The run-down on camping in a non-designated camp site
By CJ Sommerfeld, Staff Writer
This Canada issue could not be complete without including an ode to the Lower Mainland’s temperate rainforests. These humid habitats have few insects, mounds of swimmable bodies of water, and only a few carnivorous animals.
Camping in BC is not only socially acceptable and safe but is also encouraged by the BC Parks Board. Those who have lived in another country know that these points are not always the case. Camping seems to be the thing to do in this province once the heat and sun arrive. Now, it is great that people are getting out in nature. However, with mounds of us headed out of the cities, last-minute camping whims are not always fruitful when trying to find a place to stay.
While designated camping sites are convenient and comfortable for many reasons, must we not forget that in BC—since 2015—it is legal to sleep on the side of the road and in most public spaces. So, there is no need to be deterred from going camping if all reservations are full. This law does have its parameters, though.
First off, camping on the side of the road or in a public parking lot (among some other places) is only permitted between 9:30 pm and 6:30 am. Since you have to wait till 9:30 before you can set up camp, this allows time to make dinner and watch the sun go down elsewhere. And while you have to be out by 6:30, there will probably be no difficulty waking up so early considering the birds chirping before sunrise. And remember not to leave your camping materials at this temporary sleeping spot between 6:30 am and 9:30 pm; this space is yours only during the outlined night hours.
Another condition to free camping is which public properties you are allowed to stay on. Unfortunately, this excludes public parks. Often paid campsites are located here, so staying without paying would be against the rules. But even sleeping in the parking lot is a no-no as they close between 10 pm and 5 am. In my experience, if I have spent the day at a public park, I will usually drive not too far from the park—for example on the side of a quiet road, or a nearby un-gated parking lot. Even though we’re not permitted to stay in public parks, it does not create too much of an inconvenience.
What about fires? While camping does not seem to not be complete without a campfire, it is illegal to start one unless it is in a designated fire pit. It is legal, however, to use camping and BBQ stoves while in your temporary camping site. But remember this: while some cooking scents such as garlic, onion, and citrus fruits will keep bugs away, nearly all food scents attract bears. Washing dishes with water post-use and storing food away from where your sleeping is key to keeping these carnivorous animals away.
More important than repelling bears, however, is leaving your temporary camping spot as litter-free as it was when you set up camp. All in all, it is important to respect both the area you are in and the nature that surrounds you—which of course extends to bathroom use. Remember to bring a roll of toilet paper and a gardening trowel with you to dig holes large enough to thoroughly cover up do-do! Yes, it is legal to sleep on the side of the road and many other public spots in BC. So, there is no need to fret if you have not reserved a camping spot, which, let’s face it, is nearly impossible anyways!