Camping in Canada for the First Time—A Starter Checklist

Are you setting your sights on camping in Canada for the first time with the family this summer? With some planning, a little know-how and our handy checklist, you’ll be set for a great time no matter what Mother Nature decides to send along with you.

Exploring a bit of this big, beautiful country, communing with nature and going on an adventure together—you and your family are excited about taking your first camping trip. But you have questions, such as will nature have teeth or wings? And where do we begin? Not to worry! Walmart has you covered with everything you need for camping in Canada for the first time.

Plan Ahead

Do not – I repeat! – do not leave your campground space to chance. Decide when you’re going to go and make a reservation. Many national and provincial parks fill up well in advance, and you don’t want to be left on the outside looking in or sleeping in your vehicle. Choose a campground that’s not too far from home. This experience isn’t an endurance test. It’s supposed to be fun! So aiming for Banff when you live in St. John’s might not make for the best initial experience. Arrive early on your first day, with reservation and confirmation in-hand, so you get the lay of the land and learn the rules of the site.

Your provincial government’s website will lead you to provincial parks. Parks Canada not only provides a comprehensive guide to national parks, but it also offers a Learn to Camp course in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. (Many provinces also offer a similar course in smaller centres.)

Camping in Canada—items to pack:

  • Campsite Gear
  • Ozark Trail 6-person Instant Cabin Tent)
  • Ventura All-Purpose Tarpaulin 9 x 12 FT
  • Coleman Comfortsmart 2-lb Sleeping Bag
  • Ozark Trail Sparky the Robot Kids’ Sleeping Bag
  • Intex Twin Classic Downy Airbed
  • Ozark Trail 100-Lumen LED Lantern
  • Ozark Trail Deluxe Arm Chair
  • Camp Kitchen
  • Deluxe 2-burner Stove
  • Coleman 5-Gallon Expandable Water Carrier
  • Ozark Trail 25-L High Performance Cooler
  • Clothing
  • Coleman Adult Eva Jacket
  • Ozark Trail Mens’ Hiro Hiking Boot
  • George Boys’ 4-piece Sleep Set
  • Canadiana Girls’ Hoodie
  • Other essentials
  • Equate Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 60, 3-pack
  • Off! Familycare Summer Splash Spray Insect Repellent

Campsite gear

Count the number of people in your group. Are you a family of four, or five families of six? (Camping with a big group really is more fun!)  Not only does this affect the size and number of tents you need, but the amount of everything else, too. Camping can be successful when everyone is comfortable and dry.

Ozark Trail 6-person Instant Cabin TentShop Now

Ozark Trail 6-person Instant Cabin Tent

When we were kids, Dad spent an hour pounding in spikes to put up our tent. This roomy room-away-from-home by Ozark Trail is ready in 60 seconds—no assembly required! Poles are pre-attached to the tent. Simply unfold and extend for a 10- by 9-foot space that comfortably fits two queen air mattresses or up to six campers in sleeping bags. Three large windows and two over-sized ground vents offer maximum views and ventilation. Extras include hanging gear loft, gear organizer, media pocket and electrical cord access.

Ozark Trail Polyethylene Heavy Duty TarpShop Now

Ozark Trail Polyethylene Heavy Duty Tarp

tarpaulin, or tarp, is useful in so many ways when you’re camping. Spread beneath your tent, it provides a moisture barrier for the tent floor. Hung above the tent with rope, it diverts rain or sunlight away. You can carry firewood with it, cover your cooking implements and find many other ways it can be useful. This tarp by Ozark is engineered to be tear, wear and crack resistant to -29 degrees Celsius. With heavy-duty grommets (at least 224 inches, corner patch), 14 by 14 weave per square inch and a 0.25-mm thickness, this all-purpose tarp is ready for whatever you need.

Coleman Comfortsmart 2-lb Sleeping BagShop Now

Coleman Comfortsmart 2-lb Sleeping Bag

This bag is meant for the camper who’s concerned about being cold. The Coleman Comfortsmart sleeping bag is rated for temperatures between 4- and 16-degrees Celsius and people up to 5 feet 11 inches tall. When it comes time to pack up, Coleman has designed this ThermoTech insulated bag to zip-up without snagging (thanks to ZipPlow technology). It rolls up and fastens with its Quick-Cord system.

