By SHELLY DHINGRA
Special to SAF
As families all over the GTA are in various stages of gearing up for another summer of camping fun at their residential camp sites, others who have caught the fever are deciding where to go and what they need to prepare for.
For Canadians, camping has become a tradition during the warmer season as many enjoy the natural habitats of this great nation. However, it is a recreation that requires experience and responsibility of those who know what they are doing. It is always recommended that a camp getaway be enjoyed in groups with those who know the surroundings of the camp ground.
So where to go?
Ontario Parks (http://www.ontarioparks.com) offers some great options as a camping destination. For first time campers, the site provides some useful information including parks of interest, facilities, activities, guides, as well as seasonal reports.
When speaking with camp go-ers about their favourite spots, many could go on and on about the beautiful places Ontario has to offer.
“Algonquin Park!” suggests Larry. “It has some amazing areas as well as some great 3-5 day canoe trips with short portages. It’s just a beautiful view.”
Algonquin Provincial Park is located in South Central Ontario and is approximately 300 kilometres north of Toronto. Popular for its sizeable ground, Algonquin Park has much to offer to those with various interests including recreational activities, many camp sites, natural and cultural history, education programs and workshops, special events and lodges.
You can visit their site for more information at http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca.
Anish recommends Presqu’ile Provincial Park (http://www.ontarioparks.com/english/pres.html) which is about 160km from Toronto. “I went camping there before and it is beautiful, and they have a beach there!”
Another great spot shared by Mike is Killarney Provincial Park (http://www.ontarioparks.com/english/kill.html). He often takes his family and recommends it for its beauty; however he offers this tip: “Bring a large tarp to string up over the table in the camp site and also bring games/books in case of rain.”
Diane, an avid camper, has been camping every summer from a young age and offers many recommendations and tips when deciding where to camp and what to do. “Couchiching park is where they have fireworks on long weekends, boat show, fair, ice cream cones at Sweet Dreams and a great boardwalk for a long walk.
“Restoule Provincial Park is great if you have a boat or are a family that likes to fish (and you aren’t afraid of 4 hours in the car with the kiddies). You have access to two lakes and there’s NO cell phone service (which is a great way to force you and the family to unplug). The beach is awesome — it is nice and shallow for toddlers.”
For first time campers, she offers these tips especially if you are taking the kids: “Take lots of kid friendly bug spray; a flashlight; sunblock, a complete first-aid kit with some kids/toddler allergy medication; kids Polysporin; different sized band aids and gauze with tape; lots of extra clothes for different weather; check in advance if the park you’re going to has laundry facilities (most do); plastic bags to store those muddy sweats; toys (try not to take anything that takes batteries); blanket for campfire only because it will get dusty and smokey; and good sneakers for walks.”
So what do you need to know when heading out for a camping getaway?
When camping in Ontario, there are a few things you should know and be mindful of. The official province of Ontario website highlights the top ten things you need to know when camping (http://news.ontario.ca/mnr/en/2011/07/top-ten-things-to-know-when-camping.html):
Use the Park Locator to find the park that is ideal for you.
Make a camping list and check it twice — this will help you better plan your trip.
Check the camp rules — know what’s expected before you arrive at the park.
Store your food to keep bear, bees and other wildlife from getting too close for comfort.
Learn how and where to build a campfire, and properly extinguish it — we want to keep our parks safe for years to come.
Find out about the many ways you can minimize your garbage and help keep our parks clean.
Pet lovers can find great ways to make the experience more enjoyable for you, your dog and your neighbouring campers.
Pack and store your camping gear carefully — to make sure it’s ready to use next summer
Get tasty recipes that are easy to do on BBQ or over a campfire.
Try out new games and activities, and look out for park events.
The site also offers a great checklist that every camper should have before venturing out into the wilderness. Some of those items include:
Tent Ground sheet or tarp
Sleeping bags Pillows
Mattress or sleeping pad Air pump
Light bed-sheet Warm blanket
Screen dining tent (or tarp with ropes) Folding chairs
Camp stove Stove fuel
Fuel funnel Water jug
Water bottles Coolers
Ice for cooler Firewood and kindling
Matches / BBQ lighter Waterproof match container
Campfire forks Lantern
Flashlights or headlamps Extra batteries
Duct tape Rope or twine (clothesline)
Small whisk & dust pan Bungee cords
Screwdriver or multi-tool Self-adhesive Bandages
Tensor Bandage Sterile Gauze and pads
Alcohol wipes or hydrogen peroxide Antibiotic ointment
Burn ointment /aloe gel Calamine lotion
Small scissors Tweezers
First-aid tape lifejackets
Making sure you have an adequate list that is checked off is essential before heading out, especially if you have kids. Most camp sites also have regulations you should check for before attending, with policies around things like alcoholic beverages, parking, length of stay, fireworks, boating, biking, campfires and more.
Monika often spends her summers at various camp sites with friends and reminds campers that they need to be prepared. “I love to camp but travelling with a minimal amount of everyday items is hard,” she laughs. “Walmart has some great travel pack and items that I always pick up before I go. One important item is a lot of toilet paper and wet wipes because it does get really dirty. I also like to take dry food snacks like nuts and crackers. You can pack them easily in your backpack or fanny pack in case you get hungry in your adventures… and they aren’t heavy to lug around.”
Spending time in the outdoors is one of the most popular past times for Canadians. Exploring our great nation is something everyone should experience — but be aware of the responsibility and preparation that comes with it. If you’re planning a mini getaway for the first time, be sure to do your research and print off the advised checklist for your safety.
Advancements in camping make it a breeze
Some of us are reluctant to try camping for the first time but as numerous enthusiasts have discovered, a weekend in the Canadian outdoors makes for a fabulous family summer vacation.
No matter whether you are planning an extended road trip to a provincial park, or a weekend getaway out of the city, make it an adventure to remember with these tips:
• Take a crash course: Canadian Tire tells us it is a proud sponsor of ‘Learn to Camp’, a program managed by Ontario Parks that encourages people to try camping with a guided overnight experience at one of the provincial parks (www.ontarioparks.com/learntocamp). Parks Canada holds the ‘Learn 2 Camp’ programs nationally so be sure to check it out near you.
• Stock up on easy-to-use products: With so many new developments in camping equipment, ease-of-use has come a long way — from instant tents that set-up in less than 60 seconds, to a pop-up wagon and a foldable cooler.
• Bring the comforts of home: Camping doesn’t have to be about ‘roughing it’ anymore, says Canadian Tire. Pack items that make you feel more at home such as double-high air mattresses and cooking appliances that allow you to create meals which are more creative than hot dogs.
• Test out equipment in advance: Always try out new equipment in your backyard or local park prior to the trip to ensure all components are included. This also gives you an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the item, taking pressure off when arriving at your campsite.
• Make a checklist: Ensure you have all of your camping essentials packed by drafting a categorized camping checklist. It is helpful to breakdown camping tasks into groups including: eating, living, sleeping, essentials and personal items.
— News Canada