British Columbia

Camping supplies fly off shelves as more British Columbians venture outdoors

Outdoor stores in British Columbia are seeing more demand than ever as locals take to exploring their own backyard this summer because of the pandemic.

Outdoor retailers struggle to keep tents, sleeping bags, food and fuel in stock

Camping has surged in popularity this year due to travel and health restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.  (Shutterstock / Volodymyr Burdiak)

Outdoor stores in British Columbia are seeing more demand than ever as locals take to exploring their own backyard this summer because of the pandemic.

"It's been off the charts," said Gayle Robinson, co-owner of Robinson's Outdoor Store in downtown Victoria.

After a down period in March and April, business picked up in May, Robinson said.

Both June and July have "far surpassed" last year, she added, which has meant good news for her business.

"It's so encouraging. Giving us lots of hope and optimism," she said. 

Camping has surged in popularity this year due to travel and health restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A representative from Golden Ears Provincial Park says it's the busiest year at the park on record.

A few months ago, the B.C. Parks camping reservation website crashed due to high demand. At one point, the provincial government noted that British Columbians were making 10 reservations every second.

The Lum and Tabamo families were lucky to snag a camping spot at Alouette Campground in Golden Ears Provincial Park in a year with record bookings. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Al Ehrenberg, the owner of Gone Fishin', an outdoor store with locations across Vancouver Island, said he's seen an influx of locals looking to spend their tourist dollars close to home.

"[Customers] have got time and money, really, that they're not spending on a faraway vacation and they're spending their money closer to home and they want to do something," he said.

"And going outside and taking your act outside in nature is safe and it's a lot of fun."

Keeping stock from flying off the shelves is the current challenge. 

Robinson said she's been helping outfit everyone from beginners to veteran campers with everything from food, fuel, tents, sleeping bags, pads, and backpacks.

"Everybody's going out and they're going out for a week or 10 days. We've had a whole wall of dried food disappear. In a week, it's just gone," she said.

"In one day, we sold 16 tents." 

While the bigger chains like Mountain Equipment Co-op and Canadian Tire have run out of supplies, she said she's been able to rely on strong relationships with her suppliers to keep up with demand. 

"While not everything is available, we can certainly make some small arrangements."

Ehrenberg says it's all about adapting to the new circumstances.

"You do have to juggle and find, but we seem to manage," he said. 

With files from All Points West

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