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Outdoor camping these days doesn’t have to feature harsh nights spent lying in bone-chilling cold on a lumpy, rock-hard camping spot. Camping — or Glamping (glamour camping) — in a yurt can be a luxurious and relaxing affair, while still retaining the best of a night out in the wilds, underneath a canopy of stars. 2014 may prove a milestone in public recognition of the emergence of this camping style.
The attention comes as no surprise to Pacific Yurts, the original manufacturer of the high-tech modern version of this ancient structure. The company says sales are up nationally and have doubled internationally.
For the uninitiated, yurts are round, portable structures that have been used in Central Asia for thousands of years.
More than 36 years ago when Pacific Yurts founder Alan Bair constructed his first yurt, he had no idea he was pioneering the entire industry of the modern yurt. Today his company, headquartered in Cottage Grove, Oregon, remains at the forefront of yurt design innovations. While Pacific Yurts is still recognized as the industry leader, dozens of other companies have sprung up to attempt to meet the ever-increasing demand for the versatile structures that were first used centuries ago by Mongolian nomads.
Bair was able to create a low-cost, state-of-the-art version of the ancient shelter that retained the sense of wholeness of the original form while delivering the structural integrity, longevity, and low maintenance demanded by modern users. The design consists of durable fabric covers, tension band and a beautiful wood frame that includes a lattice wall, radial rafters, central compression ring and a framed door.
Early customers were attracted to the structure’s comfort, affordability, and ease of installation. As Bair continued to add innovations and options, the market grew to include many outdoor recreation applications.
Individual owners find many uses for the product, from a guest house or studio to a romantic getaway or vacation cabin.
Although the traditional structure had felt coverings, Pacific Yurts replaced them with long-life, flame retardant architectural fabrics with welded seams. The company has continually strived over the years to make their structures even stronger and more comfortable.
Innovations incorporated into Pacific Yurts’ design (copied by other yurt builders) have included NASA-developed reflective insulation, structural upgrades that are professionally engineered to meet modern structural codes, and thermal glass windows. Other innovations include French doors, a water catchment system, dome skylight, and window awning frame.
The interior of one of the company’s yurts is featured on the cover of the current issue of Woodall’s Campground Management magazine. Plus, the holiday rental website Airbnb recently declared 2014 to be “The Year of the Yurt.”
Park systems and resorts around the world are now using Pacific Yurts as lodging in a vast range of outdoor settings. In fact, Oregon State Parks started offering them in campgrounds 20 years ago and the growth in popularity has resulted in nearly 200 yurts statewide that are booked months in advance. According to Nations Business Magazine, these unique structures have been “the biggest money maker to hit Oregon State Parks since campsites were introduced.” In difficult economic times this means more revenue to help keep parks open for public enjoyment, so 23 other states have followed suit by adding Pacific Yurts.
Mike Dreisbach is using Pacific Yurts, whom he calls “the premier yurt builders in the world,” as the centerpiece for the glamping experience he is creating at Savage River Lodge in Maryland.
“Our yurts will truly be the definition of glamping,” says Dreisbach. “Think of a mountain safari — with a king bed, fully plumbed bathroom, wet bar and comfortable furnishings that you simply sink into.”
Other resorts have found success in providing top quality yurt accommodations. One example is Treebones Resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean on California’s beautiful Big Sur Coastline.
“Pacific Yurts has been a dream company to work with. Everyone has been so knowledgeable and accommodating. Each yurt is built with the highest standards of excellence. I’m dealing with an organization which is deeply committed and proud of their product,” said owner John Handy.
Sean Corn, a yoga instructor who was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network, travels 250 days a year teaching. When she’s home in Southern California, she finds peace not in a large home, but in a Pacific Yurt overlooking the Ocean.
Her yurt, Corn says, gives her the opportunity to “work with this land and be a part of it. I feel very fortunate that I get to have a secluded environment that is sacred, and that is meaningful to me.”
“To many customers the appeal of the modern yurt is much more than structural or convenience-related,” Bair said. “They see the yurt as a work of art and a means to a simpler way of life. Living in a round space provides a feeling of serenity, well-being, and a sense of connection with the practical wisdom of ancient peoples. They enjoy the interior space and the unique ambiance it creates of being close to nature, yet cozy and protected from the elements.
“The past 36 years have been quite an adventure. I’m continually amazed at the imaginative things customers do with their yurts and how the product is a solution for their diverse needs,” said Bair. “Although the product has evolved over the years, it has retained its connection with the natural environment and provides for a more sustainable way of life. I think this is why it easily lends itself to Glamping usage. Looking forward, there are new and exciting technologies that could be incorporated into the design and the future looks very promising.”
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