Price of Camping in BC: Guest Post


Friday, June 25th, 2010 — 2:09pm PST
Comments 15

The following has been written and contributed by Duane Storey

The Vancouver Bollwitt's First Tent

I was just up at Cultus Lake, a provincial park near Chilliwack, British Columbia, booking a campground for this coming weekend. Prices last year at this location were $24/night, and didn’t include any wood or extra perks that used to be included back in the 90s. For two nights of camping, the final bill for this trip came to $60, a $12 increase since last year.

When I asked what the nature of the increase was, the girl at the booth told me it was due to the HST. There are two obvious problems with that.

First, a $6 increase on a $24 price amounts to a 25% increase. As we all know, HST isn’t 25%, so I really don’t understand how they are justifying the cost increase. The second concern is that it’s not July 1, so technically nobody should be charging HST on anything that isn’t delivered after July 1st. Given that my camping trip will be over by then, charging HST on the amount isn’t allowed based on my understanding of the HST.

I haven’t looked at my receipt to see if the HST is a line item, but if it is, rest assured I’ll be officially complaining. Regardless, going from $24/night to $30/night is a pretty big price increase, far more than simply an adjustment to take into account inflation over the last year.

It’s unfortunate, because $60 for a weekend is more money than a lot of people and families can afford. We’ve already seen hockey essentially become a rich man’s sport in Vancouver over the last few 10 years, and it’s disappointing that access to the outdoors is following that same route.

I have no problem paying enough money to ensure that the system is sustainable, but given that you have to pay for parking at a lot of lakes that used to have free access, a 25% price increase in a single year for camping seems like nothing more than old fashioned price gouging.

Duane Storey is a blogger, photographer and business owner based in Chilliwack, BC

Sound off: How do you feel about the affordability of camping in BC?

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15 comments

  1. Rebecca Bollwitt says:

    It’s tough to say… Cultus is still pretty close to civilization so I’d like to check out what some of the more remote areas are charging (per night, and for bundles of firewood, if allowed). I know my sister would gladly pay an extra couple of bucks for flush toilets vs outhouses.

  2. Keira-Anne says:

    While I haven’t been camping in a few years, I’m a bit surprised to note the increased rates. As a child, my family spent time on Hornby Island every summer as it was a relatively affordable vacation and only a 30-minute drive from home. I believe we paid in the vicinity of $10-15/night, including firewood.

    Now that Hornby Island has essentially become a Hamptons-type getaway for Vancouverites (yes, I’m a tad bitter), the rates have skyrocketed to $32/night with a two-night minimum. The rates jump to $38/night if you want a power hook-up and the minimum increases to three nights on long weekends.

    While I understand that property maintenance is no easy feat, I’d certainly be interested to know the proportion of covering overhead vs. profit.

  3. Duane Storey says:

    I guess part of the problem is they just increased prices by 25%, but they haven’t increased any of the services. So what are you paying for?

    When I was a kid, camping at Cultus Lake was $12 per night, and you had access to free firewood. The annual inflation rate in my lifetime has been around 3.1%, meaning that to compensate for inflation, prices today, if they included wood and all the services of my childhood, should be around $20. But they are now at $30, and you’re getting less than you used to.

    Honestly, I know lots of families that probably won’t camp in BC if it costs them $60 for a weekend. You can camp at KOAs in the United States for about $20 – $24 a night, and you get access to a kid area, a pool, a hot tub, a full store with beer, and lots of little family activities. $30 is my opinion is simply too much.

  4. Christine says:

    It’s a bit off topic, but I love the tent in the picture. What kind is it? Did you buy it recently in Vancouver? If so, where? Thanks!

  5. Kyle MacDonald says:

    I think the problem lies with the fact that it’s a provincial campground; so the increase in camping fees only covers the inflated government wages that need to be paid to employees.

  6. Duane Storey says:

    Rebecca’s getting beat up at the dentist right now, so I’ll chime in. I’m pretty sure that’s a Coleman tent that Rebecca and John bought a few years ago. That photo is a shot up at Cultus Lake when the three of us were camping. Aww..

  7. Keira-Anne says:

    @Duane $30/night would be marginally reasonable if it meant access to decent amenities and included firewood. I know that the $32/night campground on Hornby Island offers pretty much nothing, the toilet facilities are outhouses and the showers are coin-operated (which they always were and makes sense because of the delicate water levels on the island). Factor in the ferry fares to Hornby Island and you’re looking at a pricey little getaway. That said, $30 to camp at Cultus Lake is a bit outrageous, being that you can skip the border in no time and camp for much less cash.

  8. Amber says:

    $30 a night does seem a bit outrageous to me too, so I looked up the BC Parks Recreation User fee schedule. Here is the PDF if you are interested. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/fees/userfees.pdf
    Here in the Kootenays the going rate seems to hover at around $21.00/night but your Cultus Lake locale is far from being the only BC Park to have increased to $30. I just recently had a friend comment on how their single income family of 5 could no longer afford to go camping and thus they no longer have any options at all in the way of a summer vacation. I’m in full agreement with you Duane. I think it’s a sad state of affairs when two nights in a tent costs you a minimum of $60.00.

  9. Christine says:

    Thanks Duane!

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  11. I recall about 30 years ago that my parents and I got a perfectly decent HOTEL ROOM in Idaho for $30 USD a night.

    But I’m out of touch with camping in B.C. — since we had the kids, we’ve preferred to cling to the motto of our fridge magnet, “I Love Not Camping.”

  12. Jody Taylor says:

    “I think the problem lies with the fact that it’s a provincial campground; so the increase in camping fees only covers the inflated government wages that need to be paid to employees”

    I thought that all Provincial Park camping operations were contracted out? I have not seen an actual BC Parks Ranger for years in any camp sites. I did run into one at Alouette Lake but he said they only maintain or check on structures (in this case an outhouse at the back of the lake reached only by boat) that is outside the camp ground borders.

  13. Jenny says:

    Yes, they are contracted out.

  14. Heather says:

    I had the exact same thought when I booked a spot for Cultus this year, and ended up getting some great info from a colleague about other Chilliwack camping locations. If you visit the Tourism Chilliwack website under the Where to Stay option (http://www.tourismchilliwack.com/search.php?searchType=2#scroll) you can search campgrounds and there are a ton of user maintained sites for under $15/night. These sites have mostly pit toilets and I’m not sure about showers, but they get great recommendations.

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