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Try an oTENTik camping experience in Canada.

Newbie campers, have no fear! This Parks Canada program is just the way to discover your sense of outdoor adventure.

25 March 2015
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Suggested tweet: Discover your sense of adventure: try an oTENTik in Canada this summer http://ow.ly/JW9g5 #explorecanada

You’d love to introduce the family to camping, but the truth is you’re not exactly Daniel Boone yourself. You don’t own a tent and wouldn’t have a clue how to pitch one even if you did. You have neither camping gear nor the inclination to buy it. You’ve never lit a campfire.

No worries! Parks Canada has you covered with the highly popular oTENTiks program, offered in 14 national parks across the country.

I discovered on a visit to Quebec’s stunningly beautiful La Mauricie National Park that oTENTiks are a clever cross between a tent and a cabin. A wooden A-frame covered in thick vinyl creates a solid shelter, protecting you from wind, rain, snow, ice and anything else nature sends your way. Inside the oTENTik, wooden bunk beds sleep time four or more, plus there is a sturdy table, chairs and all the pots, pans, cutlery, plates and more you’ll need to prepare and eat wilderness meals (You do need to bring the food supplies though!).

There are good quality, vinyl-covered mattresses on the beds. As for heat, there’s a wood stove inside and fire pit area outside, along with a woodpile plus paper and matches for lighting the campfire or stove. (In summertime, you’ll have to pay a bit extra to use the wood, as there should be enough natural warmth.) You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly that wood stove heats things up, even if the night is cool.

I know, because I was the one lighting the fire at La Mauricie! The stove lit easily, there was plenty of wood and I fell asleep to the pleasant crackling of a safely contained fire. Next morning, I lit a campfire and we toasted bread on sticks to kick start the day.

While you won’t find a bathroom in an oTENTik, clean, well-maintained communal facilities—complete with toilets, sinks and hot showers—are nearby.

Still not sure about the whole camping process? The friendly park staff members are more than eager to teach you the skills you need, from lighting a fire to toasting a marshmallow.

However, you need to book early. According to François Duclos, Parks Canada manager, Visitor Experience Infrastructures, oTNETiks are extremely popular.  “Parks Canada started offering camping in oTENTiks only a few years ago, but since the beginning, the demand has grown steadily and in many locations, we can barely keep up with it,” said Duclos. “We rented approximately 5,000 nights in 2013, and nearly 10,000 nights in 2014. We’re currently ramping up for 2015, when we should have almost 250 units available. We wouldn't be surprised to reach 15,000 nights this year.”

Apart from a sleeping bag, bug spray and food for meals, the only thing required for your oTENTik experience is a sense of adventure.

To see where oTENTiks are located and for reservation information, visit the Parks Canada website.

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