Black Diamond ‘glamping’ business focuses on empathy

Tucked beside RVs of every size at the Bob Lochhead Lions Memorial Park in Black Diamond, Alta., are three heavy canvas bell tents.

Inside, the tents are equipped with all the comforts of a luxury hotel room. They’re the product of a new “glamping” company that’s making it easier for people having a tough financial time when it comes to enjoying the outdoors.

Owner Gavin Stuart started Meska Outdoors in May, a year after he was laid off from his job as a commercial pilot with Air Canada. The experience has shaped how he approaches his business.

Gavin Stuart started Meska Outdoors in May 2021, a year after he was laid off as a commercial pilot. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

“I do focus on values and empathy,” said Stuart. “I say, ‘Look, I’ve been laid off this year. Who else might be in that same situation?’ So we do have a bit of a sliding scale that’s available.

“I don’t have a huge budget to just give it away for free, unfortunately, but that program is available for those who are open to say, ‘Look, maybe I can’t afford the super high-end rate, but here’s what I can afford.'”

Each of Meska Outdoors’ canvas tents are equipped with a queen bed, French press and other supplies. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Glamping has become a popular way of enjoying the outdoors without any of the hassles traditional camping comes with. It surged in popularity with the pandemic last year as people vacationed close to home.

Meska Outdoors is aimed at so-called “non-outdoorsy” people. Its tents have queen-sized beds, French press coffee makers and other supplies to make camping comfortable. Some of the tents are dog-friendly as well.

“Meska is really about spending time together, making memories and sharing stories,” said Stuart. 

He said he hopes to extend the experience to new Canadians and eventually expand the number of tents and move to more remote locations in the future.

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