The Great Outdoors: Luxury Edition

Few things approach the kind of restful peace offered up by a night spent in the wilderness.

Glamping allows the best of both worlds. Vacationers can experience the beauty of nature with all of the comforts of home.
Many of the "canvas cabins" feature fresh linens, lavish rugs, electrical outlets and rustic furnishings. Some even have heated floorboards and jetted tubs.

Daylight fades and you witness the fleeting spectacle of a multicolored sky as the sun dips beyond a jagged horizon of mountains. The glow of evening gives way to a host of flickering stars that dwarf your tiny place on earth while a crackling fire warms the intimate space amid a host of towering trees that dance like specters in the trembling radiance. You gather there, around the dancing flames, for camp food and s’mores and pass the hours with conversation sweetened by nature-filled reverie. The fire slowly dies out and carries with it the sweet scent of wood smoke, and you retreat to your tent for a nocturnal lullaby. The sound of the breeze through a spruce forest carries with it the steady chirping of crickets and the transient hoot of an owl hunting in the moonlight.

Before long, though, you sense that you’ve pitched your tent on a slight incline, and every protuberance of the earth beneath you is made more evident as you toss and turn in your sleeping bag—the sleeping bag that was not designed for the cold air that’s found its way to your frozen toes. When you adjust your position, the tight quarters of your shrinking tent amplify the sound of shuffling nylon, but you’re at least momentarily distracted from that unidentifiable sound circling you in the anything-but-benevolent wilderness outside. Just then you notice that the sweet smell of wood smoke has followed you inside and intensified tenfold so that it burns your eyes and wreaks havoc on your sinuses. And if that weren’t enough, you suddenly realize that you need to use the restroom and no amount of sheep counting will allow you rest until you go. And you wonder if when you return, if you ever do return (that unidentifiable sound is still out there), can you find an adequate sleeping position that avoids those six or seven lumps digging into your lumbar, your shoulder and now your hip bone. There seems to be a disconnect between our quixotic notions of camping and the unsympathetic realities that await. But what if you could keep the best of the campsite—the flickering starlight, the crackling campfire, and the musings of a cool forest breeze—and trade away the rest? What if the great outdoors presented a luxury edition where feather beds replaced down sleeping bags, flushing toilets replaced spider-infested latrines, and the size of your tent exceeded that of your car’s trunk?

Imagine for a minute that you’re on the edge of a coastal temperate rain forest in a remote part of British Columbia. A safari-styled canvas tent is all that separates you from the wild world of forest creatures, but you’re not worried because you’ve managed to retain the finest of creature comforts within. You have a king-sized bed and your own bathroom with electrical outlets, heated floorboards, flushing toilet and a shower. There’s a propane wood stove beside an antique dresser and a tea table, while the rest of the spacious tent is accented by lavish rugs, silver trimmings and candles galore. No, this is not a fantasy played out in some romance novel; it’s real and it’s called glamping—luxury camping—and it’s more popular than you might think. In fact, the scene above is available on Vancouver Island, near the village of Tofino at an exclusive eco-safari resort called Clayoquot Wilderness Resort.

One of the finest glamping locales is found just north of Missoula, Montana, at a resort called Paws Up—a 37,000-acre working cattle ranch where rustic meets luxurious to create glamping perfection. At Paws Up you’ll experience the landscape of the Lewis and Clark expedition as you set out on horseback or ATV, fly-fish world-class trout rivers, test your skills on the sporting clays course, and hike throughout the 1.5-million-acre Bob Marshal Wilderness. Then you’ll return to the comfort of your own luxury tent. Paws Up offers five luxury-tented campsites with safari-styled canvas tents that feature rustic furnishings, a jetted tub, fine linens, art-adorned walls, electricity, air conditioning and heat and, best of all, a personal butler at your beck and call.

Set amid a 40-acre mountain property in the Adirondack Mountain wilderness near Johnsburg, New York, is an all-inclusive getaway known as Orenda. Here, five spacious canvas cabins, each in their own private forest setting, are furnished with Adirondack-styled furniture and all the luxury amenities including down comforters and fresh linens. Dining at Orenda is all-inclusive, consisting of only locally farmed products. Imagine a breakfast of fire-brewed coffee, apple-wood smoked bacon, spicy potato hash and flapjacks prepared over an open flame with cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens in the resort’s backcountry kitchen. Campfood has never tasted so good. After breakfast you can set out for a day of all-inclusive activities like hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and archery. Then head back to camp and wash up in Orenda’s not-so-rustic heated outdoor shower.

A more intimate and Texas-style glamping offering is found at Sinya on Lone Man Creek, surrounded by five private acres of Hill Country landscape. Just five miles northeast of Wimberly, Sinya is the perfect weekend luxury camping getaway for any couple. Atop a 100-foot ridge overlooking a section of Lone Man Creek, your private safari-style canvas tent comes complete with a king-sized bed, an antique claw-foot bathtub and a fully equipped kitchenette. And while the tent offers air conditioning and heating for all-season use, you’ll most likely pass the day outside, choosing to lounge on the hammock under the veranda, eat your meals on the rock patio, or take a dip in the Japanese-style soaking tub. There’s also an outdoor shower that helps put this Texas campsite above the rest.

Let’s face it; camping is an acquired taste no matter how much you love the great outdoors. And it seems the older we get the more our tastes evolve. For good reason, we prefer comfort to rugged experience until eventually that old box of outdated camping gear just exists to collect dust in the garage. If you’re honest, you feel a little guilty making hotel reservations miles away from the wilderness rather than claiming your tent site right in the heart of it. So lose the guilt and return to the woods where luxury awaits.