Parks Canada: Budget-friendly, outdoorsy vacations! I remember my first pup tent. It was orange, Halloween-candy orange. When the campfire burned itself out at night, I could always find my way back to my tent with little difficulty. My tent was almost fluorescent, it practically glowed in the dark. I also remember my two camp encounters with wildlife. The first time was in Algonquin Park in Ontario. A storm had raged all night long. Thunder and rain always lull me to sleep, so much so, that I did not hear the unzipping of my tent nor the pillaging of my knapsack - from which a nimble-fingered raccoon discovered and extracted my stash of fig cookies. There was nothing left in the morning save the wrapping and - to my horror - dirty little paw prints on the sleeping bag next to me. The Bear Necessities! My second wildlife encounter involved a bear at a campground in Northern Ontario, which was surprising because so few bears were sighted that season, and, lest you're worried, bear encounters are few and far between in our parks. On that occasion, we had followed traditional outdoor wisdom and hung our food in bags from the highest trees to avoid attracting marauding (hungry) creatures. Sadly, the campsite next to ours did not heed the same sage advice of the game warden. My buddies and I returned to camp one day and spotted a big furry thing making a mess out of our campfire. We high-tailed it in the other direction. Camping and up-close encounters with nature are prime Canadian pastimes, especially in summer months. And luckily, every Canadian can experience this outdoorsy tradition - without buying so much as a glow-in-the-dark fluorescent-orange pup tent. Parks Canada is mandated to protect our outstanding natural landscapes in Canada's 39 natural regions, which include incredible wilderness areas, mountains, plains, tundra, lakes and glaciers and boreal forests. And they're for you to enjoy and discover - without breaking the bank - at one of Canada's 42 National Parks. And the good news is that Parks Canada has put a freeze on their park entry costs. So hiking, birding, camping, canoeing and other time-honoured summertime pursuits are within budget. Campers' Choice: parks aplenty The selection of National Parks range from Point Pelee (the most southern point on Canadian mainland) and Kootenay National Park (where you can enjoy the popular Radium Hot Springs) to Forillon National Park (the "Jewel of the Gaspé") and Bruce Peninsula National Park (which includes chunks of the Niagara Escarpment) with scores of others in between. You don't have to be the archetypal sleep-on-the-ground backpacker who heats up tins of beans for breakfast to enjoy the majestic green spaces in our National Parks. The savvy folks at Parks Canada several steps of ahead of the game. Welcome to Your Yurt [caption id="attachment_11052" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Camping with a yurt in Cyprus Lake, Ontario (Courtesy: Parks Canada)"] [/caption] You don't feel like tenting it? Consider a campsite, such as Cyprus Lake in Bruce Peninsula National Park, where you can rent a yurt, which is modelled on the traditional dwellings of nomads in Central Asia. They're round, semi-permanent tent-like structures affixed to a wooden lattice frame. Some are even furnished with a wood-burning stove, beds, a sizable deck and propane BBQ. All you have to do is show up at the campground. Cost: $120 night (big enough to for a family). Dream About Huttopia? [caption id="attachment_11054" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Glam camping at budget prices. Welcome to your very own huttopia (Courtesy: Parks Canada)"] [/caption] Discover the joys of camping without having to shop for, purchase and pack the car with tons of equipment (and no bright orange pup tent!). Did you know that at 15 of Quebec's 22 national parks you and your family and friends can bunk down for the night in an innovative shelter that's fully equipped with heat, beds and everything you need for food preparaton? The Huttopia tentis great for families - and is just the thing if you yearn to go camping during cooler weather. Price: as little as $97 night. Good news: they even have Huttopia tents for the mobility-impaired, yet another way Parks Canada is making camping accessible to all Canadians. Kudos to them! oTENTik Experiences [caption id="attachment_11055" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Book an Otentik at La Mauricie National Park, Quebec (Courtesy: Parks Canada)"] [/caption] No, I am not having difficulties with my keyboard. It's just the way it's spelt! Parks Canada has introduced oTENTikcamping in various national parks. They're a cross between a tent and a basic cabin. They're sturdy, comfortable, with a slew of amenities. Price: $120/night. So when was the last time you went camping? What's your favourite camp ground in Canada?