oTENTik camping in Canada. Have you tried it? If not, you are missing out on a fun experience!
When researching lodging in and around national parks, I always try to search out unique accommodations. Preferably something in the park or as close to the park as possible. Because we fly to most destinations, camping isn’t usually an option for us and “glamping” is more my style anyway: I am fine cooking my food on a fire and peeing in the woods – I just want warmth and a bed please and thanks! And if someone else could set up the tent, I am even happier.
On a recent road trip which included Banff, the Icefields Parkway and Jasper, I found the perfect solution: the oTENTik. Of course the Canadians thought up this affordable “almost-glamping-but-still-camping” experience! And it was perfect.
What is an oTENTik?
An oTENTik is the cross between a sturdy A-frame cabin and a canvas tent – with electricity and minimal furniture. Score! Each oTENTik site has a fire pit, picnic table, bear box, and propane grill – with access to restrooms and hot showers a short walk away. There is a small deck with two Adirondack chairs, a locking door, and mosquito screens on the windows. Most oTENTiks also have heat – and thank goodness for that – it was barely above freezing in early June.
Inside each unit, there is a table with six chairs, a bench, and built-in beds (two side-by-side queens and a lofted double) with thin mattresses. Depending on your group, each oTENTik could sleep five adults comfortably, or a family of six. There are also electrical outlets (yay, you can charge your phone or camera!) and a portable lantern (for those dreaded trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night).
There are over 400 oTENTik units spread throughout the Parks Canada system. This list allows you to search for oTENTik by park. In general, oTENTiks are open from early May to mid-October, but each park might vary a little bit.
Most oTENTiks are $91 USD ($120 CAD per night). Rates are dependent on park and month of travel. A minimum two-night stay is required if you book over a weekend – and the weekend reservation must contain both Friday and Saturday nights.
Reservations open in January and can be made online or by phone. Make sure to research the opening reservation date for each park here.
Note: oTENTik camping during the summer months is exceptionally popular. I called as soon as booking opened, six months ahead of our trip, and I got my 3rd choice! In less than 2 minutes, all 30 oTENTik in Banff were reserved for an early June weekend.
oTENTik Camping in Banff National Park
Our oTENTik site was at the Tunnel Mountain Village II campground – one of the largest campgrounds in Banff National Park and close to the town of Banff. There are approximately 20 oTENTiks in Tunnel Mountain Village, nestled among trees with spectacular views of nearby peaks.
Our group reserved two units to accommodate ten of us. Tunnel Mountain Village oTENTik sites #4 and #5 have beautiful views and face away from other sites and public areas. However, they face a valley where wind gusts up the hill and creates a lot of noise at night! The thick oTENTik walls flap under intense wind and sound like giant bears jumping on your deck in the middle of the night. Not kidding.
In addition to the bathroom and shower facility at the campground, there is a centrally-located outbuilding with a wood-burning stove, a dishwashing sink and two large picnic tables. It was a great place for us to cook and gather as a large group, away from the rain and windy weather after a long hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House.
A second campground, Two Jack Lakeside, offers 10 oTENTik sites facing a serene lake. This campground is a little bit farther away from Banff town, close to Lake Minnewanka. Google some photos and you will be sold. oTENTiks at Two Jack Lakeside are in high demand; they were all booked immediately when reservations opened.
Here are some helpful links specific to Banff NP:
- Banff NP campground map
- Tunnel Mountain Village II campground
- Two Jake Lakeside campground
- oTENTik camping in Banff National Park
What to Bring
Staying in an oTENTik definitely provides an opportunity to camp with less hassle but you still need some gear. Make sure to bring sleeping bags, cookware, dishes, cooking and eating utensils, and a couple dishwashing items. Extra camp chairs would be nice, if you have them.
In Banff, BacTrax camping outfitter rented these items a la carte. They also rent bear spray for a daily fee. Staff members were helpful and prices were affordable. There are a couple hardware stores nearby that sell camping necessities if you are missing something (like a wooden spoon, in our case).
Essentials we packed in our suitcases included headlamps, insulated coffee mugs, travel wine glasses, hammocks and travel towels (yep, this post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of these items for yourself, I may receive a small commission fee at no extra cost to you).
To sum up, we had a blast and will definitely try to go oTENTik camping again! On a camping-to-glamping scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being “back-country camping” and 10 being “all-inclusive clamping” (keep in mind I’ve done neither), I would put oTENTik camping at a 5. There is less set-up and more amenities than camping, but you still need to bring some gear, cook your meals, sleep semi-uncomfortably, and hike to the bathroom. It’s a perfect combo of roughing it and not roughing it! If you’re not a camper, you will still feel like a camping badass. And that’s what’s important.
For more unique Parks Canada camping accommodations, check out their yurts, MicrOcubes and the teardrop-shaped Oasis.
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