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Comfort Camping – the Banff oTENTik Experience

I grew up camping in Banff National Park, and I plan to continue camping here with my own family for decades to come. Camping in Banff is an exhilarating outdoor adventure, but sometimes I wish it were a little easier – there is just so much stuff to bring. When we discovered comfort camping with Banff oTENTik tents, we were instantly hooked!

Glamping in Banff - otentik tents

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What is oTENTik camping in Banff?

The easiest way to describe the oTENTik experience is to call it comfort camping or glamping in Banff . A Banff oTENTik is a mash-up of an A-frame and a prospectors tent, built on top of a permanent wooden floor. oTENTiks are basically large permanent canvas tents, which can be rented in camping season on a per-night basis.

otentik camping in banff national park is sometimes known as glamping or comfort camping

Who can stay in an oTENTik in Banff?

Canada’s national parks belong to everyone, so it naturally follows that virtually anyone can stay at an oTENTik in Banff. One of the primary goals of the Parks Canada oTENTik program was to help make the Canadian national parks accessible to everyone, regardless of experience levels.

Examples of people who may be interested in renting a Banff oTENTik include:

  • Given most of the major camping equipment is already supplied, oTENTiks will naturally appeal to people new to camping in the Rocky Mountains.

  • Given how unique and fun this comfort camping experience is, these prospector tents will appeal to anyone looking to go glamping in Banff National Park.

  • Visitors to to the national park who are looking for a special place to stay in Banff, which is more fun than even a stay at the best Banff hotels – including the world famous Banff Springs Hotel!
The incredible views of the Bow River and Mt. Inglismaldie are two of the many reasons to stay at the Banff Springs Hotel
  • Kids love camping, no matter what form it takes. Families visiting Banff with kids will discover that comfort camping will make your kids will lose their minds with excitement. oTENTiks are especially great for family camping experiences.

  • Even locals (like us), who want a memorable Banff camping experience will love staying in an oTENTik.
otentik camping in banff is great for families and newcomers to camping

The above list is simply an illustration and is by no means exhaustive. Anyone who makes a reservation can stay at an oTENTik in Banff.

What is included in a Banff oTENTIK?

The Banff National Park oTEntik tents were built and equipped to make camping accessible for virtually everyone. You will still need to bring some camping gear (sleeping bags, etc), but the big, expensive camping equipment has been provided by Parks Canada.

Each Banff oTENTik includes:

  • Two queen sized beds, with a slightly smaller double bunk bed above. These beds can comfortably sleep 5 adult campers. The sleeping capacity of a Banff oTENTik can increase to 6 people if two kids share the bunkbed.

  • Thick foam mattresses on each of the beds

  • A few light bulbs, but bring your own rechargeable headlamp if you plan on doing any reading at night.
glamping or comfort camping with kids in Banff National Park, Canada
  • An indoor table with chairs (although food is not allowed inside the tent)

    
  • A small electric heater for those cool Rocky Mountain nights.

    
  • Two electric outlets

    
  • A wooden porch with two Adirondack chairs.

    
  • A propane barbeque (fuel included)
barbeque some Alberta beef while comfort camping in Banff
  • An outdoor fire pit along with a fire permit (which entitles you to free firewood provided at the campground)

    
  • All amenities already included in the Parks Canada campground, such as showers, parking etc.

    
  • As food is not allowed in oTENTik tents, a lockable bear box is provided to store your food out of reach from Banff’s most loveable creatures. Please use the food locker as a bear who eats human food is as good as dead when it keeps coming back for more.
Banff otentiks come with food lockers to keep bears away

Note, that in addition to the no-food rule, there is also no smoking or no pets allowed inside the large canvas tents.

What’s it like inside an oTENTik in Banff?

The oTENTik glamping tents are much larger inside than you’d expect. The A-frame structure of them provides nice, high ceilings which gives it an airy, spacious feeling.

Along the back of the oTENTik is the sleeping area, with four beds side-by-side. There’s a short ladder leading to a double-bunk bed above the lower beds, increasing the overall sleeping capacity of an oTENTik to 6 people. Each of the beds has a thick foam mattress on it, but no bedding.

What does the inside of a banff otentik look like

There’s plenty of sunlight in an oTENTik. The back of the canvas tent has three windows, while the front of the oTENTik has 2 side windows, a large triangular window near the top of the A-frame, plus the large window on the entrance door.

