luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity
Let's get adventure-ready!
Please read through the sections of this page, as they contain some valuable information you’ll need to take into consideration when packing and preparing for our adventure. If you have any questions about the information here, please ask.
The information below is designed to cover all my workshops & private lessons. Please select the relevant location, and also review the suggested packing lists and helpful tips. Click on the sub-heading to read the relevant information.
Algonquin Provincial Park Information
Algonquin Provincial Park is huge - 7,635 square kilometres to be exact! We'll be exploring a small portion of it at the southern end along what's known as the Highway 60 corridor. Hwy 60 is a major highway (80km/h) that runs through the park. Along the corridor are wonderful landscape and wildlife opportunities. There are also a number of trails and campgrounds, and a few dirt roads worth exploring. While there are both West and East gates, they're not actual gates that open and close. Traffic through the park is 24 hours.
There are limited - and seasonal - facilities in the park, so here are a few recommendations to ensure your comfort:
Flush toilets are available year-round at the West & East Gate, Mew Lake Campground, and the Visitor's Centre. Please come physically and mentally prepared to use the great outdoors (or outhouses), and remember that you must pack out all garbage, including toilet paper. I'd suggest bringing two ziplock bags - one with fresh toilet paper (to keep it dry!), and one for used toilet paper.
I highly recommend bringing snacks and hydration. Options in the park are limited. There is a small cafe in the park operated by Algonquin Outfitters and open seasonally (May - October), but it is slow and often very busy. If you'd like a good meal, I do recommend The Mad Musher in Whitney for your mid-day break, or dinner - it is your closest, fastest and tastiest option. You might also be interested in checking out one of the three lodges (open seasonally May - October) in the park for fancier meals, but times are often limited and not convenient for photographers. Other options are The Algonquin Lunch Bar in Whitney, and Erika's Bakery, Henrietta's Bakery, and The Cookhouse in Dwight. It's best to look online at their hours or call ahead to ensure they'll be open at suitable times during your visit.
Algonquin Park Day Use Permit Information
Permits are required. You will need a Day Use Vehicle Permit for each day you are in the park. Day passes are valid from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., but there's no one monitoring traffic into and out of the park, except during the peak fall colour season (late September to early October). For the most up-to-date information about purchasing your day use vehicle permit, please visit: https://algonquinpark.on.ca/visit/general_park_info/fees-day-use.php
IF a vehicle permit is included in the cost of your private adventure, I will provide you with the permit when we meet, and you will return it at the end of our time together. Please send me your license plate number and the province/state of issue. If you plan to enjoy the park before or after your adventure, you will need to purchase a day use permit.
Where to Stay for Algonquin Park Adventures
There are only three accommodation providers located in Algonquin Park: Killarney Lodge, Bartlett Lodge, and Arowhon Pines. All three offer meal plans and are on the higher end cost-wise. These providers are only open seasonally (May to October). Please note that meal times may not be suitable for group workshop itineraries. Your best bet is to stay either in Dwight, which is 15 minutes west of the park, or Whitney 5 minutes east of the park. November to April, I often recommend staying on the west side of Algonquin Park, as there are more options open for both accommodations and restaurants. If you're participating in an Algonquin Backcountry Adventure, I recommend staying on the east side of Algonquin Park in Whitney, as our water taxi departs from Algonquin Outfitter's Opeongo Store, which is on the east side of the park.
Since everyone has different expectations and budgets, I do not recommend places to stay. Please keep in mind that many of these establishments are independent and locally owned and cater to seasonal clientele who are spending most of their time outdoors. Decor is often dated, and amenities are different than what you typically find at chain hotels in cities. If you have specific needs, please ensure the facility you choose offers it. Examples include tea/coffee station, kitchenette, fridge. There are also AirBNB options in the area -- I'd recommend searching for Dwight and Whitney.
