Backcountry Camping In The Wild
Many travellers to Canada dream about wild backcountry camping under the stars. This can be “heaven or hell”, depending on how you prepare for it.
Remember the main rules: Travel Slowly – Camp Early – Don’t try to Fit Too Much in!
Plan your Camping Trip well
It’s totally up to you what comfort level you would like during your backcountry camping trip. You can rent a camper or RV with all the camping luxury. Or simply just throw your tent and sleeping bag in the back of an old car and start your trip. What type of camper or car you use should depend on the types of roads you drive.
Plan your camping trip well. Think about eating and what kind of camp meals you want to cook. For this, I have some meal suggestions for you!
Whether you have all summer for an across Canada backcountry camping trip or just a week driving through the Rocky Mountains, backcountry camping in the Canadian wilderness is something you will never forget. The vastness of the place, the solitude and serenity, the Canadian wildlife, the campfire, and the millions of stars will be stuck in your memory forever.
There is something incredibly special about the backcountry. You sit by the campfire at night, surrounded by pristine wilderness, roasting marshmallows and taking in the solitude. However little time you might have for your Canada vacation, don’t miss out on a backcountry camping experience; even if it’s only for a couple of nights.
I spent countless nights camping in the Canadian backcountry and the magic has never worn off. The sense of space and freedom you feel cannot be described in words. Only when you go camping in the wilderness, will you experience this special peace inside you.
There is definitely no better way to travel in Canada’s backcountry than camping. Spending the day sightseeing and returning to a hotel at night is not the holiday I recommend.
No matter whether you are tenting or RVing, you will have plenty of choices where to go camping in Canada.
Backcountry Camping – what you need to know
Canada is a nation of campers and you can find campgrounds in every province and territory. Campgrounds are EVERYWHERE! No matter how remote the area, if there is any sign of humans, there is somewhere to camp.
Searching the Internet you will come across many sites with “Canadian Best Campgrounds”. Many of these camping sites are in beautiful locations. Guaranteed you will see wildlife during your camping experience and get a taste of what the Canadian Wilderness is all about. Unless you travel in the off-season, you will be sharing your experience with lots of fellow tourists.
Nearly every town in Canada has a Tourist Information Centre. Stop in and ask for a map and get information about camping and sightseeing in the area.
As you travel on Canadian back roads, you will find small towns, roadhouses and private property owners who operate campgrounds.
- Privately owned and Commercial campgrounds are mostly located along the main tourist routes in Canada. Stop in at a local Visitors Information Centre for a free Provincial, Territorial or local “camping in Canada” guide.
- Parks Canada campgrounds are located inside the National Parks of Canada. They are owned and operated by Parks Canada. Due to spectacular locations inside parks, these campgrounds are very busy during July/August and reservations need to be made well in advance. For information on National Parks contact http://www.pc.gc.ca
- Provincial Parks Campgrounds and Regional Campgrounds are inside Provincial or Territorial Parks/Regional Parks. They are owned and operated by a specific provincial or regional government. Because of their location, they can get also very busy during the summer. Some of these parks don’t take reservations, so it’s good to arrive early in the day to still get a spot. For information on provincial parks check out the provincial government website.
Many of the National Park and Provincial Park campgrounds come with basic facilities, which include water, wood, pit toilets, picnic tables and fire pits. Some larger campgrounds offer showers, flush toilets, sani-stations etc.
But now let’s venture into the real backcountry camping, where you leave civilization behind.
Free Recreation Sites
Some of my favourite camp spots are at recreation sites in Canada. If you like your camping experience more authentic and more wild, simple and rustic, this will be the kind of camping for you. Recreation Sites are generally located in remote areas near rivers, trails, and lakes, accessed by gravel forestry roads or via hiking trails. That is where the locals camp.
Recreation sites are small and provide only basic facilities, such as fire pits, picnic tables, outhouse and boat-launching ramps where appropriate. Free camping is offered at most recreation sites and especially British Columbia is a paradise for free backcountry camping and wilderness recreation.
These campsites are well used by locals and there is a chance that you arrive at a site you planned to camp, but it’s already taken. A few days before long weekends, local people go to these campsites with their RVs, boats, fishing gear and quads and set up camp next to mountain lakes. Most other campers arriving at the campsite will leave again and go and find the next lake.
How to find Backcountry Camp Sites
There are excellent resources and maps available to find free campsites.
The Backroad Mapbook is one I use a lot. It is an Outdoor Recreation Guide, available for different regions in Canada and it’s worth the investment. The Backroad Mapbook covers logging and bush roads and a detailed trail system. It describes backroad attractions, fishing lakes, parks and recreation sites, wildlife viewing and lots more.
I’m using the backroad maps on my Garmin handheld GPS (global positioning system) device. This is an excellent tool for navigating the way in the wilderness and through the woods.
Some really excellent Canadian camping apps for your tablet or phone are also available.
Provincial Government websites are a great resource for backcountry camping in Canada. For British Columbia, you might want to check out sitesandtrailsbc.ca
Boon Docking on Crownland
Boondocking is free camping out in the boonies and is also called bush camping. The definition of BOONDOCKS: rough country filled with dense bush.
Outside of the parks and away from recreation sites you can find many boondocking campsites and beautiful spots to put up for the night.
If there is no outhouse near your camp spot, dig a hole for human waste, away from any water source. Greywater also goes in there. Don’t forget to fill the hole in with dirt before you leave the site.
Restrictions apply on private property! If you come across a sign “NO Trespassing” or ” KEEP OUT” that means the land is privately owned and you will need permission from the landowner before pitching a tent. Most Canadians in the Backcountry have guns in the house, so beware.
Leave No Trace – Protecting, preserving and respecting the Canadian wilderness, and all of the lands should be the commitment of each visitor to this beautiful land. If you are fortunate to experience our delicate wilderness ecosystem of ours, please respect it. The love of the country and the desire to care for the environment is part of what we hope to share and pass on to visitors to Canada. As you travel through the wilderness be sure to see what’s around you and enjoy the incredible flora and fauna.
Other FREE RV Camping in Canada
The Walmart chain and some other supermarkets throughout Canada allow RVs to use their parking lot for a one-night stay free of charge. Walmarts located in Southern British Columbia have other policies. Therefore don’t’ forget to ask for the manager’s permission before settling in.
- WILD ANIMALS! Be careful with the wild animals! Never approach a wild animal of any kind, no matter how docile and non-dangerous it seems. Be sure you know bear safety tips and the difference between a Black bear and a Grizzly. It’s always good to make noise while in the bush. Also, read my site about Cougars and check out Canadian Wildlife.
- Watch your campfire! Make sure they are put out before you walk off and don’t start them in areas where it’s not safe.
- Temperatures in Canada can get extremely hot during summer. The Okanagan Valley, where I leave is very dry and hot and we get hardly any rainfall in July and August, which makes it a real fire hazard.
- Forest fires are very common here, mostly caused by lightning, but also by people. Most years the Government put on a campfire ban for a few weeks to lower the risk.
- Before you make a campfire, check if there is a fire ban restriction in the area, check with British Columbia’s Wildfire site or check restrictions of other provinces.
- Have the right camping equipment with you and be prepared for Canada’s unforgiving wilderness.
Enjoy the thrills of backcountry camping!