Camping is not just a summertime activity, with these B.C. travel tips for the season ahead

You might hear “You’re brave!” or “You’re crazy!” or “Why!?!”, but getting out into the woodseven when it’s chillycan literally be a breath of fresh air. Planning ahead is the key to staying warm, dry and happy while camping in the off-season, so here’s a list of tips and tricks to keep top of mind...

1. Research your locale

Christine McavoyChristine McAvoyBe sure to research your selected campground... and what on-site conditions are like for the applicable time of year. Look at the fees, what areas or rec sites are/are not open, if the park takes reservations, and what gate hours are. You don’t want to show up somewhere and not realize that the elevation is higher than you thought and wake up covered in snow. There are several sites around B.C. that stay open year-round—or nearly year-round—that are well sheltered and inexpensive.

2. Pack the right gear

This is a no brainer, but if you’re not in an RV, and your tent isn’t weatherproof, or your sleeping bag isn’t isolated for freezing temps, you’re going to be cold and miserable. Elevate yourself from the ground if you can, with either a cot or an air mattress. When in doubt, bring extra blankets as too many is much better than not enough. This goes for clothing too. Layers, layers, layers! You can always take a layer off, but if you don’t have enough, you’re not going to be comfy. Invest in long underwear, and bring waterproof clothing. If you’ve never winter-camped (especially in the snow), ask your outdoorsy friends what gear has worked for them, or what the one thing they wish they had with them was.

3. Prep at home

Christine McavoyChristine McAvoyWhen you have hours in the summer to cook and prep with the presence of warm sunshine, you can take your time at the campsite. But when it’s dark by 4:30 p.m., the last thing you want to do is chop veggies by flashlight... especially with cold fingers. I’ve written a lot of gourmet camping recipes (here and here), so you can have great food even in the woods, but give yourself leeway to just have sausages or BBQ over the fire one night, or bring everything frozen and allow it to unthaw to save prep work. Whatever you bring to eat, don’t forget warm beverages and maybe some soup just in case.

4. Share your plans

This is pretty straight forward. If you’re adventuring out, especially for your winter camping debut or on a trip to an unfamiliar campground, let someone know your plan. Odds are the spots that are open during the winter don’t have great cell reception, so someone should know when you’re leaving, where you’re going to be, and when you intend to be back.

5. Don't be afraid to pack it in

Christine McavoyChristine McAvoyRain on a camping trip can sometimes make it tough to enjoy anything, when you’re stuck inside despite all intentions of finally getting outside. So keep an eye on the weather andif it is going to changeplan accordingly. If you’re going to go when it’s supposed to be wet, bring extra tarps to keep things dry, especially firewood. If it’s miserable, you’re freezing, can’t get a fire going, or are just fed up, there’s no shame in packing it in. Your toes and fingertips will thank you, because nothing feels better after a weekend in the woods than a hot shower and a warm bed.

Among the popular B.C. camping spots open year-round (depending on road conditions) are Gold Creek at Golden Ears Provincial Park (pictured throughout), Lakeside Campground at Sasquatch Provincial Park and E.C. Manning Provincial Park. The latter will likely have snow pretty much all fall and winter.

To share your own winter camping tips (or locations!), find Christine on Twitter here.