Camping out in Gatineau Park, even in winter

Published on February 9 2018

Text and cover 📸: Martin Desbiens

If you follow my Facebook page La Santé et Plus, you’ll know that Gatineau Park is top of my list of outdoor playgrounds. The park’s accessibility and diversity are big assets when it comes to enjoying my favourite activities. And winter is my favourite season: it calms me down and helps me recharge.

A beautiful week-end, coming up!

Last January 13, my partner and I and three other couples gathered in Wakefield, 30 minutes north of Gatineau, to kick off a winter camping weekend in Gatineau Park, which is managed by the National Capital Commission. Our destination: the Brown Lake Cabin.

Planning is key to the success and enjoyment of this kind of trip: you need to plan your meals and organize your gear well before you go. As it happens, planning is one of my strong suits. And so, a few days before our departure date, I scheduled a group chat to finalize our game plan. We also needed to figure out an alternative way to get to the cabin, in case Mother Nature pulled a fast one and wiped out the cross-country ski trail to our home away from home.

Preparing our stay

By noon on Saturday we were all set to go. The Brown Lake Cabin has several features that make it an attractive choice. For instance, we opted to have our bags and water delivered. It simplified the planning process, but those extras come at a price, and you have to be prepared to pay. Of course, you can choose to “hump the bag” and carry in all your personal items and food, but that requires more detailed planning in terms of gear and meals; you’ll also need to bring enough water for your stay. Don’t panic: if worst comes to worst, you can always melt snow! The cabin is equipped with basic kitchen implements (pots and pans, dishes and utensils), partial solar power, and a gas back-up heating system that takes the chill off even at night, so a three-season sleeping bag should do just fine.

Martin Desbiens
Martin Desbiens

Bagage delivery!

Food-wise, we had agreed on fondue for our main meal. A great opportunity to engage in conversation, share a few laughs, and make the fun last longer! Away from the constant distraction of our iPhones and iPads, we enjoyed an evening straight out of a kinder, gentler time: fondue, board games, and singing in front of the fire, all by old-fashioned candlelight.

Until next time!

Of course, fresh air and winter sports were the focus of the weekend, but looking back, I realize that it was about much more than that. The cross-country ski trails were closed that weekend for lack of snow, so we took long walks along the snowshoe trails and spent lots of time chatting, admiring the scenery, stoking the fire, and preparing meals together. These simple activities not only kept us pleasantly occupied, but strengthened the bonds of friendship between us and gave us some much-needed down time.

I love the Outaouais! One minute you’re downtown, and the next you’re out in the heart of nature in a vast conservation park.

Needless to say, our weekend experience was an unqualified success. We’ll definitely be repeating it!


Martin Desbiens is passionnate about skiing and cycling. he promotes a healthy lifestyle on his facebook page La Santé et Plus.

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