Exploring the stunning scenery of Canada has been a dream holiday for Matt and me for a very long time and this year, we finally got to do it! When I started packing, I assumed all I’d need would be shorts, skirts and t-shirts because, well, it was summer! At the last minute, I took a proper look at the weather forecast and quickly realised I had to start again as the temperature in the mountains would be dropping as low as 2 degrees Celsius. After spending nearly 4 weeks camping through western Canada, I got a really good idea of what to pack and what to skip. To help you plan your very own amazing road trip adventure, here’s everything you need to pack for a Canadian camping trip in summer.
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What to expect from the weather
We visited western Canada in June as part of a road trip through the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver to Calgary and back. Our trip took us to places like Jasper National Park, Wells Grey, Whistler, Vancouver and Banff. When preparing for your camping trip to Canada, you need to expect mountain weather. That means it can be gorgeously sunny one moment then raining or even snowing the next. We’re from Brisbane and are accustomed to quite warm weather most of the year, so we definitely felt the cold more than someone from a typically cold climate might. You should definitely prepare to experience a range of weather conditions from rain and snow through to sunshine but, overall, expect it to be quite cool.
What to pack
You’ll need at least two pairs of thermal underwear with you to layer under your clothes on particularly cold days. I only packed one pair and desperately wished I had two so I could wear a clean set while the worn set was being washed. Thermals came in very useful when we visited the Athabasca Glacier and found ourselves camping in very cold weather in Banff. Find Thermal Underwear here.
Similarly, you’ll need a few pairs of thermal or very, very warm socks (wool could be a good option too). I packed one pair and had to go and buy more as I wore them day after day in Banff and Jasper. You don’t have to pack just thermal socks, you can definitely throw in some regular cotton socks for warmer days. Find Thermal Socks here.
If you’re camping, you’ll need a pair of crocs or shoes you can easily slide on and off that are waterproof. You’ll wear them to/from the shower as well as in the shower to protect your feet from any yucky situations. If you don’t wear them in the shower, you’ll be very pleased to have them when you step out of it as there are no bath mats on the floors of campground shower stalls. They also make it easy to slip your shoes on and off as you get in and out of your tent, keeping dirt from being walked in on your shoes. Find Crocs here.
I wore jeans most days and recommend packing quite a few pairs, depending on how long you’re visiting for. I had four pairs with me for a three-week trip and rotated them as they needed to be washed. Given I wore them so often I probably could have done with a couple more pairs. Find Jeans here.
Another thing I didn’t pack but wish I did is my Kathmandu outdoor pants, they would have been ideal for hiking, especially in cold/wet weather with my thermals layered underneath. If you’re planning on doing a fair bit of hiking or outdoor adventures, these pants will come in very useful for you as they’re quick to dry and water-resistant, as opposed to jeans which absorb the moisture and take a while to dry. Find Outdoor/Sky-Style pants here.
Again, for anyone planning on doing lots of outdoor activities, you should pack some activewear. I packed two pairs of Lorna Jane tights, a top and sports bra. They all came in very useful for big hikes and days when it was a little warmer and I felt like being very comfortable. Find Lorna Jane Activewear here.
I packed loads of t-shirts and used them to layer over my thermal top and below my jumpers. They were also great for days when it was warmer and I could unzip my hoodie, pull it off and just get around in my t-shirt. Find T-Shirts here.
Jumpers and hoodies
Be sure to pack lots of warm jumpers and hoodies to layer when you find yourself in cold weather conditions. If you have them, anything fleece-lined is preferable. I packed one fleece-lined hoodie for sleeping and two for everyday layering. I also packed about three big, thick jumpers which I rotated. Find Fleece Jumpers here and FindHoodies here.
You will absolutely, 100% need a raincoat of some description. I packed an umbrella as well but it was really just for me to be able to keep my fancy camera gear dry should the rain get crazy. Find Waterproof Coat here.
Thick, ski-style coat
I packed two big, thick outdoor/ski-style jackets and used them every day of the trip at some point. You will definitely need at least one of these and, if you want to save on space, get yourself one that’s waterproof so you can wear it as a raincoat when it rains (and it definitely will rain). Find Thick Outdoor Coats here.
I would recommend packing one or two pairs of shorts, just in case you do find yourself in warmer weather in the mountains. The weather in the mountains around Jasper and Banff was quite cold but in spots like Vancouver and Whistler, it was lovely and warm so shorts and a t-shirt was great. That said, one day in Vancouver it was pretty cool and I was grateful for the jumper I had tied around my waist. Find Shorts here.
Dresses and skirts
I didn’t spend any time wishing I’d brought dresses or skirts! It was too cold in the mountains for me to wear them and the few days we spent in Vancouver, shorts were fine especially as we were camping and I wouldn’t have had anywhere to iron a dress or skirt if it needed it. Find Dresses here and Find Skirts here
Waterproof hiking or trail shoes
Whether you’re hiking or not, a pair of waterproof sneakers or shoes will come in very handy as some of the beautiful spots you may visit along the way will get muddy in the rain, especially around the campsite. Having waterproof shoes means you don’t find yourself with very wet sneakers that take ages to dry out! Find Waterproof Hiking Boots here and Find Waterproof Trail Shoes here.
For those days when it isn’t raining or you’re exploring a city, I highly recommend at least one pair of very comfortable sneakers. Canada is an outdoor activity haven so you’ll feel totally at home wearing activewear, outdoor gear and sneakers. Find Sneakers here.
