Campground checklist

By: Adrienne Robertson

Author: Canadian Living


Campground checklist

By: Adrienne Robertson

When you visit a national or provincial park with your family, you are essentially renting an empty patch of land. Included amenities: a picnic table, fire pit and a shared outhouse down the road (flush toilets and showers are often available farther away). Everything else is in your hands, so make sure you head into the woods prepared.

If it's your first time visiting a campground, be aware of the following:

1. Book early to avoid disappointment
Most campgrounds start accepting reservations in the winter. Ontario parks will book campsites starting five months before your arrival date (so November 1 for an April 1 booking, February 15 for a July 15 booking). Parks Canada begins its reservation process online in April for most campgrounds; book early because it is first come, first served and many families have their favourite spots picked out months in advance.

2. Your food is safest in your car
Bears aren't the only animal you should expect to rummage through your food. Raccoons are interested in anything with flavour: things like salt and pepper and dog food have been known to go missing. Put your food in coolers and containers and lock those in the car. You won't have to deal with bears, raccoons or worse -- skunks.

3. Firewood doesn't grow on trees
The biggest misconception among new campers is that the woods are a free-for-all. Campgrounds sell firewood at the front gates, so don't use the greenery from around your site and destroy the environment for everyone else. You can get fined for cutting brush around campsites.

4. Water is precious
Family campgrounds usually have water taps scattered between sites. This water is safe to use for hand-washing or boiling for dishes, but is not recommended for drinking. Bring your own bottled water for consumption. Even though you may be on the lengthy shores of a beautiful Canadian lake, water is a limited resource, so turn off the tap when you leave and use biodegradable soaps.

5. Noise travels
You know how thin the walls can be in hotels, so consider how far noise travels in campgrounds. Barking dogs, crying babies and loud partiers can keep half a campground awake. Many parks have designated radio zones that allow a bit more noise, so watch the zone you choose. And don't forget all that separates you from your neighbours is a thin piece of nylon and a few trees!

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Campground essentials
Once you have familiarized yourself with your particular campground and its rules, it's time to get packing! The following is a list of common items that will come in handy at a campground (some may differ depending on whether you are taking a trailer or setting up a tent):

For setting up camp
• Trailer OR tent and tent pegs
• Rope, tarps
Pillows, sheets, sleeping bags, blankets
• Mats for sleeping (with air pump if necessary)
• Axe
• Tools
• Duct tape
• Extension cord (for electrical sites)
• Propane tanks
• Lamps
• Waterproof bags and plastic containers
First-aid kit
• Pet supplies, if necessary (food, dishes, leash)
• Broom (for trailers)
• Biodegradable dish soap and hand soap
• Toiletries
• Candles
Bug spray, bug nets, citronella candles or mosquito coils

For eating
• Cooler with ice, food
• Bin to store food (to be locked in car at night)
• Matches and a lighter in a sealed waterproof bag
• Bottled water
• Dishes, dish cloth, dish bin
• Tablecloth
• Mini BBQ and tools
• Camp stove
• Pots, pans, utensils, knives, cutting board
• Kettle
• Marshmallow/hotdog skewers for the fire
• Garbage bags

For wearing
• T-shirts
• Sweatshirts
• Shorts
• Jeans
• Pajamas
• Socks
• Undergarments
• Hiking boots
• Sandals
• Running shoes
• Sun hat
• Warm hat and mitts (for nighttime -- just in case!)
Sun block
• Sunglasses

For exploring and relaxing
• Maps
• Lawn chairs
• Beach toys
• Fishing gear
• Deck of cards, board games
• Books and magazines
• Rain gear, umbrellas
• Flashlights with extra batteries
• Boat gear (life jackets, canoe paddles)
• Bikes, helmets
• Music (for the car or radio zones)
• Camera, binoculars
• Small knapsack for day trips

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Campground checklist