The Canadians are good at many things, winter sports, being friendly, wearing plaid, poutine and the ability to put maple syrup on anything are a few of the things that make Canada truly amazing. But one thing I think they do better than any other country is camping. As a nation I have found that the Canadians have a true passion for the outdoors. Why wouldn’t they? They have everything: mountains, lakes, beaches, forests, waterfalls. You name it they have it! Yes, even a desert. (there’s one in Yukon!)
What makes camping in the Great White North so enjoyable (other than the scenery) is the fantastic facilities. There are thousands of campgrounds across the country at varying levels of ‘outdoor-ness’ ranging from just a shovel and toilet roll to pit toilets to full on bathrooms. The choice is yours! They are also blessed with pretty good weather during the summer months which means its unlikely to be a wash-out like British camping.
Having grown up enjoying camping holidays, Matt and I were keen to get out there and sleep beneath the stars. Here are a few things we learnt along the way.
What type of camping to do
There’s more than one type of camping I hear you ask? Well, yes there is. Front-country camping is the most popular. You can drive your vehicle directly into your site and set up straight away. Most front-country sites have at the very least pit toilets, but the majority have flushing bathrooms and showers. You can use a tent, caravan or RV on these sites which makes them even more accessible. It’s a wonderful way of getting into the camping spirit without having to lose too many luxuries.
Back-country camping is for the more experienced camper as there are no facilities or amenities. In addition, this style of camping is usually accomplished by hiking, skiing, canoeing etc to a suitable camping area. The bonus to sleeping out in this way is that there are less crowds. Also, it’s a great way of going technology free for a weekend!
Where to camp
Once you’ve decided what style of camping adventure you want, you need to decide where to go. Canada has an abundance of campgrounds to choose from. We wanted to hike so chose our destinations accordingly.
We went to:
A great all-round campsite, you can hike, canoe, swim, water-ski and fish from Sasquatch Provincial Park. There were no showers, but there were both flushing toilets and pit toilets. This was also one of the cleanest parks we went to, which is key to keeping away wildlife.
This is a great base camp for hiking with a wide variety of trails leading directly from the site. There are also opportunities for cycling, canoeing and swimming. Depending on which area you choose there are showers available (Lightning Lake).
This park had really spacious sites to set up in with a large gap between campers. Again, a great camp for accessing a variety of activities; canoeing, cycling, hiking and fishing are all achievable from Alice Lakes. Many trails lead from the site making it a hiker’s paradise. There are showers here as well as flushing toilets.
This one is top notch for families as there is a there is an adventure park nearby with rides, waterslides and mini golf to keep everyone happy. It wasn’t as clean as other sites, I think the sheer amount of people here made it difficult for rangers to keep on top of it. However, there were hot showers and clean toilets.
These sites were all booked through the BC Parks website. The next two were privately owned sites.
This was our first Canadian camping experience and one of my favourites. Located between Tofino and Ucluelet this is a super cute site with a brilliant hippy vibe. The pitches are relatively small but are still quite private. There are hot showers (for a couple of quarters), a hot tub and flushing toilets. Its one of the top locations for surfers, but there are also opportunities for hiking and whale watching.
We stayed here as it was needed a cheap place to stay in Vancouver, which is almost impossible. The park is primarily for RV’s and is located next to the only road leading over the massive Lions Gate Bridge. You definitely compromise on natural beauty and privacy here, but you do gain in location. We were able to walk into Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver with ease. It was also great for heading to Lynn Valley Suspension bridge and Grouse Mountain.
What to take with you
Parks Canada has complied a great checklist which you can download and print. I would recommend packing food in advance as the more remote the park, the more expensive the food will be. There is water on most sites but do take plenty of drinking water. I usually freeze bottles of water and use them to keep food cool and then drink it when its defrosted. If you can take firewood and kindling then do, again it gets expensive. I made my own fire starters from lint which were great for getting fire crackling. Check that there are no fire bans before you leave, many Canadians use gas fires as an alternative during these times.
Matt would suggest taking anything that deters bug bites! We kitted out the van with nets to prevent any little critters sneaking in. And of course, don’t forget creams for after you’ve been bitten.
What to cook
If you don’t have a fancy RV with a kitchen in it, then chances are you’ll be cooking on a small stove or camp fire. I tried to cook things that were easy to do in one pan such as chicken fajitas or soup. Cooking over the campfire, hot dogs were first choice. Also, bananas stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate chips thrown into the bottom of a fire make a great dessert.
What to wear
Hats are key when camping. In the early morning and evening it can be chilly so pack a woolly hat. For hiking during the heat be sure to pack a cap or floppy hat. To prevent bug bites, wear long sleeved shirts and pants, these are best in fabrics that wick away moisture, so you remain cool and comfortable. Finally wear comfortable shoes that are suitable for all activities. Make sure they are waterproof in case there is unexpected rainfall or rivers to wade across.
Where’s your favourite place to camp and what is your top tip for a comfortable trip?
Thanks for joining me again for A-Z Travels. Next week is going to be D for Driving. Happy Travels 😊