Week Of ManCamping Women: The (Real) Origin of ManCamping

Kirsten’s second story for today! Showing the boys how it’s done! lol
The (Real) Origin of ManCamping

By: Kirsten Graham-May


The first time I heard about ManCamping I had to check out their website to find out what exactly this gender-specific form of camping entailed. [ManCamping: “Hey Now?!?!”] (Turns out it’s a lack of planning thing so it’s no wonder I hadn’t heard about it!) [ManCamping: “That’s better lol”] While poking around, I came across the 2014 vlog “Johnny ManCamping + Killarney Day 1” which immediately brought to mind a story from a long time ago involving the same portages in Killarney.

It was the summer of 1994. My best friend, Vicki, and I were embarking on our first canoe trip without adult supervision. We’d both done extensive backcountry tripping with family and school groups but this time it was going to be just us; she was 15 and I, 16.


We chose a relatively challenging 5-night route in northern Killarney Provincial Park. I’d canoed in that area a number of times and knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into: portages in this more remote area of the park are not for the faint-of-heart. We had my dad’s beautiful – and surprisingly light – cedar strip canoe, two packs, and a few loose bits of gear.


Colour film did not exist in 1994. Neither did digital cameras. Or PFDs.



We, of course, did not subscribe to the ManCamping philosophy. Rather, we knew our limits and planned this trip with extra time to account for double-portaging throughout: first load over was one of us with the canoe and the other with our food pack; second load over was the lighter pack and loose gear. The advantage to this portaging strategy – besides not hurting ourselves, ManCamping-style – was that we could enjoy the walk back for the second load and, in the case of one of us, actually see the portage without the canoehead blinders.


Approaching the La Cloche “bloody-ass” mountain range.



We conquered the 1700-metre portage between Frood and Grace Lakes using this strategy without issue; next was the 2000-metre rugged portage from Grace to Nellie Lake, with a pretty mean series of topo lines to cross. The first pass over was uneventful with a few breaks to swap canoe and food pack. As we were heading back for our second round of gear, we met a group of six guys in their early 20’s who clearly were not embracing this portage. They had three canoes which they were carrying – well, dragging, really – underhand between two people. You know, the kind of carry one might use to move a canoe a few metres and not the technique typically applied to a two kilometre portage. Each guy had a large pack on and the canoes were also filled with gear – including coolers which I can only assume contained more than just food. They were at the stage of communicating in the form of grunts interspersed with choice, colourful vocabulary. [ManCamping Note: This was not actually us…This time lol] As we approached, we greeted them and they seemed quite surprised to see us. However, their reaction to meeting two young ladies in a fairly remote part of Killarney on a brutal portage paled in comparison to the looks on their faces when we offered to help them carry their gear! They were clearly mortified, grunted a response we innocently took to be “no thanks”, and continued to haul their stuff inefficiently up the rocky path. However, the icing on the cake was when we caught up to them with our second and final load of gear before they had even reached Nellie Lake. Indeed, they’d been lapped by two highschool girls!


The view the future ManCamping boys had of us when we lapped them on the portage.


Johnny’s description of the ordeal of accessing Nellie Lake in the ManCamping vlog – “up and over a bloody-ass mountain” were his exact words – is so on-point that I question if perhaps Vicki and I had, in fact, met the future founders of ManCamping on that portage way back in 1994. If so, Johnny and Scot owe us a beer for the inspiration! You’re welcome.

One Response to “Week Of ManCamping Women: The (Real) Origin of ManCamping

  • terry graham
    3 months ago

    The (former) owner of the canoe remembers this adventure very well. Your mother and I were nervous about you during the trip, but had confidence in your abilities. We loved this and other stories you shared with us afterwards. You left out that during the trip you and vicki were renamed Muscles and Brains!

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