Where Should you Sleep for the Night?

thumb_DSC_0986_1024It’s amazing how quickly you adjust to finding places to park overnight and sleep peacefully. Your creativity and ideas will improve with experience, you will learn how to blend in and keep your profile low. Here are some ideas to start your imagination running wild:

Free Campgrounds
If there are any available nearby then use them. Free Campsites and Allstays Camp and Tent can help you search nearby for free campgrounds. The facilities are basic but you will usually end up with a bench, fire pit and a pit toilet at minimum; there is also normally a river or lake for washing up. Check out my posts to find some awesome free campgrounds in British Columbia, Canada and The USA.

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Walmart (or other department stores)
Use the Allstays Walmart App for advice on Walmart’s that allow overnight parking, App users input comments reviewing their experience. Other stores that may allow overnight parking are Camping World and K-Mart, but be sure to check with management wherever possible.

Casinos
Often have parking that can be used overnight, discretion is key and you should try and cook away from the parking lot in a picnic area.

Rest Areas
Usually rest areas have signage for 8-10 hour parking limits, overstaying this time will depend on how regularly the area is patrolled by security. Flying J truck stops often have a separate area for overnight parking of RVs or an area where smaller cars can park for the night.

National Forests
You may find gems of free places to stay in National Forests, often campgrounds are well established with a pit toilet; they are not always easy to access; be sure to check that the area is accessible by road.

BLM
In the USA the Bureau of Land Management is in charge of an abundance of free campgrounds and areas you can stay overnight, use Allstays Camp and Tent for ideas as well as searching BLM on Maps.me.

Churches
Usually have a large and safe parking lot that is fine to stay in, so long as you leave early in the morning; ask whenever possible.

You could also try parks, residential areas without too many houses, or bars and restaurants that will be used to seeing cars left in their parking lot overnight. Keep a look out for signage forbidding overnight parking or only allowing residents to park. Do your cooking away from the area you intend to sleep, picnic areas and parks are usually best for this, to draw little attention to your stay. If you can, do a scout out of the area and decide if it is suitable returning once it is dark.

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Make Denali National Park the next stop on your Roadtrip

Every National Park his its own merits and misgivings, Denali National Park wins outright for freedom, escaping the crowds and that feeling of untouched wilderness. These are only achievable if you get off the shuttle bus through the park and hike, there are no routes, you can walk anywhere you like.
Here are the reasons to make Denali a must see on your next road trip:

d2There are no Backcountry Trails
Contrary to how this sounds, there is backcountry available, the novelty being there are no set routes. You choose an area (or areas) with permits available and make your own way around using a topographical map, or gut instinct. You will encounter many natural barriers, rivers, ledges, scrub; you must learn how to cross them and how to camp leaving no trace.

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You won’t see anyone for days
Hiking out in the park is an incredible experience and one that is extremely solitary, likely the only living beings you will see for the entirety of your hike are the caribou, moose and maybe a bear, if you are lucky. Other National Parks, especially in the USA, have a ‘theme park’ feel due to their popularity and accessibility to all.

Backcountry permits are FREE
That’s right, whereas most other National Parks will charge you left, right and center for all types of permit, Denali gives them out for nothing; so long as there is space you can get a permit for the area that appeals to you most. Before you are given the permit you have to watch a film to ensure you know how to be ‘bear aware’ and how to safely cross rivers as Denali has no bridges.

Have the ‘real’ wilderness experience
Following a set route with a well marked path is great fun and how National Parks will usually set up their backcountry, oftentimes you don’t have to do a whole lot of navigating or even consider where you should be camping. Denali allows you the freedom to decide for yourself and sometimes it is inconceivably difficult to know whether you have made the right decision, but ultimately the experience is so rewarding.

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There’s an abundance of wildlife
If you stay on the bus you will likely just see caribou for the entirety of the ride, head out into the wilderness and there are so many creatures from wolves to eagles. Imagine waking up in the morning, opening your tent and seeing moose running past; it is an extraordinary sight to behold.

Endless sunlight
…In the summer that is. Lost? No worries, it will be light until 2 a.m. anyway, so keep on walking. This also messes with your body clock, waking you up in the middle of the night and thinking it is morning; checking the time and realizing you still have hours of sleeping ahead of you.

Are you persuaded yet to make Denali National Park the next stop on your roadtrip? Great! Start planning your route along the Alaska Highway and enjoy the adventure.

 

Backcountry Rookie

DSC_0591Love staying away from the crowd? Eating noodles? Seeing wildlife? Good. Hiking the back country is for you! Multi day hikes enable you to have an authentic camping experience and see parts of the wilderness most tourists would miss. Before you embark on a backpacking adventure it is advisable to have polished your hiking skills by day hiking; getting used to bear country and the physical exertion. The first back country hike I undertook was a solid 4-day trip in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, it was a huge learning curve and an incredible few days. You will meet experienced hikers with all the labels and excellent gear, but you don’t have to feel pressured into buying anything costly, the basics will do. Yes, your backpack will be heavier, but you should give back country a try before you commit to buying better equipment. Here are the corners I cut for so many back-country hikes last year…

The tent was from Canadian Tire, it cost $75 CAD on sale; it wasn’t great and was heavy, but it survived the entire trip. Look on classifieds for bargains or see if any fellow road trippers are looking to sell their gear post trip.

