Essential Hiking Equipment

Essential Hiking Equipment

Okay, you’ve decided it’s time to walk through the woods with nothing but the items you can carry on your person—but what should those items be? How can you make sure you’ll be able to stay comfortable, deal with potential emergency situations, and avoid getting lost as you trek up and down the trails near your chosen camping spot?

Don’t worry; we’ve been hiking all over this great land, and we’ve learned exactly what kinds of items are essential for these adventures through firsthand experience. Below, you’ll find our recommendations, along with an explanation of why each type of item is important and what to look for when buying it.

Hiker in the Canadian wilderness with backpack full of essential items

Via Pexels

What Key Needs do Hikers Have?

When you’re on a camping trip where you mostly hang out in a tent or by the campfire, your needs mostly revolve around shelter, storage, and sustenance. But hiking requires you to be more economical about these needs—for example, you’ll still want food, but you’ll have to pack light and forego heavy appliances like stoves that might make meal prep easier back at the campground.

The items you’ll use to protect yourself from hazards and deal with emergencies will also need to be lighter to carry and easier to access. Generally, you’ll want portable, quick-use items that can help you:

  • Stay nourished
  • Stay warm
  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid environmental damage
  • Fend off animals
  • Avoid getting lost

That said, here’s a list of items you should find room for on your person every time you venture up a mountain, through a valley, or deep into the forest. All of these items should be readily available at your local MEC or Atmosphere—and of course, you can always order them online.

The Hiking Gear You Absolutely Can’t Go Without

Sealable water bottle suitable for hiking standing on rocky ground

Via Pexels

Water Bottles

This one’s pretty self-explanatory—your body will be steadily losing water as you hike, and periodically hydrating yourself will help prevent you from becoming weak and lightheaded during your excursion.

When it comes to buying a water bottle, look for products with an insulated wall—this will not only keep your water cool on hot days but allow you to store warm beverages for hours if you ever need to use the bottle to store soup, coffee, or hot chocolate during a cold-weather camping trip.

Lunch Containers

Packing a bag lunch to go hiking isn’t a great idea—the contents of your backpack are likely to get jostled around quite a bit as you walk, bruising fruit and potentially knocking the lids off containers. If you’re really unlucky, the smell of unsealed food items can also attract bears and other dangerous wildlife.

Avoid those issues (and keep yourself off the menu) by packing your food items in a rigid, sealable lunch container. You don’t need to buy a heavy metal lunchbox either—brands like Yeti make lightweight and durable lunch boxes that are also insulated to preserve the temperature of your food.

Hiker wearing boots standing on rock formation

Via Pexels

Hiking Boots

Hiking over rough terrain in your favourite pair of comfy old sneakers might feel okay at first—but after a few kilometres, you’ll be bemoaning a fresh set of blisters on your tortured tootsies. Save yourself the suffering by investing in a robust and durable pair of proper hiking boots.

When it comes to boot-buying, look for low-cut boots with flexible midsoles—these will keep your ankles aired-out and prevent cramping, making them appropriate for most day hikes. Longer journeys through wet or muddy conditions may require taller boots with explicitly waterproof features.

Sun Protection

No, the shade offered by the forest canopy isn’t enough to keep you from getting sunburnt during hours spent outdoors—and that’s assuming you’ll be hiking in a well-forested area the whole time you’re out.

Keep your skin from turning the colour of ripe tomatoes by packing sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 50. This will prevent you from having to stop and reapply it too often (once every 2 hours should be enough).

Wildlife Deterrents

Bears like to walk through the woods too—and although encounters are rare, you’ll still want to be prepared if one should stumble across your path. That’s where bear spray comes in handy (and don’t worry; it works on cougars and other large predators too).

When buying bear spray, make sure to check the expiration date on the label. Yes, bear spray expires—and if you don’t want to expire as well, you’ll want to make sure the stuff you’re packing is good and fresh.

