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Bold: Outdoor ‘stay-cations’ trending in Northeastern Ontario

Leading retailer in outdoor adventure gear sees a trend for camping, canoeing and kayaking
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The COVID-19 pandemic threw the vacation industry in Ontario into a tailspin for the past two years because very few people were able to travel to faraway places or to get back to Canada easily.

One of the spinoffs from that was more Ontarians adapted to the idea of a ‘stay-cation’ and opted to spend time at home enjoying the great outdoors.

Brian Ramakko, owner of Ramakko's Source for Adventure store in Sudbury, said the pandemic gave a huge boost to the idea of outdoor fun in a province that boasts more than a quarter-million freshwater lakes, rivers and waterways stretching from Point Pelee to Hudson Bay. He said he can't say for sure that it is a sustainable trend, but he is hoping it is.

In their nearly four decades in business, Ramakko's has seen several outdoor adventure trends come and go.

"Well it sure is a fact that two years ago when COVID hit everyone had to self-isolate. People just couldn't go anywhere," Ramakko said. "Campgrounds were booked solid. Provincial parks were booked solid. People were doing camping vacations, canoe trips, kayak trips."

He recalled a friend showing up at the store with his two children, two years ago, after learning they could not attend at a popular summer camp near Manitoulin Island.

"So he bought two kayaks for the kids, a stand up board for himself, quote unquote, 'with the same money I had for camp'," Ramakko recalled.

"So he outfitted the family with kayaks and the stand up board and the gear. And they enjoyed just staying around Sudbury and around Manitoulin. So yes, lots of people have done that."

Ramakko said he is watching the skyrocketing price of gasoline, too, as that will likely influence how far people are willing to drive. 

"All of a sudden it starts to hurt if you drive a lot, too. So staycations may become easier," Ramakko said. 

He said as well that he has watched a resurgence of interest in the past four or five years for canoeing, possibly related to the pandemic and rising costs. Kayaking is still king, Ramakko said, but in recent years, people who like camping have opted for canoes, which are able to transport more gear and more people, allowing for longer trips. It is also easier for two people to travel together in a canoe, he explained.

He added that this appeals to a wider age group, especially with older adventurers coming back to the sport. He said a lot of older paddlers are choosing newer, lightweight canoes for better performance and ease of portaging.

Ramakko said he is also seeing the 25 to 40 age group buying more canoes.

Got a stay-cation idea to share or an outdoor adventure you’d like us to feature? Email editorl@sudbury.com.

Len Gillis is a reporter at Sudbury.com. Bold is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.