camping in banff

Our equipped campsite in Banff National Park.

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 still have the gear, but finding it is another story. I love glamping, but sometimes you want the experience to be a bit more rustic. Fortunately Parks Canada offers several options for slackers like me to get back to nature. Recently, kiddo and I tried out the new equipped campsites in Banff National Park. Here’s a look at our escapade.

Two Jack Lake

Camp day arrived grey and rainy. We rolled up to the site at Two Jack Main Campground, 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 MEC 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.

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.

cave and basin banff national park

After peeling out of the campsite we 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. We had just enough time to wander around before the rain stopped, so back to our campsite we went.

Banff Equipped Campsites

camp fire

I made an A-OK fire…

Banff Camping

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. 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 endeavor, but only used one. (Hey, it had been chucking rain for hours!) 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!

Camp Canada

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.

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.

Thank you to Parks Canada for making my stay possible. As always, my opinions are my own.