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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cool camping: creature comforts, clever marketing and celebrity campers

A Mongolian yurt, luxury tented cabin, wooden wigwam, or plain old pup tent... wherever you choose to roll out your sleeping bag know that (just like caravanning), camping is cool. Or so the media has been insisting for a while now. More Brits were taking their tents to the country than ever before, BBC News told us in April 2006, raising the question “So how did camping become cool?” in ‘Why the British Carry on Camping’: “Boy scouts, hippies and soggy tents… camping used to have an image problem”, but not anymore. Thanks to celebrity campers Kate Moss, Jodie Kidd and Sienna Miller taking an interest in pitching tents (sound familiar?), along with chic camping gear to show off - “Ted Baker blow-up mattresses, Cath Kidston sleeping bags or Mongolian-style yurts” – camping became “more palatable” to those who loved the idea of the great outdoors but didn’t want to give up their creature comforts. While Cool Camping series author Jonathan Knight admitted top designers introduced camping to a new audience by bringing a sense of style to the experience, he said there was more to the trend: "The designers made it cool but the popularity is because more and more people are living in towns and cities, many without a garden or outdoor space, and camping offers them an antidote to urban life." (As one happy camper in the story said: "You can gather round a campfire with smoke in our faces and there's something very relaxing about that.") Also that month in an article called ‘Cool Camping’ The Observer claimed camping had come a long way since “the dank ages”: “Pull up the tent pegs of history and pack away memories of soggy childhood camping trips,” Rhiannon Batten wrote, “Nowadays, staying under canvas is less about smelly sleeping bags and dank communal toilet blocks and more about thread-counted sheets and tents that come with private showers… Pitch up at the right spot and you'll find facilities designed with an altogether new breed of camper in mind - one who likes the idea of getting back to basics just so long as it involves the comfort of a Cath Kidston sleeping bag, Ted Baker blow-up mattress or even a kingsize bed and a duck-down duvet. Welcome to cool camping.” (Haven't we read this somewhere before?) The writer then gave us a rundown of cool camping options: Kenyan safari-style lodges, Maharaja-type hunting tents, yoga-camps in Turkey, hi-tech Alpine eco-pods in Switzerland, and – the "ultimate in bohemian chic" – Mongolian yurts in Cornwall. What has me wondering is not which was cool first, camping or caravanning, but who sent out the press release? Jonathon Knight? Or was it Cath Kidston or Ted Baker? Whoever it was, at least they got everyone outdoors.

The photo? Oh, that old thing, that's... um... our luxury 'tent' at the Four Seasons Tented Camp at the Golden Triangle.

** I've been wondering how many people actually live and travel in yurts, other than Mongolians of course... and the people over at TrekHound have only sparked my curiosity further with their extraordinary compilation of research on yurts. Check this out! Very impressive.

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