Adding Luxury to the Camping Experience

By Beacon Staff

Camping is a time-honored tradition in Montana, when those who wish to break free from the burdens of everyday life pack up the essentials and head to the forests, lakes, streams and wilds to find simplicity and solace.

However, while camping may be second nature to many, there are those who would consider roughing it in the woods more work than relaxation, an experience that involves more stress than relief.

But regardless of the potential discomfort, these people still seek the outdoors, feeling the pull that escapes few here in beautiful Northwest Montana. And for those who may want the best of both worlds, there is a new option near Glacier National Park, called Glacier Under Canvas.

Glacier Under Canvas is part of the relatively new “glamping” trend, which combines glamour and camping, bringing the luxuries of home to the woods.

The Under Canvas Group, which also has glamping sites for Yellowstone National Park and near Moab, will open its new location seven miles from the entrance to West Glacier on June 18.

The new campsite includes furnished safari canvas tents and tipis, deluxe suites with king-sized beds, roll-top bathtubs, flushing toilets, hot water, and other modern perks.

Sarah Dusek, co-founder and CEO of The Under Canvas Group, said the West Glacier location would also be the first of the company’s to have a tree-house tent, as well as the availability to stay in a cabin that was already on the property.

“We are very, very excited about coming up to Glacier,” Dusek said in an interview last week.

Once the snow is gone from the site, the Bozeman-based company will start construction to get ready for its guests. This includes reworking the roads, adding a new septic tank and a new well.

Otherwise, the hotel-like operation runs on the very traditional philosophy of Leave No Trace, meaning minimal impact to the environment.

“We want to leave the property as naturally beautiful as it already is,” Dusek said.

The Glacier Under Canvas site will include front desk staff in a reception tent, housekeeping staff, and plenty of maintenance staff to keep the operations running smoothly.

“It will be very similar to how a hotel is run,” Dusek said.

Each safari tent includes beds, rugs, safari chairs, a coat stand, a chest of drawers, bedside tables and a lantern, as well as bed linens and towels, and a wood-burning stove with complimentary firewood. Pets are allowed, and rates range from $89 to $425 per night.

There are group options, with the site capable of hosting 150 campers and accommodating gatherings of about 350 people.

The company will also help travelers book their adventures elsewhere, Dusek said, whether those adventures are horseback riding in the park or taking on the whitewater of the nearby rivers.

“We like to really help people book their entire vacation,” Dusek said. “We will work with local outfitters.”

Dusek and her husband, Jacob Dusek, started The Under Canvas Group five years ago. Jacob is a native Montanan, from near Havre, and Sarah is British. They moved back to Montana in 2009, and Sarah said she was struck by the similarities of the plains here and those in Africa, where she had worked, lived, and gone on safaris where she stayed in large, comfortable, canvas tents.

“We just started this idea of how neat it would be to do something similar in Montana,” she said.

Jacob Dusek designs the tents, campgrounds, and facilities, she said, making him the COO of the company. The Yellowstone site was their first, she said, and its success prompted the opening of the Moab site and now the Glacier site.

“Yellowstone is really, really popular,” Dusek said. “People love it.”

Reservations for the Glacier site are already open, and available online.

For the Duseks, the goal is to make the outdoors relaxing for all, even those who may not be comfortable outside the confines of solid walls.

“What we’re really passionate about and what we love is enabling people to get out into the outdoors and making the outdoors accessible in a way that it hasn’t been for them before,” Dusek said.

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