Summer is a time for camping.
One great thing about Alberta is the large selection of campgrounds.
There are many campgrounds in the mountains, foothills, parklands and boreal forest. The choices are endless.
As an avid camper, there is one aspect that always ruffles my sleeping bag. Why do tenters pay the same rate in campgrounds as unserviced RVs?
In July, I went camping in William A. Switzer Provincial Park, near Hinton.
The park has five campgrounds and each is popular. After going for a paddle in my new packraft (which I sat in backwards and used my paddle upside down. I’m very good at watersports), we found an empty campsite and set up my small, tired and fading, green tent.
It was the only tent in the entire campground.
We went to pay at the kiosk and a sign said we could only pay online.
Luckily the campground had cell service and we got out the smartphone. The Alberta Parks booking site prompted us to pay the $33 per night fee and another $12 “reservation fee.”
We couldn’t find a way to get around the reservation fee (later I discovered we could have phoned Alberta Parks to not pay the extra fee, but at the time it wasn’t clear).
It didn’t matter if you had a tent the size of a tissue box or an RV with a master bedroom, chandeliers and a convection oven. The price was the same. No exceptions.
For $5 more, I could have gotten a motel in Edson. Sure it wouldn’t have been glamorous, but it still would have had solid walls, roof and water that doesn’t need to be boiled for five minutes to be safe for drinking.
Now, I’m not against RVs. They are a great way to explore Canada in relative comfort.
But a shelter of tissue-thin-fabric held up with metal sticks isn’t the same as a house on wheels. And thus, they should be charged differently.
Tents have a far lower environmental impact, take up a fraction of space and are usually used by poorer folk.
In the U.S., some campgrounds not only have a separate cost between unserviced RV sites and tents, but also have a different price if you hiked/biked to the campground and don’t have a car.
In Glacier National Park in Montana, hiker/biker sites are $8 plus $5 for each additional person.
Part of Park Canada’s mandate is “to protect … as a first priority, the natural and cultural heritage of our special places and ensure that they remain healthy and whole.”
Since preservation is key in a national park, it makes sense to provide incentives to people who visit without a car and in a more environmentally friendly way.
In the end, perhaps the best choice is to just camp on Crown land.
Then it doesn’t matter how you got there or what you sleep in. Each night is the same price. Free.
Liam Harrap is reporter with the Revelstoke Review.