Ozark Trail Sparky the Robot Kids’ Sleeping BagShop Now

Ozark Trail Sparky the Robot Kids’ Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag with sleeves? How fun is that? Ozark’s Sparky the Robot is designed to be a breathable, comfortable and cozy sleeping bag for kids. It measures 62-inches long by 24-inches wide and has a dual-sided zipper with easy pull cord.

Intex Twin Classic Downy AirbedShop Now

Intex Twin Classic Downy Airbed

Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a good night’s sleep. With a weight capacity of 300 pounds, this airbed with a waterproof sleeping surface by Intex can also double as an extra sleeping space at home. An extra-wide opening on the 2-in-1 valve helps make inflating or deflating quick and easy. Air pump sold separately.

Ozark Trail 100-Lumen LED LanternShop Now

Ozark Trail 100-Lumen LED Lantern

Let your little light shine! The Ozark Trail 100-Lumen Lantern is compact but bold with light. This lantern emits a bright 100 lumens of LED light output on high, shining for approximately 26 hours with only three AA batteries (batteries not included). Hang it in your tent with the carabiner-style clip or take it with you to help light your way through the campground after dark (as the kids scamper along with flashlights or headlamps). Includes high or low settings.

Ozark Trail Deluxe Arm ChairShop Now

Ozark Trail Deluxe Arm Chair

Carry this camping chair to your favourite spot, pop a beverage in the cup holder and you’re ready to settle into the wild for a while. The powder-coated steel frame is rust-proof and designed to hold up to 225 pounds. You’ll get a lot of use out of this chair for sporting events, family BBQs, etc. Comes with carrying case and strap.

Camp kitchen

My one (and only) daddy/daughter camping trip failed because of the food. Dad brought canned spaghetti, no can opener and no cookware! He cut the can open with a knife and accidentally dropped it into the fire. It made for a funny story years later but a long night of growling stomachs for a grown man and a little girl.

Many first-time campers aren’t quite as unprepared as my Dad, but they fail to bring enough food. Count the number of meals you’ll eat (include some snacks!) and the ingredients you’ll need to make them. Keep it simple. And don’t forget essential condiments such as Frank’s RedHot Sauce (my husband would never forgive me!), salt and pepper. Camp cooking calls for resourcefulness. Making eggs in a slippery skillet full of bacon grease is some peoples’ idea of heaven and cuts down on the need for cooking oil.

Bring camping dish sets, cutlery and cooking utensils. Some items can do double duty. For example, the camping mugs (that come with the set) can be used instead of cups and glasses. You’ll need at least one pot (based on the needs of your meals list), a frying pan and hot and cold drinks (a bottle opener and corkscrew may come in handy for opening drinks). I’d be lost without my French press at a time like this. You can use the pot for boiling water.

Pack a dishpan and biodegradable dish soap for washing dishes and cookware—you’ll be glad you did. Remember garbage bags, dishcloths and towels, aluminum foil and paper towels. A plastic tablecloth will also come in handy at mealtime.

And don’t forget the roasting forks for roasting tasty hot dogs or giant marshmallows over burning embers. If you’re packing marshmallows, you might as well throw in a s’mores grilling basket! S’mores are the campfire tradition that canned spaghetti never became!

Here are some more camp kitchen essentials to help make your first camping experience a great one.

Deluxe 2-Burner StoveShop Now

Deluxe 2-Burner Stove

20,000 BTU of cooking power (10,000 per burner), this enamel-coated, stainless-steel portable camp stove by World Famous Sales of Canada Inc operates with disposable propane cylinders (sold separately). Side windshields help keep the flame (lit with matches or lighter) from blowing out. It features fold-down legs, and a built-in carry handle to make it easier to tote.

Coleman 5-Gallon Expandable Water CarrierShop Now

Coleman 5-Gallon Expandable Water Carrier

This expandable water carrier by Coleman essentially folds flat for compact storage and transportation. The on/off spigot can be easily removed for quick filling. This polyethylene carrier is resistant to dents and cracks.

Ozark Trail 25-L High Performance CoolerShop Now

Ozark Trail 25-L High Performance Cooler

Ozark Trail’s high-performance cooler works best when it’s full. It is molded without seams to help guard against breakage. This cooler has even been bear-tested! Pack it with your perishables, keep it in the shade as much as possible and enjoy fresh food longer by using ice blocks instead of cubes. (Blocks take longer to melt.) It features a stainless-steel locking plate and bottle opener as well as a fish ruler.

