When the "camping butler" arrives at your tent to turn down the fine linens on your feather bed, you may find yourself wondering … is this really camping?
Indeed it is, say a growing number of resort developers who have taken the traditional sleep-in-the-outdoors experience and removed the elements that might cause a vacationer the slightest discomfort.
These cushy homages to traditional camping embrace the canvas and the campfire but eliminate all the hassles — there's no need to pitch your own tent, ignite your own firewood or wake up with a kink in your neck after a restless night on the ground.
Instead you'll find hotel style amenities like comfy beds, steaming hot showers, gourmet meals and spa treatments.
"There are a number of people who love to experience the outdoors and be close to nature but want to enjoy the conveniences of what they would have at home or at a luxury resort," says Bryan Kindred, general manager of Paws Up, a Rocky Mountain wilderness resort near Missoula, Mont. "This allows them to enjoy both sides."
At Paws Up, which opened last year and offers a range of accommodations, demand for the Tent City was so high that it has already been expanded from three tents to six.
The popularity of the tented resort is rising outside the U.S. as well. Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia have all welcomed the trend in recent years. Many of them have pushed the luxe factor to the limit.
Four Seasons recently opened a 15-tent resort in northeast Thailand where 160 employees tend to the needs of a maximum 30 guests. Services include poolside sunglass polishing and tasting tours of the camp's wine cellar.
At Aman-i-Khás in Rajasthan, India, a resort-appointed chaperone accompanies travelers on the train from Delhi to make sure that every phase of the journey includes top-notch treatment. Alternatively, landing pads are available for those guests who prefer to arrive by private helicopter.
Such perks are priced accordingly, of course. Though rates at the more rustic of these resorts start around $100 per night, others approach $1,000. The ten in our slide show offer just the right amount of comfort per dollar.
Bringing opulence into the wilderness is hardly a new concept, says Chris Doyle, director of the Adventure Travel Trade Association. Safari expeditions traveling throughout colonial Africa in the 1800s would set up portable resorts with as many creature comforts as they could carry. "It's the full English traditional experience that you saw 150 years ago," he says.
What is new is the proliferation of tented resorts throughout the rest of the world, a phenomenon Doyle attributes to a mentality shift in high-end travelers. "People are looking for more out their hard-spent dollars," he says. "They're looking for a much richer experience."
A recent consumer survey found that travelers are placing more importance on immersion and education. But that doesn't mean doing so at the expense of comfort, Doyle says. "Having a nice bottle of wine and a gourmet meal at the end of the day is a wonderful experience."