Nothing beats the great — indoors?

Waddya gonna do when you get that itch to hit the trail, sleep under the stars, cook over an open fire and embrace the great outdoors–but the great outdoors just isn’t all that welcoming? When the horizon is aglow with forest fires and the air is thick with ash, or the skies have opened up with downpours that wash away everything in their path, or the winds are howling with an incessant fury that. . . .

Well, hell. Why not take the great outdoors and simply move it indoors, right?

Welcome to the Basecamp Hotel in South Lake Tahoe, which has elevated (?) the glamping concept to a head-spinning new high with its “Great Indoors” rooms. Large safari tent: check. Camping chairs and picnic table: check. Electric fake log fire in front of a wall-size photorealistic view of the forest: check and check. But also a king-size bed with triple-sheeting, high-speed wireless internet, a walk-in shower–and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe casino mere steps away. How better to combine the best of all possible camping worlds?

Actually, it’s a toss-up whether you choose to view the Basecamp as a dystopian omen of the future for camping or as a witty bit of playfulness, perhaps evidenced by its replacement of the standard-issue Bible in each hotel room with the “Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook.” The playful touch is just light enough to have charmed a New York Times reviewer in December, who described it as having “the low-key, homespun feel of a hotel started by your hippest friends.”

Then again, one can wonder if this isn’t the logical evolutionary end-point of the whole glamping phenomenon. First started as an effort to make camping more comfortable, glamping quickly evolved into a quest for more and then still more luxury, from high thread-count linens to cappuccino machines to hot tubs. But despite all that opulence, such nuisances as pesky bugs and wind-driven rain persisted–so why not put the whole package inside four walls and under a roof, where every input can be controlled?

Why not (gasp!) invent a motel?

Two footnotes to the Basecamp Hotel. One, it doesn’t permit pets, so perhaps that’s taking the nature-at-one-remove a step too far. But two, and on the other hand, it also doesn’t have air conditioning, so that’s a bit of camping authenticity for you. Of course, that’s also the biggest source of complaints in the Basecamp’s online reviews, going to prove that you just can’t please everyone.

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