Should you cancel or reschedule your backcountry camping trip?

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Trip planning

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So you were expecting to go backcountry camping, but your plans have changed.

Should you try to rebook it for another time, or cancel it altogether?

We’ve been in this situation before.

It can be tough to decide what to do when you have so many factors at play—your own personal schedule, the season and the weather, and the availability of campsites.

Check your permit and reservation policies

Ontario Parks backcountry camping reservations

Before you cancel or reschedule your backcountry trip, it’s important to know the policies that will affect your plans. Let’s quickly go through what you need to know about cancellation and rescheduling procedures.

Cancellation policies

In Canadian parks, backcountry campsite cancellation policies can vary by park and province.

For example, with Parks Canada, if you cancel a backcountry reservation at least 3 days prior to your scheduled day of arrival, you will receive a full refund less the original reservation fee.

Here are the cancelation policies for provincial parks across five different Canadian provinces:

Certainly! Here’s a summary list of the cancellation policies for backcountry camping in some Canadian provincial parks based on the provided search results:

British Columbia (BC Parks)

  • Full refund of camping fees for any cancelled nights if the cancellation is made over 7 days before arrival.
  • No changes, cancellations, or refunds are permitted for backcountry permit registrations except for full park closures or evacuations.

Alberta (Alberta Parks)

  • Full refund of camping fees if cancellations are made more than 72 hours before 2:00 p.m. on the originally scheduled arrival day.

Ontario (Ontario Parks)

  • Camping reservations cannot be changed or cancelled more than 4 months in advance of your arrival.
  • All advanced daily vehicle permit sales are final and date-specific.

Saskatchewan (Sask Parks)

  • Backcountry Camping and Recreation Hall reservations can be cancelled online or through the Call Centre.
  • Changes must be made through the Call Centre.

Please note that these policies are subject to change, and for the most accurate and current information, it’s best to check directly with the park or their official website before making any reservations or cancellations.

For U.S. parks, the cancellation policies for backcountry campsites also vary depending on the specific national park or forest service area.

Generally, you might find a policy where a cancellation can be made up to a certain number of days before the reservation for a full or partial refund, but this can differ significantly from one park to another.

It’s important to check the specific park’s official website or contact their reservation service for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Rescheduling procedures

Rescheduling policies for backcountry campsites in U.S. and Canadian parks can also vary widely and are specific to each park or park system.

Here are some general guidelines that are often followed, but for the most accurate information, you should check the specific park’s policies:

U.S. National Parks: The National Park Service (NPS) manages backcountry camping reservations, and rescheduling is typically subject to availability.

If you need to adjust your dates, you would usually need to cancel your existing reservation and book a new one for the desired dates.

This may involve a cancellation fee or forfeiture of the reservation fee, depending on how close to the departure date the change is made.

Canadian National Parks: Managed by Parks Canada, rescheduling a backcountry camping trip may be possible if there is availability for the new dates.

You might be able to change your reservation online or by contacting the reservation service.

A change fee may apply, and if the rescheduling is done too close to the arrival date, additional fees or restrictions might be in place.

Provincial and Territorial Parks in Canada: Each province and territory will have its own system for managing backcountry camping reservations, with varying policies on rescheduling.

For example, in British Columbia, changes to a backcountry reservation can be made if there is availability, potentially with a change fee applied.

For both U.S. and Canadian parks, it’s important to note that rescheduling is always subject to availability, and during peak seasons, finding available spots can be challenging.

Additionally, fees for changes, cancellations, or rescheduling are typically non-refundable.

To get the most accurate and detailed information on rescheduling backcountry campsites, you should visit the official website of the park you plan to visit or contact their reservation service directly.

Canceling or rescheduling because of bad weather

When you’re planning a backcountry trip, understanding the weather forecasts can help you decide whether to proceed or wait for another day.

Reading weather patterns

Weather forecasts are a blend of science and prediction that tell you what to expect from the skies.

Look at patterns like temperature changes, cloud coverage, and wind directions for hints on upcoming weather shifts. For example, a rapid drop in temperature might mean a cold front is rolling in, bringing potential storms.

Recognize signs, like increasing cloudiness or a shift in wind direction, which can signal changing weather.

The Mountain House website discusses how outdoor enthusiasts not only bring extra gear but also study forecasts to better prepare for their adventures.

Interpreting alerts and warnings

Alerts and warnings are issued for severe weather, such as storms, high winds, and extreme temperatures.

Pay close attention to these alerts; they’re there for your safety. Different alerts have different levels of urgency:

  • Watch: Conditions are favorable for severe weather. Stay informed.
  • Warning: Severe weather is happening or imminent. Take action.

Forecasts are more accurate just a few days ahead, so keep checking as your trip date approaches.

The I Heart Pacific Northwest site advises on the importance of having a backup plan if conditions change.

Canceling or rescheduling because you’re not prepared

Before heading out into the backwoods, it’s vital to review your gear and evaluate your skills to tackle the adventure ahead.

