In August 2011, Lee and I set off for a backpacking trip across Canada. We spent three amazing months making our way from Victoria, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia – with plenty of adventures in between. We reached the East Coast in November, just as the days become crisp and chilly and the snow began to fall.
Any sane person would have started to head to warmer climates at this point. After all, the phrase “Winter is Coming” has been bringing a familiar sense of dread to Canadians long before Game of Thrones was on the air. The coldest season of the year in the Great White North brings howling winds, freezing temperature and endless piles of snow to shovel.
But Lee and I weren’t daunted by the rapidly cooling temperatures. We wanted to experience a full Canadian winter together – so we weren’t going to stop travelling just because of a little snow. We carried on even further Eastward to the remote island of Newfoundland, where we spent three months living in St. John’s and another month hitchhiking around the province to numerous small fishing villages.
So what did we learn from our experiences travelling in the ice and snow?
- Travelling in winter often offers advantages because destinations are less crowded and hotels are much cheaper.
- However, sometimes tourist information centres and attractions shut down for the winter, so do your research before you go so you are not disappointed.
- Keep your travel plans flexible. Sometimes bad road conditions and inclement weather can disrupt transit schedules.
- Dress warmly and wear layers. Temperatures can change dramatically even in one day, so being able to add or remove layers is advantageous.
- You will need warm boots that are insulated and waterproof to keep your feet from getting soaked from the snow.
- Winter weather, especially on the prairies, is extremely dry. Bring some moisturiser for your hands, lips and face so that they don’t become chapped and raw.
- Remember, when it is -20 degrees or below there is a risk of frostbite. Cover up your ears and hands with a hat and gloves!
- Winter storms sometimes bring power outages that can last up to several hours, so bring a small flashlight with you just in case.
- If you are planning on getting a car rental, which can be a great way to make your way around this vast country, make sure that you are comfortable with winter driving and that the car has the proper winter tires.
- Check out some of the amazing winter festivals around Canada, such as the Quebec City Winter Carnaval. Canadians really know how to party even when the weather is cold outside.
- Last but not least – enjoy the snow! Make a snowman, go sledding, have a snowball fight! You might even want to take the opportunity to try snowboarding or skiing while you are here.
Backpacking in Canada is a great adventure – even in the winter! Keep these tips in mind and head out into the big snowy wonderland.