Hiker's hand holding compass with trees and lake in background

Via Pexels

Navigation Tools

Don’t want to get lost in the wilderness? Make sure you take along more than just your cell phone to help you stay oriented. Service out in the boonies is unreliable, and more than one hiker has been lost because they didn’t have contingencies.

Your minimum navigation tools for hiking should include a detailed map of the area, a compass, and a set of binoculars. Extra-careful hikers can also invest in portable GPS trackers, which are much more reliable than the ones built into most smartphones.

First-Aid Supplies

If an injury or accident occurs while you’re hiking, you may not have time to make it back to the campsite and deal with it there. Never go hiking without a basic first aid kit including bandages, disinfectant, cotton balls or pads, tweezers, hot and cold packs, medical tape, sterile water or saline solution, and hand sanitizer.

Hand with leather glove holding hunting knife in sheath while hiking

Via Pexels

A Knife

Knives come in handy in all sorts of situations. You probably won’t want to use them to fend off an animal attack (unless you forgot to bring bear spray, which—don’t), but you can use them to mark trees if you get lost, whittle sticks to create basic tools, help prepare certain food items, and more.

Any knife you take hiking should have a fixed blade (which will make it more durable and allow you to cut through stiffer materials), a reliable sheath, and be easy to carry. You’ll also want to store it somewhere easy to access—so, not at the bottom of your backpack. Which brings us to…

A Hiking Backpack

Choosing the backpack you’ll use to carry all of these items is perhaps the most important decision you’ll make when it comes to picking out your hiking gear. Ideally, you’ll want something comfortable to carry, spacious, and easily accessible.

Look for backpacks with multiple pockets to keep items separate, secure openings at the top and bottom for easy access, padded straps to reduce shoulder pain while moving, and ventilation at the back to help prevent excessive sweating. You might end up spending a few hundred dollars on a high-quality backpack that offers all these features, but the trouble you’ll save will be worth it.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Gear

Investing in well-made hiking gear means you’ll be spending more money—but it’s worth it to get items that will serve you well when you need them. Buying a good lunch box keeps your food delicious, buying a good pair of boots will keep your feet comfortable, and buying bear spray that hasn’t expired will prevent you from becoming food. Use this list to guide you when shopping for your hiking gear, and browse our other guides to make sure you pack the rest of the camping items you’ll need for your next trip!

Best Places to Camp in Alberta

Best Places to Camp in Alberta

Alberta’s got it all: big skies, golden prairies, the rugged badlands, and the rolling expanse of the Rockies (well, some of them, anyway). But where in this incredibly diverse province should you choose to visit on your next camping trip?

Don’t worry; we know all about the best places to camp in Alberta (and beyond)—and we’re here to share our favourite spots with you. Read on and discover some of Wildrose Country’s most extraordinary places to pitch your tent.

Tent in forested campground


A handful of small, rustic towns north of Edmonton but southeast of Slave Lake provide plenty of ameneties in the Athabasca region, while the land gives way to thick forests and majestic rivers.

Campsites like River Meadows RV Park and Plamondon Whitesands Resort provide various levels of refinement for your next trip—put up a tent, stay in your RV, or enjoy a cabin in the woods. Check out other sites in the region here.

Water Valley

An hour from Calgary and an hour from Red Deer, Water Valley Campground doesn’t have the same name recognition as Kananaskis Country—but this hidden gem on the Red Deer River puts you near the mountain backcountry without taking you too far out into the boonies.

An excellent site for family camping and large group outings in the summer, Wagons West RV Park in nearby Sundre is also surrounded by three of the area’s nicest golf courses. Either of these locations makes an excellent place for a casual, low-key foray into the great outdoors.

Slave Lake

One of northern Alberta’s largest bodies of water, Slave Lake is surrounded by pristine nature and several appealing campgrounds. You’ll find places to fish, opportunities to enjoy watersports, and many kilometres of rugged shoreline overlooking the water.

Sites nearby include Lakeview Campground and Marina (just north of the town of Slave Lake) and Big Fish Bay RV Resort. Either of these sites will put you close to the beauty of the lake without getting you lost in the wilderness.

