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Exploring the backcountry in the national parks is real a privilege! But be aware that travelling in these protected areas requires the utmost respect for nature. An expedition in the backcountry requires particular skills and physical abilities if you want to travel independently and in harmony with nature.
For your safety and that of the members of your group, read this document in its entirety.
Before submitting an application for authorization to travel in the backcountry, you must be aware that help is far away and that your safety is your responsibility. Adequate preparation is required. First ask yourself if you have the skills, abilities and fitness level to undertake this kind of expedition. This reflection will help you choose a route based on the skills of all members of your group. A stay in the backcountry involves certain risks, and it’s important to know what they are so you can prepare for them and be ready to react appropriately.
We invite you to consult our tip sheets about activities and stays offered by Société des établissements de plein air du Québec (Sépaq). Some organizations can help you plan your stay and your activities safely. Don’t hesitate to contact them.
No patrols are made in these portions of the national parks. Emergency services are far away and access to the backcountry is particularly difficult. For incidents requiring immediate care or evacuation, wait time can be very long (sometimes several days). The isolation of these sectors means that there is no cell phone service. A first aid kit and knowledge of how to apply first aid in remote areas are essential in emergency situations.
Costs related to search and rescue operations are solely the responsibility of the recipient. We strongly recommend checking whether or not your insurance company covers these costs. Otherwise, some private companies, such as Airmédic, offer the possibility of benefiting from such services by becoming a member of their organization.
No verifications will be made as to your return. It is your responsibility to give someone you trust a copy of your itinerary, making sure to indicate the date and times of your return and instructing the person to contact emergency services (911) in the event of your absence.
Even in the summer, weather conditions can change quickly from mild to severe, especially in mountainous areas subject to high winds. Temperature variations on the same day can be considerable.
Damp weather at near freezing temperatures can cause risks of hypothermia and even death.
Minimizing our impact on the natural environment is a duty. The behaviour we adopt in the backcountry must constantly be guided by the desire to preserve the integrity of nature and our surroundings so that other visitors can fully enjoy the same privilege.
Parcs Québec considers the application of Leave no trace principles as the reference for backcountry behaviours in the national parks.
The 7 principles are:
For safety reasons, it is recommended to go in groups of a minimum of 3 people. To minimize disturbance and impacts on the natural environment, the group must be composed of no more than 8 people.
The consent of a holder of parental authority is required for minors (17 and under) to participate in a backcountry expedition The minimum ratio to respect for a group including minors is one adult for 7 minors.
The sites chosen for your camp must be at least one kilometre from any existing infrastructure (campground, trail, hut, shelter, etc.). Always with the objective of minimizing impacts and respecting Leave no trace principles, you must move your campsite daily in the summer, and use mainly durable surfaces.
In the winter a base camp can be set up for a maximum of 3 nights.
Don’t forget that the feeling of being alone in the world contributes greatly to the magic of such an adventure; so make sure to respect the privacy of others.
Maximum of 8 nights inside national park boundaries.
During your stay, you can enjoy some fishing. See the terms and conditions for day fishing. Before leaving home, make sure to have your fishing right of access and your fishing licence.
It is prohibited to make fires in the backcountry. Bring a campstove for cooking.
Domestic animals are prohibited in the national parks.
Be sure to respect the vocation of the road you are using.
The isolation and topography of these areas limit the use of cell phones. It is recommended to include a satellite communication device in your equipment. Although these radios are not infallible, they are more reliable than cell phones.
Wear weather-appropriate clothing. Keep dry clothing on hand for rest periods and for once you’ve reached your overnight destination. The first sign of hypothermia is a chill that runs throughout the body. Watch out for hypothermia! Changing into dry clothing, having a hot non-alcoholic drink and eating are appropriate remedies.
Itineraries lasting several days require more preparation. Hikers must be able to travel in all types of conditions. A change in the weather or your physical condition can greatly affect the level of difficulty or your travelling speed. Off the trails, in ideal conditions an experienced group rarely moves faster than 2 km/h. The best way to travel is at a steady pace with time to enjoy the scenery.
In a forest environment or when there’s fog, hikers can easily become disoriented. It is important to notice your location when you know where you are. In short, don’t wait to be lost to try to find your way back on the map. It is therefore essential for one person in the group to be accustomed to reading topographical maps and using a compass or GPS, or both.
Generally speaking, all slopes that are great for skiing may be at risk for avalanches. To reduce this risk, you should have all the information necessary to evaluate the stability of the snow and to make the best choices. You must be able to react if an avalanche occurs. Having the right equipment is a must (avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe), as is knowing how to use it. Finally, before heading out, check current snow conditions and the weather forecast.
If you’re very careful about diet and hydration, it will be easier to maintain a comfortable body temperature. You’ll also have more energy for hiking and you’ll be more alert if you have to deal with the unexpected. Always have a few extra snacks on hand in case you need them.
