If the thought of singing Kumbaya and burning s'mores around the fire make you yearn for the days of summer camp, there's no reason you can't recreate some of that magic, starting with a spot to spend the night. There are as many different tents on the market as their are kinds of campers, so last week, with the help of my children, ages 4 and 6, I turned my backyard into a campground to test a range of variations suitable for everyone – from serious solo trippers to drive-in-campsite types with kids in tow.
Lotus Belle 4m Outback
Glamping, the portmanteau of “glamour” and “camping,” is a horrible word, but, if the Lotus Belle Outback tent is anything to judge by, the experience itself has all the appeal the word does not. Made from cotton canvas, the structure is designed to combine a bell tent’s functionality with the look of a Mongolian yurt. A double bed fits inside (its floor space is four metres in diameter). Setting it up was much less complicated than I expected, although, pro yurting tip: it’s a lot easier with two people. You’ll need plenty of space to secure the guy lines – approximately seven-by-seven metres – which makes the Lotus Belle difficult to squeeze in to your average campsite. But let’s be honest: If you’re rolling with one of these this summer, chances are you’re not pitching it at just any average site. Put it up on the beach, start up a yoga class inside and be sure to invite in curious passersby. $2,850 at lotusbelle.ca.
Hennessy Hammock Deep Jungle XL
There’s no doubting the Deep Jungle’s cred. When British explorer Ed Stafford walked the length of the Amazon River in 2008 – a feat that earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records – it was the tent he brought with him, made by the family-owned company on Galiano Island, in British Columbia. For that reason – along with its featherweight and its quick assembly – it will appeal to hard-core campers. But there’s much for lazers to like, too. Think of falling asleep in a hammock on a lazy summer day. Then imagine you have a mosquito cover to keep the bugs away, a fly above you to shield you from rain and an insulation pad underneath you to keep you warm. Logistically, you’ll need to find trees or some other secure post to tie the hammock to. And obviously, given its size, you’re not bringing kids along. But putting it up can be done in only a few minutes, and you’ll sleep like a baby with no worries of ever having a tree root digging into your back. $319.95 (U.S.) at hennessyhammock.com.
Bon Echo Tour 600
Eureka Canada bills the Bon Echo Tour 600 as “Family camping at its finest!” My kids would agree. “It’s got a porch area and two rooms and it’s so big,” was my daughter’s breathless reaction, referring to the vestibule and the wall that divides the massive tent into two rooms. One of those rooms was instantly turned into an iPad viewing room and the other became the yoga room (hey, they’re city kids). What they would also likely appreciate on a rainy or blustery day is that the larger, sturdy fly made of extra-strong polyester makes the tent stable in all kinds of weather. If you want to camp like a pro with a group of six in tow, this is the tent to do it in. $969.99 suggested retail price, eurekatentscanada.com.
Woods Easy Up Gazebo 12-by-12 ft
Having it made in the shade sounds nice, but what if you’re being eaten alive by bugs? It takes two people only a few minutes to pull apart the single-piece steel frame and put on the polyester roof, which attaches with velcro and hooks at the corners. The mesh wall panels are easy to attach, too, giving you a mosquito-free patch of shade to eat in or let the kids play in. This is ideal for the beach but, depending how exposed your yard is to blistering sunshine, it can also be perfect for summer at home. The steel frame is delicate, so be careful with set-up and take down. Bonus points for the wheels on the bag it comes in, which make it easier to cart the 20-kg load around. $219.99 at canadiantire.ca.
Coleman Instant Tent, 8-person
If, like me, you fumble with camping gear while your spouse and children look on, impatient and disappointed, this is the tent for you. Coleman claims it can be set up in one minute or less. It took me slightly longer than that, but not much. You simply pull out a few poles, lock them in place and you’re done. No fiddling with a rain fly, no confusion over what slot is for which pole. Plus, once you unzip all the windows, it has an airiness that my kids loved. Setting it up feels a little like using Rodney Dangerfield’s putter from Caddyshack – so high tech it feels like cheating. But better that than watching the sun go down as you struggle to figure out which end is up. $329.99 at canadiantire.ca.