Helen Mason has been camping in Ontario’s provincial parks for nearly four decades, but it never happened: While visiting a friend away from the campsite, someone showed up and stole all her belongings – from her tent and her grill to the food she’d packed for her trip.
“I’ve been camping in provincial parks for 39 years, since I was 13, and I’ve never stolen anything from a campground, not so much as a tent pole or anything that came out of the cooler. even crossed my mind,” said Mason, an Oakville resident, who was on a solo camping trip in Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron.
“I had no idea anyone would have the guts to come and pack up my entire campsite.”
Mason arrived at the Pinery on the night of April 29, set up her tents and made herself a nice campfire. That Sunday, an old friend called him and asked him to come visit.
Mason returned the next day to find almost everything gone.
“I thought my tent was blown away because you could really see my bright red tent when you drive around the campsite and I couldn’t see it. Then I got closer and got out of my car, and I slowly realized that absolutely everything I had brought to the campsite was gone, from my tent to my clothes, my kitchen tent and all the belongings in them.”
Although camping robberies occur occasionally, those of this magnitude are unheard of, said Pinery Superintendent Mark Custers.
“Never on this scale. Usually people steal smaller items, a cooler with alcohol in it,” he said.
Camping thefts happen ‘rarely’
The theft violates an unspoken rule in camping, an honor system that people don’t steal from each other because it’s impossible to lock things down and everyone is out in the wild together.
“I would say that happens rarely, rarely, rarely,” Mason said. “It’s an honor system, because you can’t really expect people to want to go camping and sit with their stuff all the time, and there’s no way to lock certain stuff in. .I’ve never personally met anyone else who’s had something stolen.”
For its part, Ontario Parks offers a range of camps safety tips on its website. When it comes to preventing theft, he says, “Although campgrounds are safe places with park rangers on patrol, it’s a good idea to keep your valuables locked in your car and out of sight.”
Mason reported the theft to the park ranger, who said he had never heard of an entire campsite taken before.
Mason loves camping and takes solo trips once or twice a year. She also makes two or three other trips with her children.
But it will take time and money to restock your camping gear. Along with his new 10-person sleeping tent, other stolen items include a queen-size Murphy bed, a heater, and a new chair. Her bedding and a homemade blanket were not taken.
These items were stolen from the kitchen and dining tent: his barbecue, his Coleman grill, all his cooking utensils, pots, oils, spices, cutlery, plates and camping lanterns.
They also took shampoo and dish soap from her, but left her backpack and her Starbucks coffee.
“I was shocked at how well they cleaned everything. I can’t think of anything they left of my camping kit.”
Although she has her old gear to use as a backup, Mason said she’ll have to start hoarding new gear as the season goes on. However, the theft did not deter her from camping.
“Honestly, I was more upset that my camping trip was cut short than someone took my stuff,” she said. “My concern is that if someone gets dropped off for a week of camping and someone takes all their food, shelter, what will happen to them? Not everyone has the luxury of camping with a car.”