If you’re planning a holiday in Canada that involves camping or staying in an RV, in one of Canada’s scenic national parks, you might want some tips on what clothing will work best for your holiday. I don’t know about you, but when I’m dressing for outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking and canoeing, I like to choose clothes that are comfortable and functional while keeping a sense of style.
I recently spent two weeks with my husband Guy touring the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada, staying mainly on campgrounds and in nationals parks with our cosy RV from Cruise Canada – our home from home on the road. For the trip I teamed up with Columbia Sportswear who specialise in outdoor clothing, to try out some items from their range. Based on my experience of this trip, here’s what you need to pack for a camping trip to Canada.
(For the Brits an RV is a Recreational Vehicle or large camper-van)
Quick drying trousers for evenings around the campfire
For hiking or evenings around the camp fire I recommend quick drying walking trousers like these Columbia Women’s Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers. They feel like a lightweight cotton but are in fact made from a 100% nylon technical fabric that wicks away sweat, protects against UV rays and is quick drying when you get caught in a downpour. For outdoor activities like hiking or cycling it’s better to avoid jeans or heavier cotton trousers that weigh you down and soak up moisture at the first sign of rain. Look for trousers that have a neat leg pocket to tuck in your guidebook, map or phone. I also like styles like this that have zip off legs, to make shorts, for maximum versatility. I know I’ll get a lot of use from these walking trousers on future hiking trips.
Sporty quick drying t-shirts
For outdoor activities I tried out this t-shirt from the Columbia range made of 100% Polyester fabric, designed to wick away sweat and keep me cool. Check out the Women’s Zero Rules Short Sleeve shirt here. I found that this fabric was silky, comfortable and not at all sweaty – ideal for hiking and other activities around the Canadian national parks. As an added bonus this t-shirt was easy to wash by hand or machine, quick to dry and hardly creased at all. Just as well, since irons didn’t seem to exist on the Canadian campgrounds!
I also packed a range of other short sleeve and sleeveless tops in fabrics that were less likely to crease. Although it’s great in sunny weather to wear sleeveless vest tops to stay cool and get a nice tan, being Mrs Sensible I like to alternate them with tops that cover my shoulders to avoid sunburn. I’m looking forward to using this t-shirt on future hiking trips and for jogging at home.
Sports shorts – go as short as you dare!
In the warm Canadian summer shorts are worn by all and from what I saw the Canadians like their shorts to be on the short side. In the bars and restaurants the waitress uniform seemed to be the skimpiest of shorts and even ladies of, ahem, a certain age and size seemed to favour very short shorts. No need here for modesty then and you can save your longer bermuda shorts for city sightseeing.
I was able to double up with my quick dry walking trousers from Columbia which had a zip off leg, allowing me to convert long trousers into shorts depending on the weather. The quick dry fabric made them cool and easily washable so ideal for activities like cycling or hiking. If you are a lover of short shorts don’t forget your sun screen even if you want to get a golden tan on your holiday in Canada.
Trail shoes for hiking in the Canadian parks
Although I have some excellent hiking boots (read my article here), for this trip I was looking for a hybrid trail shoe which is a cross between a trainer and a boot. My reasoning was that I wanted to have a supportive shoe for hiking in Canada’s national parks but that I wasn’t planning to do any hardcore hiking for hours and days on end. I needed shoes that were suitable for general outdoor activities, to wear around the campground, that wouldn’t be too hot to wear on warm summer days.
These Women’s Grand Canyon Outdry Hiking Shoes were just what I was looking for, with a low ankle so that they weren’t too hot and a waterproof but breathable construction so they would keep my feet dry when walking in the wet. Although these trail shoes didn’t have the support of a high ankle, the construction is very solid, so they would be ideal for summer hiking on rough and rocky trails. For serious long distance hiking I’ll probably stick to boots with ankle support, but these trail shoes are ideal for a situation like our camping trip where you want a hardwearing shoe that is suitable for a range of outdoor activities.
Waterproof Jacket – yes it does rain in the Canadian summer
Although the weather on our July trip to Canada was warm and sunny, we did experience a few showers so my lightweight waterproof jacket came in handy (Read my article on what to look for in when buying a waterproof jacket). For summer wear in Canada I’d recommend a lightweight jacket that can roll up small to keep in your day sack but if you’re visiting in spring, early summer or autumn you might prefer a jacket that’s more substantial or has a removeable fleece lining, as we found that mornings and evenings could be cool.