Silver Valley

For Albertans wishing to make a pilgrimage to the far north of the province, Silver Valley offers an embarrassment of pastoral beauty in a region less marked by urban conveniences. In the nearby town of Bonanza, you’ll find the same views that greeted Alexander MacKenzie in 1793, with unforgettable sandstone cliffs standing out next to acres of undisturbed parkland and thick, verdant woods.

South of Bonanza, you’ll find more campgrounds in Demmitt and Spring Lake, with plenty of hiking and fishing available. Trust us—it’s worth coming up this far north. 

Dinosaur statue next to Drumheller welcome sign


Who doesn’t like dinosaurs? If the answer is you, you’re going to be better off with one of the other spots on this list—but if dinos are your thing, head out to Drumheller and get ready to roar with excitement.

Nestled deep in Alberta’s badlands, Drumheller campgrounds offer a truly unique environment in which to sleep under the stars. Not only are the hoodoos a natural wonder, but if you go walking amongst them, you might even stumble across a fossil or two! See a list of nearby sites here.

Rocks visible through surface of water at Waterton Lakes

Waterton Lakes

Waterton makes a beautiful camping destination at any time of year (although you’ll certainly want to pack differently for a winter excursion—Southern Alberta is still well north of the Equator, after all).

You’ll find camping near Waterton National Park in nearby Cardston or just outside of Hill Spring. Amenities for these sites include a natural amphitheatre, camp kitchen facilities, and activities like whitewater rafting (plus plenty of hiking, of course).

Elk Island National Park

They don’t call it Elk Island for nothing (although the park itself is landlocked, which is slightly odd). Located east of Edmonton, this region serves as a refuge for bison, birds, and—you guessed it—elk. It’s also a short drive from a few of Alberta’s more interesting and off-the-beaten-path tourist attractions, like the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.

As for camping, you can find sites near Elk Island National Park in Lindbrook (to the south) or Bruderheim (to the north)—both with power and water hookups.


This one’s a no-brainer. Practically everyone who lives in (or comes to) Canada is bound for a trip to this picturesque mountain town at some point—but you don’t need to stay in the Banff Springs or the Rimrock to get the best of what it has to offer.

Banff National Park is also home to some of Canada’s best camping, from Tunnel Mountain Village to Lake Louise. Check out a list of nearby sites here, including RV parks and cabins.

Boat on lake in Jasper National Park


A bit farther flung from major cities like Calgary and Edmonton than the last two entries on this list, Jasper should appeal to your rugged side. From the imposing Pyramid Mountain to the gorgeous and remote Miette Hot Springs, there’s plenty to see here.

Northwest of Jasper, you’ll find camping in scenic Grand Cache, which will put you closer to numerous amenities. From there, route 40 will take you to highway 16, bringing you right into the thick of everything Jasper has to offer.

Kananaskis Country

Home to some of the province’s best backcountry trails, Kananaskis makes an excellent place to spend a weekend (or an entire week, if you have the time). Enjoy stunning summit views and winding paths through unspoiled wilderness.

The region is home to plenty of campgrounds, too—from Lac des Arcs to Dead Man’s Flats. Here’s a list of other nearby sites, all within a reasonable driving distance from this incredible part of the province.

Plan Your Next Trip Today

Alberta isn’t all just big cities and tourist towns. In fact, some of the best spots in the province are a little ways off the grid. Try a spot from the list above this summer (or fall, or winter, or spring—is there ever a bad time to go camping?) and let us know what you think!

Best Safety Equipment for Camping

Best Safety Equipment for Camping

Camping is usually a safe and relaxing experience—but it never hurts to be prepared for an emergency when you’re miles away from civilization with iffy cellular service. Packing a few essential pieces of safety equipment on your next camping trip can help you avoid an unforeseen incident that could ruin your trip (or respond properly to one so its impact can be minimized).
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most vital pieces of safety gear you can bring on any camping trip. From wild animal deterrents to medical supplies and signaling devices, you’ll find everything you need here to go camping with complete confidence. Let’s get started!

