When’s the last time you had a proper picnic? You know, packed up all your favourite goodies into a big basket, broke out your favourite outdoor blanket, and ventured outdoors to play frisbee, nap in the sun, and spear cubes of cheese with a toothpick?
If it’s been too long and you’re looking for a reason to engage in the old French art of le pique-nique (fun fact: picnics were first popularized in post-revolutionary France), then June 18th offers a pretty good excuse to get outside: it’s International Picnic Day.
Yes, picnics are so amazing they have their own international holiday. The only problem with this is that it means you probably won’t be the only one scouting out a good spot for your picnic blanket. But picnics don’t have to mean sitting on the grass at the busiest park in town. There are plenty of places you can go to avoid crowds and commune with nature.
Here are a few tips for a better picnic experience.
Get out of town
A picnic can mean heading down to the local park with a fruit basket, but it can also be an invitation to take on a bigger adventure. So make a day of it. Look for good spots outside of your daily bubble — provincial parks, river or lakesides, forested areas — and make the trip. A day in the countryside will clear your head, and you’ll feel like you’re really dining in the great outdoors, not just a patch of green surrounded by concrete.
Go for a hike
A meal always tastes better if you’ve earned it. Lots of hikes will bring you to a scenic resting spot like a mountain viewpoint or panoramic forest view, perfect places to set up for a while and have a meal. It’s good to research your hiking route before you go to see how difficult it is, and what precautions to take (if Yogi taught us anything it’s that bears love a picnic basket). Once you’ve decided on a route, pack your food carefully into a backpack to prevent leaks, lace up your hiking shoes, and start working up an appetite.
Bring the right supplies
You need more than food for a picnic, at least if want to be able to relax. Eating outdoors means appreciating natural beauty, but it also means contending with natural elements — including bugs. So make sure to bring long-sleeved clothing, eco-friendly bug spray, and citronella to keep everything six-legged at bay. Sunscreen is also a good idea, and, if you’re in bear country, bear spray is a good idea. Going out into the wilderness should always involve preparation and education to ensure your safety and comfort.
The first rule of going out into nature is the same as the first line of the Hippocratic oath: first do no harm. If you love the natural world, then do your part to ensure its wellbeing and make sure you leave it in better condition than you found it. For an eco-friendly picnic, try to avoid using disposable items that could create trash. Pack food in tupperware, and bring reusable utensils instead of disposable ones. And don’t leave anything behind — pack up after yourself, and bring your picnic gear back home to use again next time. And to go that extra step beyond: if you see someone else has left garbage lying around, pick it up and take it with you. It’s good for your karma and for the earth.
Catch your own lunch
If you think sitting on a blanket all afternoon is boring and you really want to feel like you’re living off the land, head to a good fishing spot and try to hook your meal yourself. This will take a bit of extra planning — you’ll need your bait and tackle, a knife and cutting board for cleaning and deboning, and either a camp stove or supplies for a fire (but first make sure to check fire regulations, and always put your fire out properly). If you’re not into fishing, you can also go to an orchard to pick your own fruit, or look up spots where you can forage for your own food. This more proactive picnicking is satisfying on several levels and will make you appreciate your meal that much more.