I spent last week winter hot tenting on a piece of Crown land in eastern Ontario. It was a last-minute trip idea with some friends, and making use of Crown land sure made planning a little bit easier. No park reservations to deal with, no crowds and no fees.
Crown land is public land, meaning Canadian citizens are able to camp on it for free. (In Ontario, where I live, non-residents must pay a fee of $10 per night.) There are some restrictions. You can only stay on a site for 21 days and then you have to move on 100 metres or more to re-establish another camp. This rule is basically to control “squatters.”
You must adhere to responsible camping ethics (i.e. constructing a safe campfire pit, no building of permanent structures, leaving no litter). Basically, practice low-impact camping as best you can. Also, take note that there are no established campsites. There may be campsites made by past users, but there’s no government maintenance to those sites.
How to find Crown land is the biggest question campers have. Most of my favourite areas were found by asking other campers. In the past I also made use of Crown land maps. The government used to provide them if asked—however, these became more difficult to find. They also became out of date.
Now the provinces have (or will have) Crown Land recorded online. Ontario has theirs on a website titled Ontario’s Crown Land Use Policy Atlas.
(To make sense of it all and figure out how to use it, click this link for a handy guide. And scroll to the bottom for lists of free campsites in BC, Alberta and Ontario.)
Here’s a video series on the trip. It was an amazing time, with good friends and beautiful scenery—all free of charge.