Camping, especially in the summer, is a long-standing tradition for many Canadians and while it is a great way to spend time outdoors and reconnect with friends and family it requires some skills and planning. However what if you’re new to Canada from a country where camping wasn’t a thing or grew up in a family that didn’t camp? We fell into the second category and never camped before until we tried the Learn to Camp program offered by Ontario Parks.
To mark the occasion, we recorded a video of our first-ever camping (mis)adventures for our YouTube Channel:
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We always said camping was not for us and said ‘no’ to previous invitations from friends, however we finally said ‘yes’ when Ontario Parks asked us to attend their Learn to Camp program. We were the perfect couple for it….virgin campers.
The Learn to Camp Program includes your choice of 1 or 2 overnight camping experiences at select Ontario Park campgrounds. We chose Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville. Once we committed, we then picked the weekend we wanted to attend and it was time to follow through.
Our Learn to Camp Program Coordinator provided us with LOTS of info including a very detailed Information Guide with several checklists on what to bring in terms of food, clothing and personal hygiene. This really removed any guesswork and planning. For once the planning was done for us. Truthfully all we needed to do was figure out what we were going to feed ourselves and how we were going to entertain ourselves. All of the camping gear like: tents, air mattress, camp stove, kitchen utensils, firewood, and even S’mores kits are provided through the program!
Bronte Creek PP is located in Oakville, Ontario. However, please note that Campground & Day-Use Area are in 2 different locations which are far apart and you will have to drive between the two (they’re working on a pedestrian bridge that will link the two together one day).
It varies if you want 1 night or 2 nights, so visit the Ontario Parks website for current program fees.
It’s an outdoor classroom setting, where groups of no more than 15 sit around in camping chairs and the camping instructors teach all the ins and outs of enjoying time outdoors. Our instructors for the weekend were Andrew and Brittnie, both of whom have been camping all over Ontario for 15 years.
They taught our group of newbies everything we needed for a first timers experience in the great outdoors. They obviously taught us how to setup and use the equipment like the dining shelter, tent, campfire, camp stove and more. Watch our video to see the outdoor learning setup.
Safety is top of mind too, there’s some things that noobs may take for granted. For example, if you’re going to use a propane fueled camp stove, DO NOT use it while inside the dining shelter. The high heat can melt or even burn the thin fabric of the shelter. That’s just no good.
The classroom session was more than just about the equipment itself. We learned about the types of plants in the area and creatures we were sharing the forest with. By the way, there’s definitely raccoons in the park. Tony had accidentally left a raw chicken tray in a bag on our campsite and forgot to dispose of it properly. Sure enough, in the middle of the night, some raccoons had picked up the scent, started tearing up the garbage bag and even started fighting over the scraps left inside. Oops. He wont make that mistake again. You see, Tony had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of camping…food and food waste should be properly put away or disposed of, so that you don’t attract the wildlife to share your campsite at 3:02am. Lesson learned.
Important things to keep in mind
You will be outdoors all day and night, so preparation is key. Consider what the weather will be like that weekend, both during the day AND night. Nights can get pretty cool and moist. You also want to prepare for different weather conditions, cause you know, you can never be too sure when it will start pouring rain.
Different Kinds of Camping
- Car Camping – This is the most common kind of camping in which you pull up to a campsite in your vehicle and use it for storage as well as a means of getting supplies.
- Backcountry Camping – This rough & rugged style of camping can be done in a campground or on crown land however its typically very remote, without amenities and requires hiking or canoeing to get to. We toured a backcountry campsite during a previous adventure in southwestern Ontario. Check it out!
- Solo Camping – Experienced Campers, like our Guides Andrew & Brittnie, go camping alone, yes I said alone, to enjoy alone time in nature. Our good friend Camper Christina also does this, all the time. She’s even gone camping when it’s been -40 degrees out! She documents all her trips on her blog.
- Glamping – This is our kind of camping. If you want the everyday conveniences, a slightly upscale version of camping with an outdoor feel to it, then glamping is more your style too. The opportunity to try glamping presented itself before we tried camping so if you’re interested then click here.
Checklist for your visit
It’s a really convenient checklist when you register for Learn to Camp. You need to bring your clothes, personal hygiene products, food and entertainment like a book, soccer ball or deck of cards. The rest of the items are all provided by Ontario Parks. Tony explains the checklist in our video.
We’re both really happy to have tried this program and we both ended the weekend with a huge sense of accomplishment. Camping had always been out of reach for us because we came from families that just never tried it before. The whole process had been demystified for us with the thorough (and very patient) instruction from our camp guides. We’re currently looking at getting our own camping gear so we can get out there on our own. There’s literally hundreds of different campgrounds in this massive province of ours, and each one is unique, with different features for you to enjoy. We’d love to start exploring them all. It’s kind of what this blog is actually all about, we started it to explore every nook and cranny of Ontario, Canada, and it looks like we won’t be done anytime soon.
Have any photos or videos of your visit that you would like to share with us? Send them over to @LetsDiscoverON.