Campers Expect and Find Comfort in Today's World
Little Bennett Regional Park hopes marshmallows delivered to a fully furnished campsite attracts campers in a world more aware of Facebook than fall foliage.
For an extra $25 per night, the Montgomery County, Md., park will set up a campsite, complete with four-person tent, chairs, lantern and a propane stove, according to WTOP Radio, Washington, D.C.
Virginia and Maryland's fall foliage hot lines say the trees' colors are peaking in the states' western regions and beginning to turn red, orange and yellow in the states' central and eastern regions.
The sights at the county's largest park wasn't the most memorable experience for Rockville's Merlyn Perez, who took her daughter Lelani to Little Bennett for a two-night taste of sleeping outside.
"They even had an ice cream social for the kids," she said of the summer trip.
That's just the beginning of more comfortable camping in today's world. Coleman produces built-in alarm clocks, speakers for MP3 players and night lights on its air mattresses and Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA) operates wireless networks at many campsites. DirecTV offers a portable satellite.
To really create the world in the woods, real beds and fine linens await campers, if you can call them that, at Montana's The Resort at Paws Up, where butlers prepare guests' meals. Campers at El Capitan Canyon in California rest on hand-woven willow beds inside canvas tents kept dry and safe thanks to wooden platforms. The KOA site near Santa Cruz, Calif. offers feather beds.
Mike Gast, Kampgrounds of America's vice president of communications, said, "You have to offer the all-inclusive camping experience," he said. "Barbecues, ice cream socials. Some of our sites even have climbing walls."
At Coleman, the concept of comfortable camping guides many products they develop. "It needs to be comfortable. Otherwise, people are going to stay inside and do Facebook," said Jeff Willard, the company's senior vice president of global marketing and new product development.
Things must change, environmental educator Cheryl Charles said, if kids and adults are to enjoy the outdoors.
"We're not against technology," she said. "But when kids spend so much time hooked to (an) electronic umbilical cord — things have to change."
She and Richard Louv co-founded the Children & Nature Network in response to "nature deficit disorder." They want to get adults and kids in the woods more. And they're willing to find new ways of doing it, even if it goes against the grain of traditional camping and those who practice it.
"I would not be critical of 'glamping,'" she said of the new term to describe the glamorous aspect of a more high-tech, comfortable camping trip. "There's not one right way to reconnect with nature. If some people are resistant and need a cot, that's just fine."
Dzungh Pham has now experienced both kinds of camping. In August, he, his wife Trinh Le and their 6-year-old son Matthew spent a weekend with friends at Little Bennett.
The roomy neon green tent set up in advance for him and his family sat on a concrete platform near the lantern and waiting propane stove. That doesn't mean the man who's been through the "real-campers-rough-it school of camping," was completely comfortable with such a pleasant experience that required so little of him.
"If my family in Texas could see me now, they'd laugh," he said.