Let's be honest. The most wilderness survival know-how a person born and raised in Toronto has, is finding shelter when the weather is bad, avoiding eye contact with strangers, and lighting a candle when the power goes out. We all live in a self-sufficient metropolis where our every day necessities are a few bucks and a public transit ride away.
Ontario has the surface area of over a million kilometres. Let that sink in for a second. Our province is huge, which means excellent camping is available for everybody. All the way through spring and summer, thousands of people take off for the cottage or a camping adventure.
But let's just get this out in the open: Mother Nature is a tough mistress and needs to be respected, lest you end up getting lost or gobbled up by that big friendly looking bear you tried to feed your chocolate bar. When you've never made your own fire, there might be a few outrageously obvious things to be aware of before detaching yourself from society, like...
1. Dress Code
Unless you're a huge fan of Survivorman, being smart about what you wear before camping doesn't need to be as drastic as this heroic looking hominid enjoying the company of a mountain range. It is still important if you want to have a good trip, sans an insane amount of bug bites, rashes, and chilly nights. Believe me, the temperature shifts drastically even if you're a few hours outside of the city. Bring a good mix of old clothes you won't feel too bad for getting dirty, including long sleeve shirts and pants, sweaters, and your rockin' Jays hat. A fun trick for the ladies: paint your nails a dark shade so you won't have a complex if your nails constantly look dirty!
2. Efficient Lighting
It's easy to forget how dark it gets when you don't have a ton of skyscrapers towering around you. Even in a crowded campsite, light is hard to come by, and you should be prepared for it. Be sure to pack several flashlights and batteries. Places like Home Hardware and Canadian Tire should be able to get you on your way with some powerful torches... if you don't want to end up like a character in a Blair Witch Project spin off.
3. Meal Preparation
Eating and drinking under a canopy of stars is what camping is all about, to me at least, and if you don't want to end up eating hotdogs three times a day and wash it down with warm beer, you have to plan ahead. Are you up north for two nights and three days? Jot it down and get your friends together to figure out who is going to bring what and how you plan on cooking it. You can't cook a steak on an open fire pit...unless you're MacGyver. Be clever and pack condiments and spices in smaller containers to save room. It's a good time too to pick up matches, fire starter, and ice to keep your food, and most importantly beer, fresh. There aren't any typical garbage cans in the woods, though, and if there were, I'd steer clear from those because...
4. The Animals Are Called Wildlife For A Reason
Back in Toronto, the closest thing we get to wildlife is the occasional coyote or a deer scampering across the Don Valley. Oh, and how can we forget our nemesis the raccoon. Yes, animals are great and adorable, but when you're up north, it's best to leave them be. The best way to attract visitors is leaving a messy campsite. Clean up after yourself! I doubt you'd like a bear poking around your campsite with a thin line of fabric keeping you apart. Most campsites have food lockers that you can put all your food in, as well as reinforced garbage canisters. Never keep food in your tent, or around it. If you don't have that luxury, it's best to hang your food and garbage up on a tall branch or stick it in the trunk of your car. Although, bears have been known to smash open windows if they're feeling especially peckish. The best way for everyone's camping to go on uninterrupted by animals is to not feed them.
Photo Cred - Smart Hiking And Camping Tips
5. Camping Equipment
There are a few things to bring to maximize comfort. Obviously a tent and a mattress are key. Cutlery, pots and pans, a cutting board, a sharp knife, and clean water jugs, just to name a few objects, should be on your list of things to bring. A large tarp is useful as a table cloth and as a sort of roof over your tent in case it rains.Using the rope you packed, be sure to set the tarp up at an angle so the water runs off. Insect repellent is crucial too. It's easy to forget how bad the deer flies and mosquitoes can be. Don't forget a folding chair to chill out by the fire.
6. Building A Fire
Alongside the advent of the wheel, building a fire is probably right up there with the most important skill in the history of humanity. You won't really get far in your camping adventure if you can't get a fire started, so we're here to help you out. At some parks you can buy dry firewood. It's super important for the wood to be as dry as possible, as it won't burn easily when moist. Have some tinder packed with you (newspaper, shredded LCBO bags, fire starter, cardboard, dried up plants and twigs) to help light the kindling. The common way to set your fire up is to have three logs leaning on each other like a tower with a breach big enough on one side for oxygen to feed the flames. Blowing gently on the campfire helps the process, as opposed to lobbing on more wood. Block the wind with your body as you use your lighter or matches to light your work of art. Now get those smores out, it's time to feast!
7. Bask In Nature
We are undoubtedly fortunate to have such a big, lush, untainted backyard. Parks Canada does a great job providing maps, services, and activities. Go on a hike, hang out on the coast of a lake, stargaze all night long - just take advantage of it. Camping may be dirty, tiring, and frustrating at times, but we don't get to see this kind of stuff often in the city.