By Jean-Luc Théberge, author of the Guide du petit campeur québécois
Many campers spent their first night outdoors in a tent. After all, tent camping has plenty of advantages. A tent is small and light, and can even be carried on a bicycle or in a backpack. Tents are very affordable – you can get a basic summer tent for under $100. It also brings you much closer to nature.
You’ll have to plan properly to make sure you have a pleasant experience, however, especially if you are just starting out.
Since there is often very little room in the car, you’ll have to think carefully about what to bring along.
Tents can hold from one to eight people. If space and weight are not very important factors, it’s a good idea to buy a three- or four-person tent even if there are only two of you. A larger tent lets you keep your bags inside, and is more comfortable while remaining affordable.
Pitching your tent on a site with all services nearby makes for a smooth introduction to camping. A small, basic tent will be sufficient for most people in this case.
Tents are also suited to backcountry camping, i.e. with no services nearby. You’ll sometimes have to carry all your equipment in a backpack to get to the site, so weight and volume become decisive factors in choosing a tent if you’re planning a biking, hiking or canoeing trip.
You’ll need a tent suited to the kind of trip you’re planning. Visit an outdoors store and get proper advice.
The same principles apply if you’re thinking of winter camping. You have to prepare properly and the equipment is usually quite different (tent, sleeping bag, stove, etc.). You’ll have to buy or rent specialized equipment, and it’s likely to be much more expensive. Once again, it is best to get expert advice before buying anything.
For novice campers of any age, spending a few nights in a tent in the back yard is excellent training.