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Thread: Canoe Camping: An Essential Guide - Mark Scriver

  1. #1
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    Default Canoe Camping: An Essential Guide - Mark Scriver

    Mark Scriver, Canoe Camping: An Essential Guide (Heliconia Press, Ontario, 2006) Can$19.95
    (available through Amazon.ca $14.42, at the bottom of your normal Amazon page)

    Writing a short, introductory book requires serious expertise. As Winston Churchill famously observed, he needed a long time to prepare a brief speech, while no time at all to organise a lengthy one!
    Mark Scriver’s new book is a little gem. Although he was World Champion in whitewater freestyle canoeing in 1997, and co-authored the ‘Thrill of the Paddle’ on whitewater techniques with Paul Mason, Mark has also taught and led commercial canoe trips for over twenty years – and this is the considerable experience he draws on for ‘Canoe Camping’.
    With its superb colour photography from Jock Bradley, this is just the sort of enticing book to put in the hands of a beginner who might be contemplating canoe tripping. If you feel that your friend or family member might be overwhelmed by the detail in Bill Mason’s ‘Song of the Paddle’ or Cliff Jacobson’s ‘Expedition Canoeing’, then Mark Scriver’s slim volume would be a wonderful present. I have just product tested it by leaving the book on the kitchen table, and then could not get it back!
    ‘Canoe Camping’ is definitely more Algonquin Park than the Barren Lands, more ‘bimbling’ down the Severn and the Wye than tripping in the North West Territories, so it is eminently suitable for most British canoeing locations, of which very few deserve the appellation ‘wild camping’. Indeed, the sub-headings of the three books say it all: Bill Mason’s is ‘A Guide to Wilderness Camping’; Cliff Jacobson’s is ‘A Guide to Canoeing Wild Rivers’, which was the even more forbidding first title; while Mark Scriver has boiled it down to ‘An Essential Guide’. While for the experienced veterans it may be helpful to pore over the weighty tomes with all the details, for the novice it is questionable whether they need to be overwhelmed right at the outset as to where to place the grommets on the back ridge of a Mini Campfire tent they are hand-stitching (Mason) or where to weld torque braces on the side rails of their hand-made canoe trailer (Jacobson). Plenty of time for that later on.
    Mark Scriver on the other hand glides along with ‘Canoe Camping’, showing ‘how simple and enjoyable it can be’. The contents are divided into six areas: route planning; equipment; 'on trip'; food and cooking; safety; and activities (‘the social scene’, fishing, photography, games with frisbees, and a photo of Mark with a portable guitar). While the book does not avoid some esoteric areas (e.g. satellite phones, triangulation with and without a GPS, and that perennial of outdoor trips, ‘managing human waste’ - cue photo of Mark on a pit toilet in the Algonquin) there is throughout a relaxed, conversational style. Indeed, at times you feel as if a tape-recorder was running while Mark Scriver, experienced Black Feather Wilderness Adventures guide that he is, was answering Frequently Asked Questions around the campfire!
    Certainly the emphasis is on ‘smoothing it’ rather than ‘roughing it’. Lurid tales of swarming, biting insects, hypothermic days imprisoned in a barely standing tent, and the insanity of vertical portaging – often a feature of canoeing literature – play no part in this book. Only right at the very end do we get a short paragraph on ‘whitewater’, suggesting it can be ‘relaxing and enjoyable’ as well as for the ‘hardcore adventure seekers’, but sensibly recommending a paddling course to explore the topic further. This is ‘quietwater’ all the way, and it is significant that paragraphs on ‘camping with dogs’, ‘keeping the group smiling’, ‘baking’, and ‘tarpology’ (with some excellent illustrations by Mark’s friend Paul Mason) loom so much larger in the book.
    Indeed, most of the topics find easy resonance with so many posts on the SotP website, even with the obligatory Bill Mason quote that ‘anyone who says they enjoy portaging is either a fool or a liar’. Mark Scriver’s supplementary comment is that you can derive ‘real satisfaction’ from the accomplishment and ‘it can give you access to pristine inland areas that you would otherwise miss’. There are practical tips throughout, some superb ‘basic lists’ on equipment and menus, and a conscious eschewing of advertising and brand naming – a slight slip occurs when ‘sleeping pads’ suddenly turns much later on into a warning of the potential for fast-rising waters when camped close to shore: ‘I rolled off my Therm-a-Rest at 5am….’
    As a starter, easy-to-read beginner’s guide to canoe camping, you could not do any better than Mark Scriver’s book. Of course there will always be a debate about what you leave out of an ‘essential guide’, so as not to engulf the novice – perhaps controversially from a British perspective, nothing at all on hammocks (!); nothing on that canoeing essential the Kelly Kettle (and even an admonition against aluminium pots on the unproved Alzheimer’s theory); and nothing of course in a Canadian book, perhaps mercifully, on the straitjacket need to adhere to BCU Star test syllabi for your strokes and techniques!
    But when you have an author who passes quickly over a short passage on cooking stoves to start the lyrical next section with ‘Cooking on a wood fire is a romantic art form and an encompassing experience’, the spirits lift.
    There are some minor blemishes: we are told repetitively within just a few lines that ‘topo’ maps are available ‘for almost every/any area in the world’, pp 40/41); there is no index, although there is a short glossary; and there is no bibliography for the ‘postgraduate’ stage – perhaps it is just too obvious – ‘Song of the Paddle’ of course!
    In summary, if you have a friend or young family member who is asking what the joys of canoe camping are actually all about, thrust this book into their hands. They are very likely to be hooked by the photos and their captions alone. And the text is well worth a serious read by even the most knowledgeable expert, certainly for the easy manner in which the delights of canoe camping can be portrayed to beginners.

    Heliconia Press: www.helipress.com/products_books_canoecamp.html
    Black Feather Wilderness Adventure: www.blackfeather.com
    Amazon.ca: www.amazon.ca/Canoe-Camping-Mark-Scriver/dp/1896980228
    Last edited by MagiKelly; 25th-August-2006 at 11:06 AM. Reason: Fix font

  2. #2
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    Another review for the main site and a super sounding book. Off to have a look at ordering a copy now.
    John

  3. #3
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    One in stock in UK

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1...books&v=glance

    and a few available new and second hand through the link for a good price too.
    John

  4. #4
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    May 2006
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    I looked at that at Chapters here in Canada; Not a bad looking book. Angela liked the recipe section. The Author is an acquaintance of my friend Wayne.
    Lloyd

    Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug...


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