Here is a list of some of the accommodation providers in the area to help you with your search:
Dwight (15 minutes from Algonquin Park's west gate)
The Blue Spruce Resort - This comes highly recommend by all my clients who have stayed here
Wolf Den Nature Retreat Hostel & Cabins - The eco-cabins come highly recommended by all my clients who have stayed there
Huntsville (35 minutes from Algonquin Park's west gate)
Whitney (5 minutes from Algonquin Park's east gate)
The Mad Musher Restaurant & Riverside Rooms - This hostel-style accommodation is where I stay when I need a room
Algonquin Rolling Rapids Motel
And, of course, camping in the park is an option. Mew Lake campground is open year-round. It offers tent camping, yurts and RV hook-ups.
There are no fuel stations in Algonquin Park, so please "gas up" prior to our adventure and when you have the opportunity throughout. Your best bet is to fuel up in one of the larger centres on your way to Algonquin Park (i.e. Huntsville), as the cost of fuel tends to be considerably cheaper. There is a gas station in Dwight at the intersection of Hwys 35 & 60, about 15 minutes from the west gate, as well as two gas stations in Whitney (both full service), about 5 minutes from the east gate. None of these options is open 24 hours, so please be mindful of your fuel level. The stretch of Hwy 60 that we travel through the park is 56km long from gate to gate, not including adventures down other roads. If you need to get fuel, please speak up!
The district of Muskoka is made up of a number of small towns. The "big three" from south to north are: Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, & Huntsville. The area is quite large, and travel within the region always involves going around a lake (or two).
Where to Stay for Muskoka Adventures
There are lots of options for hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts & Air BNBs in the area, as a quick Google search will reveal. I do recommend checking out the list of providers compiled by Discover Muskoka. Since everyone has different expectations and budgets, I do not recommend places to stay. But here is a list of some of the accommodation providers in the area:
Bracebridge (I typically recommend staying in Bracebridge as it's central to everything)
Windermere House in Windermere
Sherwood Inn in Port Carling
Suggested Photography Equipment
This list is designed to be an exhaustive list of equipment you may wish to bring if you have it. You only require the basics - camera, lens, battery, memory card. Please also consider your adventure, and its focus. For example, I recommend a "keep it simple" approach for backcountry adventures, and a tripod for waterfall workshops.
DSLR / mirrorless camera(s)
Wide angle lens for landscape photos (traditionally 24mm or wider focal length)
Telephoto lens for wildlife photos (traditionally 200mm or longer focal length)
Fully charged camera battery & spare battery - bring as many as you have
Battery charger (pack this in your bag as soon as you've finished charging your batteries!)
Formatted (empty) memory card(s) - bring as many as you have
Tripod: legs, head (ball head, gimbal or whatever you use) and quick release plate(s) to attached your camera to your tripod - highly recommended for waterfalls, sunrises, and sunsets in particular.
Wireless or cable shutter release/remote for long exposures (if you do not have, you can use mirror lock-up and the self-timer) - recommended for waterfalls, sunrises, and sunsets
Microfiber cloths, lens pen, or whatever you use to clean your len's glass - consider bringing at least three of these when photographing waterfalls
Filters for landscape photos: circular polarizer, neutral density, graduated neutral density are the three most common
Rain cover to keep rain/snow off your camera (Henry's has a 2-pack of rain sleeves, but ziplock bags will do in a pinch!)
A rain cover for your bag (some are detachable & easy to forget). If you don't have a rain cover, consider bringing a plastic garbage bag.
Camera strap or whatever you use to carry your camera on your person. (I use a Cotton Carrier halter. Use code H-CREW for a 10% discount.)
Comfortable bag for carrying desired gear while hiking - please make sure you're comfortable carrying your bag and whatever is in it. Extra gear can be left in your room or vehicle. If doing a backcountry adventure, consider a dry-bag instead of a traditional camera bag. For dry-bag tips, please see equipment tips below.
Camera manual(s) - we'll be discussing settings and I don't necessarily know where to find them in every camera. Plus, they come in handy in the event you need to understand a dreaded error code.
Laptop computer and/or storage device and proper cables & memory card reader IF you wish to clear your cards or look at your images each evening.
