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planning 3 weeks trip in western Canada

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Hello Everyone,
Me and a friend of mine are planning a 3 weeks long trip to Canada.
It will be a backpacking-kind of a trip.
We mainly thought about the Rockies area - Banff and Jasper, and also if it will work for us - British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
I would like to hear recommendations about few-days long treks, day trips, scenic roads or anything good that comes to you're mind.
Also we're a bit concerned about the weather, our sleeping bags fit 4for 5C comfort, do you think it's enough for mid-to-end September?

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    are you flying in from somewhere? where are you landing and where you flying out of? or, bringing your own car or renting one? are you tent camping? hostels? more details and we can help.

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    Welcome!

    With three weeks, you certainly have time for Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and parts of BC. It would probably be a squeeze to do both inland BC/Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

    I would allow at least a week in the Rockies, 2-5 days between the Rockies and Vancouver. I don't have much experience with Vancouver Island, but you can do a very short trip just to the Victoria area or spend weeks there and explore lots of nooks & crannies. You will need to decide what are your foci - do you want to hike, see sights, cycle, rock climb, kayak, swim etc. etc.

    Your route and recommended roads depends on your mode of transport - for the Rockies, car is by far and away the best option. Public transport is quite limited. I would suggest flying into Calgary and doing the Rockies first, including driving the Icefields Parkway, before it gets any cooler, then heading out towards Vancouver.

    Also, let us know about your interests, fitness level and abilities. Anything more than a day hiking trip will require the proper backpacking equipment (tent, stove, pack, sleeping bag, mat, food, water filtration equipment).

    The big issue now is likely to be accommodation. There is no free camping in Canada - other than in very remote parts of the parks and on crown land.

    So, if you want to camp, you will be looking a combination of national/provincial park campsites, private campsites, and if you are really ready to rough it, crown land. The latter is free, the former are anywhere from $20-70 per night with generally one car and two tents allowed per site. For any camping, you will need to keep a bear safe campsite.

    As far as nighttime temps - depending on your location, it could be anywhere from very pleasant to below freezing. This past weekend in the Rockies, we had snow and subfreezing temperatures at night. But up to 25c during the day. For end of September, I would want a sleeping bag rated to at least -5c.

    The other budget accommodation option is hostels - the Hi Hostels in the Rockies are excellent and beds are $25-35 per night. They are a great way to meet other backpackers and often offer discounts on tourist sites/tours/transport to Hi members/guests.

    It's been a very busy season in the Rockies, and September - especially the weekends - is likely to continue to be busy. You are probably fine with campsites, though a number will be closed after Labour Day, but I would book hostels in advance, at least on the weekends.

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    Thanks for the detailed answer,
    We come from abroad and land in Calgary. We'll probably rent a car.
    Yes, we are capable of tent camping.
    Also we are considering two car options:
    a. renting a small simple car and use tents for sleeping in campsites.
    b. renting a camping minivan so we can sleep inside the car.
    which of the two you think would be more reasonable/cheaper? is it possible in Canada to park for the night somewhere unorganised, maybe near public toilets, or will we have to enter the campsite anyway also with the camping car?

    And most importantly, which trails or trekks would you recommend the most in this area?

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    There is little to no free camping in Canada - other than on crown land and the occasional WalMart parking lot, you must camp in campgrounds. Especially in the parks, they do patrol and will check cars that are parked outside of campgrounds at odd hours. Same think at pullovers/rest stops on the highways - you can stop to snooze for an hour or so, but a longer stop may well end up in being asked to move along by the RCMP.

    I would suggest renting a regular car and camping in a tent. A larger car will be more of hassle/more expensive for gas/rental/insurance. Also in some campgrounds you may have to park & walk in to the campsite. If you get a reasonable sized hatchback, you can probably still sleep in the car if need be.

    You can camp for free in crown land, but much (most?) of those areas are accessible only by unpaved roads or off road driving. Almost all rental contracts forbid driving on unpaved roads - if you go off paved roads, the insurance coverage would be null and void.

    Campsites will run $20-70 per night - the more amenities, the more expensive. Generally the cheaper campsites are also first come, first serve - good during the week and in the off season, but can fill up quickly on weekends and holidays. Also in the national parks (in Canada) you must purchase a parks pass for each day you are in the parks - about $20 per day (per car with more than one person) or you can buy a year's pass for $135.

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    we'll you've got some good advice above. i'll just throw out a few thoughts. i too would be more cofortable with a sleeping bag that was good to -5 but you can brng some extra blankets. you also want warm pj's in case you need to get up during the night. saying you are capable of tent camping and having a comfortable time can be different. you'd want to have a mat so your not sleeping on the ground; tarps in case it rains and to keep your firewood dry; water container; axe; flashlights; etc. so you either need to rent or buy all that stuff unless you were going to bring everything.
    if you want to do some serious hiking, then you need to take a slower pace. i'd recommend 3 nights around banff; a few nights in lake louise or yoho; 3 nights in jasper. waterton lakes in southern alberta is great for hiking. revelstoke area in bc. for fun little towns, i love nelson, bc. the okanagan (penticton, kelowna, vernon) area of bc is really nice. there are some great wilderness hostels in some areas such as HI-Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel - not sure how late in the year they are open. save vancouver island and maybe vancouver for another trip. drumheller in alberta is another interesting area. for good information on hiking trails, look at the national parks website and there's a lot of info on the "canadian rockies" forum at tripadvisor.com

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    All of the wilderness hostels except Whiskey Jack are open year round. However, some go to key card acess - i.e. you must get a code to enter when you register - and can only be reached via skis.

    I'm pretty sure Mosquito Creek has a year-round caretaker, but you certainly would need to book at least 2 days in advance in the off season. It is a beautiful hostel with the creek flowing by and the striking central fireplace. It has two bunkroom buildings, a building with a kitchen & common room and another building with private rooms and second kitchen. No showers and only outhouses. There is a wifi, but the manager must turn it on so only very limited hours and it's not the best signal.

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