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Luxury tents a hit in Moab

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MOAB, Grand County — Many travelers like to sleep in a tent to save the cost of a night in a motel room. But penny-pinchers who come upon the campground called Moab Under Canvas would be advised to drive right on by. A night in a tent there can cost upwards of $400.

That's for one tent, one night, with no meals included! Reservations are preferred, but drop-ins are welcome.

"Well, we frequently get people that just want to camp in the area," said Scott Wakefield, assistant general manager. "And they see the tepees and they think, 'Oh! 25, 30 bucks! That's going to be great!' (But) the price-point's just a little bit higher."

Yes, the prices are almost as high as the beautiful red-rock cliffs that loom over Moab Under Canvas.

To be clear about this, if it's just a tepee you want, you can get one for just $79 a night, possibly even cheaper through Internet booking services. Safari-style tents are a mere $179 a night. The tepees and safari tents do not have individual toilet facilities; community bathrooms are close to each group of tents.

A more upscale option, with private bathroom facilities, is called the Deluxe. It's a bargain at $299.

If you want to go beyond deluxe, there are the Suites. If you're going to unzip the flap and spend the night, be prepared to unzip your purse and open your wallet. "They go for $400 a night," Wakefield said, "depending on occupancy. Occasionally a little bit more."

There seem to be enough people willing to pay the price. The company reports that business has been good in the first year of operation a few miles north of Moab. While she greets guests in the canvas-walled office of Moab Under Canvas, Christianna Maurer admits tourist jaws occasionally hit the floor.

"I have had several people, they'll hear the price and they'll just like stand there and not know what to do," Maurer said. "Other people, they don't mind. They think it's worth the cost. So they just go for it."

It's what some people call glamour camping, otherwise known as "glamping."

"We do have king-size beds featured in our Deluxes and Suites, along with linen and cots," Wakefield said.

The Suites also have a sofa for those who want to get cozy next to the wood-burning stove. And, yes, there's a shower, sink and toilet, complete with privacy curtains.

"If you want to leave them open and have a beautiful view of Arches (National Park) while you bathe," Wakefield said, "then you've got that option as well."

The red-rock vistas have already been enjoyed by a few celebrities during this first season.

"Daryl Hannah came out with Neil Young," Wakefield explained. "And we had the less famous half of Hall and Oates."

Even non-celebrities carry on like paparazzi when they first see their accommodations, snapping pictures to send home for those who might not believe it without seeing it.

"It think it's brilliant," said camper Anuradha Sethuraman of New York City. "It's as luxurious as it can get for a tent, and yet it's right in the middle of nowhere. I think that's good. That's a brilliant idea."

The truth of it is, not everyone freaks out at the prices. In fact, Joanna Grant of Philadelphia isn't even sure how much she paid. "No, I booked it in advance," Grant said, "and all of that is a distant memory." Grant makes a night at Moab Under Canvas sound a bit like camping for beginners — with training wheels.

"I don't consider myself a professional camper," Grant explained, "so I feel like having a safety net."

"It just makes it so much easier," Wakefield echoed. "When you have a king-size bed and an in-suite bath, the introduction to camping is so much easier."

Of course, it wouldn't be camping without a campfire. A nighttime communal campfire often attracts campers from around the world, most with limited camping experience.

"I absolutely love it!" said Charlane Huggins-McClean, who recently moved to the U.S. from England. Seated at the campfire with her daughter and her husband, Joey Pace, she said, "I never thought I'd be outside camping and sleeping in a tent! But I absolutely love it. It was worth every penny."

"It's good for us because they've never been camping before," said Pace, who paid $79 a night for the family's stay in a tepee. "So it's kind of an easy introduction to the outdoors."

Moab Under Canvas is the company's third location; the others are at West Yellowstone and Glacier National Park. Wakefield said people who use Internet booking services can often find cheaper rates for Moab Under Canvas.

On the other hand, people who are pinching pennies are not necessarily the company's target market.


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John Hollenhorst


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