Jones: Try ‘glamping’ this fall

  • A brookside “Canadienne” tent is one of a few “glamping” options this fall. Huttopia White Mountains photo

  • 14 large "Trappeur " tents (each with an indoor bathroom) are arrayed along the shore of Iona Lake in Albany at the brand new Huttopia White Mountains "glamping" resort, the first of its kind in the US.. (Huttopia White Mountains photo)

  • Lakeside View 2 As much vegetation as possible was left undisturbed during construction, so the Lakeside Trappeur tents have a private, natural feel. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Trappeur Interior: The large "Trappeur" tents feature a 3/4 bath. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

For the Monitor
Sunday, September 03, 2017

Those of us who are old enough to remember the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan are used to great things coming from Europe. Among the latest in the outdoor world is “glamping.”

There are, literally, thousands of places to pitch a tent around New England. But there’s no denying that even a one-night camping getaway requires gathering your gear, tents, sleeping bags, pads, stoves, kitchenware, etc.; getting it to where you are camping, pick a site, put up your tent, organize your bed and kitchen, cook your meals. And then in the morning after breakfast, do it all in reverse. If it wasn’t so darned much fun, it might sound like more trouble than it’s worth.

But what if you don’t own everything? Or you just don’t want all the hassle? Fortunately, a much simpler alternative has made its debut in New Hampshire, the very first of its kind in the U.S. It’s called “Huttopia White Mountains,” and you can find it south of the mountains, right off Route 16 in Albany, on the shores of Iona Lake (which must surely be a pun).

Huttopia White Mountains offers “glamping” (short for glamour camping). Instead of carrying and pitching your own tent, you use one that’s already in place for you. They supply clean sheets for real beds with comfortable mattresses plus towels. Each tent is equipped with electric lights and a heater (perfect for chilly fall mornings), a small refrigerator, gas stove and kitchenware. Almost everything you need is all set up and waiting for you. Just bring your own food and clothing. Glamping makes it that much easier to just enjoy your time away from home. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Huttopia invades Quebec

The Huttopia concept has been growing in popularity in France and now has 29 locations. They use standardized tents in three sizes, permanently set up on sturdy platforms. The concept made the leap to Quebec a number of years ago. There are now “glamping” options in 16 parks across the province.

I first saw the “Huttopia” tents in Parc National de la Pointe-Taillon in Quebec when my sweetheart Em and I were touring the Veloroute des Bluets on our tandem bicycle. That was 2010. We weren’t booked to stay in one (we hadn’t known the option existed), but we were immediately drawn to the idea.

Two years later kayaking on Saguenay Fjord, we spent two nights in a Huttopia tent in Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay. We liked it so much we returned a year later, and have since stayed in another while cycling though Parc National de la Yamaska.

The high demand for glamping in Quebec caught the attention of the company in France. They purchased land in Sutton, Quebec (just across the border from Jay Peak, Vt.) and opened Huttopia Sutton the first Huttopia resort in North America in 2015. We tried it when it opened and loved it.

Huttopia comes to New England

Huttopia White Mountains opened at the end of June and will stay open until Oct. 15.

Turn off Route 16 onto Pine Knoll Road and you drop down into a quieter, more peaceful corner of the world where you don’t hear the busy road at all.

Scattered on the lakeshore and in the woods are five wood “chalets” with glass windows, steel roofs and the all-important (for some people) indoor bathrooms. Nearby (but not too close) are 25 large “Trappeur” tents each with its own compact bathroom inside. Fourteen of these are right on the lakeshore, others are a few steps into the woods.

In a separate section along a brook are 20 mid-sized “Canadienne” tents. These share two spotless bathhouses with indoor toilets and showers and large outdoor sinks where you can wash dishes. Six smaller “Bonaventure” tents are hidden along another brook, plus a total of 30 tent sites similar to the setup at Forest Service campsites, where people who bring their own tents can pitch them.

The lake itself is small and peaceful, dotted here and there on a sunny, warm afternoon with canoes and paddleboards (which you can rent on site). There’s a lakeside beach, a pool, a new playground for little ones and areas to play volleyball, basketball, softball and bocce. There’s even a coin-op laundry. They offer Wi-Fi at a central location (but not in the tents or cabins) for those who just can’t disconnect completely.

The tents are bright and airy with clean sheets on the beds, fresh towels folded and ready, and a kitchen with everything you need. The stove is out on the covered “porch.” While the big lakeside “Trappeur” tents are really, really nice, the “Canadienne” and “Bonaventure” tents near the brooks were the ones that called to me. Sleeping in a snug tent where you can hear flowing water is about as good as it gets in my world.

To fully understand the “Huttopia” experience, it helps to know that you don’t pronounce the “H” in French. Therefore, “Huttopia” sounds almost exactly like the word “utopia” in English. That’s both intentional and exactly right.

Cost of glamping

With all the amenities (Clean sheets! Tent already set up! Fridge! Gas stove! Indoor plumbing!) it’s not surprising that a glamping trip to Huttopia White Mountains costs more than other camping experiences – but not as much more as you might think.

Lakeside “Trappeur” tents are $195 Columbus Day Weekend, $175 on Fall weekends and $130 Fall mid week. Trappeur tents further into the woods are $175, $155, and $110. Canadiennes are $140, $125 and $95, smaller “Bonaventures” are $85, $80 and $60, while tent sites are $55 in summer and $39 in the fall.

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com)