Rethink camping with RV camping, backpacking, and s’more
Over the past decade, the number of Canadians who camp has risen year after year. Today, camping ranks as one of Canada’s top three most popular outdoor activities. From kayak camping to backpacking, the Canadian wilderness offers an adventure for everyone.
Canada’s 47 national parks and national park reserves provide nearly 340,000 square kilometers of camping possibilities. That doesn’t even include provincial parks, private and commercial campgrounds, and free campsites.
“Canada’s the best for camping because it’s so spacious,” says Alex Ross, a camping guide and the CEO of Fresh Adventures in BC. “Our guests from abroad—even Australia!—can’t believe our vast amount of wilderness and how much space you have to explore.”
Pitching your tent at a city campground has its perks. But it’s far from the only type of camping you can try.
Nearly 60 per cent of campers want to try RV camping. A campervan offers a smaller, more maneuverable alternative to RVs. “Van camping is growing in popularity,” says Ross. “It makes things easier for people who want to be more protected from animals, bugs, and bad weather.”
Trek to a remote beach or a distant peak and truly disconnect from our busy, modern world. “In our backpacking trips, we wander past alpine lakes and glaciers,” says Ross. “The world is your oyster out there. We can camp wherever we want. It’s incredibly freeing, and people really come alive.”
Zip along forest service roads or across regional parks—you can cover far more ground than hiking on foot—until you find a camping spot that calls your name.
Pack your waterproof dry bags onto a kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or even jet ski, and explore beaches and coves otherwise inaccessible to others. “We scoot out to the ocean for a couple days, exploring remote, unspoiled inlets,” says Ross.
Start with a backyard camping trip to practise setting up a tent and using your camping supplies.
“Take baby steps,” says Ross. “Try a frontcountry weekend. After that, go to a walk-in campsite at a provincial park, which will help you get used to packing your backpack and carrying all your gear in one load. Then just go from there!”
“A minimalistic approach saves money, is easier to pack, and makes you more mobile,” says Ross. “Most people overpack drastically—you’re typically fine with a lot less than you think you need.”
Basic must-haves include a tent, sleeping bag, and flashlights or headlamps with extra batteries. You’ll also want a first aid kit, personal hygiene products such as sunscreen, and basic cooking supplies.
“When I first started, I took guided expeditions and mountaineering courses,” says Ross. “It’s a great way to meet like-minded people, jump right in, and quickly learn from camping experts.” Parks Canada also offers Learn-to-Camp workshops across the country.
“Before you know it, you’ll be ready to tackle any sort of camping,” says Ross. “I find that as people overcome different camping challenges, they’re excited and prepared for the next one.”
Camping is good for you: it builds self-confidence, boosts mental health, resets your natural sleep cycle, and can even strengthen your relationships.
Frontcountry campgrounds are easily accessible by car. They often have basic facilities such as washrooms and even a place to buy firewood.
Backcountry sites are more remote. They usually require hiking or a 4x4 vehicle to access them and have few to no amenities, but they are the perfect escape into the wild.
Statistics Canada doesn’t track those who live in vans and RVs, but data suggest that the number of Canadian van dwellers has jumped by 30 percent in recent years.
Van dwellers are a diverse group, ranging from retirees to young entrepreneurs. An estimated 51 percent of van dwellers live the #VanLife full time, and half of all van dwellers set up camp in national forests, parks, and similar campsites.
For some, it’s a way to escape the rat race for a more minimalistic, budget-friendly lifestyle. For others, it’s about being more adventurous, staying closer to nature, and embracing spontaneity. Many people find it mentally liberating.
Most campgrounds have daily admission and service fees. For national parks, you’ll need a single-location pass or an annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass. They’re available on the Parks Canada website (parks.canada.ca) or at MEC stores. For other parks, contact your province or the private campground operator.
Book your campsite as soon as possible because they fill up fast. Reservations for most parks open in the early spring. National parks can be booked online (reservation.pc.gc.ca) or by calling 1-877-737-3783.
You can camp year-round, but some parks may close various campgrounds or trails during the November to April off-season. Prepare for poorer weather and limited services, but embrace the opportunity to enjoy fewer crowds at your campground.