Before we get into a discussion about Canadians and camping, go and read this: "Why aren't Canadians camping any more?" Posted the other day, I read through the article and was surprised by the statistics: between 2000 and 2013 the number of overnight camping stays in Ontario's provincial parks fell by 10 percent. In Quebec, tenting plunged 34%, and overnight rates were only bolstered by a slight increase in RVing.
Wait a minute...I thought Canadians were outdoorsy!? I thought we stoically braved frigid temperatures to snowshoe among the pines, sped down roaring rivers on canoes, and slept on the ground in tents (claiming that, of course, it's much more comfortable to sleep on the ground than in a fluffy bed).
I guess I've been proven wrong. We are ditching the tents, and opting instead for "glamping" - camping in heated or air conditioned monster RVs or plush yurts outfitted with Wifi.
This makes me mad.
Let's leave aside, for the moment, the fact that some people just don't have the resources to camp. It's expensive (no, not as expensive as a hotel, but fees have been increasing exponentially over the years), and when you're shouldered with the challenges of living on lower income, dealing with life in a new country or just trying to survive each day, your first thought may not be "hey, lets take the kids out into the woods this weekend." (and this is where social programs are SO important, to give children the opportunity to experience camping if their parents are unable to do so).
But for those of us who do have the opportunity to get out in nature, why are we not doing it? Author Richard Louv coined the term nature-deficit disorder in his book "Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder." Louv links our lack of experience with the natural world to an ever increasing list of health disorders (obesity, mental and behavioural disorders, and social connectedness).
I think the main reason parents are not doing it is because they never camped as children. Sure, they might have visited cottages or gone on RV trips with their parents. But children who camp tend to grow up into parents who want to take their own children camping. And those who haven't are uncomfortable in nature - they don't enjoy the work and discomfort that goes with living in the woods.
I'm here to say that it's important to overcome those feelings, and do it anyway (full disclosure: I'm terrified of bears, don't really enjoy sleeping in a tent, and sometimes grumble about the constant work that goes into cooking meals over the fire). But research is mounting on the use of nature as a therapy, for treating individual health problems such as ADHD, stress, and addictions, and I'm determined for my children to experience camping as it should be - and no, this doesn't include Wifi.
Every summer, my family plans a camping trip. If money wasn't an issue, I would be planning a full month out in the bush, but right now only a week is feasible. So far we're still car camping with young children, but the plan is to do back-country camping when the girls are able to carry things on their own (and walk or paddle longer distances).
I do this because I think camping is vital to our children's health - not just my own children, but all of our children. If we are to be leaving an Earth that is polluted, degraded, and on the verge of major climate change, we'd better hope our children and grandchildren are motivated to save what's left.
Tell me - why haven't you taken your children camping? What's stopping you?