Some of the best campgrounds are found on Vancouver Island in some of the most picturesque outdoor settings. In the south of the island, popular camping destinations include the Victoria area and the coast to the southwest, right up to Port Renfrew. Farther north, you'll find places like Tofino on the west side of the island and Strathcona Provincial Park in the interior, closer to Campbell River. If you really want to go exploring, consider heading to the far north, beyond Port Hardy, to the wild shores of Cape Scott Provincial Park.
For those more interested in activity than a location, you can also find some campgrounds that are highly associated with certain sports, like surfing, kiteboarding, or hiking.
When you are planning your camping trip, you should take into consideration that summer, particularly July and August, is a busy time, and if you want to secure camping in the most popular areas, so it's best to book well in advance. Also, many campgrounds are seasonal and only operate from May to October.
Camp life is made easier by gaining experience and learning the tricks. Here are some great camping tips and advice to help make your camping adventures more enjoyable.
If you’re visiting the island and plan on doing camping and hiking, make sure you are always prepared for wildlife sightings – in particular bears and cougars. Most marked trails will have warnings posted if an animal has been spotted in the area, and will also usually post tips on how to keep yourself safe.
If you do encounter a bear, stand as tall as possible and make as much noise as possible. Also don’t run – the bear will chase you. For cougars stay calm and confident so you don’t appear to be prey. If you have small children with you pick them up immediately as small children can get scared/excited and those quick movements and loud noises may scare the cougar and cause it to attack
If you are not familiar with how to keep yourself safe, make sure to do some research on these animals before you hike. Most animals will not attack if you take the right precautions.
Vancouver Island has an unpredictable climate, and the fact that it is vegetated with temperate rain forest speaks volumes about the weather. To put things into perspective, it rains an average of 206 days a year in Tofino. Actually, from a tourist’s point of view, the rain usually isn’t so much of a problem as the wind and clouds that may accompany it, which can severely limit your options.
Allow yourself sufficient time to have some ‘wiggle room’ in which to accommodate the almost inevitable days of bad weather. Retain maximum flexibility within your schedule, and take opportunities as they arise. If the weather is clear, do your float plane trip that day, because it won’t necessarily be nice tomorrow. Plan your itinerary by identifying activities that are absolutely weather dependent, i.e. boat trips, whale watching, float plane trips, and those which are still possible even if it rains.
The tent is the focal point of most camping trips. If you’re a beginning camper, there are a couple of different tent tips to remember. First and foremost, practice pitching your tent before you head to the campsite. Being able to do it quickly and effectively is extremely valuable. When looking for a place to set up, always look for a “natural bed” of soft, flat soil – but avoid the bottom of hills or valleys. Finally, always set up a tarp below your tent to avoid potential damage or water-logging.
Campers can also benefit from a few non-specific outdoor principles. Rule number one, no matter the time of year, is to dress in (or at least carry) layers. It’s the easiest and most effective way to control your body temperature. Secondly, learn how to use a GPS or map and compass. No matter how familiar you are with a certain wooded area, getting lost among acres of similar-looking trees is very easy. Finally, practice basic outdoor skills such as using and sharpening a utility knife, tying various knots, and building a fire. It’s this knowledge that separates the amateurs from the seasoned campers.
With any luck, each camping trip proves to be a unique experience. There are many wonderful things that nature has to offer. But, no matter where you’re headed, a few things should always come with you. Below is the “short list” of camping essentials that should always be packed.
* A Tent, Tarpaulin and Sleeping Bag
* A pot, pan, dishes, utensils, and fire-starting materials (preferably waterproof matches or a butane lighter)
* A utility knife and length of rope
*Plenty of water (get gallon sizes for cooking and cleaning)
* *Energy-rich, easily prepared foods and snacks (think items like pasta, beans, ground beef, peanut butter, chicken, trail mix, and oatmeal)
* Plenty of clothing (a good rule of thumb in temperate areas is enough for two to three layers daily)
* A tight-closing cooler to store your food items
*Hand sanitizer and soap
*Optionally, outdoor gear like fishing poles and hiking equipment.
If visiting Vancouver Island from the mainland and you need a car, hire the vehicle when you arrive here and save the cost of the Ferry fees. Like most anything else, budgeting for a camping trip is easiest when you start big and work your way down. First, decide upon an amount you can afford, and make a resolution not to exceed it. Then, begin to factor in the larger expenses – things like food, gas, necessary equipment, and campsite fees.
For instance, you could eliminate fast food stop on the way to your camping location in favour of pre-prepared sandwiches. Little decisions such as these tend to add up in the grand scheme of financial matters, especially when it comes to discretionary spending.
Now that you know the basics of camping, what to bring, and how to squeeze outdoor adventure into your budget, nothing is left to keep you from hitting the wilderness!