Some folks are inclined to hibernate when the temperatures start to dip. And then there are those hardier souls who refuse to let a bit of cool weather prevent them from outdoor adventure. Talk to an off season camping enthusiast and you’ll hear the joy creep into their voice when they explain why they love it so much. Serenity and solitude. Star choked night skies. Nature in the raw. No crowds and no bugs. Vancouver Island North enjoys a very temperate winter climate. We may experience more overcast skies and rain but we’ll let you in on a little secret. We also enjoy week long stretches of glorious sunshine. Occasionally on the clearest of nights you may also be rewarded with a glimpse of Aurora Borealis — the Northern Lights. And just imagine the bragging rights you’ll take home after visiting an area with diverse geography and terrain that makes it possible to ski, golf and camp all in one trip.
Where to camp?
That can depend on whether you’re a camper or a glamper. If you’re looking for a place to pitch a tent with nothing between you and the stars for a truly rustic experience – that’s definitely considered camping and the possibilities are endless. If a comfortable bed, electricity, Wi-Fi and sewage hookup for your RV are more your speed don’t worry glampers. Options range from primitive unmarked sites with no amenities to fully serviced campgrounds with hot showers & laundry facilities. Camping is available at BC Provincial Parks, private campground/RV parks and recreation sites. Every community has camping opportunities. Some campgrounds are closed over the winter or amenities may be scaled back and some sites operate on a first-come, first-serve system so it’s always a good idea to do some pre-planning. Pick your favourite vista: sandy beach, majestic forest or a view of snow-capped mountains. It’s all here in the Vancouver Island North Campgrounds & RV Parks section of our website.
What to bring?
Besides your tent, sleeping bag and cooking supplies or your fully equipped RV, wearing the right kind of clothing is key. Keeping warm and dry is extremely important in the winter months. The weather can change in an instant so dressing in layers is where it’s at. Warm woollens, microfibers and fabrics that wick away moisture from your body are best. You can experience glorious sunshine during the day but once the sun goes down it can quickly turn nippy cold. Remember what mom always said, “Keep your head warm.” Insulated, waterproof boots can serve multi purposes for rainy, muddy or at higher altitudes snowy terrain. Whether you’re in a tent or a trailer throw in some extra lights because even though it’s only late afternoon, who wants to stumble around in the dark? And don’t forget the marshmallows. Nothing says camping like roasting these gooey treats while you’re sitting around a crackling campfire.
If you’re heading into the backcountry you should consider leaving a trip plan with someone. Where are you going to be and for how long? If you’re venturing onto logging roads be advised it’s highly likely you’ll come across logging trucks during the weekdays. They are very big vehicles and have the right-of-way. There are pull-outs situated along the gravel roads for just this reason. Visit with friendly locals by dropping into an information centre for maps, directions and to find out if logging roads are open & accessible. If you are traveling to the area on Highway 19, the most current road and weather can be found on Drive BC.
Come celebrate the cooler, quieter months. Just you and complete silence. Follow your bliss. Off season camping will bring you up close and personal to authentic and beautiful Vancouver Island North.
Karen Stewart – Freelance Writer
Karen is the author of a blog titled This is Port McNeill