Going camping for the very first time can be daunting! I tested out a location which is not too far from Toronto called Balsam Lake. When deciding on which campsite to visit, you will need to decide what you are interested in doing on your trip. Some camp grounds are known for or better to go to for certain activities such as mountain biking, swimming, canoeing, portaging, etc.
Choosing a campsite:
Try to choose a campsite close to bathrooms (or a few doors down) as it can be a long jaunt
If you require a power outlet to blow up mattress for example, there are campsites which have those options. In your reservation options, select electrical service
Some campsites within a camp ground are called “No Radio” sites; this means that you can NOT play music from any kind of electronic or speaker. If you want to hear music at these sites, you will have to grab the guitar and have a sing along!
If you are at a location with multiple campsite locations around a lake, chose a campsite on the east side of the lake, this way you will get a good view of the sunset over the water
Some campsites are closer together than others. At Balsam Lake we stayed at the Maple campsite and it had some privacy between campsite by using trees, but I have heard other locations vary
Before starting your packing, you have to chose where in the campground you want to stay. Most campgrounds you must book ahead of time especially on busy long weekends. A list of suggestions to help you chose a campground and campsite is listed below.
Preparing for your camping trip can be a fairly daunting task if you have never gone before, but not to worry, below is a list of supplies below for first time campers (or to remind all of you camping veterans)! If you are an inexperienced camper, try to make sure you are bringing at least one person who knows how to build a camp fire, most other things come with easy instructions.
Camping Supplies List:
Wood (some campsite locations may have wood you can purchase from the camp store)
Long Lighter x2 or Matches (and fire starter)
Paper plates and cutlery
Flashlights (recommended one per person)
Tarp x2 & Bungee Cord and Rope (one tarp for over the tent and one for under the tent if you are traveling during a rainy season or are expecting rain)
Air Mattress & Electric Pump (or bicycle pump with nozzle adjustments)
Sleeping bag & pillows
Dish soap and rags
Clothing: Hat, sweater, track pants or sweat pants, shorts x2, shirts x2, bras, socks, underwear, pjs
Toiletries: hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap
Phone charger & battery pack
Pot or kettle to boil water, coffee
Card and/or board games
Food: Water (Bring about 2L/person/day, especially during hot summer months), hot dogs/sausages & buns, marshmallows, fruits & vegetables, condiments (ketchup, relish, mustard…), snacks (trail mix, granola bars), coleslaw, sandwiches, salad, ice
At Balsam Lake, things to do include: hiking and biking trails, you can rent a canoe, paddle board or kayak, there is a beach to sun tan or go swimming, there are picnic tables to have a BBQ at and you can also rent floating mats to use in the water. The friendly staff at Balsam Lake are there to help you find your campsite and decide which activity to do first! Head to the beach to rent a canoe, kayak or paddle board, break for lunch and then head to your campsite for around 2 pm to set up your tent! You can always go back to the beach, but setting up a tent in the dark can be difficult if you have never done it before.
While exploring camp grounds around Toronto and the GTA, I also checked out Emily Provincial Park, Petroglyphs Provincial Park and Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. Emily Provincial Park is another great one if you are new to the camping experience as it is close to a small town and other amenities. The Petroglyphs are great for a day out hiking as there are a number of trails and you get to experience some of the Canadian History. Kawartha Highlands is best if you want to do some portaging and canoeing as there are several islands and trails that are off grid or not accessible by other means of transportation, if you choose to do this, make sure you know where you are going and take an emergency kit with you as cell service will be very minimal.
Overall, Balsam Lake was an excellent campsite to try camping in a tent for the first time!