Whether or not travel restrictions will have most Western Canadians exploring their backyards or beyond this summer, one lesson from last year applies: if you’re trying a new sport or rediscovering an old one, shop early and be prepared to pay full retail to get the best selection of hot gear for summer pastimes. Check travel restrictions and local websites for safety and health information before visiting attractions this summer.
By Steve Threndyle
Even if you already live in a dream home, that doesn’t mean that you don’t enjoy sleeping under the stars in a spacious family tent–maybe one filled with thick foam mattresses and puffy down sleeping bags.
Essential Gear: MEC’s Big Agnes Big House ($549) is tall enough for adults to stand up in and roomy enough to house a bunch of rowdy eight-year-olds on a backyard sleepover adventure. Colour-coded poles and attachment points make set-ups a snap. The waterproof tent/fly fabric and seamless wrap-around bathtub floor won’t leak in a late afternoon cloudburst. Accessorize in style with a Stanley Trigger Action travel mug ($32.95) for hot coffee or cold beer and wine courtesy a Yeti Tundra cooler ($399.99).
Where to Go: With B.C. campsite bookings at a premium in summer, try remote Forest Service recreational sites in the Cariboo Chilcotin North tourism region.
If ever there was a sport that followed Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of taking 10,000 hours to achieve mastery, it’s fly fishing. For the novice, the sheer number of small, fiddly items like flies, line, tackle, knives and accessories can make the sport seem overwhelming. Most B.C. towns and cities have sportsmen’s clubs or specialty stores that can be the gateway to this very gratifying, Zen-like experience of “presenting the fly” to the fish.
Essential Gear: Patagonia’s super-lightweight convertible vest ($130) features nine pockets and is constructed from lightweight mesh to prevent waterlogging. Concentrate on your fly-casting technique, while knowing that all of your essentials are tucked away for when you need them–when The Big One is nearby or on the line.
Where to Go: Kamloops is the epicentre of trout fishing in B.C.
Overnight hikes are the next logical extension of your weekend workouts. The longer distances covered and the weight of a few days (and nights) of food, shelter and emergency supplies demands next-level footwear and other gear.
Essentials Gear: Half-shank, heavy-duty Italian leather boots that take a summer of hiking to properly “break-in” are a thing of the past. Arc’teryx does away with separate pairs of day-hiking and backpacking boots. The Acrux AR GTX ($325) is light enough for all-day “fast and light” excursions and durable (and waterproof) enough to last through many multi-day alpine treks. Unlike running shoes or light hikers, the Acrux’s lacing system goes all of the way to the toe of the boot to cradle the foot for superior support.
Where to Go: Mountain scenery doesn’t get any better than the Swiss Peaks trail in Glacier National Park.
Played in teams of two (like doubles’ tennis), pickleball is more a social occasion than a hard-nosed athletic competition. The game is known for intense rallies and rewards sharp reflexes more than brute strength; there’s nothing to be gained from trying to whack the light, hollow whiffle-ball as hard as you can.
Essential Gear: The Pickleball Depot (online, stores in Vernon and Kelowna) sells everything you need (paddles, balls and outdoor nets) to transform your driveway or street into a private pickleball paradise.
Where to Go: Most mid-sized towns and cities have pickleball clubs and helpful members to teach the rules and proper technique. Find out more on the Pickleball BC website (pickleballbc.ca).
Golf resurged in popularity with the pandemic, since groups (maximum size: four players) must play hundreds of yards apart from each other.
Essential Gear: To help judge distance from the pin, the Garmin Approach S62 watch has a three-centimetre full-colour display and “Virtual Caddy” software with details on over 41,000 golf courses around the world. You can even play virtually against other golfers.
Where to Go: Whistler‘s internationally famous courses should still be relatively uncrowded this summer, while affordable, playable municipally-owned tracks will likely be jammed with enthusiastic locals. Naturally, the course-rich Okanagan is ideal, if you live in the region or if travel rules permit.
“SUP” has evolved considerably over the past 15 years. Customize your board choice for surfing summer swell at Tofino‘s Cox Bay or for plying Kalamalka Lake’s glassy morning waters.
Essential Gear: Inflatable boards can be rolled up and carried in a backpack and don’t ding if they hit the odd submerged rock, but hard-shell boards offer more performance and speed. Shaped by Whistler jack-of-all-trades Steve Legge, Kahuna stand-up paddleboards are available in many different sizes and profiles; inflatables start at $1,299 and their sharp-looking Bamboo/EPS Warrior boards are $1,899.
Where to Go: Mountain lakes of the Coast Range, (beware of sudden weather changes in late afternoon and cold water) and oceans (experienced paddlers only in waves).
Serious weekend-warrior mountain bikers are finally taking the hint: riding a mountain bike with electric motor or drivetrain isn’t a crutch; it lets you get in way more runs on your favourite trails.
Essential Gear: North Vancouver’s Rocky Mountain Bicycles invested over a decade of research and development into the Instinct Powerplay (retail price ranges from $7,399 to $11,179 depending on choice of frame material and motor/drivetrain). The patented Powerplay battery and drive are ingeniously hidden in the bike’s frame and bottom bracket. E-mountain bikes aren’t cheap; you’ll want to educate yourself in the vagaries of battery power (just how much assist will I get?) and longevity.
Where to Go: B.C. is laced with tens of thousands of kilometres of trail, and all of them can be found using the Squamish-developed Trailforks app (free and paid versions).