Lazy camping at Banff equipped campsites

I’ll come right out and admit it: I’m a lazy camper. I didn’t used to be, but well, age and young children will do that to you. I love camping in Banff and still have the gear, but finding it is another story. Because of this, I got totally jazzed about the equipped campsites in Banff National Park. Here’s a look at our experience. 

Lazy Camping in Canada at Banff Equipped Campsites
Check out our equipped campsite in Banff National Park.
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I like glamping, but sometimes you want the experience to be a bit more rustic, you know? Fortunately Parks Canada offers several options for slackers like me to get back to nature and the equipped campsites in Banff National Park are one of them. 

Banff Equipped Campsites

Camp day arrived grey and rainy. We rolled up to the equipped campsites at Two Jack Main Campground, just outside of Banff, hurled our sleeping bags into the tent and took off. Seriously, who wants to hang outside in the rain?

All of the 22 equipped camp sites in Banff come with a six-person tent, picnic table, fire pit and wood. Once you’re settled in, a Parks employee will come around and hand you more gear.

You’ll get a camp stove, propane tank and lantern, plus info on hiking and biking trails in the vicinity and a deck of playing cards. All you need to bring is your sleeping gear, food, water and cooking utensils. Oh, and a tarp would be useful if it rains, though they do have shelters you can use nearby.

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national parks employee
A friendly, neighbourhood Parks employee will greet you and hand over your kit.

When all that’s required of you is rolling up, unloading your bedding and lighting a match, camping seems perfectly easy. And it was. Once it stopped raining.

Single Parent Camping

When you’re camping as a single parent there’s so much you have to think about. Besides the basics of food and safety, you have to consider how you’ll entertain the troops on your own – especially if there’s rain, which quickly descended upon us. 

So we quickly peeled out of the campsite and hit up the Cave and Basin, a National Historic Site. Surprisingly, Eve was really into exploring the pathways, reading about the infamous Banff Springs snail and sussing out sulfur-smelling springs.

Cave and basin banff national park canada
Did we spot any wildlife? Sadly, no.

We had just enough time to wander around before the rain stopped, so back to our campsite we went.Before we took off, Eve decided to salvage a few pieces of wood from our pile.

Little did I know, she was tromping through our tent with her shoes on, but she knew enough to grab the firewood wedged in the middle of our pile, something I didn’t think to do. If you have an on-the-ball kid, single parent camping isn’t so bad. 

campground campfire pit
I reckon I made an A-OK fire…

And yes, we were able to churn out a roaring fire. I can’t lie, I brought along four of those fire starting logs to aid our endeavour, but only used one. (Hey, it had been chucking rain for hours!)

Learn to Camp

If we really got stuck, we could’ve moseyed over to the Learn to Camp session Parks offers on a daily basis. But we had already made our fire and know how to make s’mores, so we gave it a miss.

camp chairs by a fire and tent
Ignore that bag of chips. A few nutritious items were eaten at dinner.

Dinner was a gourmet affair of hot dogs, chips and roasted marshmallows. The smell of wood smoke, the squeal of children playing hide and seek in the forest, and the rustling of leaves as the wind rushed through the trees all brought back memories of camping as a child. Why don’t we do this more often, I wondered?

I think it’s the hassle factor. Finding your gear, the packing and unpacking, the prep work – it can be a lot.

But when you’re bedding down at an already equipped site, you still get the traditional camping experience, but all the annoyances are taken out of the equation for you.

girl playing near tent
The MEC tent set up by Parks Canada was soooo big!

Making Camping Easier

There’s certainly been a trend to make camping easier and not just for lazy moms like me. Young families are on the hunt for stress-free camping experiences, there’s college-age kids who don’t have the gear and boomers, who are less interested in backcountry experiences and crave simple, easier access.

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MEC green tent
Roomy tents can fit entire families.

“There’s many who might not have the gear or the know-how,” admits Eric Baron, Product Development Officer for Banff National Park. “That’s why Parks Canada is offering a low-risk, low barrier entry to try camping out.”

And for this I applaud them. Eve and I had a lovely camping experience and learned more about ourselves in the process. Who would expect their 10-year-old to be so fire savvy?

Playing card games and chatting by the fire, just us gals without any other distractions is something that hasn’t happened in a very long time. I wanted to share the outdoors with her and make memories that were positive and in nature, but I didn’t know how. Now I do.

What to know before camping in Banff

  • Equipped campsites are available from the end of June until mid-September.
  • There are 22 equipped campsites available in Banff National Park. Occupancy rates vary, so be sure to book in advance.
  • Equipped campsites are $55/night and include your camping permit and gear (excluding sleeping bags and cooking utensils).
  • You’ll still need a Park Pass to gain entry to the National Park and there’s an $8.80 daily fire permit you’ll have to purchase (at the campground entrance) if you want to make a fire.
  • Besides Banff, equipped campsites (and oTENTiks) are offered at several National Park campsites across Canada.

Want to learn more about camping in Canada and visiting Banff National Park as a family? I’ve got way more info in my book: 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit


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17 thoughts on “Lazy camping at Banff equipped campsites”

  1. Kyla Cornish

    This is soooo me. But ,I am going to do the YURT thing next!!!!ps I rented a trailer last year and it was the best thing that ever happened to our family. NO JOKE.

  2. I love the National Parks in USA and Canada.
    They are so well organised as well as beautiful.
    I´d love to make it to Canada some day.

  3. Sounds like the perfect mother-daughter bonding time. I knew about Otentik but had no idea Parks offered tents as well. Figures you’d bring along a couple of logs!! Just FYI – lint is a great fire starter. Hope Nova Scotia is a great success.

  4. Michael Schuermann

    That looked like quite a mother and daughter adventure. Hats off to Parks Canada for making it “easy” for those who’ll be doing it for the first time.

  5. Miranda Post

    Jody – this sounds like the perfect solution for busy parents like us. We recently went camping with our own gear and realized we had a lot of gaps in our supplies. The tent set up looks pretty comfy. Did they supply the inflatable mattresses as well?

    1. You should try out the options at Elk Island National Park! Bet it would be perfect for your family.

  6. Meg Jerrard

    I love this idea of lazy camping!! And had totally never heard of it before, but I’m in! We’ve just spent a lot of time camping around the US and Canada, but it’s such a pain to have to clean the tent properly while you’re on the move. We actually ended up just throwing the tent at the end of our time in the US because we couldn’t get all the dirt cleaned off it before our flight to Aus.

    Too much hassle! So this sounds AMAZING!!! Thanks for the introduction :)SUCH a brilliant concept!

    1. Good for you for camping through the US and Canada! I know the cleaning of it can be a major pain!

  7. Clicked this article as I thought it was Banff in Scottland!
    Looks just as beautiful though…and very similar landscape to some parts of Scotland.

    1. Yes, I agree! Although we don’t have such lush foliage in the Rockies, I do see the similarities. Thanks so much for commenting!

  8. Andrea Ouellette

    I’ve recently booked one of these sites as a first time camping experience. We are staying with some family in Banff, however they will not stay overnight at the site (not camping fans) and we won’t have a car. Is there a place provided to store food?

    1. As far as I know, with the equipped campsites offered by Parks Canada, there is no refrigeration offered. Some site might have food lockers though and you can always get a rope and string it up in the tree as you would in the backcountry. Email or call Parks in Banff and they’ll for sure be able to let you know your exact options.

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