Be sure to pack at least one beanie for those days and nights when it’s freezing! I wore mine every day we were in Banff and Jasper as it was freezing cold and even snowing at one point! I had to wear it to sleep! Find Beanies here.
You’ll definitely need good quality bug spray with you, especially if you plan on visiting Wells Grey as the bug situation is real and the mosquitos are HUGE! Find Bug Spray here.
I was really surprised by how dry it was in Canada and found great relief in the moisturiser and rosehip oil I had packed! A few of the girls we travelled with commented on how dry their hands, arms and legs and even their cuticles were. I’d definitely recommend slipping some good quality, thick moisturiser in your bag, at least for your face and hands. Find Moisturiser here.
I pack a little medicine bag which includes Imodium/something for an upset tummy, paracetamol and ibuprofen for headaches or injuries, loads of band-aids, hayfever/allergy medication, asthma inhaler, a very strong antihistamine, sleeping pills, valium in-case of a bad anxiety/panic attack, eye drops, cold and flu medicine, throat lozenges, travel sickness medicine, hand sanitiser and ginger tablets. Find Medicine Bags here.
Pack good quality sunscreen and slather it on daily, especially if you’re visiting the Athabasca Glacier or planning on doing any outdoor activities. Find Sunscreen here.
Throw some earplugs in your luggage as they may come in very useful at campsites. There were a few nights when I wanted to go to bed early and the people next to us weren’t quite ready for bed yet. They weren’t being rowdy, but the sound of them talking and then the train in the background kept me awake at night. The earplugs really helped. Find Earplugs here.
In summer, the sun doesn’t set for a long time and the sky doesn’t actually go dark until 11pm! So an eye mask is essential for getting a good, early night’s sleep. Find Eyemask here.
At campsites, you’ll quickly learn power outlets are in short supply and high demand so, if you have a lot of things you need to charge at once that can be charged by USB, a multi-USB charger will be a lifesaver! That way, you only need one power converter and one outlet to charge multiple things. Find Multi-USB here.
I packed a quick-dry towel and was so happy I did because a regular one just would not have dried in time to be packed inside my luggage each time. Not only that but a quick-dry towel is significantly smaller so it’s going to take up less space and weight in your luggage. Find Quick-Dry Towel here.
You’ll need a torch or headlamp to help you find things inside your tent and make your way to/from your tent. If you don’t have one, you can use your phone but it’s always good to have a torch just in case your phone battery dies. They’re also very useful in emergencies. Find Headlamp here and Find Torch here.
Backup power pack
I packed a spare battery pack and found it came in really handy when I couldn’t be bothered to sit in the shower and watch my phone charge for ages. Find Backup Power Pack here.
Warm sleeping bag
I packed a summer sleeping bag thinking it would be fine. It was not fine and I had to go out and spend $100 on a new, winter sleeping bag in Banff. Make sure you pack a sleeping bag appropriate to the weather conditions! Find Warm Sleeping Bag here.
I also packed a pillow and was really glad I did. I used it to help me get a good sleep on the long flight over from Australia and each night in the tent! It was a great decision to pack one. Find Pillows here.
Bag for the shower
You’re going to need to be bear aware in Canada and part of that is keeping anything with a scent in a secure location not inside or anywhere near your tent. This means all your toiletries need to be kept separately, away from your tent. To make things easy, you want to put them all in a designated shower bag, which you can easily grab and take to/from the shower each time. It’ll make keeping them in one place easy and ensure you’re bear aware each time! Find Shower Bag here.
Packing hacks and tips
A few tips and tricks to help you hack your packing!
You’ll need a power converter to ensure you can recharge your camera, phone and other electronics. In Canada, it can either be the one with two round or two straight prongs. I always pack a power-board with me so I can charge my iPhone and cameras while using my laptop and only need one converter. Yep, I’m a technology addict. If you forget a converter you can buy one there pretty cheap, so don’t stress. Find Power Boards here and Find Power Converters here.
Stash some eco-friendly bags and reusable sandwich bags in your luggage, they come in so very handy for storing dirty shoes and clothes as well as bars of soap, wet swimwear or leaky toothpaste tubes! Find Eco-Friendly Reusable Bags here.
Stop leaky bottles
If you’re worried about your shampoo, conditioner or body wash leaking in your bag simply unscrew the lid, place some cling-film over the top and screw the lid back on. It’ll stop everything from leaking and potentially ruining your clean clothes. Find Reusable Bottles here.
I use Tupperware or similar hard plastic containers to put all my toiletries in. This ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab my toiletries in one easy swoop, keep them together in the hotel and makes re-packing easier too. I also use a small container for all my jewellery and another one for electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things! Find Storage Containers here.
Put dryer sheets in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling good throughout the whole trip. If you don’t have dryer sheets, a few drops of essential oil on a tissue, laid flat in-between layers of clothes, works wonders. I also have a little bottle of spray which instantly freshens up clothes, it’s from The Laundress and it’s amazing! No musty smelling clothes for you, my friend. Find Dryer Sheets here.
Good quality luggage
Bags tend to get thrown around quite a bit and it’s worth investing in good quality luggage that can stand a good punch and lock securely. A good quality suitcase with a strong lock should be good enough. When we stay in hotels, Matt and I always lock our valuables in the safe when we go out and, anything that doesn’t fit in the safe gets locked inside the suitcase or goes out with us for the day. Find Good Quality Luggage here.
Useful travel resources for your next adventure!
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