Slacklining at a campsite with a group of friends

Essential gear for summer camping in Ontario

There are a few factors that make for a stellar camping trip: an awesome crew, some gorgeous scenery and the right pieces of gear. And while some key pieces are straightforward regardless of where you’re heading (like a camp stove, headlamp and sleeping pad), Ontario’s climate, terrain and insects demand a little more thought when packing the following items.

1. Tent

Selecting the right tent depends a lot on where you’re headed. If you’re journeying into the backcountry of a park like Frontenac or Bon Echo, opting for a smaller and lighter tent – there are models that weigh less than 2kg – will make the trek in much more pleasant. If you’re planning a car camping retreat, treat yourself to a bigger tent that boasts two doors and plenty of room.

2. Sleeping bag

Although summer days in Ontario often exceed 30 degrees, nights tend to be chilly, especially in northern parks or campsites that border the Great Lakes like Bruce Peninsula (there is a campsite there called Stormhaven after all). Bring a sleeping bag with a comfort rating that’s approximately five degrees below the coldest temperature estimated during your camping trip. To account for temperature changes, choose a versatile sleeping bag – the MEC Oasis has a warmer side for brisk nights and a cooler side for when it gets too toasty.

3. Rain jacket

Rain can strike Ontario parks at any time without much warning, so a good rain shell is a necessary investment. Also, as many campsites are located beside one of the province’s thousands of lakes, you can expect some spectacular sunrises and sunsets but also some very windy mornings.

Essential gear for summer camping in Ontario

4. Bug shelter

Unless you want to battle with Ontario’s relentless mosquitoes and notorious black flies (May campers beware), investing in a bug shelter will let you enjoy Algonquin’s awesome scenery without the company of winged creatures. And always, always bring along plenty of bug spray.

5. Bear safety

While Ontario campers don’t have to worry about grizzlies, black bears are quite common. It’s a good idea to have a bear bell on hand if you plan to hike away from your populated campsite (this bear bell has a magnet to cut out the jingling when you’re back in town). Bear bangers or bear spray are other items to consider if you plan on venturing into the northern backcountry.

6. Chairs

Most of Ontario’s campsites include a picnic table, but thanks to random rainfall, they can remain damp even in the height of summer. Investing in a foldable chair will ensure you always have a comfortable and dry place to sit.

7. Daypack

Take advantage of Ontario’s hiking trails, even if you’re camping in the frontcountry. To do some exploring from your campsite, bring along a daypack to carry essentials like snacks, water bottles, warmer clothing, bathing suit, a headlamp and of course, your camera. A pack that sits comfortably on your back and that can hold about 25–30L will be plenty for a day adventure.

8. Navigation system

Algonquin is over 7000 square kilometres. That’s a lot of space, and much of it is not navigable with your smartphone. Having a handheld GPS unit (along with a map, compass and knowledge about how to use them) is a good idea for any backcountry travel.

9. Footwear

Since many Ontario parks don’t have very technical trails, most people can get away with some hiking shoes or light hiking boots. Make sure to get a pair with good traction and that are preferably waterproof. If you’re looking to get your feet intentionally wet during an Algonquin portage trip or a Thousand Islands kayaking getaway, try a pair of grippy, water-friendly sandals.

Essential gear for summer camping in Ontario

Ontario parks sport some diverse topography, but a few things are always worth noting: the temperature can change drastically, there are thousands of trails to explore, and if the black flies don’t find you, the mosquitoes will. Packing with these things in mind will help make sure you don’t have to worry about anything except kicking back and enjoying the view.

Photo credits: oceanfishing / Shutterstock.com, Kamila Starzycka / Shutterstock.com

Joanie Gaudreau

Writer and fitness enthusiast always chasing her next mountain peak. Also coffee. She chases coffee, too.