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For camping without roughing it, there's 'glamping'

Twice a year, Kathleen Case and her husband, Skip, ditch Ellicott City and their fast-paced corporate lives. They pack up the car and head to Western Maryland for a chance to be one with nature — enjoying fresh air, wildlife sightings and high-thread-count sheets.

"It's kind of pretend roughing it in the woods," the change management consultant said of long weekends at Frostburg's Savage River Lodge with Skip, an industrial real estate consultant. The comfy cabin experience "has all of the sensual aspects of being in nature and in the woods, but at the same time, it is something that you can step right into. We're used to our luxuries."

For those who want the outdoors experience without sacrificing the comforts of high-end living, there is glamorous camping, or "glamping." The term, which first showed up in the U.S. around 2007, has gone mainstream. There are luxury cabins, like the ones found at Savage River. Glamping books. Airstream trailers that have been rehabbed into plush mobile pads equipped with customized fixtures and expensive decor. Even retailers such as Anthropologie have been pushing new lines of stylized merchandise that include colorful cabanas and country-inspired flatware.

"People are excited about going out into nature," said Christopher Sotz, division home merchandise manager for Anthropologie. "People love the idea of experiencing something rustic and simple. But they still want to have all of those comforts. They want to have that sense of nostalgia. Even if they are not going away for a week or weekend, they can get away to a park, meadow or field."

Sotz and his creative team were inspired in part by Wes Anderson's 2012 film "Moonrise Kingdom" and the Port Eliot Festival, the luxe-hippie literary gathering held each year in the British countryside.

"I think people are embracing the idea of simplicity — fabulous simplicity," he said. "I think that's here to stay."

In fact, Sotz said, future Anthropologie merchandise would include more luxurious outdoorsy items.

"I expect that we'll have some fabulous tents next year," he said. "We definitely think that will expand into next summer."

Case and her husband will soon have additional options for luxury accommodations at Savage River Lodge. Management plans to add eight yurts to the 18 cabins now on the grounds.

"We have been so busy the past few years we decided we needed more units," said Emily Newman-Edwards, marketing manager and operations director for Savage River Lodge.

The yurts, permanent tentlike structures, are 30 feet in diameter, can sleep two adults and are outfitted with a bathroom, deck, wet bar and fireplace.

"They've taken the West by storm," Newman-Edwards said. "We hope to have them available sometime this fall."

Even luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton have gotten in on the act. Both now offer amenities to replicate the outdoor experience in their hotel rooms.

In July, the Four Seasons Baltimore will offer younger guests a tent during their stay and campfire favorites such as hamburgers and s'mores.

"During the summer especially, we welcome a lot of families to the hotel, and we wanted to offer children a unique and memorable experience during their stay," said Audrey Slade, its director of public relations. "It's definitely a 'wow' when they walk into the room and see the camp amenity."

Case prefers her nature trails.

"There is something about being close to nature that stimulates some fresh ideas," she said. "It has been absolutely great for us. We always go back there."

And the luxury features — catered gourmet meals and a gas fireplace in her decked-out cabin — don't hurt.

"It's on par with what we have at home, but the style and location is very different," she said.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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