Make BFFs in PFDs
February 26, 2020 by PJ Boyd

Inter-Varsity Pioneer Camp Manitoba

Immerse yourself in a canoe trip at camp and you can walk away with life lessons, not to mention best friends (possibly for life).

Diving deep into summer camp programming can open up a world of adventure for campers. Learning new skills, games and meeting new friends is what is expected at all summer camps. But, the adventures don’t stop within the camp grounds. Some camps offer life changing outtripping programs that take campers on journeys by canoe (or even horseback).

These journeys show campers the vast beauty of Canada’s lands and waters, as well as the power of friendship as they venture out suited in their PFDs (Personal Floating Devices – aka life jackets). These fellowship building adventures are no road trips. For many, finishing a canoe trip feels like walking away a winner with your teammates after a championship game.

“Some people get really mobilized and energized by challenge. And with trips, you get to see what you’re capable of. If you want that and have an adventure doing it, go on an outtrip,” says Tim Martin, previous camp tripper at various Muskoka, Ont.,-based camps who now works as an outdoor educator for companies, such as Alive Outdoors. “Experiences where you gain a sense of accomplishment. You gain a sense of “I can do this,” and self-awareness. Sensitivities to the group and to the needs of the group, the interpersonal skills. Tripping was huge for me for that! It was a big confidence boost and a self-awareness boost.”

But, what does a canoe trip look like? What does it entail? For those new to summer camps, the journey begins with a starting line and a finish line. Where are you canoeing to and what lakes and lands will you and your new friends be venturing on?

Camp Mini-Yo-We

As a camper, your job is to experience the adventure. Leave it to the skilled trip leaders to worry about cooking meals over an open fire and where each days ending destination will be. At the end of each day, campers get to pull off onto a piece of land to experience the fullness of nature. They will learn games, songs and new skills like fire building all before pitching a tent or sleeping under the stars.

“I gained a real appreciation for nature and teamwork. I always treated the canoe trip as a highlight of my year,” says Leo De Ruiter, the canoe tripping coordinator at Taylor Statten Camps. “I’m still very good friends with the campers that I was on long trip with.”

A part of canoe trips that really brings the team together is not enjoyed on water. If the next lake you need to get to is blocked by land, your adventure goes on what’s called a portage.

The act of portaging is to carry everything that you have from one destination to the next. All of your bags, food and paddles. And yes, the canoes. This can seem intimidating for some, but, on a canoe trip, no matter the length of time a trip or portage is supposed to take, speed is not a factor.

“It’s not a race. It’s never the point of a trip. So, for some of the longer portages I will always say stop and have a water break. Get up and go take a break or ask for help if you need it,” explains De Ruiter.

It is in portaging that the act of friendship really seen. Campers who may not be able to hold as much, or may need to take a break can see firsthand the support a friend can give you through team work. It is also here that campers get to learn a lot about themselves. How much you can carry, and the uniqueness of help that you can bring to your team.

With outtripping, campers get an opportunity to learn much more about themselves and new skills that are as old as the lands they are traveling on. The ancient skill of paddling and guiding a canoe over water (especially moving water and white-water rapids) will be a big take away. It is on the toughest of waters and strongest of winds where campers experience working together in a fun and high energy situation.

Campers will also be given the chance to strengthen their swimming skills in fun filled games along waters closed off to the modern world and technology. Much of what they will experience together as a team is survival skills at a very basic level. Physically keeping your head above water when you fall in the water, being able to pace yourself on a portage and not overdoing it.

Taylor Statten Camps

Outtripping can be a journey for a couple of days, and in some camp programming, trips can last for weeks. But regardless of the time spent paddling down the calm lakes as smooth as glass and the white waters of Canada, all campers will reach their destinations with a sense of self pride. Above all, campers will leave with memories that will continue to echo in their lives the older they get.

Some lessons they learn, and some friends they make will continue to be a foundation in their daily lives long after they leave the woods and return to the city.

“I met my wife through a love of tripping and whitewater paddling,” says Martin. “Tripping can be where friendships are made, tested, and made stronger. It’s like adding a strand to the cord of friendship.”

The power of outtripping and the adventure of the outdoors awaits. If you or your child is ready for a life changing and friend making experience, trade in your phone swipes and clicks this summer and substitute it with paddle swooshes and splashes.

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Camp BasicsCamp TalesCampingCanoeingCommunityEducationEntertainmentFire BuildingFishingForestLeadershipLeadership TrainingMuskokaOutdoorsOuttrippingPortageSafetySummer CampSwimmingTaylor Statten CampsTripTripping