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RVs, Parks Redefining Camping Experience

Camping has always been a part of Jane Fowler’s life. As far back as she can remember, the mother and grandmother has spent holidays and summers communing with nature, according to a report in the Greenville (S.C.) News.

Now Fowler, her husband, her kids and their families still go camping at least four times a year. But it’s not tents they pitch these days; they’re rolling in RVs.

“We’ve just been camping forever, but it’s so nice now to have the running water, the warm water, the refrigerator, the bathroom,” she said.

Camping is not what it used to be. Thanks in part to the growing popularity of recreational vehicles, which now come with washer and dryers, flat-screen TVs, and central heating and air – and in part to a more connected culture – people are redefining what it means to go camping.

Starting last year, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) began adding “luxury park model kabins” to their sites nationwide. The KOA campground in Spartanburg. S.C.. added two of the new housing options this past winter. Each costs $119 per night for two adults and two kids, versus the $29 a night it costs to camp, but they’ve been booked consistently since, says Vicki Canto, a work camper with KOA who is currently stationed in Spartanburg.

The cabins offer television, multiple beds and rooms, bathroom, and a full kitchen and den area complete with all utensils and linens.

“If you are coming from the idea of camping in a tent, it’s definitely changing because a lot of people have these travel trailers, fifth-wheels, motorhomes, and they are really nice inside,” Canto says.

“You have all the amenities and comforts of home, and the lodges are like that … except they don’t have a dishwasher or washing machine. But still you’re not giving up a whole lot to go ‘camping.’”

Having more non-tent options has also opened up camping to more people. Fowler admits that if it weren’t for the travel trailer, she doubts she’d go camping very often. Being over 50 and sleeping in a tent is just not as appealing.

Plus, the RV is helpful with the young kids, who don’t last too long in the summer heat. The family does an annual Fourth of July trip to Crooked Creek RV Park on Lake Keowee each year, a tradition that would surely get nixed if it weren’t for the air conditioning.

“I don’t know that I would,” Fowler says. “If I did camp it would have to be when it was not too hot or too cold. There is no way I would go up there the Fourth of July in a tent.”

What is being referred to as a “glamping,” or glamour camping, trend has even spilled into more primitive state parks in South Carolina. Devils Fork State Park in Salem offers two- and three-bedroom villas in addition to campsites, and Lake Hartwell State Park in Fair Play added camper cabins in 2007. The one-room buildings are not fancy, says Kevin Evans, park manager at Devils Fork State Park, who was the Lake Hartwell park manager at the time, but they do offer an alternative to tents.

But the biggest trend Evans has seen is Wi-Fi. Even traditional campgrounds are getting on board: Table Rock State Park offers service in the park’s store and the visitor’s center. Click here to read the entire story.

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