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Get the gear: Camping Equipment

General Considerations for Obtaining Equipment

Before any camping trip, it is essential to make sure you have the equipment you need:

Buying New

Many people buy new camping equipment since it is most convenient and the equipment is in good shape. You can find new camping gear at outdoor/sporting stores or online.

Buying Used

Buying used can save you money. Look for gently-used equipment at second-hand sporting stores, army surplus stores, and online classifieds websites. Local outdoor sporting stores may have a gear swap program, where you can buy, trade or sell used camping equipment.


Research local outfitter stores to see if they offer equipment rentals. Several Ontario Parks have extended their rentals beyond canoes and kayaks to include camping supplies.

To locate a park with equipment rentals, use our park locator tool.

Borrow From a Friend

They may have the equipment you need and be willing to lend it to you.

Sign-up for a Learn to Camp Overnight Program

The Learn to Camp overnight camping experience provides almost all the equipment needed to camp. It’s a great way to get some hands-on experience with camping equipment before you decide what to get.


Tents come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and do not need to be expensive to keep you comfortable and dry on your next camping trip. Think of your tent as your cozy home away from home.

What to Look for In a Tent:

  1. Waterproofing
    • Make sure you get a tent with a ‘rain fly’, which is a second shell around your tent for rain protection. A full rain fly that comes right to the ground is best.
    • The tent floor should be made of sturdy waterproof material that comes part-way up the wall. This keeps water from entering from the ground. Consider using a ground tarp/sheet underneath your tent for added protection (make sure it is smaller than the tent bottom to prevent water from pooling).
    • Many tents come with sealed or factory-taped seams to help keep the water out. If not, you can seal the seams yourself with ‘seam sealer’ which can be bought at any outfitting store. Read the tent manual to find the right seam sealer for your tent. We recommend sealing the seams once a year.
    • Look for a water-resistant coating on the tent fabric.
  2. Mosquito/no-see-um mesh screens
    • Most tents have screen windows to allow for air circulation. Look for tents with “no-see-um screen windows” to ensure even the smallest insects stay out.
  3. Space
    • Choose a tent that sleeps 2 persons more than the number that will be using it. This will give you more comfort and space to store personal items.
    • Many tents come with a room divider perfect for kids. If your children are older, they may prefer the independence of a smaller ‘kids tent’ on your campsite. An extra small tent can be used as a “toy or play tent”, for storing gear or as a change tent.
    • Some tents also have ‘vestibules’ for storing gear in a covered space outside the tent.
    • Remember up to 3 shelters are permitted on your campsite.


A mattress is an essential piece of camping equipment. They keep you comfortable and warm. Like tents, there are a wide variety of camping mattresses available.

  1. Air beds (large air mattress). Very comfortable and come in an assortment of sizes. Can be covered with a fitted sheet from home for extra comfort. Downside: they need to be inflated, so purchase an air pump.
  2. Self-inflating sleeping pads. These mattresses are compact, easy to pack and are self-inflating. Although they are not quite as comfortable as air beds, they are much smaller and lighter.
  3. Closed-cell foam sleeping pad. This is a light and cost effective option which gets you off the ground, but not it is not as comfortable as an air bed or self-inflating sleeping pad.
  4. Sleeping cots. Cots are a more expensive option that will get you completely off the ground. Cots take up a lot of space and they are not needed if you have a good air mattress.

Sleeping Bags

Although sleeping bags are a convenient option for the camper, you do not need a sleeping bag to go camping; warm blankets from home can work just as well. Many people prefer a snug, lightweight sleeping bag to blankets as they are warm, easy to pack and take up less space. Bring along a thin sheet to use while sleeping on top of your sleeping bag if it is a warm night.

Tip: Always check the weather forecast before you leave on your trip. Note the daily lows and be sure to pack a sleeping bag or blanket that will keep you warm at night.

