By Suzanne Morphet

Imagine if you were flying to a tropical island surrounded by coral reefs and colourful fish, but you couldn’t take your snorkel and mask with you. Ditto for your underwater camera. It would sure spoil a lot of the fun of being there.

People heading into B.C.’s spectacular parks and wilderness would feel the same way if they couldn’t take their favourite ‘toys’ with them, whether that means an ATV, a couple of dirt bikes or maybe a prized cedar strip canoe.

Thankfully, there’s such a thing as a ‘toy hauler’ so you can take your grown-up ‘toys’ with you.

Toy haulers come in a wide variety of sizes and configurations – they can take the shape of a trailer, a fifth-wheel or a motorhome – but they’re all designed for the same purpose – to help you transport large toys easily without sacrificing living space.

With that in mind, they come with a ‘garage’ door, usually at the back but sometimes at the side, and a ramp that lowers to the ground. Inside, there’s an empty space to hold your fun stuff while you’re driving.

Almost magically, that empty space converts to extra living space once you’ve arrived at your destination and unloaded your toys. Beds may swing down from the ceiling or a table will pop up from the floor.  The ramp can be suspended in the air with legs and – voilà – you now have an outdoor patio replete with a propane fire pit.

Toy haulers have come a long way since they first came on the scene, says Chris Ramsay, sales manager at Meridian RV in Port Coquitlam. “The early ones that came out in the late ‘80s; that product was really just a box, then they put in components and it evolved from there.”

Today, toy haulers are the equivalent of a well-equipped house and garage. “The typical unit now has the refrigerator, the furnace, the hot water heater, the TV, stereos and awnings,” Ramsay notes. Many even have on-board power generators and fuelling stations that can hold up to 30 gallons of fuel, “so when you get to where you’re going, you have fuel to fuel your toys.”

Some toy haulers have a regular door or a sliding glass door between the ‘garage’ and the rest of the unit, while others are one big room. “People say ‘oh it’s going to smell’, but it really doesn’t,” says Ramsay. “Most people clean their toys, so they’re not leaking oil or beat up.”

Toy haulers range in price from about $35,000 for a trailer style up to about $100,000 for a fifth wheel. Depending on their size, they can carry between 1,500 and 2,500 pounds, enough capacity to carry, for instance, your Harley-Davidson both safely and stylishly.

“There’s tons of motorcycle enthusiasts out there,” notes Ramsay. “People enjoy that and they buy these units and take their bikes all around the province…It’s a way to have an RV but also transport your bike.”

Of course, motorcycles are only one of the toys that can fit into a toy hauler. Dirt bikes, ATVs, kayaks, canoes, and bicycles…you can take just about anything that you might want to use on your getaways.

Imagine the possible destinations that open up if you no longer need to restrict yourself to places that offer toy rentals. B.C. is made for outdoor fun year-round, whether it’s seadooing or skidooing that you’re into.

Almost 200 provincial parks and a few national parks in B.C. offer RV camping, in addition to the hundreds of privately operated RV parks and campgrounds. (Policies on the use of off-road, motorized vehicles and non-motorized vehicles in parks vary. Check BC Parks and Parks Canada for specifics on what is allowed where.)

There are even more backcountry options for RVing and using off-road vehicles (ORV) at recreation sites on Crown land. If you want to ride your dirt bike on forested trails, for instance, there’s a place for just about every letter of the alphabet, beginning with Alexis Creek near Williams Lake and ending with Yalakom near Lillooet. In fact, some recreation sites and trails are specifically designed for ORV s such as Bear Creek east of Harrison Hot Springs or Grace Lake near Harrison Mills in Chilliwack District.

On Crown land outside recreation sites, ORVs are generally allowed unless there are signs saying they’re restricted or not allowed. Remember that when operating an ORV on Crown land, the onus is on the user not to damage the environment. The safest way to do this is to ride on a hardened surface such as a road or trail, notes Bill Marshall, Director of Recreation Sites and Trails Branch in the BC government.

If a quiet lake for canoeing is more your style, well, let’s just say B.C. has more places to paddle than you could fit into one lifetime. But a couple of places are justifiably famous: Bowron Lakes Provincial Park and Murtle Lake in Wells Gray Provincial Park, the largest canoe-only lake in North America.

For all recreational options see the Camping & RV in BC website and map. Click on Where to Camp and check the appropriate boxes, depending on your interests.

While it’s possible to rent some types of RVs, (see the RV Rental Association of Canada) toy haulers, unfortunately, are not available to rent. To find an RV dealer in BC who sells them, visit the Recreation Vehicle Dealer’s Association of BC.

You may even discover other uses for your toy hauler when you’re not exploring B.C.’s great outdoors. Sylvia Thistle-Miller, owner of Triangle RV in Sidney on Vancouver Island, knows of people who use toy haulers to take their show dogs to competitions. “You take the whole back end and turn it into a grooming area and a living area for the dogs when they’re on site,” she says. “Fabulous.”

No matter what your passion – see the Camping & RV in BC’s Facebook page to see what others are into – Chris Ramsay of Meridian RV believes toy haulers are here to stay. “It’s a large market and I think it will continue to grow in the future.”