A high-thinking Okanagan kid and her savvy backcountry-honed deck of cards have trumped our addiction to distraction.

What started as a high-school project by a hiker in Kelowna, British Columbia, is now a successful business that caters to card players around the world. A now-seventeen-year-old Maya Gay beat 115 teams and won $1,500 at the 2015 Young Entrepreneur Dragons’ Den Competition to get Basecamp Card Co. off the ground. Her fledgling company makes playing cards that also feature questions to provoke conversation. Printed on a linen stock that won’t be damaged by water, the cards now sell around the world online and domestically at retailers like Mountain Equipment Co-op and Valhalla Pure Outfitters.

backcountry playing cards
Inventor Maya Gay’s deck is stacked to ward off both rain and vain. Above: Maya contemplates her next move.

“Because there’s so much disconnect in our current day and age,” Gays says, “I liked the idea of creating something that brought people together.” Questions in the deck range from the profound to the goofy: “What are you most grateful for?” or “Would you rather change gender every time you sneeze or not be able to tell the difference between a muffin or baby?”

The high-school senior had 36 sets of cards made for the competition and they sold immediately. She’s since done multiple printings, and the latest batch of 5,000 includes a carrying tin adorned in artwork by Heather Parlain, a friend of her mom’s.

As for what game she mostly plays with her cards, Gay says she prefers thirty-one. “I’m a fan of the classics. But I’m sad to say I’m not a card whiz, which is kind of embarrassing really.”