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No tent? No problem! alternatives to tent camping

Camping is a great summer activity for the family! It is the perfect opportunity to explore nature, unplug, create memories as a family, and enjoy the beauty of our province and country.

But traditional tenting isn't for everyone. Maybe you're nervous about tenting in areas with wildlife, you've got a very young child, someone in your family has sensory or other health issues, or you just don't have all the gear. Whatever your challenges, don't write off the camping experience just because tenting isn't an option you'd like to explore this year! There are many alternative types of camping - often called glamping or comfort camping - that might help make the experience more accessible to your family.

If you'd prefer to enjoy the great outdoors with solid walls, cabin camping might be for you. There are various private campgrounds that offer cabin rentals, but you can also try out cabin camping at some provincial and national parks. In Alberta, cabin camping is available at Castle Provincial Park, Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, Waterton Lakes National Park, and Wood Buffalo National Park. 

Depending on the amenities, cabins can be a little pricey to rent, but they offer many benefits over traditional camping. You need to haul less gear along with you and your sleeping structure is ready to go when you arrive. Many cabins offer at least electric lights, if not heaters, and sometimes have modern amenities like coffee makers or mini fridges. Most cabins have beds or bunk beds built in so that all you need is bedding (which is often also available to rent). 

Not all cabins are fully accessible for mobility needs, so if that is something that your group requires it is best to verify prior to booking.

For a unique glamping experience that is more rustic than a cabin (but still more comfortable than a traditional tent) you can try out yurts, tipis, or walled tents. These options still have the benefit of requiring less gear to be packed and no set up on your part, but you won't have solid walls (although you will have flooring). 

Yurts are circular structures which originate in nomadic Central Asian cultures. Most modern yurts are not designed to be portable and have been permanently built onto a wooden platform and may be constructed using a metal frame instead of the traditional wood frame. Rented yurts may have canvas sides or utilize high-tech camping fabrics, and can feature wood-burning or electric heaters. In Alberta, Pigeon Lake Provincial Park and Miquelon Lake Provincial Park and several private campgrounds have yurts available to rent. 

Tipis are the traditional tent structures of many Plains Nations, and are familiar to anyone who has visited the Elbow River Camp at the Calgary Stampede. Tipis are specifically designed for Alberta weather, so they are able to handle heat, wind, and cool nights. If you're looking to try out tipi camping, Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park and Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site have sites available, and there are private campgrounds in several areas of the province as well. 

Tipi tenting can be a wonderful opportunity to learn about Indigenous culture and heritage with your family! Our family had a fabulous time visiting Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site a few years ago. We had the opportunity to practice lighting a fire using flint and steel, made bannock over the fire, and explored the interpretive experiences available on site. 

Walled tents are another comfort camping option and come in many varieties. Try out oTENTiks in Banff National Park, Elk Island National Park, and Jasper National Park for a combination of an A-frame cabin and a tent. Or, try canvas walled tents in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Wyndham-Caseland Provincial Park, and Mètis Trapper style tents at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. These tents have the interior comforts of a cabin, like raised furniture and flooring, but still have breathable canvas walls perfect for the warm summer weather these sites often experience. 

A final option, if camping just doesn't feel right without the standard tent but you don't have access to the gear, is equipped camping. Equipped camping means that when you arrive on site a tent, camping stove, and various other gear is ready for you. Most equipped camping comes with a guide to help you 

set up your loaner gear. Currently, Banff National Park and Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site offer this option, but as it becomes more popular other provincial, national, and private parks may offer it as well. Make sure to verify exactly what will be provided you bring along any additional gear you require. Some retailers also offer rentable gear for families who may not own supplies.

Get out there and explore!


Trista is a stay-at-home mom and loves to share her discoveries about how to make life in Calgary work for families of all kinds.


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