale Trail with regional news and events on craft beer hotspots throughout BC!

Happy Camping!
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