Gear checklist

Check off each item on your backcountry camping gear list to ensure nothing crucial is forgotten.

Your list should include basics like a tent, sleeping bag, and food, as well as safety items like a first-aid kit and a map or GPS. Here’s a simple table to help you track the most important items:

Category Items to Include
Shelter Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad
Clothing Weather-appropriate attire, extra layers
Food & water Meals, snacks, water filter/purifier
Navigation Map, compass, GPS device
Emergency First-aid kit, emergency whistle
Tools Multi-tool, repair kits

Skill level evaluation

Reflect honestly on your abilities; this includes navigation skills, first-aid knowledge, and experience with your equipment. If you’re new to backcountry trips, consider preparing for your first backcountry camping trip with practice hikes and learning basic wilderness first aid.

If your skills aren’t up to par for the trip you’ve planned, it’s okay to reschedule for when you’re better prepared.

Canceling or rescheduling because of wildlife activity

When you’re planning a backcountry camping trip, it’s smart to consider the local wildlife and how to stay safe in their habitat.

Seasonal wildlife behavior

Animals act differently depending on the time of year.

In spring, you might stumble upon protective mothers and new offspring.

During the fall, animals are often more visible as they prepare for winter.

For specific guidance, like how to handle a bear encounter, check these safety tips from the U.S. Forest Service.

Safety measures in wildlife territory

A few simple habits can make a big difference in your safety. Always be aware of your surroundings.

Make noise to avoid surprising animals. Keep a clean campsite, and secure your food to deter curious creatures.

More detailed advice is available, including how to store your food properly during your stay.

Canceling or rescheduling because of unfavourable trail and campsite conditions

Before you decide whether to stick with your plans or delay your adventure, you’ll want to get the scoop on current trail statuses and campsite accessibility.

Current trail status

You might find that your chosen trail is closed due to weather damage or conservation efforts.

For instance, you can check the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for up-to-date alerts and conditions.

Look for things like trail closures or reroutes that can impact your trip.

Campsite accessibility

Think about where you’ll set up camp each night.

Some areas, like those in Yellowstone National Park, allow you to reserve campsites, while others are first-come, first-served.

According to one National Park Service page, up to 75% of backcountry sites can be booked in advance.

Always know the rules for the area you’re visiting to avoid surprises when you arrive.

Canceling or rescheduling because of your physical health

When planning a backcountry camping trip, your physical health is a key factor to consider.

You’re going to be away from modern facilities, so it’s important to assess your fitness level.

If you’re dealing with an injury or illness, think about how it might affect your ability to navigate rough terrain or seek help if you need it.

Common backcountry ailments include altitude sickness, dehydration, and fatigue.

These can strike even the fittest individuals, especially if you’re not accustomed to the environment.

If you’re feeling unwell before your trip, it’s wise to consult a doctor.

They might suggest postponing until you’ve recovered.

Consider your physical capabilities for the activities you’re planning.

This could include long hikes, carrying a heavy pack, or crossing streams.

If this seems daunting, you might want to reschedule for another time.

Clean drinking water is also vital for your health while camping.

Without it, you’re at risk of waterborne illnesses.

Make sure you know how to obtain and purify water properly.

Look at the trip’s physical demands and your current health status.

Are you ready for this challenge?

If you’re hesitant, listen to your body. It might be best to cancel or reschedule for when you’re in better shape.

It’s not just about being able to go, it’s about enjoying your time safely in the wilderness.

Alternative camping options

Sometimes, changing your backcountry camping plans may be necessary due to weather, closures, or unexpected events.

Don’t worry, you’ve got other choices to consider.

Frontcountry camping: This means camping near your vehicle or in a developed campground.

It’s great for still getting an outdoor experience with amenities like toilets and potable water.

Check if reservations are available or if it’s first-come, first-served.

Day trips instead: If overnight stays are off the table, day hikes in nearby parks or nature reserves are a fantastic alternative.

You can explore different trails and return home at night.

State parks or campgrounds: State parks often have camping spots and might not be as impacted by the same conditions affecting backcountry sites.

You’ll likely find available sites with some creature comforts.

Dispersed camping: If you’re up for it, dispersed camping is allowed in many national forests and public lands.

You won’t have amenities, but it’s a chance to camp for free, often outside of designated campgrounds.

Check local regulations first.

Here’s a quick reference:

Option Amenities Reservations Needed Cost
Frontcountry camping Full amenities Sometimes Varies
Day trips Limited to none No Free
State parks Some amenities Yes Varies
Dispersed camping None No Free


Be flexible and be prepared to swap your backcountry adventure for one of these enjoyable alternatives.

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Elise & Ross

We’re Elise and Ross, avid backcountry campers and outdoor adventurers! We started Gone Camping Again as a way to share our knowledge and experience about wilderness living and travel. Our hope is that we inspire you to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer!

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