This summer we decided to make our summer vacation a camping trip. I had never been camping as a mom (or even as an adult.) So when I started researching campgrounds and parks to visit I really didn’t know what I was looking for.
Enter the Parks Canada oTENTik option. It’s a cross between a cabin and a tent, and you can find them at many Parks Canada locations that have overnight options.
I reached out to Parks Canada to see if they would be willing to host us for a few nights in exchange for publicity. They were very glad to accommodate us. I received a Discovery Pass and 3 nights in an oTENTik so I could tell you all about it!
We stayed at Glen Rouge Campground at Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto. Rouge Park is huge, with lots of hiking trails, but limited swimming. We liked the campsite, but I had a few suggestions for my contact there after our stay. I was told that Parks Canada does not run this campground (it’s run by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority), though they will be taking it over in the future.
What was included at our Parks Canada oTENTik campsite:
- An oTENTik with front porch – your accommodation, so no need to bring a tent (unless you want to break up sleeping areas, or your kids like to sleep or play in a tent.)
- 2 Red Chairs – Muskoka style.
- Sleeping space for 6 – they suggest 4 adults and 2 kids. Realistically we could have done 3 kids, 2 adults comfortably, or 3 or 4 adults and no kids.
- Mattresses, but no bedding.
- A table and 4 chairs.
- Wooden bench.
- Storage space beneath the beds.
- 2 battery powered lamps, both with juice.
- Power outlets, with USB ports.
- Fire extinguisher, CO and smoke detectors.
- Broom and dustpan.
- Water and power hookups outside – potable water, which was great!
- Parking (it said for 2 vehicles – we took the truck and we could have squeezed a small car in as well without losing too much space.)
- A fire pit with useable grill space.
- A large picnic table – it sat all 4 of us, plus our camp stove on one end and our big water jug on the other end.
- Some grassy space, and trees in behind our oTENTik.
Other sites may include:
- More than 2 chairs.
- Dishes, cutlery, drinkware and cooking equipment.
- Gas or wood stove heat.
- Gas, propane or charcoal BBQ.
- Wildlife proof storage locker.
There are oTENTiks in Banff that have toilets! The amenities are based on location in the campground, as well as what is needed in the area.
Nearby facilities on our trip:
- Comfort Station (flush toilets, showers, and outdoor sink for dish washing etc.)
- Swing set.
- Ice and wood for sale. You are not allowed to bring wood into the Parks Canada sites.
- One trailhead for hiking. We would have driven to the this trailhead – and it was the closest one to the campground. There are 9 trailheads in Rouge National Urban Park, but most of them have separate parking areas (different from where the campground is located.)
Other parks may not have power or water at their campgrounds or oTENTiks. Most sites suggest no food storage or prep inside the oTENTik – some say no eating inside either. We did not eat in ours, though it was not stated expressly that we could not. Some parks/sites do not allow pets at all, others say no pets inside the oTENTik. Be sure to read all the fine print when you are choosing a Parks Canada oTENTik to stay in!
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What we brought (and actually used!):
- Bedding (sleeping bags, pillows, and light sheets and blankets.)
- Cooking implements (pots and pans, spatula/flipper, kettle, toaster for stove, sharp knives for food prep, coffee pot etc.)
- Dishes and utensils.
- Refillable water bottles.
- Water storage container.
- Camp stove – we have a Coleman stove that’s at least 20 years old. Still works great!
- Propane (or other fuel) for the stove.
- 2 big plastic tubs for washing dishes. We have 2 square 10L tubs – I put the soapy water in one, and clean water in the second.
- Dish soap.
- Tea towels and dish cloths.
- Rope and clothespins.
- Table cloth and weights or clamps to hold down the corners.
- Roll of paper towel.
- Food (we planned our meals in hopes we wouldn’t bring too much. It mostly worked, but it was very hot – or raining – and we didn’t eat as many snacks as we planned for.)
- Coolers with ice. We bought more ice every day because it was melting so quickly in the heat.
- Axe for chopping wood.
- Outdoor toys for the kids. (We actually went to Canadian Tire and bought a ball, kid friendly badminton set, and a frisbee thing because we didn’t think to bring these from home.)
- Chairs for everyone.
- Personal hygiene items – toothbrushes and toothpaste, soaps, shampoo, deodorant, lotions, etc.
- Sunscreen and bug spray.
- Hats and all weather clothing.
- Cards, books, other entertaining items.
- Chargers for phone/computers/cameras – if you plan on using them. Our site had wifi but it wasn’t great. Because we had outlets inside the oTENTik we could keep our phones charged no problem.
What we brought and didn’t use:
- A tarp – there was no where to attach it. Our site was useful tree free – and so had no shade and no easy way to make some.
- Beach umbrella. The ground was too hard to put it up, though Patrick did hold it over me the night it rained while I was washing up the dinner dishes. Also the beach was very far from the campground, and was “swim at your own risk” for E.Coli while we were there.
- First aid kit – VERY important to have, and good news when you don’t need to use it! This one from SJ Works is very handy. It’s what we took and are leaving in our camping bin for future trips.
- Fishing Gear – no close water for fishing at Glen Rouge Campground.
- Roasters for marshmallows – we sharpened some sticks and did our best.
- Extra towels for cleaning up after the rainstorms.
- Basic handyman gear – we had a chair lose a bolt, and we had nothing to fix it with.
- Umbrellas – personal ones for getting back and forth the the washroom in the rain.
As you can see, camping in a Parks Canada oTENTik could be considered “glamping” if your site has enough amenities. It was great for us as first time family campers. It showed me that I could easily tent camp, but it sure is nice to have that larger structure for those evening when it rains like crazy!
There are many things to do at Parks Canada locations.
At Rouge National Urban Park there are many hiking trails, one beach, canoe and kayak options, Club Parka for young kids, and the Xplorers program, which my kids love. They’ve been Xplorers at Bellevue House (which is a Parks Canada site here in Kingston), the Rideau Canal Museum in Smiths Falls, and at Fort Wellington, our next closest Parks Canada location. We didn’t complete the booklet at Rouge Park because the park is so big, and we stayed for 3 very hot and/or rainy days and didn’t get as much exploring done as I had hoped.
Staying in Toronto was actually fabulous for us. This campground could easily be used as a base from which to explore all the areas of Toronto. While we were camping we went to Canada’s Wonderland (we bought season’s passes this year), and visited with our friends who live nearby.
Glen Rouge Campground is a great short-term camping location. I would recommend it as part of a longer trip – it wasn’t busy, it’s quiet at night, and there were lots of families with children camping there while we were there. Emma met a young lady whose first language was french, so she was able to use some of her french immersion skills conversing with her new friend.
Camping in a Parks Canada oTENTik was a great experience. I would recommend giving it a try if you’re new to camping. Honestly it made us comfortable but didn’t take away from the rustic fun of camping, tent style.
Have you tried an oTENTik? Or maybe you have a favourite Parks Canada location. I’d love to hear about it. Leave your thoughts in the comments!