Camping tips for beginners

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Ever tried camping? It can be a new adventure for you and your family this summer. The good news is that parks and campgrounds are now open in the province (Manitoba Parks and Locations).

If this is your first time to go camping in Canada, here are a few basic things you should know:

Types of camping

There are two types of camping in Canada, Frontcountry and Backcountry camping:

  1. Frontcountry camping or “car camping” is when you can bring your vehicle to the site and set up camp right where you park. Campsites usually have amenities such as showers, flush toilets, playgrounds, snack bars and theatres. Some even have swimming pools. There are different kinds of frontcountry campsites:
    • Serviced campsites – This is for recreational vehicles (RVs), trailers and tent trailers. They have facilities for water, sewer or electrical hook-ups. Not ideal for setting up a tent.
    • Unserviced campsites – These are good for tenting as they offer tent pads and amenities such as flush toilets, showers and potable water. They are also open to RVs and tent trailers that do not need service hook-ups.
    • Pull-through campsites – Also called drive-through campsites, these are designed for vehicles towing larger trailers or RVs.
    • Walk-in campsites – These places are slightly more rough as they have less amenities. You would have to park your vehicle outside and go on foot to enter.
    • Group campsites – These are designed for bigger groups who reserve areas for organized activities.
  2. Backcountry camping is the more rustic type of camping. It is done in the wilderness, away from facilities and amenities. You will need to hike, ski, canoe or kayak to reach your camp site.

Watch this video to know the basic things to prepare for camping: How to not fail at camping, CBC

Planning your first camping trip

  1. Reserve ahead of time – Reserve your spot early because camping is a popular activity in Canada. Some choose to go early in the season (May/June) or late (September) to avoid the crowds. Go to the Manitoba Parks website for more information. Find out:
    • Camp regulations (e.g. what you’re allowed to bring or use)
    • Rules on changing or cancelling a reservation
    • Facilities (e.g. washrooms, grills, fire pits, etc.)
    • Rules for bringing pets
    • Activities and events

    If you have special needs and requirements that are not listed, ask about them before you reserve. Here are some suggested camping parks from Travel Manitoba (some ideal for RVing) and provincial campgrounds.

  2. Make a checklist – Checklists will make it easier for you to prepare. You will be less likely to forget important items. Here’s an example: Parks Canada camping checklist. You can download it and add or subtract from the list depending on your needs and family size.

  4. Get the right gear– There are various equipment and gear that make camping more comfortable. For example, a three-season tent is ideal for summer camping. You can get groundsheets to protect the bottom of your tent, as well as self-inflating mattress pads to make the ground comfortable to sleep on. These can be expensive but there are cheaper alternatives. For instance, instead of a mattress, you can use thick blankets or sleeping bags. You can also consider borrowing a tent from a friend, or rent equipment from local outdoor outfitters.
    Remember that proper gear also includes the right clothes. Dress for comfort, rather than style. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast before you leave and be prepared for colder weather. Layering is still the best practice- you can just remove outer wear when it gets warmer. Hats, extra socks, and rain gear are always good to have just in case.

  6. Learn how to pitch a tent – Learn basic camping skills like pitching a tent, cooking at camp, and safe camping practices. Also, know what to do if you encounter a wild animal, and recognize which plants and insects can be harmful to you. Read the Camper’s Guide to learn these basic do’s and dont’s (see other guides below).

  8. Be prepared for emergencies – The first thing you should pack is a first aid kit. Bring extra batteries for your flashlight, matches and fuel for lamps or stoves, and extra water. Remember to bring medication if you or a family member has allergies or other health conditions.

Article updated June 27, 2024.

Sources: Parks Canada site; Manitoba Parks and Protected Spaces. Both retrieved May 17, 2018.

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Community Resources

If you’re not used to roughing it, start by learning the basics. Read Learn how to camp: The basics from Parks Canada.

Also read Quick tips for staying outdoors in the summer for tips to protect your health and skin.

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