CAMDEN — It’s better to camp – even in convenience, comfort and style – than never to have camped at all.

That was the consensus among traditional campers we talked with at Maine state parks over the recent holiday weekend. We asked their opinion about the boutique-style, canvas-and-platform setups that glamping company Tentrr opened at seven Maine state parks earlier this month.

“We go camping every summer for at least a week,” said Megan Morouse, who was camping with her husband and two boys in Camden Hills State Park. Actually, for this backpacking family, a campground with hot showers was easy living.

“But we have friends who have four kids and are very outdoorsy,” she continued. “I can see how this would be more appealing to them. In camping, there’s a lot of setup. And if it’s raining, it’s even harder.”

The word glamping is a combination of “camping” and “glamour” and describes a relatively new trend, at least in Maine, that offers people a comparatively convenient, luxurious style of sleeping under the stars.

Tentrr is in 38 states, usually with sites on private land. It has sites in state parks in just one state – Maine – said Tentrr spokesperson Baxter Townsend. It’s one of several online national companies that cater to glampers – often new campers. Glamping may also appeal to parents with small children, time-pressed campers, and outdoor fans who like a little luxury. It’s also a good alternative for lapsed campers dipping their toes back into the activity.

A Tentrr campsite at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal awaits the next visitor in early July. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Seven Maine state parks now have a combined 10 glamping sites, and more will be added if things go well, Townsend said. The campgrounds are near popular outdoor destinations – such as Moosehead Lake, the Rangeley Lakes district, Acadia National Park and the Maine coast – a fact that appealed to Tentrr, she said.

Most of the Tentrr sites cost around $100 a night, a significant upcharge from other Maine state park campsites, which run between $15 and $45. The state’s campsites provide a few basic amenities, such as hot showers, bathrooms and drinking water. The tent sites are usually relatively close together and include a fire pit, a rustic picnic table, and a dirt-and-crushed-gravel area so campers can pitch their tents on dry spots.

By glamping standards, Tentrr’s sites in Maine are rustic – no rugs, fine china or chandeliers. Still, compared to traditional state park camping sites, they’re upscale.

A Tentrr campsite at Bradbury Mountain State Park is more secluded than the standard state park tent site. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The Tentrr sites at state parks are often down a wooded path set off from other tenting sites. A canvas tent with a bug screen is set up on a raised wooden platform that’s large enough to hold two Adirondack chairs. Inside, there’s a double bed or bunk bed, outfitted with air mattresses, along with bedside tables. Outside, a fire pit is flanked by a high-end picnic table with benches that have canvas backings (a small detail, but one wilderness campers might consider a luxury). The tents even offer a tiny metal wood stove with a chimney, for chilly evenings in spring or late fall.

Campers still must bring sleeping bags or sheets, pillows, dishware, headlamps, towels and, of course, food. Everything else is provided by Tentrr – or by the nearby state park’s facilities.

MEET THE GLAMPERS

A few who stayed at a Tentrr site at a Maine state park last weekend said the proximity to a popular outdoor destination was the real draw, but having a ready-made tent site in a secluded location was well worth the higher price.

Katy DeBlois and her husband, Nick, from Brunswick were hooked by the convenience of the Tentrr site at Camden Hills. They intended a day trip to Camden for a hike that would conclude with the fireworks on July 4, but at the last minute, they booked with Tentrr.

Katy DeBlois, a lifelong camper, had never glamped before. “The biggest draw was we didn’t have to bring anything to set up,” she said, adding that setting up is normally a big production. But the Tentrr site still gave the couple the camping and woodland experience they love. They ended up relaxing at the tent site for part of the day.

Philadelphia attorney and author Shana Knizhnik and her partner, Hillela Simpson, were staying in a Tentrr site at Lamoine State Park, which is on Frenchman’s Bay outside of Ellsworth. By the time the pair planned the trip in May, all the hotels and campgrounds around Acadia were already full for the Independence Day holiday. When they learned that Tentrr sites at Maine state parks were taking reservations, they booked one at Lamoine.

“The whole glamping situation looked really cool, sort of a nice in-between – especially with our schedule arriving on the Fourth so late in the day,” said Knizhnik, the co-author of the book behind the film “RBG.” She grew up in a family that liked to camp.

After a day of shorter hikes in Acadia and another spent traversing Cadillac Mountain, they gave their first trip to Maine top marks. The most privacy they enjoyed at one of America’s most visited national parks, Knizhnik added, was at their tent site, which was near the water, with views of Cadillac – and away from the campground foot traffic.

THE TRADITIONALISTS

Campers staying at regular state park campsites last weekend said they hoped the Tentrr stays foster a greater appreciation of nature among the glampers, especially those new to camping.

Sharon Shultz of Manchester, New Hampshire, was camping in Camden Hills with her partner, Kurt Fischer, in order to fine-tune their gear for an upcoming bike trip, on which they will carry all their supplies on their bikes. Both are campers of 30 years, and Fischer completed the Appalachian Trail in 1990.

“This is glamping to us,” Schultz said about their standard state park tent site. “We were just laughing about the fact we have hot showers.”

They said they hope the new glamping sites will encourage “city folks” to spend time in nature, and to value it.

“If they have no respect for the wilderness and are going to trash it, then maybe they should have to hike miles to get to it, to learn respect,” Fischer said. “But maybe if they’re exposed to it, they’ll learn respect, and support open space.”

Mike Taylor of Richmond, who was also tenting with his family at Camden Hills, was similarly broadminded about the Tentrr sites. He said they have many friends who love the outdoors, but “when we tell them we go backpacking, they’re blown away.”

Easier, cushier glamping, he thinks, might appeal to them.


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