How to Choose Your Safety Equipment for Camping

Before you buy safety equipment to take camping, you’ll want to think about what distinguishes high-quality items from unreliable ones. Here’s a list of criteria you can use to make sure you’re buying the best items in their class:

  • Materials: Safety equipment of all kinds needs to be durable, but it also needs to be lightweight.

Tip: Stainless steel makes a great beginner’s material of choice for blades, due to its durability and relative ease of maintenance, whereas aluminum is light but strong and works well for containers holding consumable items like flares or first aid products.

  • Visibility: Safety equipment is no good to you if you can’t find it when you need it. Make sure anything you buy will be highly visible—even in the dark.

Tip: Look for gear with hi-vis color schemes (generally neon yellow or orange). Also, consider purchasing gear with reflective strips to make them more visible in low-light conditions (or use reflective tape to add your own).

  • Reusability: Not all safety gear can be used more than once. Consider how you’ll deal with an emergency if it recurs during your trip.

Tip: Consider buying value packs with multiple items of the same kind in them. And for reusable safety gear, ensure that it’s not too difficult to maintain or reset between uses.

Our Top Picks for Camping Safety Equipment

Morakniv Bushcraft Knife in Orange

Via Amazon

Morakniv Bushcraft Knife (Orange)

Price: $56-66 CAD

Where to Buy: Amazon

Fixed blade knives are generally better than folding models, since the hinge is typically a weak point where the blade can break off. This one also has a stainless steel blade, and comes with a highly visible neon orange handle to help you locate it more easily when you need it.

Fox 40 Classic Safety Whistle in Yellow

Via Amazon

Fox 40 Classic Safety Whistle

Price: $12 CAD

Where to Buy: Amazon

There’s a reason these are among the most popular safety whistles in the world. Not only are they loud as all hell (115dB, in case you’re wondering, which can be heard up to an entire mile away), but they also come in a ton of highly visible colours and are reliably made.

Adventure Medical Kits Backpacker First Aid Kit

Via Amazon

Adventure Medical Kits Backpacker First Aid Kit

Price: $33-50 CAD

Where to Buy: Amazon/MEC

Designed for 2 people on journeys of up to 4 days, this kit comes with easily labeled pockets and a quick reference guide to help you use it as soon as an injury occurs. The instructions are also bilingual, making it more accessible—and it has a reflective logo to help you find it in low-light conditions. The contents include medicines, patches, and bandages—plus EMT shears and a 10cc syringe to help you cut off clothes, prep dressings, and clean wounds.

2-pack of Frontiersman Bear Spray


Frontiersman Bear Spray (2-Pack)

Price: $90 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

What’s better than 1 can of bear spray? If you guessed 2 cans, you’re absolutely right. You don’t want to fend of one wild animal, just to end up inside another one because you ran out of juice. These cans from Frontiersman come in a highly-visible orange color, and have a range of roughly 9m. They also have glow-in-the-dark safety clips so you can find them easily at night.

Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern with Powerbank


Goal Zero Lighthouse 600 Lantern with Powerbank

Price: $100 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

This versatility lamp provides area light on one side and focused light for detail work on the other. But better yet, it can be charged via USB or by a hand crank on the side—meaning you’ll always be able to use it, no matter how far off the beaten path you get. Major points for reusability here.

Have Confidence in Your Next Camping Trip

Bringing the right safety gear on your upcoming trip will help you stay safe and enjoy your experience. For more suggestions on what to pack, check out our guide to the best camping cookware!

The Best Backpacks for Camping

The Best Backpacks for Camping

If you only go out to the woods occasionally, you might think any old backpack is fit to take camping—but you’d be wrong. After all, there’s an incredible variety of backpacks on the market, and many of them aren’t intended for anything beyond your commute to and from the office. But what makes a backpack worth taking on your next outdoor adventure—and where can you buy one?

We’ve got some ideas that can help you answer both of those questions. Below, you’ll find a list of essential qualities to look for in a camping backpack, as well as a few of the best such packs available right now.

If you’re looking to book a camping trip to test out a new backpack try

What Makes a Camping Backpack Great?