You might also like: Easy Healthy Meals

Clothing

Dressing in layers is the best way to prepare yourself for your camping trip. Staying dry and warm contribute to your comfort. Walmart.ca has all the clothing gear to help you pack smart and to keep you protected from the elements without needing to rent a pack mule to go on a family hike.

Coleman Adult Eva JacketShop Now

Coleman Adult Eva Jacket

When rain falls, pull on a lightweight, 100% waterproof, and PVC-free jacket like this one by Coleman. It packs small and features a full zipper with a snap-closure storm flap, adjustable sleeve cuffs and a full coverage hood. A covered back vent helps keep condensation at bay. Snap-closure cargo pockets give you a place to carry a snack.

Ozark Trail Mens’ Hiro Hiking Boot

Ozark Trail Mens’ Hiro Hiking Boot

Hiking boots are ideal for trekking around the campground and surrounding wooded areas. He’ll be ready to take on hills and the woods in these Ozark Trail hiking boots for men. With a mesh upper and soft inside for comfort, these lace-up boots are made for walking.

George Boys’ 4-piece Sleep Set

George Boys’ 4-piece Sleep Set

Proper sleepwear will help the family sleep through the night. Here’s one set of boys’ pyjamas for all types of camping nights! Four 100% cotton pieces by George are included to mix and match—longer sleeves for cooler nights, shorts for warm ones. This set features a fun print and graphic with elasticized waists.

Canadiana Girls’ Hoodie

Canadiana Girls’ Hoodie

Hoodies are great for layering. Keep her warm and show Canadian pride with this girls’ cotton/polyester blend, zip-up hoodie by Canadiana. It’ll help keep her warm and cozy as she wards off the evening chill while roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

Other essentials

In addition to extra camp-stove fuel, bring along extra batteries for your lantern and anything else that runs on battery power. Don’t forget to add pillows and blankets to your camping list. They will help make everyone’s sleep experience more enjoyable.

Make sure you have plenty of sunscreen, for sunny (and not-so-sunny) days. And be sure to pack insect repellent because buggy camp days are pretty much unavoidable.

Equate Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 60, 3-pack

Equate Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 60, 3-pack

You’ve planned for rain but here’s hoping you experience sunny days on your camping trip. This spray-on SPF 60 sunscreen by Equate is waterproof resistant. The oil-free formula offers UVA/UVB protection. It’s also hypoallergenic, so it’s considered safe for kids and those with sensitive skin.

Off! Familycare Summer Splash Spray Insect Repellent

Off! Familycare Summer Splash Spray Insect Repellent

You can try to ignore the bugs but, trust me, they won’t ignore you. Be prepared to fend off pesky insects with this family-friendly insect repellent by Off! This formula helps to repel mosquitoes for up to three hours. It also helps to repel black flies, biting midges, deer flies, ticks and chiggers.

Don’t leave home without After Bite, because bug bites happen. A First-aid kit is a must because scrapes and cuts happen, too. Did I mention you’ll need to remember to pack toiletriestowels, hats (to help protect from the sun) and possibly gloves (to help protect from the cold)? Phew! I almost forgot. Oh, and we never leave for the campground without a roll of duct tape. Yep, that’s right. From patching a tent to removing a sliver, duct tape’s abilities know no bounds!

Is your dog going with you? Check to ensure that the campsite you booked is pet-friendly. If Rover is going camping, you’ll need to pack dog essentials as well.

If it seems like a lot goes into a camping trip, you’re right! But once you get to your destination, you’ll be thankful that you planned it right and brought everything you need. Before you know it, you’ll be experienced campers, enjoying the best of Canada’s great outdoors.

See also: Best BBQ Brands at Walmart

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Lisa is the author of five books and counting. She’s also a versatile voice-artist and the former morning co-anchor at 680 News. She loves coffee, cheese and Twizzlers, but not at the same time. She believes the best part about working from home is talking on the phone to people who have no idea that she's still wearing her pajamas. Animal lover Lisa lives in Wallaceburg (about an hour west of London) with her husband and their senior rescue cat Miss Sugar. You can follow Lisa on Twitter @lisambrandt.