Tuesday, August 18, 2009

THE WILDERNESS AINT' WHAT IT USED TO BE

Lori Aratani. Washington Post - The idea of "roughing it" has taken on a new meaning. The Coleman outdoors company sells air mattresses with built-in alarm clocks and night lights and tents outfitted with "integrated lighting systems" and auto-roll windows. For those who can't bear to be unplugged for any length of time, DirecTV has a portable satellite, and Kampgrounds of America offers wireless Internet at most of its campsites. And for a small fee, employees at Montgomery County's Little Bennett Regional Park will set up a fully furnished campsite, complete with tent that sleeps four, chairs, propane stove and lantern. Marshmallows are optional. With fewer people participating in outdoor activities, retailers and park officials are doing everything they can to coax them into the great outdoors. Hard-core campers may sniff at the level of hand-holding -- air mattresses equipped with built-in speakers for MP3 players -- but some environmentalists and outdoors advocates applaud the efforts. That's because they worry that a population more familiar with Google than the Grand Canyon ultimately could hurt conservation efforts.