Life and Goals | Voyages

10 Things to Pack for a Cabin Getaway

October 18, 2017

This time of the year is perfect for cabin getaways. In Canada, we call them so, but in Europe, it will be more like a “countryside retreat” or “escape.” Nevertheless, these getaways have a common point: they imply nature, therefore you’ll find them in the middle of nowhere. Even when packing light you have to consider few things before living your home sweet home for this kind of getaways.

What is a “Cabin Getaway” anyway?

These cabin weekends are very famous in Canada because Canadian living is all about cabins in the woods traditionally “eh”? Well, it’s not far from, but I must admit this tradition is much stronger in Quebec than in Ontario for example. Maybe because they are fewer immigrants in “Old France” so old habits are stronger. What remains is, we lived in Montreal for 5 years and one of the traditions we kept from these years are the cabin getaways. We simply love them.

If the ideal cabin (think no overlooked, with a chimney and an outdoor fireplace, a BBQ, an access to the lake on which we have a gorgeous open view, everything we need to navigate on the lake of course,… ok that’s a lot but I said “ideal”) is far more difficult to find from Toronto than it was from Montreal, we are ready to drive for hours in order to enjoy few days in the woods. For a family who even doesn’t own a car and tries to avoid driving when possible, that’s much to say!

So, we are talking about a getaway in nature far from everything “city” minded. October is just the ideal month to do this kind of escape. There’re no mosquitos, believe me in Canada this is an important criterion, it’s not to warm, but still not cold enough to spend hours outside without heavy clothes on the back.

Why considering a packing list closely?

Well first, the idea, as I said, is to get away from the city. In that case, spending hours in a shopping centre, looking for forgotten essentials is a no-no.

Second, we can go on the opposite side very easily when packing and take so much even for a long weekend, that we can’t close the car doors anymore… so consider everything you bring carefully. You will have a car for sure, you can’t possibly go in a remote place with public transports. But your car is not extendable, so don’t overpack!

10 important things you have to keep in mind

Here they come, my 10 things to keep in mind because as usual, I don’t like to give an “ultimate list” which could not possibly be suitable for everyone!

  • toiletry essentials

Make sure the place you rented has towels available for you, you can so very much need them because of the lake and possible rain. Yes during a cabin getaway, you are allowed to go outside when it’s raining too! So enjoy, but make sure you’ll have towels.

You must stay clean, because the water of the lake may not be polluted, but it also can be not so clear. You will appreciate having a good shower after an expected or unexpected bath.

When thinking towels, think bed sheets as well, it’s a bad surprise to arrive in the middle of nowhere and find naked beds with not even a blanket to sleep with… true fact here! Fortunately for us, the landlady was very kind and was actually welcoming us personally, so everything was sorted eventually.

  • keep warm

Campfires keep warm, but early morning there is no greater feeling, in my opinion, than having your favourite hot beverage outside watching the sunrise on the lake. As it can be pretty fresh, don’t underestimate the use of a warm jacket. Much needed at night too, or after a cold bath in the lake..

  • keep dry

As I mentioned, this is where you go to enjoy the beautiful and quiet outdoor. Don’t let the rain stop you: be sure to have a waterproof jacket. These are very useful too for canoe or paddling rides when it’s not warm enough to go in the water. These jackets are perfect to keep on, to stay warm and not fear to fall into the water as it may also happen.

  • stay active

Walking, fishing, wood carving, animal/bird watching, whatever you have a passion for, bring everything you need to embrace it wholeheartedly!

You must also bring some appropriate shoes: wellingtons such as Hunters are perfect: waterproof and easy to put on. Walking boots are great too: you don’t need to lace them up if you stay around the cabin and need a quick go inside/outside: put your laces in the shoes and put them on afterward! We love these from Decathlon for people in Europe.


  • enjoy the campfire

For us, there’s absolutely no way a cabin doesn’t have lake access and an outdoor fireplace! We indulge many things we don’t eat the rest of the year on that particular occasion: grilled marshmallows, sausages. I must admit here that our family is spending a lot of time watching the fire. We taught our two kids very early to manage it properly and safely and lit it efficiently by the way. Our thought here is: better knowing what to do instead of risking a hidden dangerous try!

So who says fire says fire sticks. there’s no better reward than using a self-carved stick to grill a marshmallow or a sausage! Our kids learnt to do so as well, with swiss army knives for kids. Once again, better know what to do than having an accident. Proper clothes are essential too, especially for younger kids. If adults know that synthetic clothes are not going well with fire, sometimes younger ones could forget it. They may be distracted, or simply need to get closer, so think warm natural fiber such as cotton and wool (merino is great here, its light, and dry fast, it often goes with the rest of the laundry in the washing machine Icebreaker is famous, but some cheaper great ones are available at Decathlon in Europe).

  • enjoy the water

Who says lake says maybe swimming too! Depending on the temperature for sure, but anyway going on water definitely is an option. So don’t forget your swimming suit, and/or synthetic shorts so they dry fast and, of course, water-proof jackets. Be sure, at least for your younger kids, but for everyone is the safest, to have life jackets too. If they don’t have any at the cabin for your, consider buying some. At Decathlon in Europe, or Canadian Tire in Canada, for example, it’s not expensive at all, your kids’ safety is definitely worth it!

  • time for family

Think card games, board games, whatever family time you would like to have if by any chance it was raining so much that you’d have to spend some time inside.

Our family favourites: Uno, Jungle Speed, Rami, Citadels, Time Line, …

I didn’t name “books” in my list because this is obvious, even if, thinking well, a cabin weekend is not so usual so maybe you should stay focus on outdoor activities, and family time…?

  • water!

Oh yes! don’t forget to bring your own drinkable water for the time you stay! Most, if not all, the cabins take their water in the lake, and you’ll often find out that you really don’t want to drink it… You have a car, don’t be afraid of bringing more than you need. Remember how important drinking water is!

  • meal planning

You definitely don’t want to spend half a day in a grocery store during a long weekend. Well, I don’t want to spend hours in a grocery store during a long weekend! That’s why I plan very careful everything we need to enjoy our stay. That’s the time we indulge food we usually don’t eat. That mean chips, meat for the bbq, marshmallows, chocolate spread for the breakfast (Ok this one maybe we sometimes have it during non-cabin weekends!). We don’t drink alcohol, but I’m assuming that red wine or beer could do if you are in that kind of beverages… Don’t forget lots of your favourite hot drinks, tea, coffee, cocoa,… We personally can’t do without a traditional Quebec “Tarte au sucre” (sugar pie). Whatever you need to be filled with good comforting food. If there’s one place for this it definitely is the cabin in the woods!

  • What you don’t bring!

Definitely, forget about the TV! Forget your phones as much as possible, except for photos maybe, or taking notes. If like me you are working when you travel, well that’s okay but try to limit your screen time to the minimum. Don’t forget this is the time for outdoor and family/friends time. Try to avoid as much as possible everything involving a screen!

To find more packing tips:

10 ideas for a successful light packing this autumn

How to pack light for 4+ days in the summer


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