Suggested Personal Items
Again, this list is exhaustive, so please keep the season in mind when packing for your workshop. I'd highly recommend taking a look at the weather forecast for the area to help anticipate your needs. And remember, even just two hours north of Toronto sees a significant difference in weather. Algonquin Highlands, Dwight, and Whitney should give you a more accurate forecast when searching your weather app.
Layered clothing (in all seasons) -- we will be walking & standing in changing weather for substantial amounts of time. Layering allows you to add or remove as necessary to ensure your personal comfort as both your body and the outside temperatures fluctuate. Even in the summer, temperatures can dip, so it's best if you're prepared for anything! In spring and summer, I recommend light, neutral coloured clothing, as bugs are attracted to dark colours.
Proper footwear, including socks, and sturdy boots/shoes you can hike in -- waterproof is always beneficial when hiking in the event we encounter muddy or wet areas. Winter boots are essential for workshops during the winter. For Backcountry Adventures, we are in canoes most of the time with just a couple of brief stops on land (no hiking).
Rain jacket / winter jacket / waterproof jacket & pants - we will be out rain, snow or shine! For Backcountry Adventures, our day starts and ends with a speedboat ride, so a windbreaker and warm hat (like a toque that will stay on your head) are advised.
One full set of spare clothes as an emergency precaution. In the event you get wet when out hiking, you will want to have a spare set of clothes in the car to change into immediately. I keep mine in a small backpack with my car battery booster.
Sunglasses (even in winter - sun on snow is bright!)
Hat for sun or cold weather protection
Buff / multifunctional headwear
Gloves and any cold weather gear you use, such as hand warmers. For Backcountry Adventures, you may want to consider something like those thin work gloves with nitrile coated palms, or wool liner gloves.
Bug spray (whatever works for you!) in spring and summer (mid-May to early August) - containing DEET or Picaridin. I use Deep Woods Off on my clothes and a combination of natural products on my skin. Bugs we can experience include black flies, mosquitoes, deer & horse flies. Bug spray is mandatory for Backcountry Adventures.
Bug jacket or bug hat are essential mid-May to early August and mandatory for Algonquin Backcountry Adventures. In order to be effective, the mesh on your bug jacket or hat must not touch your face. I find wearing a baseball hat underneath my bug hat or jacket is very helpful. I use Ben's Invisinet and The Original Bug Shirt. You likely will not need to have your head covered most of the time when paddling, but will when we go on land. We have affectionally dubbed one spot we stop, "Bug Island". Other bug considerations include using a Thermacell device, and wearing clothes pretreated with permethrin.
Any currently recommended or mandated PPE (face covering/mask, hand sanitizer etc.)
Headlamp or flashlight -- we may be hiking to and from sunrise/sunset locations in the dark
Hiking/trekking poles if you have/use
Snowshoes and crampons/ice cleats. Early December to early April, snowshoes may help you navigate trails more easily. Ice cleats/crampons are good from late December to early May, as snow has compacted and the trails can be very icy. In early spring, sometimes all that's left on trails is ice from winter travel.
Water bottle(s) & travel mug/thermos
Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, & sealable plastic bag for trash - you must pack out all garbage, including toilet paper!
Medications, glasses, other personal comfort items as necessary - please consider bringing a small medical kit with items like Benedryl, bandages, ointment and pain killers. These can be useful for emergencies, as well as things like bug bites and blisters.
NOTE: Please do not wear body spray/perfume/cologne. I recommend going as scentless as possible to help improve our chances of tracking wildlife, as well as keeping bugs at bay. I try to ensure everything I'm using is unscented/fragrance-free -- deodorant, soap, moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner, and sensitive formula laundry detergent.
Towel to keep in the car in case you or your gear get muddy or wet. Also helpful for drying off your feet and legs on Backcountry Adventures
Windshield wiper scraper
Mobile phone and charger - we may find it handy/necessary to text (although I have 2-way radios for when we're in our cars)
Photography Equipment Tips
Have more than one camera body?