Before you trust any backpack to store and carry your essential camping items, you’ll want to make sure it has most (if not all) of the following features:

A Frame: Many commuter backpacks are frameless, but these prove awkward to carry through the woods when fully loaded, since they provide no structural support. Most camping backpacks will either include an internal or external frame to improve your stability while carrying them.

Access Panels: Bags that only open from the top aren’t practical when you need quick access to the items buried underneath your other gear (and making this mistake with something like bear spray can quickly turn you from an intrepid explorer into an easy snack for wildlife). Avoid this mistake by buying a bag that has extra access panels in the sides or bottom of the bag—just remember not to leave them open, or you’ll be spilling your gear out behind you while you hike!

Gear Loops: Hiking poles, ice axes, and other tools are often too large to store inside a backpack but too awkward to carry for long in your arms. That’s why the best camping backpacks usually have loops to which you can attach such items.

Waterproof Features: There’s nothing worse than putting sensitive items in your bag for safekeeping, only to have them ruined by a downpour that soaks through the lining. Look for a backpack with a waterproof lining to prevent this from happening—or better yet, buy one that comes with a raincover.

Container Sleeves: Almost every backpack comes with these—but you definitely don’t want to camping with one of the few that don’t. These pockets are specifically designed to carry water bottles (or cans of beer, if that’s the kind of camping trip you’re on—just remember to dispose of them responsibly when they’re empty!).

Comfort Padding: You might think extra padding on a backpack is an unnecessary luxury, but if you’ve ever schlepped a 50lb bag for hours on end through rough terrain, you know how sore your back and shoulders can get. Give yourself some relief by purchasing a bag with at least a little cushioning in the contact points.

A Sleeping Bag Carrier: Backpacks built for camping often come with a specific pocket for carrying sleeping bags. Having a dedicated sleeping back container prevents you from having to unload your entire bag whenever you’re bedding down for the night, saving you a ton of time and effort in making camp.

Air Vents: You know what happens when you hike for long enough?Sweat happens. And when it does, the last thing you want is a swampy back that gets stuck to the pack resting on it. That’s why backpacks intended for dynamic outdoor activities tend to have ventilated panels in the back—often in the form of “tension-mesh suspension”, which creates a breathable buffer between you and the pack’s frame.

Got it? Good. Then let’s take a look at some of the best bags you can buy with these features today.

Our Top 5 Backpacks for Camping in Canada Right Now

Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack – Men’s

Orange Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack

Price: $445 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

This backpack has over 60 mainly glowing reviews on MEC for good reason. Not only does it come with a sleeping bag compartment, an internal hydration reservoir sleeve, twin water bottle holders, and numerous removable loops for attaching gear, but it’s also got a wishbone-shaped aluminium wire frame to move the brunt of its load to the load-bearing regions of your body—which means you can fill this baby up and carry it around for hours with less effort than most other packs.

Gregory Deva 60 Backpack – Women’s

Maroon Gregory Deva 60 Backpack

Price: $400 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

Another heavy hitter from Gregory, this women’s backpack comes with a lot of the same features as the Baltoro, but in a more compact package with slightly smaller volume. Access panels in the front, top, and bottom mean your important items are always within easy reach, and it’s intended to hold up to 25kg. It also includes a removable daypack, so you can carry a lighter load on days when you won’t be venturing too far away from your campsite—tough and practical.

Mystery Ranch Terraframe 3-Zip 50L Pack – Unisex

Black Mystery Ranch Terraframe 3-Zip 50L Pack with orange trim

Price: $465 CAD<

Where to Buy: MEC

Fit for winter expedition camping as well as your typical backpacking excursions, this efficient and no-nonsense pack uses DWR-treated fabric in the construction of its shell and comes with attachment points for your poles, ice axes, or other larger pieces of gear. It also has a removable padded hip belt to keep you from getting too sore on your longer jaunts. Our only gripe with this popular backpack is that it doesn’t have a ventilation panel in the back—but that’s probably because it’s built for use on top of winter camping layers.

