Camping safety

Sirmilik National Park

Floe edge

Camping close to the floe edge can be dangerous. Be especially wary when prevailing winds are strong and during large tides (full or new moons) since these conditions increase the following risks:

  • Ice breaks up along the floe edge.
  • A huge pan of ice may break off from the land fast ice (up to 10 kilometres or more in size) even if there is no wind or extreme tides. Bring a global positioning system (GPS) and regularly check to see if the coordinates change. If you don’t have a GPS visually align a piece of ice some distance from you to the land and periodically check to see if the ice you are on is moving.
  • Watch for moving ice that is wedging and piling up into the land fast ice.
  • Polar bears travel along the floe edge in search of food. They will hunt for fresh prey or will scavenge any carcasses they find. Do not camp near an old kill because polar bears, with their excellent senses of smell, will come to forage from it. Polar bears are very efficient and skilled stalkers (both on ice and in the water). Always keep watch for them.
  • Camp well away from the floe edge itself.

Backcountry camping

Low-impact backcountry camping is part of the Sirmilik experience. A backcountry park use permit or backcountry excursion permit is required.

Camping equipment should be lightweight and durable, and able to withstand harsh conditions such as cold weather, wet weather, and strong winds. As fires are not allowed, backcountry campers will have to carry white gas (or naptha) and portable stoves. White gas may be purchased in Pond Inlet or Arctic Bay, but visitors should phone the suppliers ahead of time to ensure that it is in stock. On commercial airlines, white gas can only be transported as a dangerous good on a separate flight. Contact the airline you plan to travel on for further information.

Select campsites in durable locations where signs of your occupation will be minimized, such as areas with little or no vegetation. Avoid camping near potential wildlife habitat such as sedge meadows. Appropriate site selection is especially vital for base camps or if you are travelling in a large group.

Wearing soft shoes around camp is not only a great relief after a day spent in heavy hiking boots but also minimizes the impact around your campsite. Do not dig trenches around tents or build rock windbreaks. If you use rocks to secure your tent, return them to their original position and location. Do not remove rocks from any features that look - even remotely - like an archeological site, for example, tent rings, fox traps and food caches.

Proper food management when camping is essential to avoid problem wildlife situations (birds, foxes, polar bears). Avoid smelly foods and foods that produce waste. Food scraps should be filtered out of dish water and packed out with other litter. Dish and excess cooking water should be poured into a shallow sump hole away from the campsite and bodies of water.

Feces should be deposited at least 50 metres from camp sites, travel routes and water bodies. Toilet paper must, of course, be packed out or burned with a match or lighter.

The possibility of polar bear encounters exists anywhere in the park. The potential for an encounter is greatest in the coastal areas. Please read the section on polar bear safety for important safety information.

Water quality

We advise you to fine filter (<0.5 microns), treat (iodine or chlorine in warm water), or boil your drinking water. To prevent the spread of diseases, human waste should be disposed of in a responsible manner, at least 100 metres from water sources and 50 metres from trails. More information will be provided during your orientation.

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