by Jane Marshall

Don’t be intimidated! Being a newbie camper makes you cool.

Whether you’re new to this country, starting out on your own, or have just always wanted to try, camping’s a true Canadian tradition. Welcome to the club! Remember, it’s not an elite club: everyone can join. You get to learn a new language that includes words like grommets (those rings on a tarp or tent where you put rope or pegs through), ground sheets (they go under your tent to protect from holes), and Petzl (a brand of head lamp).

Camping’s as old as the first people who inhabited North America. First Nations peoples did it in tipis. Then European settlers under chuckwagons. Nowadays it’s so comfy — we get to eat s’mores and use state-of-the-art technologies.

Here are some practical things to get you started.

Front Country Camping

This means sites have vehicle access. They cater to individuals or groups. Some sites are serviced (meaning electricity and sewer), but for tent camping, look for unserviced. They’re cheaper too. Be sure to reserve in advance where possible, though some are first-come first-served.

Hint: Want to camp away from cars? Try Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park.

Choosing a Tent

Campers Village specializes in front country tents — we even work with a manufacturer, Yanes, to provide just what you want and need. Over the years we’ve helped countless people buy the right tent for the job. Our tents are totally waterproof (beware of cheaper tents that aren’t).

  • Get a tent that’s the right size. Bigger isn’t always better; smaller tents are easier to warm up with your body heat.
  • Tents usually have two parts: a waterproof fly (the outside layer, and make sure it always goes right to the ground or you’ll get wet), and the tent body (the part you unzip and get into). Tents come with fibreglass poles and pegs.
  • Practice at home! Learn to set up your tent in the comfort of your backyard or basement first.


Check out our camping checklistParks Canada also has a great checklist. Key items include:

  • Tent
  • Ground sheet for under your tent so it won’t rip
  • Flashlight
  • Tarp (to sit under if it rains)
  • Rope
  • Cook stove and fuel
  • Rain wear
  • Warm clothes, even in summer

Black Bear
Photo courtesy of Alberta Parks

Animal Safety

Keep animals wild. And enjoy your sightings! You might see a graceful herd of elk, or a beaver swimming along, making a gentle wake with his leathery tail. Here are tips on how to respect animals and stay safe around:

And remember:

  • Store all food and garbage in your car or a bear locker (these are sometimes provided at walk-in campgrounds).
  • Never ever eat or cook in your tent.
  • Never approach or feed any wild animal.

Okay, lots of rules. But the most important rule is to enjoy yourself! If you’re dry, warm and well fed, the outdoors becomes a huge playground. And remember, we’re here to help with all your questions.