The first time I heard the term “glamping,” I was working for an outdoor recreation magazine dedicated to real roughing it, and—I’ll admit it—I scoffed at the idea.
Why pay for a fancy canvas tent and catered s’mores when I could pitch my trusty backpacking tent on public lands for free? Why, exactly, would anyone be interested in that? A lot of reasons, as I’ve come to discover since then.
Glamping isn’t exactly camping, but that’s the whole point. More nature-focused than any hotel room, but more comfortable than snoozing on a sleeping pad on the ground, glamping resorts provide their own experience. Maybe you’re interested in tent camping, but want to ease into it first. Maybe you’re used to tent camping and wouldn’t mind a little extra pampering for once. Maybe you just like being close to the great outdoors, but with a flush toilet nearby. In all those cases, glamping could be just the thing for you. Whether you’ve never tried glamping before or just want to know more about this relatively new pastime, consider this your complete guide.
What is glamping?
The origins of the word “glamping” come from “glamourous” plus “camping.” The term is a broad catch-all for many different types of magical and unique accommodations. In general, glamping means staying somewhere with close access to nature, but with more creature comforts than a traditional campground.
What makes glamping different from camping?
When you go tent camping at a traditional campground, you set up your own tent and sleeping materials and often do your own cooking on a camp stove, grill, or campfire. Your tent won’t have any climate-control technology or Wi-Fi. Bathroom facilities might have running water and flush toilets, or they might be outhouses or nothing at all. The great outdoors will be right outside your tent door, and you’ll pay a modest price (Campsites can range from about $50 per night to free, though most commercial campgrounds charge roughly $10-20 per night).
When you’re glamping, on the other hand, your shelter will be set up for you, usually outfitted with a bed and other furniture. It might have heating, air conditioning, electricity, and Wi-Fi. And you’ll often have access to on-site restaurants, s’mores around a communal campfire, and/or included cocktails or wine. Bathrooms range from outhouses to communal bathhouses to luxurious private facilities stocked with organic bath products. With all these amenities, glamping costs a lot more than tent camping—sometimes as much as a luxury hotel room.
RV camping blurs the line between these two disciplines. In fact, some glamping resorts put you up in RVs. In this case, the only real difference is whether or not you provide the RV, how much you pay per night, and what other amenities are available at the resort.
What types of glamping accommodations are there?
Glamping encompasses a wide variety of shelter types. The first one that probably comes to mind is a canvas tent. These come in various shapes and sizes, from Native American-style tipis to safari tents to other creative geometries. The tents tend to be large, accommodating entire families with multiple beds and other furniture. They’re often placed on wooden platforms with patios or decks.
Cabins and tiny houses also fall under the glamping umbrella. Sometimes they’re “dry” cabins without running water or bathrooms, and sometimes they’re fully equipped with everything you’d have at home. (Is the latter really glamping? Debatable.)
RVs are another popular glamping option—especially fancy Airstreams. You might find a collection of RVs at a resort, or just an owner renting out a camper on private property. Then there are the really creative glamping shelters. We’ve seen covered wagons, treehouses, geodesic domes, yurts, adobe structures, and rooms built into caves. The sky’s the limit.
How do I find a glamping site?
A lot of the big resorts advertise their glamping options far and wide—a simple Google search or research with local tourism boards will turn these up. Keep in mind that many resorts offer glamping sites alongside their other accommodations, like hotel rooms or tent sites.
Sites like Glamping.com, Airbnb.com and Hipcamp.com are another rich source of glamping opportunities. On Airbnb, try searching categories like cabins, “OMG!,” treehouses, caves, yurts, campers, and “off the grid.” Hipcamp has a “glamping near me” category. And of course, we have an extensive guide to glamping spots across the country.
Ready to try a glamping excursion? Follow these tips for a comfortable experience.
Check property details carefully
With such a wide variety of resorts labeling themselves as glamping destinations, it can be hard to know exactly what you’re in for. Read the property listing to find out exactly what’s provided and what you’ll need to supply. Pay attention to details like beds (do you need to pack a sleeping bag or pillow?), bathrooms (are bath products provided? Do you need to supply hand sanitizer or lanterns?), electricity (will you be able to charge your devices?), dining (is there a space for cooking? Are meals provided, and if so, do they cost extra?), and amenities (do you need to bring your own firewood?). If you want to bring Fido, make sure the property allows dogs.
Pack for the outdoors
Even though you’ll have more shelter than a camping tent, you’ll likely be spending a lot of time outside. In warmer weather, pack sunblock, a sun hat, and bug spray. In cooler weather, throw in warm layers, a hat and gloves, and maybe even down booties (nights can get cold, especially in the mountains). Don’t forget to check the weather report.
Prep for a communal bathhouse
Shared bathroom and shower facilities? Pack flip-flops for the shower and a small caddy for carrying your gear back and forth—and a robe, if one isn’t provided. Keep your visits short if other people are waiting—nobody likes a shower hog.
Be careful with valuables
Glamping resorts tend to be very safe, and it’s unlikely that you’ll have any problems with other guests. Still, canvas tents don’t lock, and it’s always smart to secure valuables. Leave jewelry at home, keep your purse, wallet, and phone on you whenever possible, and lock anything else in the car or a provided safe when you’re not using it.
Embrace being out there
You might not be tent camping, but glamping is still an opportunity to take advantage of all the perks of a night under the stars. Share secrets around a campfire, look for shooting stars, and sip your morning coffee in the open air. Even if Wi-Fi and cell phone service are provided, resist the temptation to use them (much). Try putting your phone in airplane mode instead and just unplug for a while. You might be surprised at how much more relaxed you’ll be, and how much closer you’ll feel to friends and family.
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