By no means am I an outdoorsy person. I like nature, I enjoy exploring it and seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. But by no means am I an expert on all things camping or survival. J has camped many times before, he grew up in British Columbia, and has been camping deep into the forests where there are most definitely bears and no cell reception!
He introduced me to camping, and now it is the one thing we do at least once a year. We have been doing this for a few years now, and we have found a happy medium between hardcore ‘real’ camping where you hoist food into trees to keep the bears away, and the entire forest is your toilet, to glamping in a Yurt – no tent needed and you have electricity, a BBQ on site, and hot showers are stones throw away.
We have found that it can be a super fun experience if you go in prepared. Pick the level of difficulty to suit you – and get to explore different regions that you might not have otherwise discovered. Most of the time we will get to experience a bit of nature, and pretend we are ‘roughing it’ when we really are just glamping it. And we always come home with a deep appreciation for a hot shower and our cosy mattress. It’s the perfect amount of outdoors for this city girl who likes a bit of country once in a while.
After our most recent camping trip to Sauble Falls this year, which I shared about on stories, a few of you reached out and said you were interested in giving it a go. So I thought I would do a quick round up post of some highlights of what to expect when you go camping (or glamping) for the first time. These are some things that I never really thought about until I started experiencing camping for myself. Kinda the unspoken rules you need to know before you move your living situation to a roofless accommodation for a short while.
There are lots of great websites and Youtube videos that provide great resources for preparing for camping. But theres some also camping etiquette that I learnt along the way, that you dont really know about till you get out there. That is what I thought I should share. So here are a few keys to know (or at least that I wish I had known) before you set off to explore the great outdoors!
Know your Glamping Type
Camping is only as fun as you make it. If you are miserable, everyone else will be too. So know what you need to be happy and make sure you have that.
My first camping experience was canoe camping. We had to haul our camping gear to a campsite that was only accessible via canoe. Of course, this meant no electricity or running water was on site. But is was probably the most authentic camping experience I have ever had. It was definitely the hardest, and if you are at all squeamish about critters, bugs or going poop in the woods, then this is definitely not for you! But showering in a lake, and hoisting your food into a tree every night is a whole other experience and I am glad I tried it.
Since that first camping trip, I have discovered that in Ontario we have camp sites with cabins, yurts, or tent camping sites that have running water, electricity to the site, and with flushing toilets and showers nearby for campers to use. A real camper might laugh at these modern amenities, but to a City girl like me, these are important and necessities for me. While the canoe camping was definitely a fun experience, the whole not being able to take a shower for a few days, or poop without worrying about mosquitos biting my butt was a bit much for me.
For me, I need some basic amenities that are my ‘necessities’ or non-negotiables. I prefer sites that have flushing toilets and showers. Electricity on site is also important. If nothing else, we will use it to boil water in a kettle in the morning for coffee or tea. And charge our phones – I mean, we camping, not savages, you know?
Yurt camping was probably the easiest type of ‘camping’ of them all. A yurt is like a permanent tent. It has bunk beds and some basic furniture. The walls are made of a thick canvas and the roof is a wooden frame. It comes with electricity and heating (so you can camp there in the winter too!). And they have their own BBQ and front porch with a picnic table. So you all you really need to bring with you is some bedding and food, and you are good to go. I would recommend this for those with small kids, since you dont need to lug as much stuff with you when you go. Note that these sites book up pretty fast, so they are hard to come by. But totally worth it if you can snag one!
Plan Plan Plan – And then plan some more.
In Ontario, the camping reservations in public parks start exactly 4 months in advance, and they book up fast. So if you plan on going camping in August, you need to book in April/May for your preferred dates. Especially if you want a long weekend booking. We are normally planning our next camping trip in the winter, and I have an alarm on my phone on the day that is exactly 4 months before the date I want to go camping, so I can book it right when the site availability opens up!
Start your camping list early of all the things you need. The list is long, and you likely will forget something. But if you start planning early, the chances you will forget something essential is less. I once forgot to pack tent poles for our tent! We had to find a way to hold our tent up using just rope! It was the saddest looking tent. And we died laughing about it later. J has never let me live that one down!
