Simply because it is not comfortable as your own bed or a hotel room. And for some, it can be a very vocal adjustment.
So there is tip #1 Find out how your family can take it. The younger they are the easier to withdraw from creature comforts – generally but not all. Try an overnight first before going on a weekend long adventure.
Second tip, check out the weather forecast. Camping in wet conditions is a major turn-off. With long days and short nights, if it is dry, it is so conducive to chat, sing, bond over a meal and campfire.
Tip # 3 And since temperatures can dip at night and/or at higher elevations, make sure you carry jackets and sleeping bags good for minus Celsius - that can be snug and toasty even though it’s frosty.
Tip # 4 If possible, research in advance on two or three campsites in the area – so you can switch to Plan B or Plan C. It might look good in the website photos but images lie. Once you are there, what looked like a postcard by the sea camp site can turn out to be a rocky RV slum. Thanks to photo cropping.
I say if possible, since sometimes at the spur of the moment I just want to jump into my car and go where the wind blows that day. But in BC there are so many campgrounds – so there is no need to worry of not finding one.
There are Provincial Campgrounds (labeled BC Parks), National Campground (labeled Parks Canada), Private campgrounds, and Municipal Campgrounds. It can range as low as $10 a night per site for a family of 4 to as high as $45 per. Average $ 25 – $ 35 a night. In some campgrounds, there are group sites where for 4 – 5 families or more can be together.
A number are fully-booked for the summer on weekends (Alice Park and Porteau Cove along the Sea-to-Sky Highway on the way to Whistler from Vancouver) – so call to check.
Tip # 5 If you see a Visitor Information Centre with the symbol i (usually closed after 5 pm and Sundays), grab a campground catalogue. Many have toll-free numbers.
Tip # 6 But if it’s late, there is no Wi-Fi, no campground list – ask the locals. Over at Chase, BC, right before Adams River – a bank teller gave me a good tip on a still open (it was mid-October) campsite – right next to the Fraser River (no train tracks) where I can hear at night, and later see at dawn salmon jumping.
Tip # 7 Some suggested web sites for campgrounds listing:
· gocampingbc.com (albeit incomplete)
A good one for families in BC is Sunnyside Campground in Cultus Lake ( avoid the noisier public parks). Add Vedder River Campground along Vedder River in Yarrow, Fraser Cove overlooking the mighty Fraser River in Lillooet, and a number along Chilliwack Lake Road on the way to Chilliwack Lake which is lovely. In Alberta, I like Honeymoon Lake in the Rockies . I like campgrounds with a water view or next to it with trails.
There are nice ones too in Vancouver Island, especially in Port Hardy, Zeballos, Malcolm Island, and Saturna Island – but in Saturna you need to hike for 40 minutes to get there. Bring a car then – pricey on the ferry, or hitchhike. BTW, hitchhiking is acceptable in most of the small islands. A number of the islands have fun farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings – see my other blog entries.
Discovery and Serendipity are an awesome combo.
Tip # 8 Avoid setting in near rail tracks especially along the scenic Fraser River on Fraser Canyon (places like Boston Bar, North Bend, Yale, Lytton) – the cargo train passes on both sides of the river so the night will be rumbling every hour. There are campgrounds on the other side of the highway - where you can still hear an occasional choo choo but not the chugging of 50 train cars. I wonder how the residents sleep?
Scope out factories and paper mills (like in Merritt) – Paper mills abound in BC and they operate 24/7 – worse than train tracks because of the mill’s exhaust. You cannot tell it’s noisy during the day – sounds attenuate at night.
Tip # 9 Check out the washrooms especially if it’s late season (past September) when cleaning is often less frequent or dropped. The washrooms in the municipal campground in Enderby (between Vernon and Salmon Arm) were crawling with tiny inch-size worms. I am not kidding!
Tip # 10 Don’t drive to a campground which will be an 8 hour road trip – people will get cranky. Max 5 hours drive (traffic-free), minimum 1 hour –you don’t want to be too close either otherwise it feels like you are play-camping in your backyard.
Tip # 11 Pick a campsite with shade and soft grassy ground (if it exists) – you will be thankful during the middle of the day
Tip # 12 Always carry water, a cooler for ice (you will be thankful for this one) or you might buy fresh eggs from a local farmer.
Tip # 13 Have a checklist
Tip # 14 Important: Bring First Aid and sanitizers, garbage bags, flashlights, insect repellants, sun block lotion, hats and sunglasses, cameras if you cannot use your cell phones. BTW often there are no cell phone service.
Hiking boots would be great if you plan to do trails – they will lessen the chances of a sprain.
Tip # 15 I carry pillows and blankets to max comfort. And I buy awesome desserts at a specialty bakery as a treat later. I just don’t want to eat hot dogs and burgers. I want my carrot cake and cinnamon buns.
Tip # 16 Bring a pile of old newspapers – to cover dusty or moist picnic benches and tables; as padding for damp ground to pitch your tent on, and for general clean-up. Then you can guilt-free throw or even use the dried paper as kindle for a camp fire.
Tip # 17 Chargers, chargers that can be plug on to your car charger. It is a bummer when you get low bat on any of your mobile devices, if you can use it.
Tip # 18 Cash: many camps are on an honor system – they ask you seal your payment in a provided envelope, then dropped into a safe box. Also most bathrooms have coin-operated showers. No looney – no hot water. Brrrrrrr!
Tip # 19 Slippers or flip flops, no matter how cold. Those public bathrooms can be dirty since they are only cleaned 2x a day. You don’t want to live in perpetuity with itchy toe valleys.
Tip # 20 Most provincial campsites have only johns, no showers – so if this is a must ask when checking in or do your research.
Tip # 21 Other than the sandwich or cereals breakfast, I suggest only one camp meal a day - ideally supper where a smoking grill gives an I-am-really -camping ambience. If you can eat out for lunch - a worry-free variety and you don’t want to be cooking in heat anyway. Great way to meet locals if they are friendly.
Almost all campgrounds in North America do not have shared kitchens unlike in New Zealand or Australia where campers can cook on real stoves and ovens, store their name-labeled goodies in refrigerators, Cooking utensils, plates, cutleries, even dishwashing soap are provided.
Tip # 22 Always drive with a full or at least half-full tank. Gas stations are far and in-between on many roads. Gas prices go down in Abbotsford and Hope. Generally the farther you are from Vancouver – the cheaper the gas. Last week it was a $1.27 per liter in Vancouver. It was a $1.16 per liter in Lytton and a $1.19 per liter in Yale $1.20 in Hope.
Tip # 23 Safety and security – when your kids are swimming or playing – somebody Must Always be watching! Do not rely on lifeguards. BTW this is BC so even during summers the water can be freezing.
Tip # 24 Always leave your campsites clean – do a thorough inspection (ask the kids to help you) so as not to miss tent pins, or other stuff.
Tip # 25 Try to be back home early enough so you can “decamp”, decompress and be rested, put everything in place, and be refreshed for the following work or school day.
Tip # 26 should really be earlier in this list. Before leaving home Unplug everything and make sure the kitchen sink is clean and the garbage is out. You will be very sorry upon return if you don’t do this.
But you know what, when all is said and done, all you really need is your sleeping bag or a blanket, and cash/credit or debit card. Just snooze in your car, buy ready-to-eat in the supermarket or have it to go and you’ll survive.