5 genius tips for successful camping

Published on June 27, 2014

By Day Helesic, Canadian Living

Camping is a great way to spend quality time with family and friends. But if you're new to camping it can seem intimidating. Don't worry though: these tips will help you have a great trip.

1. Good campers reserve ahead and use a checklist

Avoid disappointment:  reserve your campsite well in advance. Ask about wildlife, pet regulations, washroom facilities, and if campsites have fire rings and grills. Pat Dunn, external relations manager for Prince Albert and Elk Island National Parks, Parks Canada, recommends camping in June or September if you're looking for a quieter experience—it will be less busy and the mosquitoes, non-existent. Don't forget to make a checklist, as well. "Check Parks Canada's Learn to Camp app for excellent tips, what to bring and even recipes for easy food preparation," says Dunn. 

Genius tip: Immediately write down can opener, corkscrew, toilet paper and pot scrubber onyour checklist. These items seem destined to be forgotten.

2. Pack the right gear

Great campers bring flashlights, lanterns, headlamps (if you're fancy), multi-tools or Swiss army knives, plastic dishes and cutlery, waterproof matches, extra batteries, a tarp, fire starter, duct tape (it's water resistant and can fix just about anything), a dishpan or bucket with a handle for kitchen cleanup, and rope, cord and bungee—you're going to need something to rig your tarp over the picnic table, hang up your food at night and build a fort for the kids. And don't forget the propane stove and extra fuel. "You'll want to have enough fuel to be able to heat water for washing dishes, make tea or coffee, and even heat wash water," says Dunn. One of her favourite items to bring is a plastic tablecloth—it brightens the site and is easy to clean. 

Genius tip: Bring baby wipes. Kids and pets get real dirty, real fast at the campsite, and wipes are great for quick cleanups.

3. Be smart about choosing your campsite

The ideal campsite is a well-drained sandy or rocky area. Don't choose a site on a high ridge that's exposed to the weather (hello, lightning), or a site in a basin—you'll wake up in a puddle of water. Look for a lower elevation, protected by trees and brush, with a slight slope (this will help water drain away from your tent).

Genius tip: When you arrive at the campsite, make sure it's not midnight. Setting up camp takes a while and you'll need daylight!


4. Pitch a quality tent

A three-season tent is perfect for summer camping—it keeps you cozy at night while protecting you from the weather and critters. If you just bought your tent, practice setting it up at home before you hit the campsite. Don't forget your ground sheet (it protects the bottom of your tent) and a tent cover to ward off rain. Sleep comfortably on a self-inflating mattress pad or try inexpensive foam floor tiles as a sleeping mat. Need maid service? A mini broom and dustpan will clear away leaves, dirt and pine needles from your tent floor.

5. Be prepared to eat something other than roast marshmallows

"There's no need to pack the whole kitchen, but make sure you bring the utensils, spices and condiments you need for the meals you're cooking," Dunn advises. Cooking meals right in the campfire is a ton of work, so ease the load by bringing a grill to place over the fire. The campground may provide one, but an old oven rack also works like a charm. "Food tastes better outdoors!" says Dunn. "Try bannock on a stick, or roast potatoes and other veggies in tinfoil in the hot ashes of a campfire."

Make sure you have a big cooler full of ice for your perishables, and bear-proof containers for food storage. Remember not to store food close to where you're sleeping—animals may come looking for it. That goes for food scraps, too. "Meal residues should be safely disposed of in the garbage, not burned in a fire pit." 

Genius tip: Empty Tic Tac boxes are perfect for storing spices for your gourmet camp meals.


For the ultimate camping packing lists, campground snacks and more visit CanadianLiving.com