Every so often an idea comes along, that combines familiar technologies in a new way that seems totally obvious after you see it for the first time. The kind of technology convergence that makes you ask why no one thought of it before —maybe you berate yourself because you never thought of it.
For many of us, our camping memories involve a pup tent in the backyard when we were kids — and adventure that usually ended indoors at 9pm after a scary noise. Or maybe your camping memories include trip with a church group or a hunting party, involving an old tent that smelled of canvas and mildew, along with folding cots and sleeping bags. When my wife and I started our three year adventure of living in an RV, one of the first couples we met on the road lived full-time in a tent. “We’re saving up for a down payment on a house,” they explained in front of a large military-style tent stuffed with boxes and bags of possessions. It didn’t look like fun — and they had spent the previous night in the park bathhouse, when severe storms swept through the area.
Now there’s a new twist on that old technology, one that could have you reconsidering staying in a hotel next time you’re on vacation. It’s combination of glamor and camping called (ahem) "glamping," that turns a common tent into a luxury suite with canvas walls. Instead of a folding cot and sleeping bag, imagine wood floors, a ceiling fan, air conditioning, and a pillow-top mattress fitted with luxury linen sheets on a queen size bed. Instead of plain canvas walls, picture windows with curtains, and a living room outfitted with a desk, Wi-Fi, a flatscreen TV, and a comfortable sofa.
If your memories of music festivals, motorcycle rallies, and auto races involve a flimsy tent anchored uneasily against the elements in a grass field, then companies like Contentment Camping might be just be just the ticket. They offer a best compromise between a pup tent in the mud and outrageously-priced hotel rooms.
It’s not just festivals and events getting into the act; the trend is spreading to campgrounds, resorts, and even the San Diego Zoo, which put in 44 luxury canvas tents for the Roar & Snore Safari. Campgrounds like Orenda offer a rustic back country experience coupled with luxury canvas tents. After a tough day on the trails in some of the most scenic areas in the country, unwind with the bottle of wine and the massage that the concierge so thoughtfully arranged.
The pampered outdoor experience doesn't come cheap, with rates for a single-person tent starting at $65 a night, and weekly rates for four or more people running $1,100 to $1,400 at some popular events. The glamping trend is just starting to make its way a little closer to town, with luxury cabins popping up near popular tourist destinations. If you want the luxury tent experience near Disney World, you’ll have to go an hour up the highway to Ocala.
Glamping is now made to order for any number of events. Luxury honeymoon campers can enjoy the same type of pampered outdoor excellence that William and Kate got to experience on their recent trip to Australia. Instead of a girl’s getaway to a crowded hotel on the strip, it’s now possible to craft a custom retreat far from the maddening crowds, that includes access to portable bathrooms and showers. Luxury executive and business retreats can be combined with activities such as hunting, fishing, and rock climbing.
This definitely isn't the kind of camping you remember as a kid, unless your idea of camping included generators, overhead lights, and a local chef to whip up a wilderness feast. Maybe some of you prefer to rough it and that’s fine —have at it. For some of us, the concept of roughing it is spilling our drink when we fall asleep in the hammock.