Shopping for Campervan Essentials in Canada
By Kilee LeBlanc
Arriving to a new country and navigating the shops can be a bit intimidating, especially when you want to hit the open road as soon as possible. While your Escape Campervan has rental options for bedding, cooking equipment, and camp chairs, you will still need to stock up on all of the campervan shopping essentials such as food, drinks, cleaning supplies, and anything else you may have forgotten (like a swimsuit or sunscreen!). If you don’t have time to do this while still in the states or are looking to do some shopping AFTER hitting the road, keep reading!
In Canada, we have many stores that are unique to our country and others that are available worldwide (like Walmart). Some are definitely better and more affordable than others.
Here are some local tips for navigating Canadian shops and other campervan shopping essentials. This will help to save money and put your hard-earned cash towards other experiences during your vacation with Escape Campervans.
Before You Leave the Campervan Rental Site
Before hitting the road in your Escape Campervan, you should reconsider renting bedding, cooking gear, and camp chairs if you haven’t already. Not only is it super affordable, but it also has everything you need that will fit perfectly in the campervan.
When you return your campervan, you simply give it back so other guests can use it in the future. Avoid wasting additional time shopping for these items and contributing to single-use waste by renting these items instead.
Another thing you should do before leaving the campervan rental location is to check out the shelves of items left behind by previous campers. There is no guarantee that these items will be there, but we have been lucky with grabbing spices, cooking oils, toilet paper, paper towel, firewood, dried pasta, coffee and tea, sunscreen, Frisbees, books, Ziploc baggies, aluminum foil/plastic wrap and Tupperware. There is no limit to how much you take. All of the above items are definitely handy and are great campervan shopping essentials during a campervan holiday.
Do I Need Bear Spray in Canada?
This comes up because one of the items we found left at Escape the Seattle rental site was canisters of bear spray – and lots of them! These canisters cannot be taken on an airplane, which is why they were left behind, unused, at the campervan rental location.
While carrying bear spray is not a requirement for travel within Canada, it is a good idea to have it as a campervan shopping essential if you plan to hike, camp, bike, trail run, or paddle in Canada’s mountainous areas. The most popular areas include Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise where bears are active.
Using a bear spray is always a last resort; do all you can to avoid a bear encounter in the first place and use only if the bear acts aggressively and within close range. If you do grab a canister from a campervan rental site (if a previous guest has left one behind), first check the expiration date. Then check to see if it has a safety clip and if it has any product left in it.
For more information regarding bear spray, Parks Canada has put together a great article on everything you need to know about bear spray. The article includes what it is, what it does, how to use it, and how NOT to use it.
Grocery Options in Canada
The cheapest grocery store in Western Canada is NOFRILLS. There are about a dozen locations in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland and five in and around Calgary. It is a deeply discounted supermarket that sells No Name branded items and would be the perfect place to stock up on dried pastas, canned goods and snacks. They also sell fresh produce, deli, meats, and dairy.
Another supermarket to look out for is the Real Canadian Superstore or Your Independent Grocer. These supermarkets are part of the same company that owns NOFRILLS and sells No Name items along with other brands. Another popular choice for food and just about everything is Walmart and has locations in most major cities across Canada to fulfill your campervan shopping essential needs.
Liquor Stores in Canada
Unlike the United States and other countries in the world, many provinces in Canada only sell alcohol in provincially owned and private liquor stores. Only a select few can sell alcohol at grocery stores and convenience stores. See below on where you can purchase alcohol in British Columbia and Alberta.
In British Columbia, alcohol such as beer, wine, and spirits are sold in provincially owned and private liquor stores. Generally, the cheapest place to buy alcohol is at the provincially owned BC Liquor Stores (or ‘BCL’).
In Alberta, alcohol such as beer, wine, and spirits are sold in privately owned liquor stores. If you have a Costco card, you can shop at Costco Liquor Stores around Calgary that sells large amounts of alcohol for super cheap. Alternatively, Liquor Depot is a good option and is located around the province.
There is no doubt you’ll be driving a lot during your Escape Campervan trip around British Columbia and/or Alberta. It’s important to know where to get your cheapest fill.
Gas prices are constantly changing so a handy app to download is Gas Buddy that will locate the gas stations with the lowest-priced gas near you. Sometimes you won’t have an option as there will be only one gas station nearby. However, typically one gas station will be a few cents cheaper per liter which adds up in the long run while going through your campervan shopping essentials!
Camping Gear & Miscellaneous
Should you feel the need to venture into Canada’s wilderness (and you should!) but don’t have the appropriate gear to do so, there are a few name stay options to make sure you have all of your campervan shopping essentials.
Army & Navy
Army & Navy sells clothing, footwear, outdoor, home and travel gear at super cheap prices. They have three locations near Vancouver, one location in Calgary and one in Edmonton. All locations are a great spot for outdoor gear and more!
Canadian Tire sells so much more than tires such as camping gear, tools, bear spray, clothing, kitchen stuff, and cleaning gear. They also have an auto repair shop should you need any help with your campervan while traveling.
Mountain Equipment Co-op (or ‘MEC’)
Mountain Equipment Co-op has twenty-two stores across Canada and is the place to shop for high-end outdoor gear for every activity from hiking and camping to watersports. It is a retail co-op that sells exclusively to members with a lifelong membership costing $5. If you’re looking for specialized gear, information about recreation nearby, or are after the perfect Canadian souvenir, this place has you covered. MEC is overall a pretty great spot to check off your campervan shopping essentials.
Dollarama has one thousand locations across Canada and should be your first stop during your campervan trip. Everything in the store is under $4 and is the place to stock up on spices, oils, canned goods, snacks, cleaning supplies, crafts, kitchen gear, and anything else under the sun. You’ll save yourself a lot of money by shopping here for supplies first. Additionally, Dollarama can give you a good idea of what you should be paying for on basic items in Canada.
Book Your Canada Road Trip
Getting off a flight and into a campervan in a new country can seem a bit daunting in itself. Trying to figure out where to shop for the best deals while calculating currency can make your head spin.
Save yourself time and money during your BC and/or Alberta road trip by following this guide. This will ultimately allow you to spend your money on fun tours and experiences or save for your next trip with Escape Campervans! Book a campervan to pick up at our Seattle campervan rental site or Portland campervan rental location today.