Every window in the big prospector tent has blinds, except for the triangular window near the top of the tent. The blinds makes it a little darker, but without blinds on the triangular window, it can stay pretty bright inside the tent until it gets dark outside (which can be after 10pm in the middle of summer).

In addition to the large sleeping area, each oTENTik has a wooden table with 4 chairs, plus a wooden bench which can be pulled up to the table.

In case it gets chilly overnight (as it often does in Banff National Park, especially in May and September), there’s a small space heater to provide some additional warmth.

Banff otentiks have heaters to help keep you warm at night

Rounding out the thoughtful amenities inside a Banff oTENTik are a modest interior light, hooks to hang hats and jackets, a battery powered lantern for inside/outside use, a broom, a fire extinguisher and two power outlets. 

What’s it like outside an oTENTik in Banff?

Each oTENTik in Banff has a small wooden deck, with a railing and a short set of stairs down. There are two Adirondack chairs on each wooden deck.

otentik banff camping for people who have never gone camping

You can leave your portable camping grill at home as each oTENTik comes with a small propane barbeque, with propane included.

Each oTENTik site also has a picnic table (some with two electric outlets) and a fire pit for cooking hot dogs or making s’mores.

Making smores at a Two Jack Lakeside otentik - Banff, Canada

The oTENTik sites are just like any other tenting campsite in Banff. They are usually in a well-treed location surrounded by other oTENTik sites. The oTENTiks are generously spaced apart and rarely feel too close together.

What do I need for oTENTIK camping?   

You don’t need to bring a tent, mattresses or a camping grill to your oTENTik. But, outside of that, you’ll pretty much need to bring the rest of your typical Banff camping gear.

One thing to note is that the provided oTENTik mattresses have a thick plastic cover on them. If you have kids or a partner who tosses and turns all night, the sound of a sleeping bag rubbing against the plastic mattress can get quite noisy (and let’s face it, irritating at 2am!). Light sleepers should consider bringing a thick blanket to place in-between the mattress and sleeping bag.

We have a great post on essential Banff camping gear (coming soon).

Can I Rent Camping Gear in Banff?

Even though Banff oTENTik tents come with a lot of camping gear, you will still need some of your own supplies. If you are new to camping and do not have your own gear, or are flying to Banff National Park (via Calgary) and don’t wish to pack your gear, you can rent camping gear in Banff.

Bighorn sheep at Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park
Bighorn Sheep at Two Jack Lake

Banff Camping Equipment Rentals

  • Backtrax (look for their car camping packages – which do not come with tents)

  • Radadventures rents individual camping gear items separately, so you can pick and choose the specific camping gear you’d like to rent.

Where are the oTENTiks in Banff National Park?

Parks Canada has installed permanent oTENTik facilities at two popular Banff campgrounds:

Camping is one of hte best things to do in Banff with kids
Two Jack Lake Picnic Area

As of now, there are no oTENTik facilities at the:

Tunnel Mountain II Campground oTENTik

The great thing about the Tunnel Mountain campgrounds is how close they are to the Town of Banff, yet how far away they seem. While most of the Tunnel Mountain II campground is mostly cleared land for RVs and campers, the D loop is surrounded by forest, helping give that sense of Rocky Mountain outdoor adventure.

Tunnel Mountain as see from Hoodoos Viewpoint - Banff
Tunnel Mountain is also known as Sleeping Buffalo. Can you see it?

We recently stayed at the D4 oTENTik in the Tunnel Mountain II campground. The oTENTik loop in Tunnel Mountain has 21 oTENTik units, which are nicely spaced apart.

The oTENTik loop at Tunnel Mountain Village II has washrooms, a few sinks to clean your dishes, a few eating shelters with tables and firewood piles. 

Everyone’s tastes will be different, but our choices for the best oTENTik campsites at Tunnel Mountain II would be D2, D3, D4, D5, D8, D12, D13 and D14. These sites are on the perimeter of the D loop and will have the most forest nearby.

best places to stay in banff - tunnel mountain otentik rentals

Two Jack Lakeside Campground oTENTik

Of all the campgrounds in Banff National Park, the most sought after is Two Jack Lakeside Campground. A weekend, lakeside reservation at this beautiful campground on Two Jack Lake is the holy grail of Banff camping. The only thing that could make a stay at Two Jack lakeside campground even better is to get a reservation at a Two Jack Lake oTENTik.