Consider setting them up so one is dedicated for landscapes and the other for wildlife. I like to keep my wildlife setup accessible (carried on my person and ready to use - lens hood on & forward, lens cap off, camera turned on, settings appropriate), while my landscape setup is packed in my bag and on my back.
Which to use?
If one body has a full frame sensor and one a crop sensor, use the full frame sensor for landscape and the crop for wildlife.
If both bodies have the same sensor size, use the camera with a faster frames per second rate, better ISO capabilities, or better auto focusing system for wildlife.
Whenever I hit the trail, I'm always prepared for wildlife encounters. I use a Cotton Carrier camera harness and carry my camera with telephoto lens attached. If I'm interested in photographing landscapes, I'll carry my camera bag on my back with my landscape gear, and tripod strapped to my bag. I also include safety gear, rain gear, snacks, and water in my bag, as well as spare batteries and memory cards. If I'm not interested in photographing landscapes, instead of bringing my full camera bag, I'll bring a small bag to pack my safety gear, rain gear, snacks, water, spare batteries and memory cards. I can advise you of what I'd recommend, but ultimately, how much you carry is up to you!
When I'm in my canoe or kayak, I keep my gear simple to avoid too much fussing around. I take only one camera body and two lenses - a telephoto zoom lens (100-400mm, which I keep on my camera), and a landscape or macro lens. Most of the time, I don't switch lenses. I've asked a number of clients what they'd recommend after going on a backcountry adventure and they've agreed - a telephoto zoom lens was their go-to (if they had a choice). That being said, macro enthusiasts said they'd pack a macro lens next time instead of a landscape lens. The creek is reasonably wide with the closest opportunities being frogs and flora we glide past. I pack my camera in a dry-bag. If using a dry-bag for the first time with your gear, please test it at home to ensure you can roll the top enough to close it properly with your camera (and anything else you're planning to put in the bag) inside. I have used a 30L Seal Line Baja bag for my Canon 1DX with 100-400mm lens attached, and then I usually wrap a towel around it for cushioning. Any time I'm entering or exiting the boat, I put my gear in the dry bag and seal it. When simply paddling, the bag is open and my gear is accessible and ready for photo opportunities. I would recommend bringing an extra towel to drape over your gear during these times to catch any drips from your paddle, an extra microfiber in a ziplock sandwich bag is also good to have close at hand. I do also bring a smaller dry bag (like a waist pack) to keep my phone, spare battery, and memory cards in.
Shooting in cold weather?
Don't crank the heat in your car, as this could warm up your camera and lens to the point that you'll get condensation on the lens with the temperature change from getting into and out of your vehicle. Try using your seat warmers (if you're lucky to have them!) to keep your body warm instead.
To stop your lens from fogging up due to the temperature change, try putting your camera in a large plastic bag to allow it to acclimatize slowly. Also, putting your camera in your back seat may help. Be careful not to breathe on your eye-piece as this will fog it up. You may find the warmth from your face is enough to fog it up, so keep a microfibre handy, or hold your camera away from your face as much as possible. You can try the snorkelling trick or rubbing a little bit of saliva on your viewfinder, but I've had varying rates of success with this.
Keep your spare battery in your inside jacket pocket to keep it warm. Cold weather drains batteries quickly!
Personal Items Tips
Be prepared for everything!
I carry one full set of clothes in my trunk with a car battery booster, as well as snacks, an emergency kit, and hydration. This ensures I'm prepared for anything!
When I get in my car, I place my gloves and hat on my dashboard - these keep them warm and help dry them off. Also, if I know I'm going to be in my car for a while, I'll strip off my outer layer to make sure I don't overheat, or feel colder when I get out of my car again.
Snacks & hydration!
The best photo opportunities come at the most inconvenient times. If you have plenty of snacks and hydration in your vehicle, you can help reduce the chance you'll miss opportunities because you were hungry! I highly recommend you bring more hydration than you think you'll need. One water bottle is not sufficient for any of my adventures, and there won't be a place for you to refill it.
Download my simple packing list here: