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A Guide to Learn to Camp Programs in Ontario

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A Guide to Learn to Camp Programs in Ontario

Setting up camp can be fun • Credit: Destination Ontario

No experience and no gear necessary

Getting into camping is easier than you think. Find out how.



Camping is the perfect way to get outdoors and enjoy nature. Sleeping in a tent, cooking over a fire and living outside. It can be the best vacation ever or it can be the worst if you’re not prepared.

Kids laughing inside a tent
Learning how to camp makes it a fun experience.  Source: Destination Ontario

Although it may seem like every Canadian should be born with the innate knowledge of how to camp, outdoor skills are learned just like everything else. If you have never tried it, it could be daunting to try to figure out where to go, what equipment you will need and how to make it work.

The good news is that Ontario’s Learn to Camp programs and Introduction to Backcountry Canoe or Kayak and Camping trips can teach you all the basics plus will provide all the equipment you will require. They are the perfect starting point. 

What is Frontcountry Camping and Backcountry Camping? 

There are two main types of tent camping trips: frontcountry and backcountry. Each type requires certain skills, knowledge and equipment for fun, safe and stress-free vacations.

Family sitting at a picnic table in a campsite
Car camping is great for families and camping newbies. Source: Destination Ontario

Once the basic skills are learned, frontcountry camping, often called car camping, is the easiest option for beginners who want to camp on their own. Campsites are located in well-established full service campgrounds that offer washroom facilities, showers and more. You can drive to your campsite thus are able store your food and gear in your vehicle. Your campsite will have a cleared area where you can pitch your tent, a firepit and a picnic table. Other campsites and campground staff will be nearby.

Wilderness campsite at a lake
Learn how to go backcountry camping on a guided trip. Source: Destination Ontario

Backcountry camping requires more skills and knowledge. Campsites are only accessible by backpacking, canoeing or kayaking. This means you need to transport all your food and gear with you. You will need additional skills of route planning, paddling and portaging, meal planning and cooking, map reading, packing, equipment set up, wilderness first aid and more.

No matter what type of camping you do, you will have an impact on the natural area you are visiting. You can lessen your impact by practicing the seven principles of Leave No Trace. Find out more

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

Frontcountry Learn to Camp Programs in Ontario 

Learn to Camp at Ontario Parks 

Campfire in campfire metal ring with grill on top
Learn how to build a campfire. Source: Destination Ontario 

Ontario Parks Learn to Camp overnight program is perfect for first-time campers. New campers get together at an Ontario Park to learn all about camping basics under the guidance of a Park staff. All camping equipment is provided, however you will be required to bring your own food, bedding, personal items and select kitchen items. You will learn how to:

  • Set up a tent
  • Cook on a camp stove
  • Build a campfire
  • Have fun and be safe while camping
  • Plan your next camping trip

You can stay one or two nights. Overnight programs are held between June and August at:

Learn to Camp Program at Parks Canada 

Tent set up on a wooden platform
Parks Canada supplies the necessary camping equipment. Source: Destination Ontario

Parks Canada Learn to Camp overnight experiences introduce people to the basics of camping in Canada at safe and fun locations, usually in National Parks or at National Historic Sites. You will learn camping skills like how to set up a tent, light a campfire and cook outdoors. Call 1-888-773-8888 for more information.

Parks Canada also offers Learn to Camp daytime workshops and activities in Toronto and Ottawa. See How-to videos: Set up a tent; Set up a tarp; Start a campfire and Pack a cooler.

Paddle Canada National Camping Program 

Paddle Canada offers Canada’s only national camping skills program that teaches paddlers how to safely and efficiently plan, organize and execute camping trips in both front and backcountry settings. Find a certified Camping Skills instructor near you.

Guided Backcountry Canoe or Kayak Camping Trips

Group of kayaks pulled up on shore at a wilderness campsite.
Wilderness paddling and camping trips require skill and knowledge. Source: Destination Ontario

A backcountry canoe or kayak camping trip is the ultimate escape for a weekend or getaway. If you are looking for solitude and want to get away from the crowds, an adventure into the wilderness is for you.

If you are a first-timer, we recommend you take a guided trip to gain valuable skills and knowledge that will keep you safe and make your trip enjoyable. No previous experience is necessary as these trips are designed to help you learn to camp in the wilderness.

Woman in a kayak about to do a wet exit with a guide beside her
Learn how to do a wet exit and other kayaking skills on a guided trip. Source: Destination Ontario

With the help of your knowledgeable guide, you’ll develop paddling, map-reading, weather-watching, portaging and backcountry camping skills. Plus you’ll enjoy hassle-free planning.

Two people paddling a lightweight canoe
Guided trips provide lightweight equipment for backcountry tripping. Source: Destination Ontario 

Ultra-light canoeing/kayaking and camping equipment is supplied plus delicious backcountry meals.  Just book and go. Here are some of our favourites.

Introduction to Canoe Camping Trips 

Two people sitting in front of a overturned canoe serving as a breakfast table
Guides share tips that make the trip comfortable and enjoyable. Source: Destination Ontario

Introduction to Sea Kayak Camping Trips 

Group of women having a picnic lunch on rocks on Georgian Bay
Learn about the right food to take on backcountry trips. Source: Destination Ontario

Do-It-Yourself Backcountry Canoe or Kayak Camping Trips 

Once you get a taste of backcountry tripping, we’re sure you will want to do more. 

To better your camping and paddling skills, Paddle Canada offers a variety of ‘Learn To’ programs. These courses are designed to enable you to progress from basic to advanced adventurers. They are offered in a variety of paddling centres and communities throughout Ontario. Find a course near you.

Wilderness First Aid Courses and Programs 

Whether you are doing front or backcountry camping, it’s important to have some basic first aid knowledge. The farther you travel into the wilderness, the more important these skills become as help may be hours or days away.

Person putting bandages on their feet
It's good to be prepared in the wilderness. Source: Destination Ontario

As you advance into backcountry tripping, you should consider taking an outdoor-based first aid course. These courses are based on the principals of wilderness care and first aid with a practical, hands-on approach to training. Find a course near you.

PLAN YOUR TRIP NOW 

Family setting up a tent in the forest
Plan your camping vacation now. Source: Destination Ontario 

So if you’ve ever wanted to try camping but had no idea where to start, a Learn to Camp program or an Introduction to Backcountry Canoe or Kayak Camping Trip is for you. Start planning your camping adventure now.

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