Camping at Two Jack Lakeside
Mount Rundle reflected on Two Jack Lake

There are only 10 glamping tents at Two Jack Lakeside, and most of them are prized lakefront campsites. To help set expectations, these campsites are not immediately adjacent to the lake – there is often some trees in-between, but Two Jack Lake is almost always visible from the wooden deck.

We recently stayed at a Two Jack Lakeside oTENTik in site #37. This was an excellent oTENTik site as it is very close to the water. It’s hard to recommend the best oTENTik sites at Two Jack Lake as all 10 of the comfort camping sites are excellent.

Two Jack Lakeside otentik by parks canada

How much does an oTENTIK cost?  

As you’d expect, with so many included amenities, a night of glamping in a Banff oTENTik will cost more than a traditional Banff campsite. In fact, the Banff glamping experience will cost 4-5X more than a traditional tent camping site. That sounds bad, but to put it in perspective, the cost is less than half of a stay at the cheapest hotels in Banff during high season.

For the 2022 camping season a night at in a Banff oTENTik will cost $128 + $9.95 for a fire permit + 5% GST.

Please note, that a Banff Park Pass is not included in the cost of an oTENTik and must be purchased separately.

otentik banff camping is great fun for families

How do I reserve a Parks Canada oTENTik?

Know the date that Banff camping reservations open each year

Parks Canada opens up their online Banff camping reservation system in the middle of winter. The date can change each year, but for example, 2022 Banff camping reservations opened to the public on January 27, 2022. Once each camping season closes, the launch date for the next year will be posted on the Parks Canada reservation website.

Banff oTENTik reservations are highly prized by locals and visitors alike, so most of the weekend oTENTik rentals will be snapped up early. Most non-locals will likely be unaware of this date and may find it hard to secure an oTENTik reservation for weekends. Thankfully, mid-week reservations can be a little easier to obtain.

fun things to do in banff with kids

Visitors can make a Banff oTENTik reservations one of two ways:

1) The Parks Canada’s Online Reservation Service

We make all of our Banff oTENTik reservations using the Parks Canada reservation website. We like how you can see a map of the campsites to help choose the perfect location for your oTENTik. You can also see an availability calendar to help find available dates when the oTENTiks start getting hard to find.

To make an oTENTIK reservation in Banff National Park using the Parks Canada’s Online Reservation Service, select:

  • Reservation Type: “Parks Canada Accommodations (Equipped Campsites, oTENTiks, Cabins and other roofed accommodations)”, then

  • Park: Banff
a hiking trail at the Two Jack Lakeside Campground

2) Reserve an oTENTik over the phone

Not everyone likes making reservations over the internet. If this is you, simply call 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783) to make your Banff oTENTik reservation.

Outside of North America, the phone number for Parks Canada reservations is 1-519-826-5391

where to go glamping in Banff, Canada

All the Banff oTENTiks are full. What are my options?

The secret is out – glamping in Banff with an oTENTik rental is an awesome experience. Sadly, this means that it can be quite difficult to secure a Banff oTENTik reservation.

If you tried to get a reservation, but came up empty, here are some alternatives to renting an oTENTik tent:

  • There are many excellent cabins for rent in Banff National Park. This is one step up from glamping in Banff, but at least you’ll still have that outdoor adventure feeling.

  • You could rent a full camping gear package (including a tent) and secure a non-serviced Banff campsite reservation. Alternately, you could try camping in Canmore or camping in Kananaskis, both of which share the same stunning Rocky Mountain scenery as Banff National Park.
Banff camping at Two Jack Main campground
Camping in Kananaskis Country
  • The Redstreak Campground in Kootenay National Park has oTENTik tents for rent. The Redstreak Campground is near Radium and Invermere, BC and is only a 1 hour 40 minute drive from Banff.

    
  • The Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park also offers oTENTik rentals. Whistlers Campground is about a 3.5 hour drive from Banff, but most of it is along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world.
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in the world. Many luxury tours to Banff transit this road between Banff and Jasper National Park
Icefields Parkway

Additional Banff Accommodation Choices

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Banff oTENTik Camping. Staying in an oTENTik in Banff is a fun experience. Here's everything you need to know about this glamping in Banff experience!