The camping season is winding down for the year; but a service introduced earlier in the summer will continue to help campers find spaces in sold-out provincial campsites around the province.
Campnab is the brainchild of Eric Shelkie, who loves to camp with his family but was frustrated by the fact that many camping spaces are snapped up months in advance, leaving BC Parks campsites with “No Vacancy” signs. So he built an online tool that scans BC Parks websites for cancellations, and discovered that many spaces—sometimes hundreds—become available daily due to people cancelling reservations.
Shelkie—along with colleague Eric Karjaluoto—tidied up the tool, and launched it in early July. On July 7 The Journal spoke with Karjaluoto about Campnab.
“It was a side project for us,” he says. Their firm, smashLAB, is a design studio based in Vancouver that plans and develops brand strategies, design systems, websites, and applications. Among their projects are developing the website for the Vancouver Aquarium and building an iPad app for Tourism Vancouver.
“Eric [Shelkie] had had the experience of not getting campsites, and his wife would keep going back to the site they wanted, to check for cancellations. He came up with the idea for Campnab and thought other people would use it if it was available.”
Karjaluoto explains that many people overbook their campsite reservations, then have to cancel, and in many cases the sites go unused. He says that other people often book several weekends in a row, as they don’t know their schedule, then only end up using the ones that fit. In one 24-hour period in early July, Campnab found that 845 campsite reservations at BC Parks sites had been cancelled.
The user goes to the Campnab website (https://www.campnab.com), picks the sold-out BC Parks campsite they want, chooses the area of the site they want to stay in(if applicable), and enters the date(s) required.
They then enter how often they want Campnab to scan for sites, with users able to do a one-off scan or set the site to scan every X number of minutes.
Karjaluoto says that setting Campnab to scan every five minutes gives the best chance of success. When an opening matching the user’s parameters is found, Campnab will send them a text message, and it is then up to the user to book the campsite. “If five people had the same search, they would all get a text message. The first one to book gets the spot.”
An individual scan costs between $5 and $20, depending on the frequency of the scanning. Campnab also offers a monthly plan starting at $5 that will scan up to three different campsites for up to four months.
Karjaluoto sees Campnab as something that will help BC Parks by increasing revenue for them. “A lot of these sites would otherwise go vacant, so it will improve usage of the parks. A lot of people might check once for a cancellation, then wouldn’t check again.”
He adds that the service has proved extremely popular right out of the gate. “We’ve done a lot of start-up stuff that doesn’t work, but with this we had demand from the moment we launched. One user sent a message that just said ‘Campnab is awesome. That is all.’”
He says that they are considering adding an email option to alert users of a cancellation, and they have been asked if the site will eventually allow users to scan an entire region rather than a single park. They are also open to seeing Campnab being used in other provinces and states.
“Anything you make, you want to see people use it and get something out of it. This solves a problem for some people. It would be fun to see it go a little further still.”