First-Time Camper? Here Are Some Tips to Help Get You Started

Father and son assembling tent in forest to camp

The onset of spring is when many Canadians really start to think about getting outdoors and the summer camping season. In our vast country of picturesque mountains, forests, lakes and beaches, there is no shortage of places to connect with nature.

This opportunity is on full display in Ontario, home to close to 1,000 campgrounds. They offer a wide variety of experiences and services, says Alexandra Anderson, executive director of Camping In Ontario, a member-based association of campground owners. The Grey-Bruce County area and Prince Edward County are very popular destination spots for campers, she adds.

Anderson says more younger people are flocking to camping, pointing to a recent KOA North American Outdoor Hospitality Report showing the average age of the Canadian camper is now younger. There’s been an increase in Millennials camping in 2022 compared to 2021 (31 percent to 46 percent). There was also an increase among Gen Z campers (eight per cent to 18 per cent).

Also, according to the KOA (Kampgrounds of America) 2022 annual North American Camping Report, camping accounted for 40 percent of all leisure trips in 2021, with more than half of travellers (53 percent) including camping in some or all of their travel.

10 Camping Tips for the First-Time Camper

It’s always best to be well-prepared for any trip, especially if you’re new to camping. Parks Canada, which welcomes millions of Canadians every year to national parks and marine conservation areas, has a Learn to Camp resource that offers helpful information as well as additional tips to consider.

  1. Choose the right campsite and book early. As a beginner, especially if you have pets or kids, it’s a good idea to choose a site with facilities, such as washrooms and hookups for water and power, as well as amenities close by.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Setting up a tent may not be as easy as it looks. Before you head out, practice setting-up the tent in the backyard and store it properly to keep it dry.
  3. Practice campfire safety. Most Parks Canada sites have designated fire pits or metal fireboxes. If you’re on a campsite that doesn’t, keep fires small and controlled, avoiding gas or accelerants to prevent uncontrollable flames and toxic emissions. Never leave the campfire unattended and supervise children and pets. Clear debris around the camp stove and have water nearby to extinguish it. Purchase firewood in advance and follow local fire regulations.
  4. Practice safety, period. Inexperienced campers should avoid solo or nighttime hikes. Wear appropriate shoes and clothing for stability, warmth, and insect protection. Even if it’s warm, wear long pants and sleeves and tuck socks into shoes to prevent ticks and other insects. Carry flares for emergencies and learn about poisonous plants, like poison oak. Pack camping essentials like medications and allergy medicine.
  5. Be prepared for changes in weather. Look at the forecast before heading out for a hike, or a day trip. Lightning is very dangerous, so in the event of a storm, stay away from tall objects like trees and poles. Your tent is not a safe place to shelter from a thunderstorm – it’s better to ride it out in a nearby building, your car or take shelter in a low-lying area.
  6. Clean up the site after you’re done. Bag up any trash, bottles, or cans, and dispose of them in the appropriate areas.
  7. Keep dogs leashed at all times. Your pet can easily stray and either get lost or hurt or have an unfortunate encounter with a skunk. Respect any rules against dogs on campgrounds and nearby beaches.
  8. Respect wildlife. Stay at least 30 metres away from large animals like deer and moose, and at least 100 metres away from animals like wolves and bears. Bring a can of bear spray, just in case you’re in an area in which a bear encounter is possible, and make sure you understand how to use it. Drones are prohibited in all Parks Canada places because they disrupt wildlife and risk injury to them – keep drones at home or in the vehicle.
  9. Be prepared if there’s no cell service. Since we rely on our cellphones so much now, many sites offer access to high-speed Wi-Fi. But many remote areas won’t have a cellular network you can count on – one good tip is to use Google Maps to make a custom map of the area you’ll be in so you can navigate where you might need to go.
  10. Don’t bypass the visitor centre. Many of these places have interesting exhibits or information detailing the best places to see during your stay, along with helpful staff.

Additional Tips for Consideration

Make a checklist of essential items to bring, such as:

  • Camping gear (like a tent, tarp, sleeping bag, inflatable mattress)
  • Water
  • Cooler to store your food
  • Lantern
  • A gas or propane-powered lantern is fine for outdoor use but should never be used inside your tent – use a battery-powered lantern instead
  • Reusable plastic or steel plates
  • Pots, pans and other cooking utensils that are designed for campfire cooking
  • Garbage bags for cleaning up the area
  • Be sure to store your trash in a secure place that animals can’t get to while you are away from the campsite
  • First-aid kit
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Handwipes and/or sanitizer

Do you have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments down below.

Disclaimer: This information and the websites referenced are provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice. Allstate does not control or guarantee the accuracy of any content on any third-party site.  Allstate is not responsible for the privacy practices of any third-party site.