Parks Canada doubles oTENTik structures offering camping comfort

Parks Canada is almost doubling the number of its new oTENTik camping structures in national parks and other locations across the country.

An oTENTik is a cross between a tent and a cabin and is intended to add a degree of comfort to camping.

After rolling out a few dozen of the units in 2013, initially at La Mauricie National Park in Quebec, Parks Canada made 124 available across the country last year, mostly in national parks but also at a couple of national historic sites in B.C. This year the number of units will hit 238, said Francois Duclos, Parks Canada manager of visitor experience infrastructures.

“They’ve been incredibly popular,” Duclos said. “In most locations it’s difficult to keep up with the demand.”

Users include adults who camped as kids and now want to relive the experience without the hassles of setting up a tent and packing a ton of gear. As well, younger first-time campers are trying them out, Duclos said.

The normal cost ranges from $90 to $120 a night for a structure that can accommodate six people. That compares with $25 to $40 for typical campsites, which remain the No. 1 accommodation draw in national parks, Duclos said.

But for those campsites, users often have to stuff their cars with hundreds of dollars worth of gear, most of which is unnecessary with an oTENTik, Duclos said.

New locations for the units this year include Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Ont.; Cape Breton Highlands National Park, N.S.; Prince Edward Island National Park; and Terra Nova National Park, N.L. Most of the structures will be available in time for the peak summer season.

Parks Canada is also trying them on canals, including the Trent-Severn Waterway and Rideau Canal in Ontario, and is exploring possible sites on the Lachine Canal in Montreal.

Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba will have the most oTENTiks, with 31, a number that can accommodate large groups, Duclos said. La Mauricie will have 25 this summer, Jasper National Park 21 and Fundy National Park 20.

“We’re entering a totally new market. If you think about it, where in Canada do we have comfortable camping available to groups? We’re seriously thinking about how we can penetrate that market with oTENTiks.”

Each oTENTik, installed, costs Parks Canada $25,000 to $30,000 on average, with an estimated payback through user fees in six or seven years, Duclos said. The units are provided by Biome Canada of Levis, Que.

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