Ontario Parks


Learning to Camp in the Backcountry

If you’re considering backcountry camping for the first time here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.

Overview of the Experience

The leap from car camping to backcountry camping requires preparation. Before diving into your first backcountry trip it is important to ensure you are confident with your overnight hiking or paddling skills to have a safe experience. Backcountry travel requires careful consideration of packing, route planning, meal planning, safety, and your skill level. During this rustic experience, electricity, toilets and running water will not be available. When executed safely, a backcountry experience is bound to provide an amazing, immersive getaway in nature and lifelong memories!

Learning Programs

Frontenac is well-known for its skill building programs that teach campers new knowledge, provide certifications, and build confidence to excel in the backcountry. Check out the Parks Events section for upcoming programs.


Ideal for new campers, private outfitters support backcountry travel within Ontario Parks with services ranging from canoe and gear rentals, to fully outfitted guided trips with meals. Many nearby outfitters will deliver canoes to the boat launch. A short paddle from there can take you to your interior campsites; with many options for longer trips.


Leaving your vehicle behind means carrying everything you pack.

Backcountry campers need to pay special attention to their food menu. Dried foods and vegetarian dishes are staples to help keep weight down. Carrying ice (to preserve foods) and water are not practical due to their weight. Unlike car camping, you will not have a vehicle to secure your food and garbage from wildlife. At night, you will need to hang your food bag at least 6m from the ground to keep it out of reach. For more information on wildlife encounters visit Bear Wise.

On a backcountry trip water is typically taken directly from the lake or river. You will need to treat your drinking water before it can be safely consumed. The most common options are a water filter, water purification drops / tablets or boiling for at least five minutes.

Appropriate route planning will make for the most enjoyable experience. For backcountry maps and assistance planning your trip, visit the park store or call the park you would like to visit for information. To help build your skills, Ontario Parks also offers some learning programs.

Safety Essentials

  • It is important to plan out your entire route in advance of the trip. Park staff and local outfitters can help with trip planning.
  • Leave a travel itinerary with a friend or family member not going on the trip. Include expected return time, date, and location.
  • Carry a stocked first aid kit, compass, map, GPS, and other safety equipment. Ensure you know how to use your equipment before you leave for your trip.
  • Paddlers should be strong swimmers and wear a PFD at all times.
  • Only explore backcountry opportunities that suit your skill and knowledge level.
  • Consult accurate weather forecast and prepare for extreme weather, hazards and emergencies. Remember it is unsafe to be on the water during a thunderstorm.
  • Bring proper clothing and equipment for any situation.
  • Know where your nearest access point is located in case of emergency. If you have cell coverage, call 911. Where there is no signal, you will need to head for the nearest access point.


Access Point: Location to enter into the park or backcountry

Backcountry: Interior sites only accessible by boat or foot. Few amenities. Additional knowledge and skills are required.

Box Toilet/ Box Privy: A wooden box toilet a short distance from the main camp for privacy. The box, with a seat, is placed over a soil pit. Supply your own paper.

Food Hang/ Bear Hang: Suspending food and scented products safely out of the reach of black bears and other animals.

Greywater: The wastewater from dishwashing, bathing and personal hygiene.

Portage: The trail between two bodies of water. The act of carrying a boat and cargo along the trail.