The Wide World of Luxury Camping[singlepic=37,320,240,,left]
In 1962, luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent started the luxe camping trend in America, with upper-crust mobile African safari camps marketed to United States citizens. Today, in the pages of Town and Country and Condé Nast Traveller, you can read about African safaris where people pass the time in their luxurious canopy beds eating authentic African fare-while having their feet massaged.
These vacations are also popular across the Australian outback, Thailand, and all over Europe. Four Seasons recently opened a permanent luxury campground in northern Thailand-with each of its current 15 tents as opulent as the hotel’s five-star rooms. Specialty services like spa treatments, facials and massages are readily available.
Expert ‘roughing it’ camper Mark Shaw of Raleigh, NC recalls his first-and thus far, only-luxury outdoor experience, in 1974. “My family went on an African safari for two weeks,” recalls Shaw. “The guys who ran the camp… would carry our tents and showers to the next campsite each day. While we were hiking and exploring the terrain, they would cook up African dishes over a fire and bake bread in the ashes.”
Shaw hiked half of the Appalachian Trail this past summer, and has camped extensively in Vermont, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. “As an experienced camper and hiker, I do not consider these catered tents camping at all. It is an entirely different experience,” he says.
Next year, Shaw plans to take a family vacation to Thailand through Four Seasons. “The last luxury outdoor experience I had was in 1974,” he says. “I can’t wait to have something like that again. It will be a nice change of pace.”
Coming Soon to a Campground Near You[singlepic=38,320,240,,right]
With the staggering popularity of these safaris, similar accommodations are becoming increasingly prevalent domestically. Outdoorswoman extraordinaire and world traveler Julie Dunn, an equestrian and software engineer from Washington, DC, has camped all over the globe. “A lot of my camping has been very rugged, but I have pretty much done it all,” says Dunn, who has camped in every state along the east coast, and has taken her expertise to the mountains of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.
“There is nothing I have enjoyed better than sleeping in outdoorsy luxury,” Dunn says. “My favorite luxury camping site in the United States so far is ‘Paws Up’-just outside of Missoula, MT. It reminds me of my most amazing family vacation to an eco-lodge in Costa Rica.”
Dunn’s uncle, Pete Rothing, owns and operates ‘Diamond R’ Ranch outside of Bozeman, MT, which is famous for breeding world-class hunting labradors and horses. “Uncle Pete has lots of city guys visit his ranch, and he always suggests ‘Paws Up’ as a place for them to unwind,” Dunn says.
Paws Up’s luxury camping career began in 2005, when the wilderness resort began housing guests in tents as an alternative to its private cabins. At upwards of $595 a night, each tent comes complete with fine linens, oil paintings and feather beds. Don’t want to rub sticks back and forth to start a campfire? No problem. Paws Up employs a camping butler to handle all of the difficult tasks for you. There is even a separate tent on the banks of the legendary Blackfoot River (popularized by the 1992 film A River Runs Through It) for massages. “I love Paws Up,” says Dunn. “I like to experience the outdoors and creature comforts.”
Doing it Southern-Style[singlepic=36,320,240,,left]
It is only a matter of time before such luxury takes a strong hold on the beautiful natural resources of the South. Already, the 300-acre Chattooga River Resort in Long Creek, SC provides many comfortable options for their campers. This is the only facility near the famed Chattooga River, and it is surrounded by 88,000 acres of Sumter National Forest. You can camp traditionally at any of their 27 camp sites, or take advantage of the amenities that Chattooga River Resort offers, including canoeing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and receiving daily room service to your tent. If you’re interested in your own luxurious tent, check out exclusivetents.com. All of the tents are manufactured in South Africa and shipped to any destinations in the world. With a steel frame and canvas structure, these tents can be used in virtually any climate.
With all of these fabulous alternatives to tent pitching and back pain, I think I may just venture back to the great outdoors. You no longer have to ‘rough it’ to rough it!