Getting Started Backcountry Camping


Area of use: Camping in remote, isolated areas where groups must be self-sufficient. Organization and trip planning are critical to matching trip destinations to the group’s skill set.

Backcountry campers are required to carry all of their equipment into a remote campsite by hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, or paddling their way in. This means that equipment must be lightweight and fit easily into a backpack or dry bag along with all of your food, clothing, tent, and sometimes water. Backcountry camping is one of the best ways to explore the outdoor world because it takes you farther off the beaten path, away from cars and people, and much closer to wild animals and the natural world.


You must be prepared to deal with any type of weather or emergency using only what’s in your backpack.


Find an area you’re interested in exploring either by visiting your provincial park website or by getting information from other people who’ve spent time in the area. Ensure you have the proper permits and that random backcountry camping is allowed in the area.

Learn the best trails for visiting the area and pinpoint points of interest you’d like to visit.

The next crucial step will be to lay out a plan for your trip.

Create a detailed itinerary of your trip plans including the point where you’ll start, where you hope to spend your time in the area, and when you plan on returning. This information should be left with a close friend or family member who will be able to take action should you fail to return on time.

Preparing for your backcountry camping adventure starts with ensuring you have the equipment you need and also that your gear is in top working condition.


Camping equipment is an investment in what you most enjoy: time in the outdoors. Make sure you care for your campsite to keep it a home away from home. When packing for backcountry camping and other types of lightweight and minimalist camping, you need to find a balance between keeping your pack weight down while being prepared and comfortable in the wild.

Before you go check for working condition:

Make sure you have food for the entire trip and some back-up nutrition in case of emergency. Bring a variety of dehydrated foods and other easy to carry and prepare items like energy bars and jerkies.

Practice setting up your tent so you can do it quickly even if it is dark or raining when you arrive at your campground. 

After your trip:

  • Shake your tent out before packing it away. Never fold a tent; stuff it into its storage bag.
  • Hang sleeping bags, tents, tarps, and mattresses up to dry thoroughly to avoid mildew before storing at home.
  • Share photographs and memories with friends and family to help spread the love of the great outdoors. 


  • Keep tents on tent pads or sites to preserve the surrounding landscape.
  • Plan ahead, know what terrain and wildlife you’ll encounter.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces .
  • Only have fires in designated pits and only when permitted. Minimize campfire impacts.
  • Dispose of all garbage, including food waste, properly.
  • Recycle all fuel canisters in proper hazardous waste facilities.
  • Leave what you find. Don’t remove things from the natural environment.
  • Respect wildlife as well as other visitors in the area.

The more you camp, the more you will learn about yourself and what will allow you to best enjoy your outing. Start with the basics and add or subtract equipment to meet your expectations.   

Regardless of whether you’re a car camper or a minimalist, there are some things that all campers should know to ensure an enjoyable trip.

1.       Always have a way to collect and purify water. Even in front-country campgrounds there may not always be potable water available.

2.       Read campground/park rules before setting out. Not all camping areas allow pets or fires and some have special restrictions to keep wildlife safe.

3.       Make reservations. Popular campgrounds fill up quickly especially around long weekends.

4.       Have everything you need to be self-sufficient. Even if you are close to a town, you’ll appreciate not having to leave to grab supplies or take care of some first aid.


Choosing the right bag for your backcountry adventure can be the most important step you take.


Some lightweight backpackers like to go with an ultra-lightweight frameless style backpack because of the reduction in size and weight, making their total pack weight lower. Others will go with a larger bag that makes packing, unpacking and quick retrieval of items simpler.

Also important to consider is that when a large bag is lightly packed it’s easier for the weight to be evenly distributed (balanced while strapped on your back). A small bag packed too tightly can feel off-balance if one compartment is overstuffed.


No matter what type of camping you do, there are a few pieces of equipment you should never forget. Some items should be your personal responsibility and always in your pack, other items can be shared with the group:

Packing tips:

1.       Keep the heaviest items in the centre of your bag to make balancing the weight easier. Too top heavy or too bottom heavy and your bag won’t sit properly on your back while you walk.

2.       Pack frequently used items near the top and less frequently used items like your sleeping bag & pad near the bottom.

3.       Ensure you have fast access to a light source and bear spray

4.       Here’s an example of a well-packed backpack: sleeping bag and pad at bottom, water, food, and fuel at the core, clothes and extras up top.


Sometimes performing at your peak on the trail, climbing a rock face or engaging in any other outdoor activity has as much to do with your comfort as it does your ability. Backcountry camping may require a reduction in the number of items you might normally bring but there are certain pieces that are worth their extra pack space and weight:


Other equipment to add to your comfort include: