Gone are the days when camping was synonymous with roughing it — a lesson my family learned when we joined friends at a campground on the Southeast coast of England. We arrived with two-man pup tents, flannel sleeping bags, and a cooler full of hot dogs, marshmallows and beer, climbed out of our mini-van and saw a whole new world of outdoor accoutrements.
The campground was dotted with a dizzying array of futuristic-looking tents in all kinds of sizes and colors, the most impressive being an enormous, domed, family tent for 10 with separate sleeping alcoves, awnings and what looked like a front porch. Salmon steaks were grilling and Chardonnay was being consumed from plastic flutes.
Later that night, when a storm rolled in, blowing over our leaky canvas tents, we zippered our way into another family’s sturdy, nylon shelter, all of us soaking wet as their solar-powered lantern quickly revealed.
For this summer’s outing I’ve been looking for both cool and practical camping equipment. I want to go “glamping” — or glamorous camping, as upscale camping has been called.
“Like everything else in the modern world, and along with the ongoing ‘boutiqueification’ of our lifestyles, camping was due to get a makeover,” said Garri Rayner, the founder and owner of Go Glamping, a camping directory in the United Kingdom that offers everything from tents, yurts and tipis to Airstream caravans.
Chris Brayton, an avid camper since childhood and the founder of www.family-tents.net, recommend the Eureka Copper Canyon 1312 for our family. It sleeps eight people (it is 12 by 13 feet, or 3.6 by 3.9 meters) and has a removable curtain to divide the interior space. It also has six, large, zippered windows, a detachable awning and clear panel skylights for stargazing. The tent costs from $300 to $350.
I was tempted by the funkier tipi-style tents. One popular model, according to www.campr.co.uk, is the Outwell Indian Lake Tipi Tent, which sleeps up to six people and has four panoramic windows with roll down curtains. They cost around £700, about $1,100.
I added to my equipment dream list a Hennessy Hammock. My first choice was the Expedition Asym Classic for $159.95, which lets you wrap yourself up like a bat and hang between two trees. It weighs less than three pounds, or 1.4 kilograms, and comes with webbing straps to protect the bark of trees.
I was happy to find the MontBell Ultralight Super Spiral Down Hugger ($400). Made of top quality 800-fill down by MontBell, an outdoor products company that was started in 1975 in Osaka, Japan, by three mountaineering partners, it has both a stretchy shell material and elasticized seams.
With our accommodations and bedding sorted, I moved onto cookware, quickly settling on the Primus Firehole Stove at www.primuscamping.com, a Scandinavian company started in 1892 by two inventor-adventurers who say they have created the first soot-free, packable stove. Running on a one-pound propane canister and boasting an easy carry handle, it is light but has two burners and can boil water in three minutes. The stoves range from $149 to $295
I was also tempted by the new Biolite CampStove, $129, which does not require petroleum or gas. Not only does the BioLite allow you to cook cleanly and safely with wood — you gather twigs which pop in to ignite it — but you can also recharge your phones, iPods, lights and other gadgets; it converts heat into electricity.
I also thought it would look great next to the Light My Fire Mealkit I want to buy for $21.99 at www.industrialrev.com/mealkit.com. It is a set of brightly colored plastic dishes, a cup, a cutting board-colander and a spork (a spoon-fork combo) that fits into a small triangular box.
For light I turned to www.campinglanterns.net and the SolaDyne 12 LED Camp Lantern. For $24.95 I will have seven hours of battery-free light every night if we’ve had 10 hours of sunshine, or 30 minutes of light for one minute of hand-cranking in cloudy weather. In the event of a storm, my family should stay dry in our waterproof tent, be warm in our down sleeping bags and beautifully lit by our solar lantern. Roughing it is clearly overrated.