Thursday, June 19, 2014

So, you love the outdoors but don't want to camp...

Love hiking, biking, being outside and enjoying warm summer nights outside on your patio?  Hate (or strongly dislike ) camping though?  You aren't alone.  Not everybody likes camping and it doesn't mean you aren't outdoorsy or that you're soft.  I admit that I wasn't enthralled with the idea of camping for "fun" until it became a family activity.  Before that, it was just something we did when we needed a base camp for bigger and better adventures.

Comfort Camping at Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff

Things have changed for me though and I can now say I LOVE camping.  But it comes down to discovering your style and preferences.  I wrote about Learning to Love Camping:  It's all About Style last summer and in the story I talk about my need for friends, comfort, and warm weather (among other things) when I go camping. 

Comfort Camping in our new Trailer last Summer

My need for comfort while camping was accomplished by purchasing a small trailer that we absolutely adore.  (especially as I look outside at the rain pouring down and think about how I need to pack for this weekend's trip.)  Trailers and RVs aside though, there are MANY ways to "camp" in comfort without ever stepping foot in a tent.  Some are ultra-deluxe and you'll have to save your pennies to finance your weekend away, while others are very affordable and practically as cheap as tenting.

Comfort Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis

So, You Don't Want to Camp - Other "Comfort" Options for Overnight Wilderness Trips

Backcountry Catered Lodges

People who know me well, know that I'm a bit of a backcountry princess.  I'll camp in a tent when I have to but I LOVE backcountry lodges in all their decadence and comfort.  I mean, what's not to love about:
  • Hiking in the rain all day - and then showing up at a warm comfortable lodge for the night without having to sleep in a soggy tent
  • Eating in a warm cozy dining room instead of sitting outside on a rock in the cold
  • Yummy gourmet meals that do not come out of a bag or involve instant oatmeal 
  • A real bed to sleep in after hiking and exploring all day - and you don't have to carry a tent, sleeping bag, or anything else in your pack!
  • No cooking, no cleaning, and no work in the backcountry.  You spend your time outside having fun instead!

Those are just a few of the reasons I love backcountry lodges.  Mostly, I don't like carrying a heavy overnight pack but I love spending the night in the backcountry.  Staying at a catered lodge makes backcountry camping possible for me!  I'm comfortable, dry, and blissfully happy.  (Just know that you will have to save up for these trips and use your vacation money on them.  But they're worth every penny!)

Comfort Camping at Sundance Lodge, Banff

Last summer we took Noah to Sundance Lodge in Banff and he got to ride his balance bike much of the way to and from the lodge.  We only stayed one night but it was enough to get a feel for the gorgeous area along Brewster Creek, and we definitely enjoyed having a warm place to spend the night between the round trip 20km of riding through mud and rain. You can read the full story at Backpacking In Style - no tent, no sleeping bag, and no cooking.

Warm Lodges definitely needed on trips like this!

This September, we will be taking Noah on his first trip to Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff.  Staying at the lodge was high on my list of goals this year after camping there last fall.  We camped within 500m of the lovely lodge at the nearby campground while it rained AND snowed on us.  I froze my butt off and lived in my down skirt the whole weekend.  It was a soggy, miserable backpacking trip and I said I wasn't going back until I could stay at the LODGE!

Shadow Lake, Banff National Park
I am so thrilled that we will be able to return to Shadow Lake this year to see the golden larch trees and that we'll be able to stay at the decadent Shadow Lake Lodge.  The last time I stayed at the lodge was with my mother back in 2007 and I'm excited to be the mother this time taking her child.

Larches above Shadow Lake
I'm also very excited to take my son to see Shadow Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, as recently written about in this article in the Huffington Post. 

My son is going to spend at lot of time playing on this bridge!!

Other Comfort Overnight Options in the Canadian Rockies

One - Camp at an urban campground such as Tunnel Mountain in Banff.  Have breakfast at the hostel next door, visit the pub in town for dinner, and use the campground as a base camp for day trips.  Yes, there are still bears running around Tunnel Mountain but you'll feel safer camped amongst so many people and you'll never be far from the amenities of town.

Urban Camping in Banff

Two - Camp at a Wilderness Hostel!  Check out this story I wrote for the Calgary Herald:  Rocky Mountain Hostels can make getting out there a little more affordable. You can also find MANY stories on family hostelling on this blog.  Just search "hostel"  in the search bar at the top right hand side of the website. Our favourite nearby hostels are Hilda Creek, Mosquito Creek, and Kananaskis.

We usually hostel in winter, but we stayed at Mosquito Creek a couple of years ago in September and it was a fantastic way to go "camping" without really camping. We'll also be staying at Hilda Creek this September and are very excited about that!!  For more on the hostels we stay at, read my story:  Family Camping Made Easy - Backcountry Adventures.

Hiking above the Hilda Creek Hostel
Three - Camp in a Backcountry Cabin!  The Alpine Club of Canada maintains many cabins in the Canadian Rockies and some of them are very easy to hike into with kids.  The Wheeler Hut provides parking within 500m of the door and the Elizabeth Parker Hut offers bus service that gets you to within an easy kilometre (probably less.)

For more information on the ACC cabins and huts that are family-friendly, visit the story mentioned above:  Family Camping Made Easy - Backcountry Adventures.

The Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara

Four - Camp in an O'TENTik, tipi, or comfort cabin.  Parks Canada now offers comfort camping within many of their campgrounds.  The closest one to Calgary is Two Jack Lakeside in Banff and you can camp in an O'TENTik for the night in complete comfort and warmth. (something we're planning for this September!) For more information on comfort camping with Parks Canada, read my last story:  Comfort Camping in Banff National Park and check out this great story from Travel Alberta on Comfort Camping in Alberta's National Parks

Comfort camping can be found within some of the Alberta Provincial Park Campgrounds too. 

Comfort Camping in Banff (photo:  Paul Zizka)

Five - Camp at a resort in Banff or Canmore.  I recently wrote about how you can bike the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail from your doorstep at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort. While this is hardly "camping" you can still enjoy many of the activities you'd enjoy while camping from hiking to biking, paddling, and exploring the national park.  The only difference is that you get to sleep inside AND enjoy the swimming pool. 

Biking the Legacy Trail from the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort

Six - Stay at a Wilderness Resort! Similar to a backcountry lodge in decadence and comfort, the only difference here is that you get to drive to your door instead of hiking in.  And that appeals to a lot of people!!

My top two picks in this category go to Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis and Nipika Mountain Resort in British Columbia.  The links above take you to my stories on each resort and you'll discover both hiking and biking trails right outside your door at both places!  In fact, we plan to go biking near Mount Engadine Lodge this weekend!  Maybe we'll stop in for tea (especially if this stupid rain doesn't stop!!)  We haven't stayed at Nipika in the summer yet but it's on the list for next summer (fingers crossed) because we really want to take our son on the bike trails there.

Biking near Mount Engadine Lodge last summer

Hopefully I've inspired you to get outside this summer whether you like camping or not.  We plan to spend a LOT of time camping over the next few months in our trailer but we also have a busy fall planned with trips to Shadow Lake Lodge, the Hilda Creek Hostel, and Two Jack Lakeside in an O'TENTik.  We also have an adult trip planned to the Alpine Club of Canada's Asulkan Cabin and we'll be doing an overnight river trip so that Noah remembers what a tent is!

Definitely have to do this at least once. 

Stay tuned for my next camping story on the best choices for camping near the Town of Banff.


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