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Camping in British Columbia: Tips for First Timers

For some people, planning a two week camping trip is second nature. Simply pull neatly organized camping supplies out of the garage, reserve some campgrounds and load up the family in the RV. Then there are those of us that have never gone camping before. The thought of figuring out how to sleep, cook and survive at a campground in the great outdoors is equivalent to summiting Mt. Everest. 

Photo: Silvana Clark

Relax. With a little advance planning, anyone can have at least a “semi-successful” camping experience guaranteed to provide great memories. How can you forget dad tipping over in his canoe while reaching for a stray paddle? You’ll always remember the look of delight as your preschooler pokes a stick through her hot dog and roasts it over a campfire.

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Camping, whether in a borrowed tent from your neighbour, or in a $100,000 RV, boils down to spending time with family and friends. A time to get away from work, school and Netflix. Even kids glued to their electronics will gain an appreciation for nature as they wade in icy streams, or paddle a kayak for the first time.

Take games with you to keep everyone entertained. Photo: Silvana Clark

The following are a few simple tips to help ease the stress of planning a camping trip. Even if you just pick five tips to try, you’ll be way ahead of other first-time campers!

  • Start small. This is not the time to plan a trip to Glacier National Park if you live outside British Columbia. Start small and drive to a campground within an hour of home.
  • Don’t have a tent or RV? No problem. See if you can borrow a tent from a friend or rent an RV. This lets you experience a few aspects of camping without making a big financial commitment.
  • Make sure to make reservations at your campground. Many times, off-season reservations aren’t necessary, but why take the risk?
  • Decide ahead of time what type of campground you want. Looking for a deluxe campground offering an Olympic sized swimming pool and organized kid’s programs? Or would you prefer something more laid-back with hiking trails and a chance to relax by a lake?
  • Arrive early at your campsite, especially if you are unfamiliar with your RV or even how to set up the tent. You’ll be more comfortable getting your campsite ready if you don’t have “neighbours” sitting in their lawn chairs watching you muddle your way through leveling your RV. Speaking of RV’s…make life easy and ask for a “Pull Thru” site where you simply pull the RV through a site. No awkward backing into place!
  • Bring a variety of card and board games in case the weather turns on you. Be brave and ban all electronic devices during the camping trip. That goes for adults as well!
  • The Dollar Store is a camper’s best friend. Purchase a variety of plastic storage buckets to use for easy organization. Fill one with basic First Aid supplies. Don’t forget bug spray! Other tubs can hold condiments, plastic dishes, and glow-sticks for late night fun.
  • While at the Dollar Store, pick up some flip flops for every family member to use in the campground washrooms and shower.
Having fun in the water. Photo: Silvana Clark
  • Bring a tablecloth. Most campground picnic tables are a bit rough and rugged. A plastic tablecloth adds elegance to your dining!
  • It wouldn’t be camping without a campfire! Before you leave home, have kids make simple fire starters. Cut cardboard toilet paper rolls in half. Stuff each half with dryer lint, then wrap each piece in wax paper. Twist the two ends, which serve as your wick when placed on the firewood.
  • A play pen or pack and play keep crawling babies safe. It’s easy to get distracted while setting up a campsite, so play it safe and have your little one watch you from a safe, contained place.
  • When you register, ask if any kid’s programs are available. It’s nice to break up the day with an organized event geared to kids.
  • When it comes to food on your first-time camping trip, forget the fancy recipes. Try a version of the ever popular “Walking Tacos”. Simply give everyone their individual bag of Fritos. Heat up a can of your favorite chili and plop a few spoonful’s in the bag. Top with cut up tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa. Dinner with no dishes!
  • Camping should be a time for all family members to relax, instead of one person “stuck” with cooking and cleaning up. There’s nothing wrong with cereal for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Bring some prepared hamburger meat from home to barbeque for dinner. Add a packaged salad mix and some purchased potato salad and you have a meal. After you have a few camping trips under your belt, try cooking in a Dutch oven or making breakfast burritos over the campfire. Just Google, “Easy Camping Recipes” and you’ll have ideas galore!
Kids at play. Photo: Silvana Clark

Camping trips are a chance for family members to connect in a different setting than in front of the TV. Even if you are hesitant about sleeping in the great outdoors, challenge your family to give camping a try. You may find fresh air, hikes and good old S’mores make for a wonderful weekend!

Playing on the beach. Photo: Silvana Clark

Note: During the summer of 2020 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic you may find some facilities and programs closed at BC private campgrounds. Please check with individual campgrounds. Reservations are also recommended. For current information on BC Parks go to the BC Provincial Parks website and Parks Canada for their updated details. Please make sure you follow BC’s health and safety recommendations when camping and traveling in this province.

For campgrounds & RV parks in BC go to the BC Camping Map.

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc

Published: May 29th, 2020

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Silvana Clark by Silvana Clark

Allan and Silvana Clark have camped in a flimsy tent during a thunderstorm in England, as well as full-timed in an RV for many years. Silvana frequently presents keynotes and workshops to the camping industry. Happily married for 42 years, they jump at any chance to go camping and explore wherever they are.

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