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An essential guide to camping this summer

Camping has always been high on our list of favourite summer activities. It’s a fun and low-cost way to explore British Columbia, unplug and connect with beautiful BC nature.

If you've snagged a coveted campsite (or hope to), read on for helpful advice on how to make the most of camping season. We’ve rounded up our top tips and hacks to help you camp like a pro and stay safe this summer and beyond! Plus, check our road trip blog for helpful advice on planning and getting to your destination.

Plan ahead to avoid common camping mistakes

Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious! Avoid uh-oh moments by planning ahead. Here are some important things to consider before you pack up the car:

Leave no room for disappointment, make a reservation

It’s no fun showing up to a fully booked campsite, and with the increasing popularity of camping every summer, it’s more important than ever to ensure you make a reservation.

  • You can book a national campsite through Parks Canada.
  • Bookings for BC’s provincial parks can be made within a two-month window from the date of travel on the Discover Camping website.
  • There’s already high demand, but if you’re flexible, try checking back to see if you can snap up a cancellation, or check for private campsite options through Camping & RV in BC.
man packing camping gear

Create a check list

There’s nothing worse than getting to your destination only to realize that you’ve forgotten the tent poles – oops! We recommend printing a list and crossing off items as you go.

  • MEC has a very comprehensive camping checklist that covers everything you need and more.
  • Or, make your own custom list with one of the templates here.

Avoid these surprisingly common mishaps

Here’s a few of the top blunders that campers make:

  • Test any new gear before you leave home. Don’t leave it to chance, something as simple as a faulty headlamp could really leave you in the dark.
  • Steer clear of breakdowns by ensuring your vehicle is road trip ready. Find BCAA’s useful tips and advice here, plus consider booking a 99pt Safety Inspection with one of our Red Seal Certified Technicians at a BCAA Auto Service Centre. BCAA Members get exclusive savings, a free car wash and a two-year warranty.
  • Start the trip off on the right foot and time your travel accordingly to arrive in the daylight. Setting up in unfamiliar terrain at night can be stressful and can increase the risk of avoidable injuries.
  • Don’t trust the weather forecast. Always pack rain gear for every member of the family and plan some rainy-day activities. Board games and cards are a great addition in any weather! Pro tip: Get direct access to driving, weather and gas price information (plus Member exclusive savings) in your pocket with the BCAA Mobile App.
  • Bring a basic emergency and/or repair kit; you’ll thank yourself if you find that you need it. Here are a few items that we never camp without:

    • Fabric repair tape (nylon-specific for tents and jackets) or duct tape in a pinch.
    • A sewing kit to patch up small rips and tears.
    • Spare batteries for any device that needs them.
    • Extra rope to tie up lighting, tarps, food and garbage, and to make repairs.
    • A spare pair of shoelaces (surprisingly multi-functional)

For a limited time, BCAA Members can use their 20% discount on top of the already discounted Emergency Preparedness Kits part of the Spring Membership Promotion

Check to see if campfires are allowed

Due to seasonal fire bans or site-specific reasons, campfires are sometimes prohibited. And this year, with the forecast calling for a hot, dry summer in BC, fire bans are likely to come sooner. Stay informed of all current restrictions here.

Campfires are often relied upon for warmth, cooking, and light, so know before you go and come prepared with a plan B if needed.

Camping hack: beat the bugs by wearing bright clothing

Did you know that mosquitoes are attracted to the heat retained by dark clothing? Another great reason to choose brighter colours in the woods is that visibility increases safety!

family hiking

Respect nature and leave no trace

If you are going to enjoy the outdoors, it’s your responsibility to educate yourself on how to do so safely and responsibly. You’ll likely be sharing the campsite with others, so always be a good neighbour. Here are some helpful tips and resources for first-time campers and experts alike.

Leave nature the way you found it

In partnership with Leave No Trace Canada, MEC has done a great job summarizing seven simple principles to keep in mind when spending time outdoors.

Don’t leave food or garbage unattended

Double-check that these items are fully secured when you are away from your campsite during the day, and before bed at night. They can also be locked away in a vehicle or strung up in a dry bag on a designated pole or tree.

Protect BC wildlife

Ensure the safety of your family, fellow campers, and local bears by following the advice of BC Parks.

Be campfire safe

Always use approved fire-rings or pits to build your fire. Remember, never leave a campfire unattended! For more campfire safety tips, read BC Parks’ Campfire Safety guide.

cooking with campfire

Camp in comfort with these pro tips

Eat well with our #1 piece of advice

Prep your meals at home! Not only does this cut down on cooking time and the resulting mess, but it also leaves more time to relax and enjoy. With a little bit of prep and practice, dining in the woods (or under the stars) can be delicious and stress-free:

  • Chop up ingredients beforehand and store in Tupperware or reusable silicone bags.
  • Pack spices in empty tic-tac containers.
  • Pre-scramble eggs and bring them in a water-bottle.
  • Pre-freeze soups and stews to last longer in your cooler. Bonus: they will help keep other items cold.
  • Invest in a decent cast iron pan, and you can make nearly anything over the fire or grill – pancakes (using a pre-prepped batter of course), nachos, and even pizza! Yum.

Up your hand-hygiene game

Set up a handwashing station at your campsite by bringing along a large water cooler with a faucet or spout and eco-friendly hand soap.

A warm body is a happy body

Staying warm can make or break your trip! Avoid cold toes and have a cozy sleep with this comprehensive stay-warm guide from MEC.

Camping hack: try making homemade campfire starters by rolling cotton balls in petroleum jelly (Vaseline). Pack a dozen or so in a sealed bag, and when it’s time to light a campfire, remove a ball, fluff it up and spark it. Believe us, it burns hot and long, often negating the need for paper. Shhh, Doritos also do the trick in a pinch.

Add mood lighting

Create ambience by branching out beyond the basic headlamp. Invest in a good quality lantern or step it up a notch with led string lighting.

Camping hack: you can make a basic DIY lantern with a headlamp and a water bottle.

resting in tent

You’re nearly ready to hit the road!

Before you go, check your BCAA Membership plan to ensure you have the right level of coverage for your trip – a couple of important things to consider are the towing distance your Membership plan provides and whether you'll require RV coverage. Plus, give yourself peace of mind and protect the belongings inside your vehicle from thieves with Personal Property Coverage as part of BCAA Optional Car Insurance, and as a Member you’ll save up to 20%.

Happy summer camping!