I wore my waterproof jacket when we were canoeing in Algonquin park as the day was overcast and rain was forecast. Luckily the showers held off until we had finished our canoe trip but the jacket was also ideal for keeping off the midges and flies that you tend to get hovering over the water. Cloudy days can be a bonus in Canada as our guide told us that we were more likely to see wildlife such as moose when the day was overcast, since they come down to the water’s edge to feed, while on hot sunny days they prefer to stay in the shade under the trees.
Three-quarter length leggings – versatile for outdoor activities
I found it was useful to have some sporty three-quarter length trousers for activities such as cycling and climbing where I wanted a bit more protection. My sports leggings made from quick dry fabric got a lot of use on our Canada trip and I also wore them for canoeing where they would dry quickly if I got wet wading into the water or splashed from the paddles. The three-quarter length and close fit were also ideal for cycling if you don’t want sunburned thighs or trousers that flap around the ankle.
Flip flops for hanging out by the lake
If you are a happy camper you’ll know to pack a pair of flip-flops or waterproof sandals that are easy to slip on and off. They are always handy for those early morning trips to the shower block (although luckily we had our own shower and loo in the RV) and for hanging out by the lakes that seem to be a feature of most Canadian camp grounds.
You’ll want something made of plastic so you can easily rinse off the sand or pine needles and they won’t look grubby. No harm in having a pedicure and pretty nail polish before your holiday – we like to keep up standards even when camping!
A cosy fleece for cool mornings
I was pleased that I’d packed a fleece for our Canada trip as despite the warm sunny days, we found the mornings were often quite cool. For the first hour or so each day we often needed an extra layer and then the temperature would warm up and it would be short sleeves all day and into the evening. It was never really too cold on our July trip so I’d suggest a mid-weight fleece if you are visiting in the summer but perhaps something more substantial for the spring and autumn. Due to the limited laundry facilities on the Canadian campgrounds I’d avoid smarter woollen knitwear in favour of anything that is quick drying and doesn’t crease, unless you have an element of your holiday that requires you to dress more smartly.
Other things to consider
Those pesky flies and mosquitos can be pretty persistent when you get into a camp ground or one of Canada’s national parks. If you are trying any activities such as hiking, cycling or canoeing, a liberal spray of deet based insect repellant is recommended and in the evening it’s best to change into a long sleeved top and long trousers with socks and shoes to cover your feet. I neglected my own advice on a few occasions and regretted it as I was scratching nasty bites for days afterwards.
Most but not all of the camp grounds we visited had washing machines and dryers but none seemed to have any ironing facilities. I’d recommend packing clothes made of quick drying technical fabric that are less likely to crumple in order to look your best, leaving your linen suit at home.
A sunhat is advisable if you’re out on long hikes or canoe trips in the full sun and to fit in with the locals I’d choose a cotton cap – you can buy them everywhere in Canada.
My Canada Camping clothing check list
- A lightweight waterproof jacket for the occasional shower or cool evenings
- Long quick dry trousers for hiking and to keep off the insects in the evening
- Quick dry shorts for sunny days and sporty outdoor activities
- Three-quarter leggings or joggers for sporty outdoor activities and cool mornings
- Quick dry sports t-shirts
- Trail shoes for hiking and climbing
- Flip flops or waterproof sandals for wearing around the campground and the lakes
- A mid-weight fleece for cool mornings and evenings
- A light, long sleeve t-shirt to wear in the evening when the mozzies come out to bite
- A cotton cap or sunhat to protect you from sunburn or sunstroke on sunny days.
- Plus of course pack some other casual clothes and footwear for when you are out sightseeing
Thanks to Columbia Clothing who provided me with some of the items mentioned in the article to try out on my Canada trip.
Some of the links in this article allow me to earn a small commission when you purchase at no extra cost to you – thanks for your support!
Visitor information for Canada
To plan your trip to Canada check out the Explore Canada tourism website as well as the websites of the states and national parks you plan to visit, in our case Ontario Tourism and Quebec Tourism. Our RV was provided by Cruise Canada.
More Canada articles
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