A hiker pauses on Chairback Mountain overlooking Long Pond on the 100-Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail north of Monson, Maine, in this September 2004 file photo. COVID-19 restrictions on camping site reservation and other forms of travel have led to increased demand and system bottlenecking, so when reservations opened across British Columbia on June 1, they went quickly. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty

Camping offers a great pandemic escape, for less money than you might think

But for many first-timers, knowing what to bring can be a challenge

On her first camping trip of the summer, hiker and adventure blogger Taryn Eyton was surrounded by more company than usual.

The Vancouverite, who works as a volunteer trainer with Leave No Trace Canada, normally spends large chunks of each summer outdoors. But COVID-19 restrictions on site reservation and other forms of travel led to increased demand and system bottlenecking, so when reservations opened across B.C. on June 1, they went quickly. She and her sister were lucky to snag a few June days in a provincial park just outside of Whistler.

As an experienced camper, the packing list is something she has down pat. But for many first-timers, knowing what to bring can be a challenge — one that quickly becomes expensive if you’re not careful when shopping for gear.

“A lot of people get intimidated by the idea of camping being all this gear that you need, all this special stuff,” she says. “If you go to a popular provincial park on a long weekend you’ll see people with just incredible camp setups. All power to them … [but] you really don’t need all that stuff.”

Eyton says campers on a budget should prioritize covering the necessities: Warmth and shelter.

If there’s anything to spend money on, she says, it’s a well-made tent. “The bare bones tent is probably going to leak or fall apart,” Eyton notes. While a high-quality tent may set you back a few hundred dollars, it’s likely to last two to three times as long as one that costs closer to 50 (but if the former is outside your price range, a tarp can serve as a suitable backup to cover holes in the event of a leak.)

The same rule applies to sleeping bags, with slightly more flexibility, Eyton says. A warm, well-made sleeping bag (at a few hundred dollars) is a plus if you’re planning to camp into the colder seasons, but for summer camping alone, a lighter, less expensive bag should suffice. If you’re worried about getting cold, pack a few fleece or wool blankets from home as an addition.

And air mattresses, while comfortable, are not always worth it, Eyton says: Foam sleeping pads typically offer more insulation from the ground and run at a similar price point. If any piece of gear is too expensive to justify buying at all, check your local gear outfitter or MEC branch for rentals, a short-term alternative to purchasing equipment you may never use again.

Shane Devenish, executive director of the Burlington, Ontario-based Canadian Camping and RV Council, says demand for both tent and RV camping has been at an all-time high since the start of June.

“It’s being perceived as one of the safest ways to go on vacation and take a road trip,” Devenish says.

Devenish notes that the budget-conscious should also take mileage into account when calculating the cost of a trip, especially in an RV or larger rental vehicle. “It’s better to have the expectations before you go,” he says, “rather than disappointment, or you’re pretty upset when you’ve got to go to the gas station so much.”

Beyond these upfront costs, camping remains one of the most affordable ways to spend a summer, Devenish adds. Eyton echoes the sentiment, and notes that an open-minded attitude and respect for nature are the only other essentials to take with you.

“It might rain, it might be cold, there might be bugs,” she says. “[Have] a plan for those things and how you’re going to deal with it and still have fun.”

READ MORE: ‘Just went crazy:’ Group gets lots of interest in random camping on public land

Audrey Carleton, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CampingCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Burns Lake RCMP is investigating the incident. (Phil McLachlan photo)
Fatal collision between a pedestrian and train near Burns Lake

Police say the investigation is still ongoing

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

(Wet'suwet'en Access Point on Gidimt'en Territory Facebook screenshot)
Ceremony a right at proposed CGL pipeline drill site: BC Union of Indian Chiefs

Indigenous land defenders cannot be criminalized and targeted, argues UBCIC

(File graphic)
Man dies in Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh) after being taken into police custody

IIO and BC Corners Service conducting independent investigations

Dan Stuart (Christian Heritage Party - BC photo)
Strong values underpin Christian Heritage Party candidate

He’s also suspicious of the COVID-19 pandemic

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry answers questions during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. sees record-breaking daily COVID infections with 499 new cases over weekend

Two people, both in the Lower Mainland, died due to the virus over the weekend

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read