Ontario Parks

Backcountry

Safety and Etiquette in the Backcountry

A backcountry trip can be a life-changing experience. It requires preparation, respect, and knowledge.

Plan Ahead

  • Research your trip so that you are familiar with the route and provincial regulations.
  • Travel within your personal limits, don’t over extend yourself.
  • Pack consciously, bring only the essentials.
  • Become familiar with how all your gear works before heading out.
  • Waterproof your important items.
  • Bring a map, compass and GPS.
  • Always pack a first aid kit.
  • Leave an itinerary with a responsible person at home so that, if you are overdue, searchers will know where to start looking.
  • Proper food planning can make your trip more enjoyable and reduces the potential for litter. Avoid cans and glass containers as they are prohibited in many provincial parks.
  • Consult the weather forecast, prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.

Travelling

  • Plan to arrive at your destination and allow time for campsite setup during daylight hours. Nighttime travel is dangerous and should be avoided.
  • Use only existing trails and portages.
  • Avoid widening trails by walking single file in the middle of the trail.
  • “Rules of the road” apply on waterways too – please do not block channels.
  • When loading and unloading at portages, be courteous to others and ensure your gear and boats are out of the way so that others can access the portage.

Campsites

  • Good campsites are found not made. Use only existing campsites.
  • Set-up tents in previously cleared areas.
  • Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
  • Do not alter the campsite by digging trenches around your tent, stripping moss to create a tent pad, moving rocks, or creating log structures.

Campfires

  • Use a lightweight camp stove to reduce fire hazards and reduce firewood consumption.
  • If a fire is necessary, keep it small and use existing fire pits. Do not relocate or build new fire pits as this is prohibited and can cause forest fires.
  • Use only dead wood for your campfire, preferably collected away from your campsite.
  • Let your fire burn down to ashes, drown your fire thoroughly with water, stir the ashes and add more water. Do not leave any garbage in your firepit.
  • Do not build a fire if it is windy, or if a fire restriction is in effect. Fire restrictions may be declared during times of extremely high fire hazard, making it illegal to have a fire for any purpose, including cooking. It is your responsibility to know if a fire restriction is in place.

Sanitation and Waste Disposal

  • Treat all drinking water to prevent contracting Giardia or other waterborne parasites and diseases. Use a suitable purification method such as a water filter, iodine, or boil water for at least five minutes.
  • Pack food in reusable, leak-proof containers to minimize waste.
  • Pack it in, pack it out! Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Do not bury garbage as animals will dig it up. You may burn paper.
  • Never leave your food unattended. At night hang all your food and garbage away from the sleeping area at least 3 meters off the ground and 2 meters from a tree trunk using rope and a pulley. Do not bring food or scented products of any kind into your tent.
  • If an outdoor privy is not available, deposit solid human waste in small holes dug 15 to 20 centimeters deep at least 30 meters from water, campsites, and trails. Replace the soil immediately.
  • To wash yourself or dishes, carry water 70 meters away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Dispose of grey water in a pit, giving biodegradable soap time to breakdown before reaching the water. Bathing or washing dishes in lakes or streams can pollute as biodegradable soap is not intended for in water use. Food bits and soaps attract unwanted wildlife.
  • Leave fish entrails on bare exposed rocks away from portages and campsites.

Smoking

  • Sit down to smoke, being careful with burning ashes or embers. Extinguish butts and pack them out.

Leave What You Find

  • Leave any natural object where you found it. It is illegal to cut any live vegetation, harass wildlife, remove natural objects such as shed antlers, stones and driftwood. It is illegal to disturb or remove cultural artifacts in a provincial park.
  • Clean your boots and gear so you don’t transport invasive species.
  • Do not build structures of any kind.

Respect Wildlife

  • Do not disturb wildlife, particularly when they are nesting, mating, or are young.
  • Do not feed wildlife as this is illegal, can cause human/wildlife conflicts, and can jeopardize the animal’s health.

Be Considerate of Others

  • Remember that sound travels very easily and for long distances across water. Noise pollution disturbs wildlife and will diminish everyone’s wilderness experience. Chances of seeing wildlife are better if you travel quietly. Excessive noise is not permitted at any time.
  • Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
  • Some parks have irregular boundaries and there may be parcels of privately-owned land within park boundaries. Be considerate of others and their property, including municipal and private roads.
  • Before you leave, complete a final scan of your campsite. Ensure the fire is out and all garbage is collected (even trash that was there before you).
  • Before entering and leaving the park, thoroughly clean the hull of your boat to avoid the spread of invasive species.