Osprey 50L Renn Backpack

Black Osprey 50L Renn Backpack

Price: $210 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

An excellent option for campers on slightly tighter budgets, this mid-sized women’s backpack is still plenty capable of seeing you through a multi-day adventure in the great outdoors. Tension-mesh in the back provides a buffer between your back and the frame, while allowing plenty of airflow to keep you from getting too sweaty—and an integrated rain cover provides protection from the elements in case of rain.

Osprey Rook 65L Backpack

Green Osprey Rook 65L Backpack

Price: $230 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

With the same tension-mesh back panel and integrated rain cover as its cousin above, the Rook is a larger and more robust version of the same bag, intended for men or campers with larger frames. It’s designed to be simple but effective—with an easily-adjustable harness, a straightforward pocket design that helps you stay organised without overcomplicating things, and soft-edged shoulder straps to make your longer treks as comfortable as possible.

There’s also an integrated safety whistle on this bag—just in case you do run into a cougar or two (and no, we don’t mean at the next campsite over). If you haven’t got your bear spray handy, that might just be the next best thing.

While you’re looking into camping gear & equipment check out our list for best camping tents.






Best Camping Gear for Christmas Gifts

Best Camping Gear for Christmas Gifts

To wrap up this year, we are sharing the gear wish list from our team and inspiration for our adventures in 2022!  These are perfect if you are looking for some last minute gifts for someone who loves camping and outdoor activities.

What camping adventures are we looking forward to in 2022?

Steaphanie in cliffside


I would like to road trip through BC and end at Harrison Lake. The area is surrounded by mountains, so there’s lots of hiking trails to explore, and the lake would be great for kayaking. I would love to camp at Cogburn Family Wilderness Resort!

Keith mountain biking


I’m looking forward to camping at Vezeau Beach on opening weekend and meeting all of the Bonnyville campground caretakers.  I plan to buy some Mundare sausage and perogies on the drive out to the campground.

Renee in mountains


In 2022 I would like to camp or stay in the cabins at Carbon East Campground.  It is one of my favorite campgrounds close to Calgary and I look forward to bringing my daughter to the playground, exploring the Badlands and hopefully going to a movie night hosted at the campground.

What camping gear is on our wish list?


Hiking and camping backpack – Osprey Talon 33

Hiking and camping backpack - Osprey Talon 33

Price: $160.00

Where to buy: Osprey

Kitchen kit for camping – MSR Quick 2 System Cookset

Kitchen kit for camping - MSR Quick 2 System Cookset

Price: $135.95

Where to buy: MEC

Sleeping pad for camping and backpacking – Thermorest Neoair Xlite Sleeping Pad

Hiking and camping backpack - Osprey Talon 33

Price: $240-290

Where to buy: Therm-a-rest


Camping light and lantern – Goal Zero Crush Light Chroma

Camping light and lantern - Goal Zero Crush Light Chroma

Price: $24.95

Where to buy: GoalZero

Warm Trapper Hat – Outdoor Research Sahale Trapper Hat

Kitchen kit for camping - MSR Quick 2 System Cookset

Price: $64.00

Where to buy: Outdoor Research

Outdoor hand warmer, flashlight, usb charger – Firecel Plus Warmer Charger Light

Outdoor hand warmer, flashlight, usb charger - Firecel Plus Warmer Charger Light

Price: $64.95

Where to buy: MEC


Comfy wool socks – Smartwool Light Hike Cushion Socks

Comfy wool socks - Smartwool Light Hike Cushion Socks

Price: $29.00

Where to buy: Smartwool

Cross-country skiing and hiking/walking down skirt – Craft Storm Thermal Women’s Skirt

Kitchen kit for camping - MSR Quick 2 System Cookset

Price: $99.99

Where to buy: Altitude Sports

Camping and Hiking water filter straw – Life Straw Personal Water Filter

Camping and Hiking water filter straw - Life Straw Personal Water Filter

Price: $25.95

Where to buy: MEC

We wish you and your family Happy Holidays!