HUNTSVILLE, ON – If you look closely at your area SmartCentre or grocery store, you may see a campground breaking out at the outer edge of the parking lot.

It is a growing trend that started in the USA with Walmart parking lots and the practice is firmly entrenched in cottage country.

Most Thursday and Friday evenings little enclaves of campers, RVs along with full-blown tractor-trailer units call the parking lot home for the night.

We visited two couples from Timmins to find out the pros and cons of staying in a parking lot for the night when they recently stopped at a Huntsville SmartCentre lot.

Gerry Chenier and his wife Pat Venne-Chenier are new to the luxury camping game. The self-titled “newbies” like to stop for a night when they are transiting from home to an eventual destination. It saves on camping fees, has the convenience of shopping and other amenities and gets you back on the highway straight away.

“If you want to buy supper you are close to a restaurant or you can go to the store and buy it there,” said Gerry.

Their friends Johanne and Dave Kristolaitis are travelling with them and like the convenience as well. On this trip, Dave needed access to some water and the local grocery store obliged.

“Bullock’s Independent was good enough to help me out and so I made sure to buy some groceries there as well as a way to say thanks,” Dave.

And that is the trade-off stores are looking for in exchange for welcoming the at times sizable contingents of vehicles.

Walmart General Manager for Huntsville David Haley welcomes travellers and says the more the merrier.

“We love having visitors, it really helps us in terms of sales for something small like providing space in a parking lot for a night,” said Haley recently.

Gerry said it can be a little startling to be settling in for the night with just a few other campers and wake up to a dozen or more vehicles surrounding them in the morning.

“A few times we have parked at twilight and we wake up and we are surrounded by 10 or 15 trailers and truckers,” he said with a laugh.

On this trip the couples are on their way home from camping in southern Ontario. They park their trailers together and create a somewhat private space to enjoy the weather and an evening chat before turning in. Their important rule – don’t leave a mess.

“No fires, nothing, we keep it clean, keep it quiet and zero mess. You see nothing when we leave,” said Dave.