When planning for any vacation involving camping, you need to make considerations for all of the gear you'll need and how you'll carry it.
This summer, my wife and I explored Nova Scotia and Cape Breton for two weeks. In many ways, this was a blended vacation - some time in hotels and inns, but also spending many of our nights in campgrounds or the backcountry.
Knowing that we'd be flying and renting a car, we didn't want to overload our luggage with all of the gear we'd usually bring along for a camping trip at home. Luckily, most of our outdoor time would be spent in National Parks, and we discovered the availability of a number "equipped camping" options that allowed us to leave most of our space-taking and back-breaking gear at home.
Consequently, these accommodations make it easy for families to experience camping, either as a first-time, beginner camper, or someone travelling away from home and away from their gear.
Our first experience was with Equipped Camping during a stay in Ingonish on Cape Breton's eastern coast.
Here, we were supplied an already-pitched, six-person tent on a deck-platform. Along with the tent, the National Park service includes a Primus stove with a full propane canister; pots-and-pans with a full mess kit for six individuals; dish soap, towel, and plastic sink; and simple, Thermarest bedrolls for each camper.
At check-in, we received a key to the padlock that latched the two zipper pulls of the entrance together. The key was not successful in disengaging the lock, but luckily the two zipper-pulls were not, in fact, latched upon our arrival.
Waking up in the past
Another fun option that we took advantage of during our trip is the overnight programming offered at some of our National Historic Sites, such as Fortress Louisbourg.
Here, we were able to participate in the "Wake up in the past" program, an overnight adventure where you are assigned one of four-or-five historic canvas tents inside the King's Bastion.
While this is quite a bit more rustic than the Equipped Camping option, we were none-the-less still supplied canvas campaign stools, a kitchen table, fire ring (and wood), a Primus stove with propane, a battery-powered lantern, roasting skewers and simple Thermarest bedrolls.
Tenting in the King's Bastion
Canvas campaign stools
Overnight, we had full access to the Fortress grounds after dark. While most of the Fortress buildings were locked, some sheds remained accessible. Much to my chagrin, one was, in fact, serving as an active chicken coup whose door I promptly shut as they all turned their beady-eyed attention to my unwanted intrusion.
Rustic Backcountry Cabins
Three of our days were spent canoeing the backcountry of Kejimkujik National Park, a place where I had spent some time over 20 years ago.
All of the backcountry sites in Kejimukjik must be reserved in advance of your trip there. We planned everything pretty last-minute, so we were lucky to find that two of the rustic backcountry cabins were available for us to book.
The cabins are of relatively simple construction with built-in bunk beds to sleep four people. Both have wood stoves installed for fall and winter camping, outdoor fire pits, pulley-system bear hangs and stocked woodsheds.
Interior, cabin 1
Interior, cabin 2
Firepit and Picnic
At the end of our Keji trip, we stayed one night in the main campground courtesy of a Yurt.
The Yurt was a great little shelter that would probably be better suited to spring, fall or winter camping. Upon our arrival, the thermometre inside was registering at well over 30°. Like the cabins, the yurt provided sleeping accommodations for four - one bunk bed and a futon to sleep two. Inside was a small teak patio table and chairs, a wood stove and a kettle.
A Close Encounter
Our one big missed opportunity was back at Ingonish. Equipped camping was lovely, but Ingonish campground is currently the home of the only Cocoon tent in the National Park Service. It was not available during our time there.
The Cocoon tent is a huge white ball suspended from the trees. Across its circumference is a large, plush mattress that serves as the base while you camp in it. All other equipped camping services are included with the Cocoon tent, for a very cozy stay.