Tent camping! For some people it’s the only way to go camping, and it’s a natural, budget friendly and easy way to get out and enjoy nature. For others, it’s something that they have never done, have no idea how to even get started, and may even feel overwhelmed or scared at the thought of trying it.
Camping in a tent can be an easy, cost efficient and fantastic way to enhance your experience of exploring Manitoba (and beyond!). Great destinations, beautiful starry nights, campfires (and awesome campfire food!!), fresh air and lots of great memories – this is what we would love to have everyone experience, and this blog post is all about how to get started. This is also a blog post where we highly encourage questions, tips, hints etc in the comment section below! We wrote a separate blog post for food and recipes and as that deserves a blog just to itself! You can view it here – Eat: Campfire Cooking – Planning and Packing.
Tent – this is probably your biggest investment, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. If you’re just starting out and testing out this whole tent camping thing, we suggest that you look at borrowing a tent. If that is not possible you can purchase a suitable tent for a reasonable price. For example Canadian tire just had a nice 6 person tent on sale for under $100 (cheaper than a one night hotel stay!). Important considerations for your first tent include size and a good fly for rain protection. Ideally you should have something like a 4 person tent for 2 people and 6 person for 3 or 4 people. This gives you room to move and store some gear. However, they also come with vestibules and multiple rooms if you need that. Ease of setup is a pretty important feature as you never know when you might arrive at campsite later than planned and have to set up in the dark, or worse, have an unexpected storm where you have to take down in the pouring rain. Another alternative is to see if you can borrow a tent from a friend or relative. (Tip: Always do a few test runs with any tent prior to the first time going camping with it. Set it up in your yard to make sure that all of the pieces are there and also so that you become familiar with it and then you will also look like a pro in front of your kids or significant other, or friends!!)
Tarp(s) – these are pretty cheap, take up minimal space and can make a big difference to your camping experience if it starts to rain or you need some sun protection. You can pick up a basic 12×12 for under $20 and that’s big enough to cover your tent or picnic table. Grab some rope (again, not expensive – this 50′ pkg at Cdn Tire is only $3.59). We also recommend grabbing a pkg of Bungee cord tarp ties as they make it pretty easy to fasten the tarp to trees. If you google search “how to tarp a campsite” you will find lots of different tips, hints and instructions.
Cooking & Eating – Let’s start off as basic as possible. Depending on your menu for the weekend, paper plates work great and can be burnt in the fire. Tinfoil and extendable hot dog / marshmallow roasting sticks (find these at dollarama, cdn tire, or on amazon, etc) may be all you need to cook with. Grab some forks and knives and reusable plastic cups from home. An old pot or kettle (hello garage sale or Value Village!) that you can use to heat water up over the campfire is one thing that we could consider a must have, but you may not. Don’t forget paper towels! Work your way up: once you get more in to camping, we suggest picking up some hard plastic re-useable plates/bowls, cups and cutlery just for camping. Pick up a rubbermaid tote that you can devote just to camping and then add to it as you pick up items (hint: garage sales and second hand stores are great places to find lots of items if you are trying to stick within a budget!). If you can borrow a campstove – GREAT, and if you absolutely fall in love with camping then this is a really great investment along with a camp stove griddle (mmm… bacon and pancakes!). Also a cooler is needed for your cold items – this is another item that you can ask friends and family if they have one that you can borrow for the weekend, or watch for sales once you get an idea of what size you will need.
Lighting – you can find headlamps and lamps/flashlights etc at the dollar store. Please note that these are cheaply made, but actually work pretty well if you’re gentle on them. Princess Auto is another place where you can find these items at a pretty reasonable price and they have a 3 pk you can buy online for $15. (Make sure that they work and that you have batteries in them BEFORE you head out camping!). If you have a camp site with power consider bringing some patio lights or even some Christmas lights to brighten up your home for the weekend.
Sleeping – Most basic, cheap and easy: take your pillows & covers from your bed. If you have a yoga mat, take that to put down underneath you. Working your way up from that: sleeping bag (ask friends/family if they have ones you can borrow, or watch for sales. If you decide you reallly like camping, you may want to make the investment in a decent one but if you’re only going to go out a few times a summer then check walmart or amazon.ca for ones you can find around $30). It does feel more like camping when you are in a sleeping bag though!! The best tip we have is to put something under your sleeping bags (Under will keep you warmer than over). This can be from simple yoga mats to specially designed mats to an air bed. This will be something that is completely a personal preference but we prefer mats (& extra sleeping bag or blanket on top of that but underneath our sleeping bags) over the blow up airbeds.
The campfire – check the regulations of the campsite that you’re booking at. Some will not let you bring in outside wood, and some just “discourage” it. We recommend going prepared as it just makes the camping experience a lot easy, fun and less stressful. Campfire kit:
– waterproof matches (or a box of matches in a ziploc bag) and bbq lighter
– dry small kindling (small pieces of wood) or some firestarters that you can find at the dollar store, walmart, canadian tire, etc. TIP: save your dryer lint and keep some in a ziploc bag in your campfire kit. It is a quick and easy way to start a fire.
– small axe
– bag of campfire wood (if allowed)
All of these usually fit nicely in one of those reuseable grocery shopping bags.
Quick and easy campfire building – crumple up newspaper, put in firepit. Put firestarters or dryer lint over top. Add kindling or small pieces of wood (use axe to chop some small slivers off larger pieces of wood) in a teepee-like shape or in criss-cross shape on top (the age old fire starting debate of Teepee vs. Log cabin…which do you prefer?). Add a few slightly larger (think tv or wii remote thickness – except don’t think about them because you are now in the great outdoors!). Light newspaper in several spots. Once wood is all burning, slowly add a few more pieces at at time until you have enough of a base to add the large pieces. Patience is a virtue and dry wood is key when it comes to easy campfire starting. Now sit back and enjoy…The camp fire is the absolute best thing about camping!
Am I going to have to pee in the woods??
You do not have to completely rough it while tent camping. Just about all campgrounds have modern facilities that include flush toilets, sinks and even showers. You should be able to select your campsite as close to the modern facilities as you like.
Booking your site:
The really great thing about tent camping is that it opens up a lot of last minute options for camp site selection, especially if you are ok with basic (which just means no electrical and no water right at your campsite). Basic sites are usually available for 1 night stays too, vs 3 nights that some of the serviced ones require. We’re going to use the provincial booking site for an example.
Create an account (easy process) and then this account can be used for all provincial campsite bookings.
For the type of facility, select campsite from the dropdown menu. For campground selection, choose the campground you’d like to stay in, ie Birds Hill Park. Check off the types of service you’d like (ie check off basic and electrical) Select your dates and then take a look at the map. Hover your mouse over any green dots to see how many campsites are available for your selected dates and services. Click on one to see a more detailed map of that “bay” with exact locations of campsites. Find one that looks great, is relatively close to a washroom facility and then click on the book now and follow the steps.
A few more things!
Grab a few 4L jugs of water (milk jug size). As we mention in our camping food post, these are great for freezing and using as ice packs in your cooler. Think about taking some fold up chairs so that you can sit around the campfire. Mosquito coils (often referred to as doo-doo coils) work pretty well at keeping down the mosquitoes and are quite inexpensive.
Always ask at the camp office for insider tips on the trails and activities in the park. Hiking, biking, swimming, walking, birdwatching, eating, visiting, and of course exploring.
Check out our “Eat: Campfire Cooking – Planning and Packing” blog post for some meal and menu ideas.
Please comment below with any tips, suggestions or questions!