By Jane Marshall

Random camping. Free camping. Wild camping. These are all names for one of my favourite activities.

What is it?

Definition: Camping at a wilderness destination with no established facilities.

Think of random camping as a deep dive into the wilderness. It means no toilets and no services. It’s just you, mother nature and all her creatures. Random camping = roughing it.

Random camping in the Job / Cline Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ), Alberta.

Even though random camping isn’t easy or always comfortable, COVID-19 is propelling people to try. Its popularity has massively increased as we try find COVID-safe things to do this summer.

Read this CBC article to learn about the rise in popularity.

Alberta’s campers turn to public land due to COVID-19.


Know the Terms

Wildland Provincial Park: Land that’s protected by the Government of Alberta. You are allowed to random camp with no permit.

Click here for a complete list of all Alberta Wildland Provincial Parks. Be sure to follow these rules.

PLUZ (Public Land Use Zone): Public land managed by the Government of Alberta. Each PLUZ has specific regulations; some lands can be used for motorized recreation (snowmobiling and OHV use), while others are for hiking and horseback riding.

Wilderness Area: Provincially designated areas that provide limited opportunities for nature-based recreation such as backcountry hiking and camping, wildlife viewing and mountain climbing. NO DEVELOPMENT is allowed. These are zones for people who prefer true wilderness and self-propelled travel.

There are three in Alberta:

  1. Ghost River
  2. Siffleur
  3. White Goat

Leave No Trace: A set of principles to protect nature.

*Random camping is allowed in National Parks, but you must buy a permit and camp only in designated areas. Click, then scroll down to read the regulations and get links to designated random camping areas.

STEP 2           

Prepare and Plan

Now it’s time to choose where to go. There are so many options in Alberta!

My top favourites:

Entry Creek, near Lake of the Falls, Job / Cline PLUZ, Alberta. 

With the boom in random camping interest, more and more info is available online. Try:

Once you’ve chosen an area, use Google Earth to understand the land.

  • Look for a water source
  • Know your directions
  • Remember that you likely won’t have cell reception, so take a map and screen shots
  • Study road closures and know if you need a 4 by 4 vehicle


Consider your Safety

  • Have a spare tire and know how to change a flat! (This just happened to me in the Kananaskis while random camping!)
  • Consider taking a satellite device for regions without cell service
  • Leave your trip plan with a family member
  • If backpacking, leave a note on your dashboard
  • If backpacking, know how to safely store food. Bring bear bags/canisters and store them away from your campsite

Happy planning, and happy random camping!