Choosing the right tent

Tents come in all shapes and sizes, and in all price ranges. Talk to friends and family members who camp about their experiences. Go to a camping equipment store and look at their tents. Consult with store staff about what would best suit your situation.

Many factors affect the price of a tent, such as capacity, weight, and durability. Before you make a decision, think about how many people you’ll usually go camping with, if you want to drive to a campsite or hike in, or if you’re camping with kids. Little children and adults alike like being able to stand up inside a tent!

Before you leave home

Before you go, practice setting up your tent in the back yard – or even in your living room. Not only will you learn how to put up your tent with all the correct pieces, you’ll also create anticipation for the upcoming trip!

Learn to set up a tent

These steps should help you in setting up your tent. Not all tents are the same but the process is similar in all cases.

1. Choose your spot

Many Parks Canada campsites have a tent pad which will pre-determine where your tent will go. If not, choose an area that is free of roots, rocks and branches. You’ll have a better night’s sleep if your spot is level and free of sticks and stones. Make sure that the area is far enough away from your fire pit that there is no risk of embers landing on your tent.

Optional - Put down a groundsheet. A groundsheet helps protect your tent and keep you dry.

2. Roll out your tent.

Keep in mind where you want your door!

3. Connect your poles

Depending on your tent design, poles slide into sleeves or fasten to clips. If your tent has both sleeves and clips, start with the sleeves. Slide or clip on the two poles that cross at (or near) the top of your tent. If your tent has more than two poles, slide or clip them all in before you begin the next step.

4. Raise your tent

This is the fun part! Start with the two poles that cross at the top. Secure the end of one pole into the special grommet, fabric pocket, or loop at the base of your tent, often at the corner. Bend the flexible pole into an arc and secure the other end – it’s sometimes easier to do this with a partner!

5. Peg the tent to the ground

Most tents have nylon straps with loops or grommets through which you can place a tent peg. Pull the strap away from the tent so the floor is taut. Push the peg into the ground at a 45-degree angle to keep it secure – even on a windy day!

6. Put a fly over the tent

Toss the fly over the tent, keeping your tent door’s location in mind. Depending on the design of your tent, you may need extra pegs, poles or guy lines.

Parks Canada staff tips

Have fun putting up your tent at home – not only will kids love a special sleep-over inside a tent in their living room or backyard, you’ll discover if you have all the pieces you need!

Tent glossary

Tent glossary Definition
Tent pad A predetermined area of grass, soil or sand on a campsite where you set up your tent. Your tent pad should be flat and free of debris.
Tent body The main part of the tent, including the walls and floors. Usually made of nylon or polyester. May have mesh for ventilation.
Fly A sheet of waterproof material that fits over the tent body to protect against wind, rain, and sun.
Groundsheet A piece of fabric that goes underneath your tent. A barrier between the tent floor and the ground. Protects your tent over time. Sometimes called a “footprint”.
Guy lines Lengths of cord or rope used to help secure your tent, especially in bad weather. Guy lines are fastened to the fly and then staked into the ground with a tent peg. Guy lines keep the fly taunt and away from the tent walls, which helps ventilation, especially in humid weather.
Grommet A metal ring that reinforces a hole in a piece of fabric.
Tent sleeves Pieces of fabric attached to the tent body or fly into which tent poles go.
Tent clips Devices attached to the tent body and fly that secure the tent poles.

How-to set up a tent

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Parks Canada staff tips

Closing the tent door zippers helps keep out bugs and insects. Remember to take off your shoes before entering the tent to keep it clean.


Tarps are one of the most versatile pieces of camping equipment. They can be used in numerous ways to shelter you from the wind, rain, or sun.

Some people hang a tarp over their tents, but you can also hang a tarp over your picnic table to protect yourself from the rain, or enjoy a little spot in the shade.

Setting up a tarp can seem complicated but the following how-to video presents a quick and simple method. Watch carefully and then enjoy your time at camp with this new roof over your head.

How-to set up a tarp