Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
The view from the window of a small plane, overlooking the backcountry of Algonquin: a body of water broken up wit large and small islands, all covered with dense forest.

When making a reservation for a backcountry camping trip, you will be asked to describe your camping equipment in detail.

In the rush to confirm your reservation, it can be easy to ignore this request or give a quick response.

But have you ever considered why we ask this question?

Here’s why we ask

Providing a detailed answer is an important first step in planning a successful backcountry trip.

A screenshot of the Ontario Parks Backcountry reservation system, which asks the person making the reservation to describe the type of camping equipment they are bringing with them.

In the event of an emergency, park staff or other emergency personnel may need to locate your camping group as quickly as possible. To do this they are based on two things:

1. Your travel itinerary: This tells them where to look, based on your access point and where you plan to stay each night.

2. Your camping equipment: This description gives you an idea of ​​what to look for.

View from the front of a small metal boat looking towards a small island covered in trees.  In the clearing on the island is a small yellow tent.

We asked the rangers at Algonquin Provincial Park for advice on completing the camping gear question.

This is what they said:

Please use the example description provided on the booking form. (blue tent and red canoe): This is a useful starting point. But you should also include the rest of your visible equipment. This list may include life jackets/PFDs, backpacks, food barrels, hammocks, bug shelters, and tarps.

A campsite in the countryside

Be descriptive when listing your items. Include details such as colors, shapes and size. It’s helpful to know that you have a green tent, but it’s even more helpful to know that you have a small lime green tent. It’s valuable to know anything that might be distinctive or striking that can help us identify your camping group from a distance.

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The details are useful. If you rent a canoe, for example, you may not know what color your canoe will be. You can still tell us what you plan to rent, what company you rent from and what you have ordered. These details give us an idea of ​​what logos, sizes, shapes, styles and colors we can expect. Photograph taken from the back half of a canoe, with a person sitting in the front seat, facing forward, paddling.  In the middle of the canoe are gear bags.  It is a sunny and clear day.

Other details that help include:

  • What type of boats do you travel with (canoes, kayaks, SUP, boat, etc.)
  • How many boats are in your group?
  • how many people per boat
  • types of oars or motor (e.g., kayak paddle, canoe paddle, or trolling motor)

If you have more than one group traveling together but staying in different locations, this is also important to know.

Don’t forget to mention your pets. If you have dogs or other pets with you, it is helpful to write down how many, their breed, color, size, and even include their names.

When would this information be used?

There are three main types of emergency situations where this information can be crucial:

1. Compassionate calls: Sometimes emergencies occur at home while family members or loved ones are traveling and cannot be reached by phone.

In these types of situations, we are asked to locate the camping group to convey the message and, if time is of the essence, we can also help remove the campers from the camp. In this situation we are looking for you, but you don’t know that we are looking for you.

2. Medical emergency: When campers need medical help and can request immediate assistance in their location or area, their team information is used to help locate them.

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The view from the window of a small plane, overlooking Algonquin Field: a body of water divided into large and small islands, all covered by dense forest.If we’re trying to spot your group from the air, every little bit helps!

In the event of a medical emergency, when possible, it is also helpful to increase the visibility of your location. For example, hang something shiny, such as a tarp, tent, towel, or coat, where it can be visible from the air or water.

3. Natural emergencies: Severe storms, floods or fires may require immediate evacuation. In this type of scenario, you may or may not realize that people will be searching for you.

Don’t you have your equipment yet?

If you don’t have your team information ready when you make your reservation, you can always add it later.

backcountry team

You can call the reservation line at 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275) or change it in person at the Park Office before starting your trip.

Preparation is an important part of any trip and that includes providing a detailed description of the equipment before you leave. Add this critical step to your pre-hike checklist!

Happy camping!