Tips for Beginner Campers: Which Type of Camping Is Best for You

A blue and white tent and bicycle on a camping site surrounded by trees

A great camping vacation begins with research. There are different types of camping experiences to choose from, so you’ll want to choose the type of experience that best suits your wants, needs and experience. Ontario truly has something for everyone new to camping, so let’s get planning.

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.

Tent Camping

This is what most beginners envision of 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 ‘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. The backcountry sites are hike-in or paddle-in and best suited for experienced campers.

If you’re not ready to purchase a tent and other camping necessities, the Learn To Camp program offered at a number of Provincial Parks provides an excellent introduction to camping while providing all the gear you’ll need. If purchasing your own tent, it’s a good idea to practice putting it up and taking it down BEFORE arriving at the campsite.

Tents can get hot during the day and cool in the evenings, so be sure to pack a small tent heater and fan and be sure to follow your heater’ or fan’s safety guidelines during operation. Note: If your campsite does not have an electrical hookup, your heater or fan will need to be battery operated.

Glamping

Glamping, short for glamorous camping, offers the similar benefits of tent camping, but with all the creature comforts. 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. Learn about the different glamping options in Ontario.

Roofed Accommodations

Many Provincial Parks offer a variety of roofed accommodation, from backcountry cabins and cottages to yurts. These provide campers the opportunity to be surrounded by the beauty of Ontario wilderness without the need to invest in camping gear. They 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. Different parks offer different types of roofed accommodations, but the number of roofed options are limited and are very popular. Be sure to book early.

Note: Many roofed accommodations, in both provincial and private campgrounds, require a minimum number of nights stay.

RV Camping

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 provides an excellent resource for all things RVing with information from RV rentals to a listing of private RV parks and resorts in Ontario.

Camping Etiquette, Fun & 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 neighbor.

Always abide by the Leave No Trace principles, leaving as small a footprint on nature as possible. 

As a beginner camper, summer is the ideal season for your first few adventures. And while camping, choose activities that suit your group’s familiarity with the outdoors. If you’re traveling 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 have decided on where to camp and your desired accommodation type, it’s time to start packing. The nice folks from Ontario Parks’ Learn To Camp program have created handy food and equipment checklists to help.

Happy travels and happy camping!

Some things to do may not be available due to COVID-19.

For the most up-to-date information on where and when it is safe to travel please visit: covid-19.ontario.ca