By Indrek Kongats
I bet that you have never heard the term “flamping” before! Most people have heard the term “glamping,” right? Glamping is camping with a little bit of class, comfort and luxury. Flamping (family + glamping) is like glamping, with the same level of comfort, but for the whole family.
Many people who are big into hiking, canoeing or kayaking are familiar with setting up a camp at the end of the day for an overnight stop while on their journey to some remote destination. This is bare bones camping and usually includes a simple lightweight pop up tent, a sleeping bag, maybe a pad and that’s about it. In the morning, if you last that long, you get up, stretch and rub out all of your sore muscles. After a few years of doing this, you’ll come to the conclusion that this is just not fun! Sleeping on the hard ground as you get older is painful and just getting up onto your feet is a challenge. Somewhere along the line, people form a real dislike for camping and stop going altogether.
Many resorts around the world and even locally have developed a concept call glamping and although it isn’t “real camping,” it is in a tent with comfortable furniture much like you would find in your own bedroom. The tent is placed upon a raised wooden platform located in some breathtaking scenic location, such as on a mountain side or overlooking a lake. The basic amenities of glamping are a comfortable bed, night stand to hold your smart phone, carpeting and a comfortable chair or two. In most cases, there is electricity, an outdoor grill and nearby, an outdoor shower to top it all off.
Glamping is fun but expensive and generally more suitable for a couples’ getaway than a family experience. Flamping, on the other hand, takes most of the attributes of glamping and takes it to another level, something the whole family can afford and enjoy.
First off, you have to figure out where to go— someplace close by is the best for your initial outing. Somewhere that you can drive to is also very important.
Some suggestions for those living in the Ellicottville/Springville area are the Cattaraugus State Forests near Little Valley or the East Otto State Forests near Zoar Valley— both of these locations allow camping.
The Cattaraugus State Forest is just off Potter Hill Road offering two campsites, with an additional one off of West Hill Road. These are roadside primitive tent sites, meaning neither electricity nor plumbing. A yellow campsite marker will designate the site. For the more adventurous, there is the possibility of “at-large” primitive camping, which is allowed throughout the property, but campsites must be at least 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail, or body of water. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of 1- or more requires a permit from a forest ranger.
The East Otto State Forest is off of Traffic Street, running parallel with the south side of the Zoar Valley just west of 219. Here, camping is allowed at 14 designated tent sites along Kriedeman Forest Road, available on a first come, first serve basis and also marked with a yellow camp marker. These sites are numbered and have primitive fire rings. Although the Kriedeman Forest Road is popular during the summer months and camping is only allowed at designated sites, you can still find at-large sites on other parts of the 1,354-acre property. Again, individuals may set up camp at any location, which is at least 150 feet from water bodies, streams, roads or trails. Again, camping for more than three nights or in a group of 10 or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.
Both of these sites are excellent for your first time out with parking allowed at the entrance to each site.
Next, you will have to invest it the right camping gear to make the experience enjoyable and comfortable for everyone involved. The first and most important piece of equipment is your tent. When you are shopping for a tent, don’t get fooled by the “it sleeps 10 adults” description. What this really means is that you can lay 10 bodies on the floor of the tent side by side, and that the footprint of the tent is about 10’x 12’ or 120 square feet (12 square feet per person). For flamping purposes, this is really a two person tent. For a family of four, you will need two of these 120 square foot tents to be comfortable.
The cabin style tent is the best choice with at least 6 feet of head room and a fly to keep out the rain. Again, don’t be fooled by a description stating that the tent is waterproof. A tent might be waterproof for the first year, but soon the seams will get stretched out and will begin to leak. A fly will always keep you dry.
Another important feature of your tent is that it is just one open space, not two or three divided spaces. The reason for this is to accommodate your next most important piece of equipment— your cots or beds!
Air mattresses are fine, but they are too low to the ground, making it hard to get up in the morning and sooner or later they will go flat in the middle of the night— ugh! A good cot is easy to get off of, but requires a bit more unobstructed room to set up. Choose a size to accommodate your body. For adults, the best are the oversized ones about 42”x84” while the regular 36”x 72”size is ideal for children. The other benefit of a raised cot is that you can store bags underneath so they are not underfoot.
To round out your flamping tent, add a 2’x 2’ collapsible night stand and a couple of folding chairs. Before setting up your furniture lay down an 8’x 5’ indoor outdoor rug for those moments when you are barefoot first thing in the morning, it’ll feel just like home. Finally, a battery operated lantern will provide enough light to read or play family games.
Outdoors you’ll want some sort of grill to cook meals on. Rather than dragging your BBQ along, get a double burner portable propane camp stove like the one made by Masterbuilt and sold at home improvement stores for about $120. Add to this a couple of Lodge cast iron 10” skillets and a percolator to make your very own “Grand Slam Breakfast” of pancakes, bacon, eggs and coffee. Enjoy!