A few tips when buying a sleeping bag:

  • Warmth: Check out the bag’s temperature rating. Nearly all sleeping bags will list the temperature range they are designed for. Do you plan on winter camping? If not, you probably don’t need a -20◦C bag.
  • Feel the inside of the bag: you may prefer a flannel lining over the more common cotton or polyester.
  • Consider fill (insulation) type: Most sleeping bags are filled with down or synthetic insulation to keep you warm. Down is the best material from a warmth perspective but it will not work as well if it gets wet. Synthetic insulation works well but tends to break down over time.
  • Consider sleeping bag Shape: Choose the shape that is right for you:
    • Rectangular bags are the most common choice. They can be zipped together with another bag for couples (make sure the bags are compatible). They are the most spacious, but lose more heat and are less compact than other bags.
    • Mummy bags narrow towards the feet and have a hood, making them warmer. They are very warm and compact, however, some people find them restricting to sleep in.


It is a good idea to bring along some shelter in addition to your tent. A shelter will provide shade on hot days and protection from the rain on stormy days. There are two main types of shelter to consider:

  1. Tarp Shelter – A tarp shelter is the most cost effective option. Tarp shelters can be set up over the tent for extra protection or over the picnic table to create a covered outdoor area. All you need is some rope and a few large trees. Always create a sloped roof to allow rain to run off.
  2. Free Standing Shelters – There are a wide variety of portable shelters specifically designed for camping. These shelters are usually fairly compact and easy to set up. Because they are free standing, you don’t need to have trees to set them up. Many models come with screen sides to keep the bugs out as well!

Camp Stoves

Always pack a camping stove. They are an effective, safe and reliable means of cooking at the campsite. For car camping, a two-burner stove is great; one-burner stoves are used by backpackers who need a compact and lightweight stove. With two burners, you can do more in your camping kitchen. Choose a stove that is easy to use and packs well.

Consider the type of fuel used by your camp stove before purchasing. Here are the two most common camping fuels:

  • Liquid Camp Fuel (Naphtha or white gas)
  • Used in a refillable canister: more environmentally friendly.
  • Inexpensive
  • Burns hot
  • Requires pumping, priming and fuel pouring
  • Propane
    1. Refillable Propane tanks
      • Easy to use, just like the BBQ at home
      • No pumping, priming or pouring
      • Readily available and reusable
      • Heavy and bulky to pack
    2. 1 lb. Propane Canisters
      • Easy to use
      • No pumping, priming or pouring
      • Readily available
      • Non-refillable and hard to dispose of (considered hazardous waste in Ontario)

What to do with Empty Propane Tanks and Cylinders?

  • Don’t throw them in the garbage
  • Propane cylinders are not considered ‘recyclable items’ in Ontario
  • Some Ontario Parks have collection sites for propane tanks. If recycling is not available, take your used propane tank to your local Orange Drop site. Visit to find a collection site near you.
  • Don’t discharge leftover propane into the atmosphere, even if the cylinder is equipped with a device to do this.


See our What-to-Bring Checklist (PDF) for a complete list of kitchen gear. You can pack your kitchen gear from home or purchase kitchen gear specifically made for camping. The camping gear is usually designed to pack away nice and small!

For your kitchen set, durable pots and pans with tight-fitting lids are needed.

Bring at least:

  • One pot big enough for a meal for all campers on site
  • A second pot for side-dishes or heating water
  • Frying pan
  • Mixing bowl
  • Spatula
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Water Jug

Each camper should have: 1 plate & bowl, fork, knife, spoon, and 1 cup that can double as a mug. Camp kitchen kits can be purchased at supply store, or you can assemble your own. Find bowls with lids that can double as food storage containers.

Don’t forget a wash basin, dishcloth, scrubber and biodegradable soap for dishes.

Campfire Cooking - the camp fork

Want to cook marshmallows on the fire? Before you use a stick found in the forest, remember that visitors are not permitted to remove any wood in Ontario Parks. Bring your own camp fork, available at outdoor stores, which won’t burn and lasts longer.


Don’t forget to pack a source of light for the evening! There are many kinds of battery-operated lanterns available, which are safer and more convenient than fuel-based lanterns. LED lights are high-intensity, have a long battery life and are lightweight. Headlamps are a great hands-free option. Use environmentally-friendly rechargeable batteries.

Folding camp chairs

Folding camp chairs will make your camping experience much more comfortable, especially the ones with arm rests and a drink holder! They are available in child sizes.

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