A Guide to Learn to Camp Programs in Ontario

A family of 5 pitching their tent in between mature trees.

Camping is the perfect way to get outdoors and enjoy nature. Sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire and living outside. It can be the best vacation ever or it can be the worst if you’re not prepared. 

Ontario’s Learn to Camp programs and Introduction to Backcountry Canoe or Kayak and Camping trips can teach you all the camping basics plus will provide all the equipment you will require. No experience or gear is necessary!

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What is Frontcountry Camping and Backcountry Camping?

There are two main types of tent camping trips: frontcountry and backcountry. Each type requires certain skills, knowledge and equipment for fun, safe and stress-free vacations.

Once the basic skills are learned, frontcountry camping, often called car camping, is the easiest option for beginners who want to camp on their own. Campsites are located in well-established full service campgrounds that offer washroom facilities, showers and more. You can drive to your campsite thus are able store your food and gear in your vehicle. Your campsite will have a cleared area where you can set up your tent, a firepit and a picnic table. Other campsites and campground staff will be nearby.

Backcountry camping requires more skills and knowledge. Campsites are only accessible by backpacking, canoeing or kayaking. This means you need to transport all your food and gear with you. You will need additional skills of route planning, paddling and portaging, meal planning and cooking, map reading, packing, equipment set up, wilderness first aid and more.

No matter what type of camping you do, you will have an impact on the natural area you are visiting. You can lessen your impact by practicing the seven principles of Leave No Trace. These are:

  1. Plan and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Camping etiquette

Frontcountry Learn to Camp Programs in Ontario

Ontario Parks Learn to Camp overnight program is perfect for first-time campers. New campers get together at an Ontario Park to learn all about camping basics under the guidance of a park staff. All camping equipment is provided, however you will be required to bring your own food, bedding, personal items and select kitchen items. You will learn how to:

  • Set up a tent
  • Cook on a camp stove
  • Build a campfire
  • Have fun and be safe while camping
  • Plan your next camping trip

You can stay one or two nights. Overnight programs are held between June and August at:

Check out the Online Camping Resources to find lots of information on everything from trip planning to how to build a campfire.

Parks Canada Learn to Camp overnight experiences introduce people to the basics of camping in Canada at safe and fun locations, usually in National Parks or at National Historic Sites. You will learn camping skills like how to set up a tent, light a campfire and cook outdoors. Call 1-888-773-8888 for more information.

Parks Canada also offers Learn to Camp daytime workshops and activities in Toronto and Ottawa. See How-to videos: Set up a tent; Set up a tarp; Start a campfire and Pack a cooler.

Paddle Canada offers Canada’s only national camping skills program that teaches paddlers how to safely and efficiently plan, organize and execute camping trips in both front and backcountry settings.  Find a certified Camping Skills instructor  near you.

Guided Backcountry Canoe or Kayak Camping Trips

A backcountry canoe or kayak camping trip is the ultimate escape for a weekend or getaway. If you are looking for solitude and want to get away from the crowds, an adventure into the wilderness is for you. Wilderness paddling and camping trips require skill and knowledge.

If you are a first-timer, we recommend you take a guided trip to gain valuable skills and knowledge that will keep you safe and make your trip enjoyable. No previous experience is necessary as these trips are designed to help you learn to camp in the wilderness.

With the help of your knowledgeable guide, you’ll develop paddling, map-reading, weather-watching, portaging and backcountry camping skills. Plus you’ll enjoy hassle-free planning.

Ultra-light canoeing/kayaking and camping equipment is supplied plus delicious backcountry meals. Just book and go. Here are some of our favourites.

Introduction to Canoe Camping Trips

Introduction to Sea Kayak Camping Trips

Do-It-Yourself Backcountry Canoe or Kayak Camping Trips

Once you get a taste of backcountry tripping, we’re sure you will want to do more.

To better your camping and paddling skills, Paddle Canada offers a variety of ‘Learn To’ programs. These courses are designed to enable you to progress from basic to advanced adventurers. They are offered in a variety of paddling centres and communities throughout Ontario. Find a course near you.

Wilderness First Aid Courses and Programs  

Whether you are doing front or backcountry camping, it’s important to have some basic first aid knowledge. The farther you travel into the wilderness, the more important these skills become as help may be hours or days away.

As you advance into backcountry tripping, you should consider taking an outdoor-based first aid course. These courses are based on the principals of wilderness care and first aid with a practical, hands-on approach to training. Find a course near you:

So if you’ve ever wanted to try camping but had no idea where to start, a Learn to Camp program or an Introduction to Backcountry Canoe or Kayak Camping Trip is for you.

By Trish Manning, an adventure travel writer.

Last updated: September 20, 2021

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