We’ve talked a significant amount in this year’s collection of eco-travel suggestions about how camping is both a (typically) very eco-friendly travel option and a great way to educate yourself and others about nature and nature preservation. But we’ve also been upfront about the fact that camping just isn’t the right travel alternative for many people. But camping, like so many things in life, may not be as black and white as you might think it is. You may think that you don’t like camping just because you haven’t found the right version of it yet. Don’t let the purists bully you into thinking that the only way to camp is with a flint and a tarp a la Survivor. If you think that you don’t like camping but truly have an interest in trying to get closer to nature, here are some alternatives to camping with only a tent and a leaf instead of toilet paper.
Consider a Cabin Rental
Many state and national park systems have cabins that you can rent that are in the heart of the natural preserve. Even outside of the state and national park system you can often find private cabin rentals in nature rich areas. The benefit of the cabin is that you’ll be in the middle of nature but you’ll still have some of the first world comforts that you’re likely not comfortable giving up if you’re the type of person who doesn’t enjoy camping. For example, a bathroom – and we know that this isn’t a benefit to take lightly! You’ll also have electric lights in most cases (though in some cases you may find that the electricity gets turned off at a certain hour). And beyond that, if the weather gets unpredictable you’ll have a solid roof over your head. We also love the fact that in most cases your best option for cabin rental will be at a state or national park, which means that you’re also supporting this incredibly important function of government.
Pro Tip: If even a cabin seems too rustic for you, consider staying at a lodge at a state or national park. No, it’s not camping, but it is a vacation set in nature and supporting nature preservation.
Glamping is Often an Option
Not familiar with glamping? Wondering what the word means? We’re not entirely surprised since the trend has only recently become popular stateside. Glamping is the on-trend word to refer to “glam camping.” The phenomenon actually can be traced back to African safaris where many of the hotels and lodges feature luxury tents instead of indoor rooms. The tents are equipped with running water bathrooms, electric lights, raised floors and indoor-style furniture. In most cases, while the carbon footprint is more than if you just threw down a tent and started a fire, the glamping tents are created in a way that water usage and fuel or electric usage are fairly green and eco-friendly. You’re still in a tent and that tent is typically in the middle of something naturally miraculous (some of the postconsumers team have stayed in them in the middle of the African continent and walked out to a view of zebras at a watering hole in the morning), but you’ve got those “non-camping essential luxuries” as well. In warmer climates like South America, Central America and, obviously, Africa you’ll be able to find these options fairly easily. You’ll find fewer glamping opportunities north of the equator, but the options are growing.
We Hesitate to Say It, But Go RVing
In the interest of full disclosure, we do cringe a little bit at the mention of RVs or campers. There’s no way to deny that a huge, fuel-based vehicle has a negative impact on the planet in some ways. But like most things we do think that you need to look at the pros and the cons. Is the carbon footprint of a vacation in an RV more or less than flying in a plane to an all-inclusive resort or taking a cruise? You’ll need to do the math for yourself, but chances are that the RV trip is lower on the waste scale. The other benefit is that you can take the RV to natural and forest locations and get pretty close to the middle of the nature itself. You’ll also have a bathroom and a roof over your head. Yes, we admit that you may need to get over the idea of your waste being carried in a tank right beneath you while you drive. After all, bathroom concerns are one of the main reasons people claim to not like camping. But at the end of the day, you’re still able to shower and flush!
The Most Important Thing to Remember About “Upgraded Camping”
We encourage you to consider “upgraded” camping options as a way to choose vacation opportunities that are heading closer to nature, but we also encourage you to keep the following advice in mind. Your cabin, glamping tent or RV may be incredibly comfortable, but you’re defeating much of the purpose of an outdoor oriented vacation if you spend too much time in them! Get out of the cabin, lodge, glamp tent or RV as much as possible and experience the wilderness, wildlife and comradery around you. If you don’t, you might as well have just watched a few hours of National Geographic television! Ease into it. After all, you think that you’re a person who doesn’t like camping. We’re willing to bet though that after a few “upgraded camping” experiences, you’re ready to buy a tent!
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Photo Credit: Mary Adrenaline via Flickr