The backpack I hiked with I already used to store clothes in the car, I would take out the clothes and store them in a garbage bag when I needed the backpack for back country.

Hiking Poles are the saviours of your knees while you are out walking, you don’t need to purchase any as you can find a suitable stick on your hike and leave it after for someone else to use.

A sleeping pad at this stage won’t necessarily be for comfort, it is more for a barrier between you and the cold floor. I used an old yoga mat that I had lying around and it did the job.

Sleeping bags do not seem to pack down to small sizes in North America, unless you have a lot of money to spend. My sleeping bag was an MEC branded bag which cost $10 CAD from Value Village, it didn’t come with a bag so I would hike with it wrapped in a garbage bag. There are plenty of second hand sleeping bags out there, make sure you run any purchases through a dryer for 20 minutes to prevent bed bugs.

Rain coats can be found in thrift stores, along with waterproof trousers if you wanted to protect your legs.

Follow my back-country food guide for ideas of lightweight meals on the go.

A water filter or purification tablets are essential for safety, choose whichever method works best for you.

A small gas cooker shouldn’t set you back more than $20 including the gas, plates, bowls and small enough pans can be found at the dollar store.

The priority when you are packing should be safety and survival so always carry a first aid kit, various means of starting a fire (in a waterproof bag), spare batteries for your torch, a map, knife and sunscreen. Keep warm clothing in a garbage bag to prevent it from getting wet in a survival situation. Extra Clif bars or energy gels will be wholly appreciated in emergency situations along with a space blanket. Remember to keep these essentials in your bag for day hikes, as well as an emergency shelter and water purifier.

 

7 best FREE campgrounds in British Columbia.

BC makes it easy for campers like you, there are hundreds of free campsites waiting to be used. Most have a pit toilet, grills, benches and a stream or lake at minimum. Some have boat launches, fishing docks and maybe even a slide. As always, pack out your garbage and belongings, leave the area pristine for the next traveler. Here is a list of my personal favourite campgrounds and recreation areas.

waitabitWaitabit Creek GPS: 51.501376, -117.184148 Golden

Pit toilet, river, grill, bench

Situated between Glacier and Yoho National Parks just before Golden, this campground is a small slice of paradise in the summer sunshine and a gateway into the larger parks. The water runs azure and glacier cold, carving through the landscape. The ground is dusty which could be a problem in days of dry wind, but otherwise it is a perfect resting spot. Hang your camping shower from a tree and brave the cold water to get clean, then sit and relax conserving your energy for hiking in the National Parks.

Lasalle Lakes GPS: 53.52322, -120.68035 Mcbride

Pit toilet, lake, grill, bench, boat launch

En route to Prince George from Mt Robson National park with wonderful sites on the beach. Fish or swim in the lake, you could head out to the dock in the middle and rest there. Avoid weekends if you can, there are excellent mountain bike trails nearby so groups come to stay. In August you may be lucky enough to witness the migration of thousands of tiny, black frogs; be careful not to step on them.

 Inga lakeInga Lake. GPS: 56.61790, -121.63547. Fort St. John

Pit toilet, lake, grill, bench, boat launch

Heading through Northern BC to Fort St. John, you will find Inga Lake Campground. The track to the site is full of potholes, so take care when driving a car that isn’t four-wheel drive. Sunset over the lake is something special it takes on a magical quality as mist rises from the water surface. Drink wine, play cards and cook on the grill as evening rolls in, maybe even try to catch a fish or two; it’s a place you will find utter tranquility.

DSC_0425Bulkley River. GPS: 54.601154, -126.85178 Smithers

Pit toilet, hut, books, information, fire ring

As you pull off Highway 16 you will find the small hut with a grass area to park at the front. An absolute gem of a sleeping spot for a rainy day, you can stay inside the hut so no sheltering in the car in bad weather. Be sure to sign the visitor log, and possibly write a thank you note to the volunteers that upkeep the shelter.

Clements.jpgClements Lake. GPS: 56.048656, -129.90194 Stewart

Pit toilet, lake, grill, bench, beach

Simply stunning. An astounding spot to pitch up on your way to Hyder, Alaska for bear viewing during salmon spawning season. In the sun, you are able to see the mountains that surround and you are encircled by glaciers along the road. The site is also beautiful in the rain, the clouds roll across the mountains, teasing you with a glance of scenery every few minutes.

EdwardsEdwards Lake. GPS: 49.097443, -115.10434

Porta-potty, lake, grill, slide

On your way South to the USA border, crossing into Montana, you will find Edwards Lake campground. There are no fixed sites, you can park anywhere in the large grassy area. Best to use specific directions from the Allstays Camp and Tent app to find the site, as it is tucked away. The lake has a slide in the centre, which you can swim out to and slide into the water (which is breathtakingly cold).

 BeaverfootBeaverfoot Road. GPS: 51.238343, -116.65594 Yoho National Park

This isn’t exactly a campsite per say, more a good place to stop for the night outside of Yoho National Park. A fellow traveler and cyclist directed us here, it helped avoid paying the park campground fee for one more night. There are some pit toilets over the river, it is basic, but beside the river and just before the park boundary. If you get to the toll booth you have gone too far, turn around heading towards Golden, drive under the bridge towards the river.