Love summer camping? Try something new!
Make a plan, grab the family and your gear, and head out for an unforgettable local winter adventure.
If you’re a fan of summer camping – and really, who isn’t – why not embark on a different sort of family adventure this season and give winter camping a try.
While you might hesitate at first, you should know winter camping has so much to offer: the parks in the Ottawa-Gatineau area, and in Ontario for that matter, are gorgeous in winter, covered in fresh snow, with clean, crisp air and a feeling of tranquility.
Experience the quiet beauty of an early-morning ski or snowshoe on a winter trail. Or enjoy some quality family time outdoors exploring nature. Look for animal tracks. Listen for birds. And revel in the quiet and solitude.
Locally, you can camp during the winter near Philippe Lake in the northern section of Gatineau Park, which offers five campsites: three individual sites and two group sites, for camping in tents only. The winter camping season runs until April 15.
You can do it the old-fashioned way, pitching a tent or building a snow shelter, or rent one of a number of shelters specially designed for spending the night in the middle of the wilderness in the middle of winter.
Gatineau Park offers four-season tents (up to four people each), cabins (between six and 17), and yurts, which are large, round tents made of cloth and wood, originally designed in Central Asia, and can accommodate up to six people each.
Please note: there’s no electricity or plumbing, and the only way to get to these winter shelters is by skis or snowshoes.
For more information on winter camping in Gatineau Park, visit www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places-to-visit/gatineau-park/ready-to-camp-lodgings-winter.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Parks website offers plenty of handy tips to make your family winter camping trip a safe and awesome experience:
If you can, go with one or more people who are experienced. Or take a winter camping workshop to learn the basics, including trip planning, equipment details and safety.
BE SURE TO PLAN AHEAD
Check to make sure your favourite park is open for winter camping, as well as for weather and ice conditions and whether there is cellphone coverage.
CREATE AN ITINERARY
*IMPORTANT: Leave your itinerary, with full details on your trip route (including campsite numbers), start date and expected time/date of return, with a trusted friend or family member.
DON’T FORGET NOURISHMENT
Make sure you bring hearty food you can reheat quickly, such as stews, soups, mac & cheese, and meat pies, as well as your favourite snacks like granola bars and lots of hot chocolate!
*IMPORTANT: Make sure you stay well hydrated at all times.
DON’T FORGET THESE CRUCIAL ITEMS
You’ll need a four-season tent, a sleeping bag (rated to at least -15C), a mattress or pad, a cook stove and a first aid kit, as well as a waterproof backpack to hold your food, cooking utensils, a plastic mug, spoon and bowl, toiletries, headlamp or flashlight and batteries, pocket knife, matches and candle, and clothes.
Staying dry is paramount. Make sure you bring clothes to put on in layers, as well as nighttime fun activities such as a book, magazine, deck of cards and some fun games.
Introduce yourself to the park office staff as you register, give them your itinerary and pick up your camping permits and grab info about which trails / rinks are open, where to spot winter wildlife and whether any winter programs are running.
Arrive in plenty of time to get to your site and get set up while there’s still daylight.
SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY
When you set out in the morning, make sure you’ve got a detailed map of the park, a first aid kit, waterproof matches, extra sweater, wind-proof outer shell, mitts, hats, socks, flashlight, liquids and high-energy snacks. *Don’t forget your cellphone!
For more information, visit www.ontarioparks.com/parksblog/winter-camping-101.