Ultimate Camping Checklist: Must-Haves for Alberta Campsites
Hey there, fellow outdoor enthusiasts! Carmen here from Elevated Experience Camping in Drayton Valley, Alberta with some great words of advice for all campers heading out this year! If you’re going camping in Alberta’s stunning wilderness, you’re in for a treat! From the majestic Rocky Mountains to the serene prairie lands, Alberta offers a diverse range of camping experiences in many different campsites in Alberta. As someone who’s spent countless nights under its starry skies, I’m here to help you create the ultimate camping checklist for Alberta to include everything you need for an unforgettable adventure, whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned camper.
I. Understanding Alberta’s Camping Environment
Alberta is a land of contrasts. You’ve got the Rockies with their challenging trails, the tranquil prairies where the horizon seems endless. The southern badlands with their alien landscape of hoodoos and dinosaur bones, to the northern boreal forests with stunning views and wildlife. Each area demands specific gear and preparation, so knowing your destination is key.
A. Seasonal Considerations
Summer camping is a dream, with long daylight hours and milder weather. But don’t be fooled, nights can still get chilly. Whether it’s in the mountains, the desert-like weather in the southern part of the province, the wide-open prairies or the lush forests of the north, temperatures can get to zero or below! Be prepared for all weather while camping! Winter camping, on the other hand, is not for the faint-hearted. It’s stunning but requires serious gear and know-how.
B. Wildlife Safety
You might encounter everything from squirrels and rabbits to larger animals like deer, moose or even bears. Once, while camping near Jasper, a black bear lumbered by. Remember, these are wild animals. Securely store your food, and always keep a safe distance from any wildlife.
II. Essential Camping Gear
A. Tents and Sleeping Arrangements
- Choosing the Right Tent – A good tent is vital to your camping experience. Consider size, weather resistance, and weight if you are going backpacking. My favourite choices for tents are:
- Mountain Hardwear Mineral King 3: It’s lightweight for camping or backpacking at just over 7 pounds. Perfect for 3 seasons – so versatile!
- Coleman Skydome 6P: A great starter tent as it’s inexpensive, easy to set up, durable and spacious. If you’re just getting into camping, this is the perfect first tent!
- REI Co-op Base Camp 6: This tent is durable, can withstand all weather, easy to set up, and has two doors!
- Sleeping Comfort – Invest in a quality sleeping bag with a temperature rating lower than you expect to encounter, to stay warm all night. Consider the location and time of year you’ll be camping. Overnight temperatures throughout Alberta can plummet, even during summer, so stay warm! If backpacking, get a sleeping bag around 3 lbs, so your pack isn’t too heavy. I prefer rectangular over mummy shaped sleeping bags, and there are a lot of great options in both styles that are warm and comfortable. Here our favorite sleeping bags:
- Big Agnes Diamond Park: It’s rectangular, comfortable, and warm. It’s also lightweight for camping or backpacking. Best of all, the hood ensures you won’t slide off your pillow at night!
- Teton Sports Polara 3-in-1: This is great for beginners, as it’s economical, warm and comfortable, withstanding temperatures of -17oC.
- Kelty Tru.Comfort 20 Doublewide: This sleeping bag fits two, has a hood, removable top cover and separate built-in blankets.
B. Cooking and Food Storage
- Portable Stoves – A portable stove is a game-changer. There are many styles to pick from. I prefer gas stoves for their ease of use, just remember to bring enough fuel! Here are our favorite camp stoves:
- Coleman Cascade Classic: This two burner style allows you to cook food and heat water at the same time! Perfect for beginners with few parts to break!
- Camp Chef Explorer 2 Burner Range: This free-standing range is a camp cook’s dream!
- MSR PocktRocket2: A perfect backpacking stove, it’s lightweight, compact and durable.
- Bear-Proof Storage – In bear country, proper food storage is non-negotiable. Bear canisters or bags are essential for keeping both you and the bears safe. Like the BearVault Bear Resistant Food Canisters, and a good bag hanging system, these are a must when staying where there might be bears.
C. Clothing and Footwear
- Layering – The key to staying comfortable in Alberta’s unpredictable weather is layering. You’ll want base layers of fabric that wicks away moisture from your skin. Next, top with mid-layers that are designed to insulate, and finally a waterproof outer layer. Bring a change of clothes in case one gets wet.
- Footwear – Durable, waterproof hiking boots are a must. Trust me, nothing ruins a trip like wet, blistered feet.
III. Navigational Tools and Safety Equipment
Finding your way is so important, whether you’re hiking marked trails, or orienteering. Make sure you have one of the following: map, compass, or GPS. If using a GPS, ensure you can charge the device, so it can help if you get lost. Experienced hikers should get a personal locator beacon. It will help you call for help, and ensure you are found. Always let loved ones know where you are going, and when you’re expected to return.
First Aid Kit
Bring a first aid kit, you never know what will happen. Use this camping checklist for Alberta for what to include in your first aid kit. Bandages, gauze, tweezers, safety pins, antiseptic wipes, blister treatments, painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, antihistamine, anti-itch cream, plus any personal medications.
IV. Environmental Stewardship – Leave No Trace
It’s our responsibility to protect these beautiful landscapes. Stick to established trails and leave campsites as you found them. Pack out what you pack in, including trash and biodegradable items like fruit peels. Don’t forget, you’re a guest in the home of countless wildlife species. Watch any wildlife from a safe distance and never feed them.
V. Additional Useful Items
Flashlights are important when it gets dark, and a headlamp is handy for hands-free operation. For ambient lighting, a lantern can create a cozy atmosphere at your campsite. Whether battery powered, or propane, ensure you bring extra batteries or fuel!
B. Multipurpose Tools
A good knife or a multi-tool can be incredibly handy for repairs or preparing food.
Don’t forget a book, a deck of cards, or a travel-size board game for those quiet evenings by the campfire.
VI. Preparing for Specific Activities
If you plan to hike, bring a daypack, water bottles or a hydration system, and trekking poles. If you want to do some fishing, make sure you have your license and fishing gear like rod, reel, lures, hooks and bait. If you are hoping to take some amazing photos, don’t forget your camera, tripod and lenses.
VII. Checklist Summary – Final Packing List
Create a camping checklist for Alberta and tick items off as you pack. This ensures you won’t forget essentials like matches, medication, socks or your toothbrush. Don’t overpack – you’ll have very little room – even if you are driving to your campsite. And of course, make sure the items you’ll need the most are easiest to grab.
Preparation is the key to camping. With the right gear and respect for nature, you’ll have an amazing time in familiar campsites in Alberta, or exploring new territory. Use this camping checklist for Alberta to ensure you have everything you need for a successful trip. If you’re coming to any of our Elevated Experience Campgrounds in Drayton Valley, Alberta, our convenience stores will help if you run out of supplies!