Make sure to have enough drinking water. The minimum daily consumption for an adult is 2 litres. Proper hydration helps regulate body temperature and reduce the risk of muscle cramps.
Plan on how you will treat water for drinking. Bring a filter, a purifier, or drops and tablets.
No matter what the brand, model or price of the technical equipment you’ll be taking on the expedition, it’s important to be familiar with them.
Choose your backpack based on the weight of your baggage and your physical stature. Take the time to adjust your backpack wearing the clothes you’ll be wearing during your hike.
Hikers must carry out all waste, even biodegradable waste. This rule not only applies to the trails and huts, but also to the backcountry far from services and activities.
During your hike, you’ll be moving through the natural habitats of several wildlife species. By nature, these animals are not very aggressive. However, if you try to get too close to them, their survival instinct could translate into dangerous behaviour.
A Fracture, dislocation or sprain
It’s best to use a walking stick. Despite these precautions, if a member of your group gets a fracture, apply something cold to the injury and stabilize the part of the body affected.
Don’t head out on a hike without having walked in your new shoes several times for at least 15 minutes each time. During the hike, keep your feet dry and protect areas prone to blisters with a Elastoplast strip. Despite these precautions, if you have a blister, apply a bandage to prevent it from bursting in order to keep the area sterile and to give the skin time to heal. If the blister is punctured, disinfect the wound and cover it with antibiotic cream and a bandage.
Wear sunglasses with adequate UV protection, even when the sky is grey. Despite this precaution, if you come down with an inflammation of the eye, keep your eyes open, even in the dark.
Mild or Severe Wounds
It is always recommended to handle equipment safely, such as knives, axes, campstoves, etc. Despite these precautions, if you get hurt, disinfect the wound with an antiseptic and cover it with a bandage. To prevent infection in serious injuries it is essential to cover them with sterile gauze. Serious wounds require immediate medical attention.
Leaving a friend alone in the forest
We recommend travelling in groups of three hikers. Remember never to abandon a wounded hiker, except in the case of a force majeure. Put your energy into comforting the injured person and being there for them.
What to do if you’re lost?
To prevent this situation, take your bearings regularly using your map. If you’re not sure of your location, stay calm, stop and take a few minutes to review the situation. Then return to a place that’s easy to identify on the map: the summit of a mountain, the intersection of a stream and a lake or another stream, a cliff, etc. Review the situation again. If you are lost, stay in place and wait for help. However, if you are absolutely sure that you are not lost, make the decision to continue your route or turn back and retrace your steps. Caution! Off the trails, hikers always tend to overestimate their speed. It rarely exceeds 2 km/h.
To enter the backcountry for one day or for a stay of several nights, it is mandatory to hold an Access Permit. To get one, you must apply in writing by filling out the appropriate form.
You can enter the backcountry for one day, but only in designated areas. Each member of your group must individually fill out the Backcountry Access Permit Application. Each member must also sign the Risk Disclosure – Backcountry Access document, and make sure to initial the back of the document. The duly signed Backcountry Access Applications and the Risk Disclosure – Backcountry Access document must then be handed in at the reception desk of the park concerned to get a Backcountry Access Permit. You must obtain a Daily Access Permit for each member of the group.
Once your itinerary is ready, you understand the associated risks and you consider yourself ready to assume them, you must fill out the Backcountry Access Permit Application form. Each member of the group must individually fill out the form. However, all applications for the same expedition must be sent in one mailing to the administrative office of the park concerned.
Each application is analysed to make sure that the expedition respects instructions related to the mission of the national parks and that it will take place in the targeted sectors. If your application is in order and the reception capacity has not been reached, a confirmation will be sent.
Allow 7 days from the time the park receives your application for a Backcountry Access Permit. The cost of staying in the backcountry is $14/pers./night (maximum 8 nights), in addition to the park entry fee. These fees must be paid in full by credit card or cheque prior to your stay.
If you wish to modify the stay dates or replace members of your team, you must do so at least 72 hours prior to arrival by directly contacting the administrative office of the park concerned. However, if you want to modify your itinerary or your activity, you must submit a new application for analysis.
If you want to cancel your stay, you must do so at least 72 hours prior to arrival by directly contacting the administrative office of the park concerned. No refunds will be granted for a cancellation made less than 72 hours prior to arrival. However, for services purchased through the Sales and Reservations Office, the cancellation terms specifically linked to these services will be applied.
Before heading into the backcountry, check weather conditions or snow cover, depending on the season.
It is mandatory to register at the reception desk and to have your duly signed Backcountry Access Permit in your possession during the expedition. Your route must respect the itinerary indicated on the Access Application.
If you are planning to go fishing, make sure you have your right of access for fishing and your fishing licence, and make sure you know the catch limit.
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