While road tripping through Alberta, I spent a few days in what quickly became one of my favorite places anywhere – Dinosaur Provincial Park. The park itself is a beautiful example of badlands geography in addition to containing one of the most impressive collections of dinosaur fossils anywhere in the world. It’s remote though, the nearest town is about 30 miles away and even that isn’t exactly a raging metropolis. That’s why many people who visit opt instead to bring a trailer or camp outside in some way or manner. I’m not even close to what one would consider the camping type and so it’s with people like me in mind that the park established a series of what they call comfort camping tents or cabins. It was an interesting experience and I want to share with you what comfort camping is exactly and what the experience is really like.
What is comfort camping?
There area lot of terms out there to describe experiencing the outdoors in a more luxurious way. The most common, and one of the most awful, is glamping, which is simply the contraction of two words: glamor and camping. There are a few resorts around the world that pioneered this style of outdoors experience and indeed, one can accurately call them luxury experiences. Comfort camping though is not glamping and shouldn’t be confused with those higher end resorts.
Comfort camping differs from glamping in a lot of ways. They’re both permanently tented facilities, and in the case of Dinosaur Provincial Park this meant a large outfitters tent over which a permanent wood structure was built. Inside were most of the conveniences one would expect in a traditional hotel room including a comfortable bed, nightstands, sofa, table and chairs, wardrobe and even a small refrigerator. There are no bathroom facilities though; those are instead commonly shared as in a more traditional camping experience. There’s also no service staff to speak of, other than the lovely folks who checked me in. Once you’re in your tent you’re all on your own and really have to fend for yourself, from cooking to any amenity you might need. So no, comfort camping definitely isn’t a luxury experience and it certainly isn’t glamping, but does that mean it’s not worth your time?
I admit I was a bit hesitant when I learned I’d be camping out in a provincial park. I like exploring nature, but I really don’t like sleeping in the great outdoors. I’m not a roughing it kind of guy – it’s just not who I am. But I was determined to go into the experience with an open mind so I stopped by the grocery store, picked up supplies for a few days and prepared for the experience.
Driving up to the campgrounds the comfort camping tents left little to be desired from the outside. They definitely didn’t impress me and for a moment I reconsidered my decision to not stay at the local hotels. That changed though when I opened the tent flap to reveal the spacious and comfortable accommodations inside. I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t the Four Seasons, but the room looked comfortable and definitely spacious. In fact, the bed in particular looked warm and inviting. Then I met the bugs.
This isn’t the fault of the comfort camping facilities, but I visited Dinosaur Provincial Park during what they called a mosquito apocalypse. I’ve never seen so many bugs in all my life and within minutes I had bites all over my body. While it’s not the park’s fault the bugs were there, it did point out a particular drawback to comfort camping – it’s still camping. Had I been in a hotel, the number of bug bites would have been significantly less.
Bug bites aside, I quickly fell into the rhythm of the camping experience, got to know my neighbors and enjoyed being outside. At night I looked up and the heavens seemed to stretch on forever and in the distance I heard the soft call of a coyote beckoning. It was remarkable and at that moment I realized the real appeal of the comfort camping experience.
Just like in real estate, when choosing a place to stay location is everything. Dinosaur Provincial Park is remarkable in large part due to its remote location. It has kept the area pristine in a badlands kind of way. So to properly enjoy it, you have to not eschew that remoteness, but embrace it and become part of it. In my opinion, the best way to do this is by booking a comfort camping cabin. No, it’s not luxury and if you’re a privacy snob like me, then the bathroom situation is definitely an issue, but those are minor drawbacks when presented with the unique opportunity to stay in one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine natural areas. So pick up some groceries, buy some bug spray and prepare yourself for a most unique outdoors experience.
Have you ever gone comfort or luxury camping? Where and what was it like?