My wife and I are searching for my family’s vacation destination for this summer. Camping as I want it isn’t on the table; while Edewiess’ idea of camping doesn’t require the Four Seasons Whistler, it was nice! We went, we zip-lined, we enjoyed a bottle of wine and a really nice pool with food service. That, as we both know, is not camping.
The field of outdoors recreation spans a spectrum that covers, surprisingly, diverse audiences. Both camping and fashion styles ranges from traditional “roughing it” to the highly sophisticated. The hardcore roughing it parts I embrace. Then there is the outdoor inspired fashions that are really only meant to be worn apres ski, for the most part.
As for camping, almost everyone has a different idea of what it is. A few years ago, a friend of mine, originally from Texas and drives a big diesel pickup, suggested he and I go camping in Shenandoah. He wanted to make a fire and cook our dinner while enjoying some beers outdoors. Sounded good to me. Our differences surfaced when we humped packs and carried a cooler three miles down a trail to land where campfires were permitted. He was cursing me the next day and we never went camping together again. He would have been fine pulling off the side of the road at some formal campgrounds. To me, that is not camping.
Then there is glamping. I don’t like this artificial conjunction, but the idea isn’t detestable. Glam or glamorous camping, is somewhere between the Four Seasons and my Shenandoah trip. Edelweiss would go for this! It’s actually an old aristocratic form of camping. If you think about an old African safari movie where the explorers have a big tent, a real bed, often rocking chairs and a full-sized porcelain bathtub within a tent, then that’s pretty close.
While glam camping is trendy now, some great explorers embraced it with panache. The great mountain explorer Luigi Amedeo, the Italian Duke of Abruzzi, brought a brass bed with him to Alaska when he lead an expedition to Mount St. Elias. However, he did have his practical limitations: Realizing the bed would be a hassle for porters to move at high altitude during his explorations in the Karakorum, he left it behind.
I like to think that we all seek the outdoors for the same reasons, and generally speaking, it’s essentially this: We want to see the world differently. But camping, in most forms is partly there to engage us more with the environment, whether its through Whistler’s porch facing Blackcomb mountain as opposed to our urban balcony back home, or tent walls to the Maine forest compared to the shared walls of our apartments. Taking it to another level, it’s about deprivation; only by separating ourselves from the luxuries from the world we are comfortable do we properly experience wilderness. It can be experienced at varying levels, depending on the level of separation from the world we know. As Andrew Skurka said during his 7,000-plus mile, bare-bones hike around Alaska and the Yukon, he felt the world he left behind was inconsequential to him and that he had more in common with the caribou during his trek.
Glamping is not everyone’s preference, but it is somebody’s comfort zone and I suppose that it’s a good bridge to bring the natural world a bit closer to them. Designers of all kinds have taken the adventurous and often romantic angle of the outdoors experience and tried to bring it into our world of urban and suburban luxuries. Eddie Bauer and the The North Face are my favorite examples — at least in the fashion area, but home stores like Crate and Barrel use the outdoors as inspiration too.
And then there’s this… The high heeled Teva.
Those that favor “roughing it” to get the wilderness experience balk at how Teva has made a stiletto version of the popular — and ultra reliable — sport sandal a couple of years ago. The original Teva was made for white water rafting, and people — like my father — have hiked significant trails in them. Now, you can wear them clubbing too, evidently.
I love art and I recognize the inspiration for these women’s shoes. They are, in some ways a tribute, to the Teva quality and a salute to the rugged ways. Hardcore hikers and climbers can’t usually surmount this idea, partly because the highly fashionable wearers usually balk at them for their chosen, grungy ways. Despite their different ways, my Texan, roughing-it buddy would definitely appreciate the wearer’s fine taste in the high heel salute to the wilderness and would honor her in return by asking for her number, thus transcending the cultural differences.