Tips for beginner campers
One of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the type of shelter.
There are many options, and the best way to choose correctly is to think about how much "roughing it" is the right amount for you and your fellow campers.
This is what most beginners envision when they think of their first camping experience. Tent camping sites tend to be the most readily available in Ontario Provincial Parks and various private campgrounds throughout the province.
If you’re camping in a provincial or national park, select a camping site that is accessible by vehicle. This is sometimes referred to as "car camping" or using "car campgrounds."
Facilities differ between parks but most car access campgrounds will feature comfort stations with flush toilets and showers, drinking water, picnic shelters and playgrounds. Some sites will also provide electrical hook-ups.
Backcountry sites are hike-in or paddle-in and best suited for experienced campers.
Note: New in 2023, Ontario Parks is reducing the maximum length of stay at select parks during peak seasons to help connect more campers with campground sites and experiences. Find tips on making your reservation.
- The Learn to Camp program offered by Ontario Parks provides an excellent introduction to camping.
- If purchasing your own tent, it’s a good idea to practice putting it up and taking it down BEFORE arriving at the campsite.
Glamping, short for glamorous camping, offers benefits similar to those of tent camping but with all the comforts of a hotel. Rather than sleeping in a tent pegged to the ground, glamping sites offer larger canvas tents atop a wood floor.
The interiors often include a luxury bedroom set, with plush bedding and many of the amenities one might find in a hotel room or in one’s own bedroom at home.
Many provincial parks offer a variety of roofed accommodations, from backcountry cabins and cottages to yurts. These provide campers with the opportunity to be surrounded by the beauty of Ontario wilderness without the need to invest in camping gear.
Accommodations usually come equipped with beds and amenities like a barbecue, if not a full kitchen. They also provide an easygoing introduction to year-round camping.
- Be sure to book early. Different parks offer different types of roofed accommodation, but the number of roofed options are limited and are very popular.
- Note, many roofed accommodations, in both provincial and private campgrounds, require a minimum number of nights stay.
Both Ontario Parks and private campgrounds offer sites for RV (recreational vehicle) camping. This is a great way to combine a stay in the great outdoors with the additional sightseeing flexibility that wheels provide.
- GoRVing Canada is an excellent resource for all things RV, with information on everything from RV rentals to a listing of private RV parks and resorts in Ontario.
Camping etiquette, fun and safety
When camping, always be mindful of proper camping etiquette.
- Remember that you’ll have neighbours and that sound carries in the outdoors, so a respectful volume in the early morning hours and evenings will make you a great camping neighbour.
- Always abide by the Leave No Trace principles, leaving as small a footprint on nature as possible.
- If you're a beginner camper, summer is the ideal season for your first few adventures. While camping, choose activities that suit your group’s familiarity with the outdoors.
- If you’re travelling with small children, for example, you’ll want to avoid long, arduous hikes and start with shorter trails.
- Plan ahead to see what else there is to do for family outings, particularly if it rains.
- Also plan ahead with respect to packing what you’ll need for food, activities and basic medical needs. Many campgrounds have park stores, but their stock of everyday items is limited.
Once you've decided where to camp and have chosen your desired accommodation type, it’s time to start packing. Ontario Parks’ Learn To Camp program has created handy food and equipment checklists to help.
Happy travels and happy camping!
Last updated: October 16, 2023