Below is a sample of the list we use – just to give you an idea of what we bring along. You are essentially paring down all your possessions to the bare essentials that you need to survive, and then packing it all into your car and taking them with you everywhere you go for the weekend!
Plan all your meals so you don’t over pack, because space is at a premium, especially if you dont have a big vehicle to store everything. For me half the fun of camping is the food! I love planning each and every meal. But it also helps to make sure we are only taking what we will eat so we aren’t over packing for the trip.
Plan your activities and hikes, check the weather and plan accordingly. It is always good to have a general idea of what you want to explore in the area before you go. That way you will not get bored trying to find something to do! And always have some back up activities like board games incase of rain.
My Basic Glamping
Necessities Packing List
Don’t Feed the Animals – on purpose or by mistake
I think it is obvious, but I will say it here. Animals really should not be eating human food. Most of the time it could make them very sick or kill them, and it is enforcing a bad habit if they start relying on humans for food.
But more importantly, if you dont want to be woken up in the middle of the night by a weird scratching at your tent door, then do not bring any food inside or near your tent. Bring the food out when you are cooking and eating, then put everything away in your vehicle, or (if you are proper camping) you will have to hoist it up onto a tree or a special pole that is designed to keep the food away from animals.
Once we got lazy and left a cooler out by the picnic table near our tent. We were woken up by a loud scratching noise. Racoons were trying to get into the cooler! Don’t be like us! Keep the food locked away where animals can’t smell it or get to it!
Clean up After Yourself – Leave the grounds as you found them
Another obvious one, but again, you are in nature, do not throw any garbage on your campsite or around the campgrounds. There are designated garbage cans, throw all garbage in there. Or just store it in your vehicle till you get to a garbage can.
This is not only good for the environment, but also keeps those pesky critters away! They can make a bigger mess if they get to your garbage. So make sure to keep things locked up!
There is no maid service in nature. The next campers will be getting the site just as you left it, so leave it just the way you found it. Spotless.
Washing Your Dishes – Theres no sinks and drains in nature
I prefer to take reusable camping utensils, dishes and silverware. But some people take disposables (which is easier, but I am not a big fan of creating more garbage than is necessary).
So what do you do with your dirty dishes or cooking utensils? You do NOT take them over to the lake or bathrooms to wash them. You will need to bring along some sort of tub or large bucket so you can wash your dishes on your camp site. You will need to fill the bucket with water, wash the dishes in the bucket then dump the dirty water in a designated area (you will need to ask the campsite what they recommend for dumping grey water).
I also highly recommend an environmentally safe detergent, incase you are dumping the water into the plants.
The Ground is Lumpy and Sound Travels Far in the Wild – Respect your Neighbours
The ground is not fun to sleep on. An air mattress is marginally better. Don’t expect to get the best night of sleep when camping. You will likely hate the mattress. And something will wake you up in the middle of the night, or a dumb bird will decide right above your tent at 5am is the perfect time to start singing.
I know I am really selling this to you. But the truth is you don’t go camping to sleep-in. You go to explore and discover a new place. So keep that in mind. It will eventually come to an end and you will get to go back to your favourite mattress, hopefully with a newfound appreciation for beds, and just enjoy the change of pace.
Also, you may not realize this, but sound travels really far in the outdoors. Normally by about 11pm most places will have designated quiet hours. You will be surprised how far what you think might be ‘quiet playing of music’ actually travels. So be mindful of any other campsites around you.
It is actually quite funny to hear all the snoring coming from various campsites at night or early in the morning.
And remember to bring ear plugs if noises bother you at night. You will definitely hear some creatures at night, or the birds chirping away early in the morning!
And that is what I have learnt in the few short years of being a newbie ‘camper’.
I love it. I love being able to discover new places. It is most definitely a different kind of vacation. It is not one of those – relax and do nothing sort of trips – it takes a bit of planning, giving up of a few ‘modern amenties’ that we take for granted, and you do have to learn to fend for yourself. But I enjoy the challenge, and find it a fun new experience, especially when camping with a large group of friends or family. I always come back feeling like I spent some quality time with the people I camped with, and that I accomplished something.
And we always have some fun stories that come out of our camping trips.
Are you a camper?
What are your camping tips and tricks? Let me know below!