Adventure in the Canadian Rockies
O Canada, the land full of wonderfully polite people who make you feel so welcome. It is also the land of some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world. It is a place you could spend weeks exploring and only see a small fraction of the beauty this country has to offer. Some of the most popular places to visit are in the Canadian Rockies. But before you start packing your bags to start your own adventure into the Canadian Rockies, you should first be prepared for all the things you need to make it a successful trip. So let’s explore the things necessary to allow you to explore the wonders of Canada.
The best and most affordable way to enjoy the vistas of the Canadian Rockies is to camp in a tent. What better way to admire the natural world than to sleep right in it? You could choose to stay in a hotel, but that is incredibly expensive and difficult since hotels quickly become booked during the peak season of July and August. Camping is much easier since there are so many places to camp in the Canadian Rockies. There are two popular styles of camping: frontcountry or backcountry. Frontcountry camping, or car camping, is where you can drive almost directly to your campsite. There are various levels of amenities available at the campsite such as running potable water, electricity, and showers. This is a great way to go because instead of worrying about fitting everything into a few bags your car can be your suitcase. Plus, if you are newer to camping it is better to explore during the day and return to the safety of a campsite at night. Or if the weather turns unexpectedly you can easily pack your things back into your car and spend the night in the car or drive to a hotel (if there is any room available).
Backcountry camping is where you have to either hike, canoe, or kayak to travel to your campsite. This is truly the closest you can get to nature while camping at a designated campsite. It is important to note that you must camp in designated spots to help preserve the natural beauties of Canada. And if you even tried to camp outside of designated spots, there are camp rangers on the lookout for those kinds of adventurers. If caught by them you will be asked to leave. So, please camp where it has been clearly designated.
The wonderful camping that can be found in Canada is not a secret to locals or avid outdoorsmen. In fact, it is rated one of the top places to camp in the world. If you want to enjoy either frontcountry or backcountry camping in the Canadian Rockies you need to reserve campsites three to six months in advance. This is especially important because the window to go camping (before the temperatures drop too much) is between the end of May to mid-September. If you choose not to, then you will be forced to go to campsites where the policy is first come, first served. No one wants to end their day without a place to rest their head for the night. Since all of the public campsites are run by the Canadian government, it is so easy to not only buy your park pass (if you plan to spend more than a week in the national parks, buying a Discovery Pass is the way to go), but also make a reservation for campsites. Depending upon the amenities you want it can cost around $15-$30 a night. Not only are these campsites incredibly affordable but they are conveniently located very close to some of the most stunning views in Canada. One important thing to ensure you chose the best campsite is to make sure it is large enough to fit your tent. On the Parks Canada website, you will find dimensions to ensure you accurately book the best place for you and your tent.
Now that you know how affordable and convenient camping is in Canada, let’s explore the best kind of tent necessary to make this adventure to the Canadian Rockies possible. The weather in Canada, especially up in the mountains, is extremely unpredictable. It has been known to snow in the middle of July. It is absolutely vital to have a four-season canvas tent. You need a tent that can handle rain, snow, and high winds. It needs to be breathable to help airflow so your tent doesn’t get too hot in the heat but insulated enough to keep warm air in when the temperatures cool. Canvas tents are extremely sturdy and comfortable. They have plenty of headspace and floor space so you can stretch out and easily relax inside the tent. The only downside with a canvas tent is it can be heavy. They are not something you want to backpack out to a campsite. Therefore they are best for frontcountry or car camping where you can drive them to the campsite.
One of the best canvas tents that are on the market right now is the Elk Mountain Wall Tent. It is made out of polyester blend canvas which makes it lighter than traditional canvas. It is also waterproof, and mold and mildew resistant. It has several screened windows and two ridge openings to ensure plenty of airflow within the tent. To truly make it an all-season tent it has an uncut stove pipe jack opening. This will allow for you to have a stove within the tent so you can stay warm and comfortable on those unexpectedly chilly nights. On the Elk Mountain website, they sell this tent in three different sizes (13X13, 13X16, and 13X20) and it will cost in the range of $845-$1095. This is an investment that will allow you to affordably camp in Canada without each trip costing an arm and a leg.
Besides having a sturdy canvas tent you will also need a lot of gear, and while it may seem like a lot and you may not use it all, it is better to be over-prepared than forced to end your camping adventure early due to being improperly outfitted. Let’s start with clothing. You will need to pack the right clothing to stay comfortable and safe in all kinds of weather. You need to be able to layer up or down depending on the weather. So, be prepared to pack your thermal underwear and your shorts for the same trip. You should bring thermal underwear, short and long-sleeved shirts, a fleece jacket, a down jacket, a windbreaker, jeans, hiking pants, rain pants, shorts, wool and regular socks, gloves, a beanie, hiking shoes, tennis shoes, and flip flops. Next, you will need gear to take while exploring and hiking: backpack, water bottle with filter, life straw, bear spray (remember, you are in bear country), sunglasses, first aid kit, camera, sunscreen, bug spray, dried food (something you can eat without attracting the local wildlife and that won’t take a long time to make), lip balm, headlamp, rain poncho, trekking poles, and a knife. Then there are things that you will need for your campsite: sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cooking stove, stove screen, cooking set, travel towel, and toiletries (soap, deodorant, etc.). Lastly, one of the most important things you will need is travel insurance. You never want to travel anywhere, especially outside the country without this. One of the best carriers is World Nomad Travel Insurance.
Now that you have a fairly comprehensive list of what you will need to camp in the Canadian Rockies, the real fun begins. What will you see first on your adventure? There are 48 national parks in Canada, and one of the most popular national parks is Banff National Park. It has more than four million visitors each year. Due to its extreme popularity, it has 14 campgrounds nearby, but they are usually only open between May until October. There is so much to see in Banff that you could easily spend your whole trip at just this park. There is the Cave and Basin Historic Site, where there are bubbling thermal waters in an underground cave. This cave’s discovery was the catalyst that persuaded Canada to establish its national parks. There is also Banff Upper Hot Springs, which is one of the highest-elevation operating hot springs in Canada. But it is just not hot springs: you can also visit Vermilion Lakes, Johnston Canyon, Summit Tunnel Mountain, Lake Minnewanka Loop, Lake Louise Lakeshore, and the Icefields Parkway. Just from this shortlist it is easy to see how important it is to pick a campsite according to what you plan to visit.
Canada is such a wonderful place to visit that once you go you will wonder why you haven’t visited sooner. There is so much untouched wilderness in this country and that makes camping the best way to make it a true adventure. So, don’t hesitate and begin planning your next trip right now.