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Plugged In to Nature, Wired to World




Pre-Pitched Tents, High-Tech Gear Aim to Entice Internet Generation


By Lori Aratani

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The idea of "roughing it" has taken on a new meaning.


The Coleman outdoors company sells air mattresses with built-in alarm clocks and night lights and tents outfitted with "integrated lighting systems" and auto-roll windows. For those who can't bear to be unplugged for any length of time, DirecTV has a portable satellite, and Kampgrounds of America offers wireless Internet at most of its campsites.


And for a small fee, employees at Montgomery County's Little Bennett Regional Park will set up a fully furnished campsite, complete with tent that sleeps four, chairs, propane stove and lantern. Marshmallows are optional.


With fewer people participating in outdoor activities, retailers and park officials are doing everything they can to coax them into the great outdoors. Hard-core campers may sniff at the level of hand-holding -- air mattresses equipped with built-in speakers for MP3 players -- but some environmentalists and outdoors advocates applaud the efforts. That's because they worry that a population more familiar with Google than the Grand Canyon ultimately could hurt conservation efforts.



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"...but some environmentalists and outdoors advocates applaud the efforts. That's because they worry that a population more familiar with Google than the Grand Canyon ultimately could hurt conservation efforts."Seems to me that a generation of semi-educated peoples who are more umbilicaled to their technology than the true outdoors would be pretty capeable of hindering meaningful conservation efforts....



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"...but some environmentalists and outdoors advocates applaud the efforts. That's because they worry that a population more familiar with Google than the Grand Canyon ultimately could hurt conservation efforts."


Scouting is a better path to the same goal.


Do you suppose that those plugged in, googlefied campers are going to know about putting their food in a bear bag? Or does the concierge take care of that?



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I just read the whole article and I've got to say that it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it did at first blush. The set up camp isn't over the top. What I see in the photo gallery is a family with young kids having a good time camping. The campsite and gear are not significantly different from what Scouts do front country camping. I don't see any electronics.


We can turn up our noses but I am guessing the parents in this family have little or no camping experience and own little or no equipment. But they decided that camping with their children would be a good thing. Clearly the kids loved it. I see scout uniforms in their future. What starts at a family camp out might lead to a life long love of the outdoors for the kids. To these parents I say Bravo!


Some of the stuff in the article is over the top but is that really such a surprise? They don't even mention Coleman's drip coffee maker.


Most of the article is about getting people into the outdoors. And that is a good thing.





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Hal, I agree with your comments.


In the past, I would've posted the entire article, but a few years ago, the author of one of the articles I posted asked me to stop doing that, so I did. I posted the excerpt and link hoping others would read the full article -- but at some point in the time the article will be taken down, and all we'll have left is the excerpt I posted and comments like yours.


In any event, I hope these efforts succeed in getting more people outdoors, and maybe even into Scouting.



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After reading the whole article, I would agree that it may be a bit over the top, but it is a gateway to the outdoors. One of the things about drive-in camping, or "front" camping, is the ability to introduce younger, less experienced scouts to the outdoor experience without scaring them away with too rough a first experience. It also allows teaching of some basic skills that would be harder, or almost impossible in a backpack situation. From the base, you can do day hikes to fish, swim, do nature identifications, rock climb on real rocks, and just peak bag. Those that like the hiking will then be more apt to try the more advanced opportunities that backpacking and so on can give them.


Another thought I had is that in many respects, this is harking back to earlier days of camping for the more prosperous. Read the biography of W.D.Boyce for example. He talks a lot about his African adventures. But part of those types of activities included servants and porters who did all the harder, less glamorous things for the most part. Same went for early treks to Yellowstone and Yosemite. Read about the early users, and they almost always have many examples of premade camps, and of course the huge lodges.


Where did those introductory things lead. Often to what we consider "real" outdoors camping and hiking.


I should note that now, due to youthful injuries now becoming issues, and simply being older, I prefer drive-ins, as they allow me to sleep on a cot and still get out and about without pinching nerves in my spine due to a bouncing pack. But, I am still up for short (2-3 miles max)backpacks. But, I need to spring for a new "thermarest" or similar pad, as my old one no longer stays inflated all night; come on, its only about 27 years old.


