2 women camping and enjoying the quiet of nature

How to get started with camping

Skip stones on a lake, curl up in a hammock with a good book, listen to the soft crackle of the campfire, and savour decadent s’mores. Camping is truly magical. Go ahead and explore the possibilities!

Camping is a great way to enjoy nature with your family, friends, your significant other, or even on your own. Before you go, identify your needs and figure out what type of camping suits you best. Would you prefer to stay at a serviced campsite, get cozy in a ready-to-camp rental, or embark on a backpacking adventure?

A family on a nature hike picks up trash

Respect nature

Please always follow Canada’s seven Leave No Trace principles. Respect our wildlands so that future generations can enjoy them too.

1. Plan ahead and prepare
2. Travel and camp on sustainable surfaces
3. Dispose of waste properly
4. Leave everything as you found it
5. Minimize the impacts of your campfires
6. Respect the wildlife
7. Be considerate of others

Serviced campground

Serviced campsites have clearings where you can set up your tent. Each site includes a fire pit and a picnic table. Shared bathrooms (usually equipped with showers) are also accessible. Sometimes there’s a snack bar or convenience store nearby as well. Some campsites can even accommodate RVs. You generally need to park your car near the campsite and walk the rest of the way.

Ready-to-camp rental

Ready-to-camp locations are popular for glamping (short for "glamorous camping"), an ideal activity for people who want to enjoy nature without giving up their creature comforts. No need to buy any gear! Everything is provided: utensils, dishes, a coffee maker, a propane stove or barbecue, beds, a fire pit, chairs, etc. All you need to bring is your food! Ready-to-camp sites include tree houses, hybrid accommodations, hanging shelters, and yurts. The Sépaq network, Parks Canada, and provincial parks offer various turnkey options.

Long hike with overnight stays

Looking to rough it in nature? Setting out on a multi-day hike means you have to carry all your gear (tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food, stove, water filtration system, etc.) on your back until you reach a backcountry campsite or lean-to shelter. These areas usually include a picnic table, a dry toilet, and a fire pit. Staying in the backcountry comes with certain risks, as you are far from emergency services. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s no better way to experience the great outdoors. Before embarking on your hike, make sure to give your itinerary to someone you trust so that others know where you will be.

Camping as a family

Camping requires planning and organization, especially if you’re travelling with children. To make your family outing a success, try to involve your kids as much as possible. They can help you choose your meals, snacks, and desserts, and plan outdoor activities. Getting your kids to assist with the planning will help build their excitement for the trip. Pack a board game or two to keep them entertained while you pitch the tent, or to give them something to do on a rainy day. You may even want to organize an afternoon scavenger hunt. In the evening, try to see the Big Dipper in the night sky, or look for shooting stars. Consider bringing headlamps for everyone; they’re not only practical, but also a fun tool for reading after dark. If rain is in the forecast, make sure to bring a change of clothes.

A family of campers inside a tent

Book as soon as possible

In recent years, camping has become increasingly popular, and accommodations sell out fast. Sépaq campsite reservations open in November for the upcoming season, while Parks Canada reservations open in April for that same year. You can also book campsites on the Camping Québec website.

Check and test your equipment

Take stock of your gear before you leave. You don’t want any nasty surprises when you arrive: an instruction manual is missing, the tent has a hole, the sleeping bag zipper is broken, the stove is out of fuel, the flysheet never got packed... 

Also, practice pitching your tent at home so that it will go smoothly at the campsite. Take this opportunity to make sure the tent is in good condition and has no missing parts.

A smiling mother and son close their tent

Rent or borrow...

Consider renting or borrowing camping equipment before you buy. It’s a great way to save money and reduce your ecological footprint while you figure out your exact needs.

Have fun cooking outdoors

It’s easy to eat well on a camping trip. First, plan out all your meals and snacks. Then, prepare what you can ahead of time and get creative: chop vegetables; prepare sauces, dressings, and pancake mix; freeze meals; mix spices; etc. For more elaborate recipes, do research online or exchange meal ideas with friends. Bring fruits and vegetables that don’t need to be kept cold, like bananas, apples, limes, lemons, corn, bell peppers, and carrots. And of course, don’t forget to bring ingredients for s’mores, especially if you’re camping with your kids.

For the first evening of your camping trip, plan an easy-prep dinner (e.g., a cold pasta salad, hummus, couscous), since you’ll need time to set up the tent and start a campfire.

Want to impress your fellow campers with a plate of perfectly cooked meat, fish, or vegetables? Pack meals that you’ve cooked sous vide at home. This ultra-precise cooking method allows you to tenderize your food without losing its natural aromas and flavours. Just reheat when you’re ready to serve!

You can also keep it simple by wrapping vegetables in aluminum foil and placing them directly on the fire’s hot coals.

For a no-brainer solution, pack some dehydrated meals, which are light and quick to prepare. Just add hot water.

A cooler makes a great portable outdoor refrigerator! Don’t hesitate to bring a high-end model with ice packs to keep your food and drinks cool.

How to get started with camping
Woman camping and wearing a headlamp

Arrive before dark

No one likes to set up camp in the dark, especially in unfamiliar territory. Try to arrive early enough to give yourself a chance to find your bearings before it gets dark. And bring headlamps! These essential items will give you hands-free lighting if you have to pitch the tent after sunset.

A family of campers eating inside a tent

Keep unwelcome visitors away

Wild animals are drawn to certain smells. Never leave food or other aromatic items, like shampoo, soap, or toothpaste, unattended at your campsite. Also, never eat inside your tent, and avoid sleeping in the clothes you wore when preparing meals. Finally, keep your cooler and food in your vehicle.

In the backcountry, it’s important to hang your provisions high in a tree, out of the reach of animals.

(modify to suit your needs)

When packing your bags, use this checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything important.

Tent (poles and flysheet)
☐ Mallet or hammer (for driving in tent stakes)
☐ Camp cot
Mattress (and pump for inflatable mattress)
Sleeping bag
☐ Tarp
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Sleep mask

☐ Flashlights
☐ Spare batteries

Plates and bowls
☐ Sticks for toasting marshmallows or hot dogs
Water bottles
☐ Portable coffee maker or kettle
☐ Sporks (or other utensils)
☐ Knife and cutting board
☐ Sponge
Cooler (and ice, or ice packs)
☐ Stove and fuel
Cook set
☐ Aluminum foil
☐ Frying pan
☐ Bottle opener, can opener, corkscrew
☐ Small containers or bags for storing food
☐ Cups
☐ Biodegradable soap
☐ Garbage and recycling bags


Clothes and shoes
Hiking shoes or boots
Hat or cap
Fleece clothing
Light waterproof jacket
Pants or shorts
☐ Underwear
Long-sleeved T-shirt or undershirt
Rain gear (coat and pants)

Health and safety
☐ Fire starter, lighter, or matches
☐ Charger
☐ Knife
☐ Rope
☐ Duct tape
☐ Sunscreen
First-aid kit
☐ Toothbrush and toothpaste
☐ Lip balm
☐ Mosquito repellant
☐ Tissues
☐ Toilet paper
☐ Cellphone

Compass or GPS
☐ Trail map
☐ Altimeter

For children
☐ Toys
☐ Deck of cards
☐ Books

Two people set up their campsite in the Canadian Rockies

Quiz: What kind of camper are you?

There are different types of camping that offer varying levels of comfort. Find out what kind of camper you are!

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