Camping vs. Glamping

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Glamor camping, or "glamping," as it's been dubbed, is on the rise in the U.S., even as the number of visits to national parks is declining. Last year there were 20 million fewer park visits than there were a decade ago, and the number of campers who "rough it" in gigantic RVs is quickly catching up to the number of those who do it in tents on the ground. What does all this mean? Even as our "eco-awareness" balloons, our willingness to experience nature in a primitive way is waning (even if the space-age, lightweight, sweat-wicking materials we make our tents and sleeping bags and whatever else out of are far from primitive.) Exhibit A, though, has to be glamping. So what is glamping? If you have around $10,000 per person per week (and up) to spend on a luxe camping trip, you can find out for yourself. Otherwise, here's what you're missing.

The Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Vancouver Island

Far from the beaten path and an hour's small-plane flight from the mainland, Clayoquot isn't the kind of campground where you'll find yourself in a pup tent wedged between obnoxious families drinking beer; instead, expect luxury "tents" furnished with antiques, Persian rugs and king-sized beds with heated blankets. You can ask your personal gourmet chef to serve up the s'mores and a hot dog if you want -- though most opt for the rack of lamb or butter-braised salmon. If it's hiking you're after, a team of guides will drive you to the best part of the trail and drop you off in a spot where you'll never have to pass the same tree twice or climb too steep a hill. Horse stables and private boats are also available on a whim -- and then there's the massage tent. The cost for all this next-to-nature luxury? About $50,000 for a weeklong family trip.

Paws Up Resort, Montana

Multi-room luxury tents are the norm here, but if you can't handle the 30-second walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night -- that's an outhouse featuring heated slate floors, granite countertops and showers big enough for two -- then you can upgrade to a "cabin": 1,440 square feet on four acres, complete with hot tub. Either way, you'll be in good company; among the clientele winging into Paws Up on private jets are the Rolling Stones, who once took over the place for a week. If you're content with just the luxury tent, you'll pay $600/night, plus $110 per day per person for food. (If you decide to book it, tell 'em who sent you!)

Abercrombie and Kent

2_antarctica.jpgForget Fitch -- Abercrombie and Kent has been whisking the ultra-rich away on high-end camping trips for decades. Their classic trip is an African safari "in the style of Hemingway and Roosevelt," if you can believe that Hemingway enjoyed a five-course banquet on the African plain for dinner every evening; if you ask us, it's a safari in the style of Bill Gates and Sting, both of whom have toured the African bush with A&K. If big game isn't your cup of tea, however, travelers can participate in a food-offering ceremony with Buddhist monks in Bangkok, explore the citadel of Machu Picchu in the company of its resident archaeologist, or sail around Antarctica on the floating equivalent of the Four Seasons, on which each passenger has their own butler -- for about $20,000/week. All of which makes me think that $400 tent I balked at shelling out for was a big fat bargain.

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June 16, 2008 - 6:27am
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