What is a “Snowbird”? >>
The term snowbird has traditionally meant a northerner who travels to a warmer southern region in the winter. However, in Canada’s case, it’s not always south but often west, primarily to British Columbia. When it comes to off-season camping, snowbirds seek out campgrounds, most often private ones with full-services, in mild areas of the province such as the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Southern Interior. The snowbird season runs from October through to April and depending on where one stays visitors may encounter little or no snow. Opting for an RV vacation or extended stay in British Columbia over the late fall and winter versus travelling to the United States has grown in popularity due to the dip in the Canada-US dollar exchange rate, easier access to public health services, and for many, shorter distances to drive. Read what 3 BC RV Park Operators Say about Winter RVing
Can I dry camp or do I need services? >>
Yes, camping without services is possible in winter. An RV will use battery power and a generator to run interior lights and the on-board water pump and furnace fan to circulate heat. Other 110-volt items will not run unless the unit is hooked up to a campground’s 15-, 30- or 50-amp electricity supply. When dry camping batteries can be recharged by a generator (gas or diesel), or some people install solar panels to trickle charge. Read our Tips’ section articles on RV winter camping prep and winter camping for the beginner.
How do I use the furnace to keep warm? >>
Most RVs have a propane thermostatically controlled furnace (forced air system) that can be set to a desired temperature and comfort setting. When not using electricity, simply turn on the propane tank and set the thermostat. (The furnace fan will operate off of a battery, 110-volt power or generator.) Check and clean the RV furnace before winter camping to ensure it is in proper working condition.
Are any campgrounds open during the winter in BC? >>
Yes, a large number of privately operated and BC Parks campgrounds remain open to serve winter campers. The Camping and RVing BC Coalition has compiled a list of these campgrounds and updates it annually. Click here for the Winter Camping page.
What tires do I need to travel in winter and/or do I need chains? >>
Winter tires or chains are required on most routes in British Columbia from October 1 to April 30. For some highways not in mountain passes and/or high snowfall areas, tire and chain requirements end March 31. The province’s main roads and highways are kept plowed and salted during the winter so are drivable; however, extreme weather conditions do occur, and chains are recommended for many campgrounds and resort routes (some ski hill roads require them to be carried). More information is available on the BC government webpage for Designated Winter Tire & Chain Routes.
What are the winter statutory holidays? >>
- Remembrance Day – November 11th
- Christmas Day – December 25th
- Boxing Day – December 26th
- New Year’s Day – January 1st
- Family Day – The Third Monday in February
Can I rent a winterized RV? >>
Yes. Motorhomes that are built for Canadian winter conditions are available for rent from major rental agencies such as CanaDream, Fraserway, Meridian RV, Cruise Canada and Best Time RV. Make sure that the RV has double pane windows, a high efficiency furnace, interior winter cab blanket and comes with insulated and heated water and waste holding tanks. For more RV winter trip prep click here.
What wildlife might I encounter in the winter? >>
Here’s what you might see from November to March:
- Birds such as bald eagles, ducks, geese and waterfowl, herons, peregrine falcons and snowy owls.
- Mammals such as coyotes, lynx, cougars, wolves, raccoons, squirrels, deer, moose and elk. Even bears come out of hibernation on occasion.
- Ocean animals such as otters, orcas and other whales, porpoises, dolphins, sea lions or harbour and elephant seals.
What should I do if I encounter wildlife while camping? >>
- Always exercise caution – don’t get too close to any wildlife. Stay alert and move slowly and quietly in their presence. Moose and elk can be aggressive, particularly in calving season, and many animals can be unpredictable when upset. Rules regarding animal encounters depend on the type of animal so research this before you go camping or ask park or campground staff.
- When camping, keep your food locked away and do not leave food scraps behind – pack out what you pack in.
- Wildsafe BC and Leave No Trace are great resources for making any wildlife experiences you may have in BC positive and conflict-free.