A City Girl Goes Camping: Camping Tips for New Campers!

Since moving to British Columbia last year, I’ve learned a whole lot about the outdoors but one area that I still consider myself a newbie in is camping. That said, thanks to MEC‘s gear rental program, last summer I got my first taste of camping and was pleasantly surprised by how fun and easy the whole experience was.

As a girl who grew up outside of Montreal and then spent most of her adult life in downtown Toronto, camping was never a part of my life. Before moving to Vancouver last year, I 100% considered myself a city girl. Fast forward a few months later, I would say that I’m now close to being 50% city, 50% nature. There’s still so much for me to learn about camping and the outdoors but working with MEC and being surrounded by so many adventure enthusiasts has really taught me a whole lot about the great outdoors.

So I wanted to share with you today some of my newfound wisdom and tips for camping so that all you who want to give camping a go or who are still novices to camping, can have a great time!

1) Packing – One of the major differences between going camping and going to stay at a hotel or an Airbnb, is how you pack for a camping trip. There are so many more variables to think of and therefore packing for a camping weekend can be more complex but it really doesn’t have to be. If you’re simply going car camping for the weekend (and don’t have an RV or van to store all your camping stuff in), I would first suggest making a packing list. I would also suggest breaking that list down into different categories: clothing, sleeping, food, safety, entertainment, transportation, etc. This will help get you organized and can easily be cross-referenced as you’re loading everything into the car.

2) Gear – In my experience thus far, I have learned that gear can make or break your camping experience. If you’re a city person like me, chances are you probably don’t own very much or any camping gear at all. Thankfully, MEC has a great gear rental program, which is available across Canada that allows people like us to rent all sorts of amazing camping gear at a super reasonable rate for your upcoming camping trips. You can rent anything from tents, to sleeping pads, sleeping bags, backpacks, kid carriers, etc. You can even rent a canoe or kayak, if you’re thinking of portaging or even doing some water sports while out camping. Rentals are available either daily or weekly.

If you’re like me and hoping to have a ton of camping experiences this summer, you can also purchase some of the best and top of the line camping gear at an MEC store or even online. For someone like myself who spent most of their life in a city, walking into a MEC is like a kid walking into a candy shop. This week, I had the opportunity to try out MEC’s Cabin 4 tent, which was totally revolutionary for me. Not only was it incredibly simple to put up (even a rookie like myself was able to figure it out and put it up in under 10 minutes!) but it was also tall enough so I didn’t have to crouch when in my tent. I could easily get changed and stand up in the tent, which brings the comfort level up a big notch. I also used the MEC Reactor 6.5 Sleeping Pad, which is a super comfy self-inflating pad that makes sleeping in a tent that much more enjoyable. Goodbye uncomfortable sleeps! And did I mention my MEC Hut Booties? As someone who always has cold feet, these are a game changer!

3) Food – Camping food doesn’t have to be boring and tasteless. Thanks to all the options that are now available, cooking while in nature is easier than ever. There are lots of great ways make food while camping. If you’re not someone that likes to cook, there are plenty of dehydrated snacks or even meals that you can purchase in advance and just re-heat or add hot water to. There are many vegetarian and vegan options to choose from, so being plant-based while camping isn’t an obstacle at all.

You can also make meals ahead of time or pack a lunch that you can store in this large MEC Muskoka Soft-Sided Cooler, that is light, durable and waterproof. You can also opt to bring some cooking items like this Primus gas stove or GSI percolator for your morning coffee or tea.

It’s also important to make sure that you dispose of the food your bring with you or any waste you create while cooking or even camping properly. For more information, I highly recommend you check out this post here (which also includes lots of great other camping tips).

4) Safety – Though I have yet to learn everything about camping safety, there are a few key things I now keep in mind when preparing for a camping trip or going camping. Packing things like a whistle, bug spray, first aid kit, headlamps, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, etc. is important. Since I am now camping in BC, I’m also careful to not leave any food in the tent or close to my tent. I’ll keep the food stored in a sealed container if I’m car camping. I pack lots of water and additional snacks for hikes and runs and I also make sure that someone outside of my camping group knows where I am and how long I’ll be there for. It’s also important to respect wildlife. Though it may be exciting to spot eagles, deers, bears, chipmunks etc., on your adventures, it’s important to not feed them and give them their space, not only for our own safety but also for the safety of the animals.

5) Entertainment – Not sure if it’s the city that made me a restless person or maybe it’s just my personality but one of the things I struggle with the most in life is not being able to just sit still or relax. And with camping being all about relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, this definitely comes as a challenge for me. That said, there are many ways to stay entertained while camping and tons of things to do. If you want to be active, chances are there are some trails located close to your campground, so going for a hike or a trail run (like I did below at Golden Ears this past week!) is a great way to not only get some fresh air but also discover the area.

A lot of campgrounds are also located close to a lake, an ocean or even a river, so going for a swim or taking part in some water sports (kayaking, canoeing, SUPing, etc.) may also be a possibility.

If you’re someone that prefers to lounge a little more, reading a book fireside on a MEC Park Chair or bringing portable boardgames or outdoor games like Bocce Ball is another way to have a great time. The reason why I’ve been loving camping is because it forces me to ditch my electronics and in many ways makes me feel like a kid again, just being outdoors and finding creative ways to pass time.

I’m really excited to take my camping experience to the next level this spring and summer. I’m even thinking of going from car camping to trying out camping in the backcountry… Got some camping tips that I didn’t mention in this post? Share them with me below!

If you’re planning a camping getaway for the May long weekend or later on in the summer and want to get more info on the MEC gear rental program, go here. For more camping tips go here. For a full camp kitchen checklist, check out the following article here.

This article was written in collaboration with MEC but all opinions are my own.