Just some observations.(This message has been edited by skeptic)

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I admit that like Skeptic, I need a cot (or air mattress) to sleep, because of what age and being an adventurous klutz has done to my joints.



I also can see times when having the camp site set up --- tent, chairs, and other basics -- would encourage me to camp more. There are several weekends coming up this fall, that my son and I would love to camp... but he has a football game to be at on Friday night and has to ride the bus to the game. One in particular is less than 30 miles from a great state park, that he has never visited. So I am trying to plan if I can get there and get camp set up, go the ballgame, pick him up afterward and off to the park. The thing that most concerns me is trying to set up a tent by myself... as I said, I am klutz.. and I don't know if I can get the poles and tent up without at least one other person.


For me it would be worth it for the weekend, to pay the extra and have it set up... and the best part would be I wouldn't have to break camp either.. no trying to wait on tent to dry .. or folding wet and then spreading it out in the garage when I get home.. sounds like a good plan to me. No I don't believe that having the tent set up takes away from the experience.. I know I can put up a tent... I have done it too many times.. why not enjoy the camping without the stress?

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this will probably be the first place to feature the new Coleman propane powered microwave oven...


You know, does anybody remember the "oldman" charactor on Saturday Night Light, who would reminecse about life in the good ol' days and always end with "and we liked it?"


I can ear him saying


"Back in the ol days, we hiked 50 miles to camp, uphill at night to pitch camp in a blizzard then on Sunday we hiked another 50 miles uphill to the cars to put our stuff away in bare feet and we liked it"




"was I was a kid you had to go camping with heavy canvas equipment, ill fitting clothes, books that caused blisters and only a single tin cup to eat from, and we liked it"

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I'm do buckskinner rondys. At least I do when I get the chance. With work and a chronic lung condition that has resulted in a serious lack of stamina, I don't go out as often as I like. I don't have the time, and more importantly, the energy I need to set up camp. (I still car camp as often as I can - setting up my car camping site takes less than 15 minutes - just lifting and setting up my 12x12 canvas tent can take 45 minutes).


Lately, I've been giving serious consideration to paying someone to pick up my gear from home, set up camp, then take it down and return it to my home at the end of the weekend. In addition to cash, I'd pay their expenses (local motel, food, gas) - all so that I can enjoy rondy's again.


Last year, I visited the Upper Peninsula (Michigan). One night found me at the Porcupine Mountains. Their Yurt at their bayside campground was available for the night - I snatched it up rather than set up my campsite. How enjoyable it was to not have to worry about set up or take down.


A couple of weeks back I camped in Washington State - at a couple of different state parks. I brought my camping gear with me from Illinois. Had I the option of a pre-set up campsite, I would have jumped at it - less stuff to drag around with me.


Lately, I've been trying to figure out if its time for me to buy a self-contained RV. I'm not that old (same age as President Obama) - but I am getting worn down (reduced lung capacity will do that). Or maybe I should get an old van that I can throw a sleeping pad in the back of for sleeping. I haven't decided yet.


I do know this, somehow or another I will continue to "camp" for as long as I am able. I used to be a purist who insisted that camping in anything other than a tent you set up yourself is not camping. I used to be a purist who looked at pop-ups and wondered just what was the point. I used to be a purist who looked at giant RV's - buses as houses - and sneered that this wasn't camping - not when you have an air conditioner, television, refrigerator, electric lights, and a queen size bed. Ok - I'm still the latter - but I'm mellowing with age and infirmity.


Pre-set up tent sites? Bring 'em on! That's still camping in my book. Now if they start offering to set up your campfire, and light it, and build your smores? I'll consider it taking things too far.


Funny thing, now that I think of it - when I spent a few weeks hiking the AT in Maine and New Hampshire back in the 80's, I didn't even give any thought of how hypocritical my purity stand was when I was staying at shelters.

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You old goats who need a cot to sleep...you haven't met Big Agnes.

Big Agnes will keep you confortable all night long and rested for the next day.

I don't go into the wilds without BA. I've convinced every adult in my unit who dares the outdoors with us to also go with BA. Simply not a better sleeping pad out there, especially for side sleepers like me.



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