Campers sitting around a campfire at night, with a tent in the background

The best ways to get ready for camping season

Camping season is so close we can almost taste the s’mores, smell the forest, and feel the morning breeze. You better believe we’re counting down the days, so we want to spread the excitement with plenty of tips to get prepped for camping season.

Book your campsites early

MEC is proud to call Parks Canada one of our community partners, and we’re happy to announce that Parks Canada camping reservations will open in April 2021 (for trips between May 2021 and March 2022) – details and exact dates for each location are available on the Parks Canada reservations site. Provincial park campsite reservations launch dates vary across Canada, so check your region to see when you can start to book.

Pro tips for campsite reservations:

  • Plan ahead: Do your research and choose campsites up front, so when booking opens, you’re ready to go. Reservations sell out fast.
  • Be flexible with timing: Long weekends book up quickly. Consider a mid-week trip or regular weekends, and have a few dates to choose from when you’re booking.
  • Try somewhere new: Check out Parks Canada’s list of 10 alternatives to Canada’s most popular national parks to discover a hidden gem.
  • Check back again later: Didn’t get your spot? Cancellations happen and campsites might be released again for you to hop on it.
  • Learn the basics: If you’re new to camping, especially at national parks, check out Parks Canada’s Camping 101 guide for info on services, reservations, etiquette and more.
  • Get a Discovery Pass now: Buy now from your local MEC store for unlimited admission at more than 80 Parks Canada locations that typically charge a daily entrance fee.
Scenic view of mountains and lake in Yoho National Park, with Discovery Pass overlaid on top

Organize and restock your gear

New to camping? Check out our camping checklist and backpacking checklist to gear up. If you have existing camping gear, now’s the time to restock and assess. It’s also a great time to consider upgrades based on your goals. Maybe that means a down sleeping bag, a cushier sleeping pad, a lighter tent, a faster boiling stove – you get the idea.

Things to replace and stock up on early:

Tips for pre-season gear checks:

  • Inflate your sleeping pad to check for leaks; same with camp pillows
  • Fire up your camp stove to make sure it’s working; white gas/multi-fuel stoves need regular maintenance
  • Set up your tent to make sure all poles and pegs are accounted for, and that there are no holes. Sweep out last season’s dirt while you’re at it.
  • Look (and smell) your sleeping bag and liner – is it finally time to give it a wash?
  • Re-waterproof your gear, like jackets, rain pants and hiking boots.
  • Organize your camp cooking supplies and make sure they’re clean
Camper flipping a pancake with tents and another camper in the background

Two-burner stoves are great for car camping, since they fit big pots and pans for group cooking.

Plan your camp meals

Fact: camping food goes way beyond spider dogs (but they’re definitely fun). Before you even pull your campstove out of storage, you can get inspired for fresh-air meals by researching new recipes online or browsing camp cookbooks. You could even prep camp snacks and backcountry meals at home with a food dehydrator – new goal for the year, perhaps? And don’t forget about the coffee. Grinders and hand-pump espresso can take your brew from functional to fantastic.

Brush up on Leave No Trace

With so many more people camping, it’s incredibly important to look after wild places. Leave No Trace Canada is dedicated to promoting responsible outdoor recreation and is one of MEC’s community partners. To get started, learn the 7 ways to hike and camp responsibly.

Leave No Trace (LNT) involves more than just packing out your orange peels – though you should definitely do that. When you understand the principles, you can plan for things like storing food away from wildlife and knowing how to poop in the backcountry. Some of our favourite LNT friendly gear items:

  • Portable trowel: To easily dig a 15cm (6in.) deep cathole 60m/200 ft. away from water sources when nature calls.
  • Binoculars: To respect wildlife, give them space, and observe from a distance.
  • Lantern: To minimize campfire impacts in the backcountry, while still having a cozy light source.
Hiker behind rock, holding a trowel

A few simple Leave No Trace principles keep the backcountry in tip-top shape for everyone out there.

Get ready for the backcountry

Car camping has a ton of benefits (hello, full-size pillows). But being in the backcountry is pretty darn amazing – it’s just nature, your gear, and a blanket of stars. It’s one of the most memorable ways to enjoy the outdoors.

If you’re new to backcountry camping, our article on how to plan your first overnight camping trip is loaded with tips to get started. You can ask friends, research online, and read guidebooks to find a good beginner backcountry trip for you. Remember to look into what type of backcountry permit or reservation you need for the trail and backcountry site you have your eye on.

Since you’ll be carrying everything, good hiking gear is important. Look into MEC Label gear and clothing for high-quality items at a great value. You could also ask friends to borrow their gear, or look into secondhand gear to save some bucks.

Jumping people on a dock
MEC Staffer

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