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New amenities take the rough out of roughing it

In this undated phoreleased by Kampgrounds Americinterior VenturRanch Comfort Cabis shown located KOA campground SantPaulCalif. A range camping options innovations

In this undated photo released by Kampgrounds of America, the interior of a Ventura Ranch Comfort Cabin is shown located at the KOA campground in Santa Paula, Calif. A range of camping options and innovations have made sleeping, eating and hanging out in the great outdoors way more comfortable than ever before. (AP Photo/Kampgrounds of America)

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Updated: June 29, 2012 9:16AM



Those of you who wiggle out of family camping trips by claiming you’re just not into roughing it will have to find another excuse.

A range of camping options and innovations have made it far more comfortable to eat, sleep and otherwise spend time in the Great Outdoors.

“‘Soft rugged’ is what so many Americans are seeking in their outdoor experience today,” says Jim Rogers, chairman and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, or KOA, which runs about 500 campgrounds around the country. So much so that he now refers to the camping industry as “outdoor hospitality.”

KOA has beefed up some of its campgrounds to include both basic and luxury cabins. Rental costs $100 to $150 per night. Some sites offer coffee carts, pancake breakfasts, kids’ activities and entertainment.

Campers who want things a bit more rustic can browse the equipment lining the shelves at well-stocked outdoors stores .

Take, for instance, REI’s Kingdom 8 tent, which is big enough to sleep eight. For $529, the tent is not just waterproof and bug-proof but also has moveable room dividers to create separate spaces with private entrances. Fill it with cots, airbeds and perhaps a ceiling fan created for tents, and you’re bound to get in a good night’s sleep.

Nifty outdoor stoves and cooking gear have made campfire-cooked canned beans and hot dogs moot, unless you really like them.

REI’s camp kitchen, for example, is a folding trove of food-prep workspace and storage — all of which can be carried around in a zipper bag. It even includes hooks for hanging up spatulas, and windproof screens so the elements don’t mess with your cooking.

Coleman, one of the biggest manufactures of camping gear, sells a camping oven that fits handily onto one of the company’s two- or three-burner grills.

Don’t even think about grainy cowboy coffee, or even those classic enamel percolators. French presses, specifically engineered for outdoor use, are now the way to go if you’re picky about your coffee preparation. Coleman sells a propane-powered drip coffee maker that you don’t even have to put over heat.

Freeze-dried food now includes dark chocolate cheesecake, spinach puttanesca and Indian dishes.

And the retailer Eastern Mountain Sports sells solar chargers for your portable electronics because, as its website says, “Trees don’t come with electrical outlets to charge your iPhone.”

Some purists snub the idea of making camping more comfortable. They question whether lugging and using all that stuff dilutes the nature of, well, getting back to nature.

Can you really get away from it all when you are bringing it all with you?

“There are so many different kinds of camping experiences, and they are all camping,” says Avery Stonich, spokeswoman for the Outdoor Industry Association. “You can even go out to dinner if you go camping.”

All of which has spurred a newfound interest in camping among folks who might not have tried it otherwise, says Stuart Bourdon, editor and associate publisher of the magazine Camping Life.

“The camping experience can be as close to a home kitchen and bedroom experience as you want to make it,” Bourdon says.

AP



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