Don’t forget the propane (or do, if you want to make friends).

In May 2018 my sister, a friend, and I set out on our first overnight to Grey Owls Cabin in Prince Albert National Park . I packed my bag in a hurry, eager to see the trail and less enthused about the idea of packing up all of my gear. The trail was beautiful and we decided to trek all of the way in to the cabin on the first day, making our day a 23 kilometre foot-blistering adventure. As the sun began to set and we returned to camp, we could not wait to settle down with a hot meal. My sister unpacked her camp stove and asked me to grab the propane.

“Sure.” I said, “Where is it?”

She looked up from her stove with apprehension , “In your bag…because you packed it.”

I did not pack it.

After going through my bag twice to confirm that it hadn’t somehow magically appeared, we pondered our options. Earlier in the week we had picked up some pre-made hiker meals to try and they all required boiling water. We couldn’t start a camp fire because of the dry conditions and we were already surrounded by the haze of a forest fire that was burning across the park near the Narrows campground. We could add filtered water and set the meals aside for a while in hopes that a cold soak would rehydrate them, but nothing about cold noodles sounded appealing to us.

Much to my chagrin, the best option was to swallow my pride and ask some other campers for help. Fortunately as we were setting up our camp, other hikers were filtering in to do the same thing. The first group that I approached had boated in to spend the night and they joked that they had to decide between packing beer or a stove and they chose the beer. The next campsite was occupied by two women who we had seen on the trail that day. When we passed them earlier they were miserable, exhausted and with feet covered in blisters. I passed by their quiet tent as they must have decided to go straight to bed.

Lastly, I meekly approached a couple that already had water boiling on their stove and explained myself. I joked that they might be able to help save the relationship between my ‘hangry’ hiking companions and I. With a smile, they kindly offered me the rest of their nearly empty propane canister. I thanked them profusely and made my way back to camp, getting thumbs ups along the way from the first site for my successful mission.

We quickly boiled the water with just enough propane left and poured it in to our pre-made dehydrated meals. At last we had hot meals on our picnic table and it was finally time to eat.

We took our first big bites… and they were awful. We each ended up eating about 1/3rd of our packets until we couldn’t stomach them anymore.

I learned two things that weekend.

  1. Hikers are usually willing (and happy) to help each other out, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  2. Don’t buy those fancy looking dehydrated backpacking meals from the outdoor stores (‘mac and cheese’, my ass)