A closer look at the luxury camping experience
Story by Kris Ritcher
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson
When I was around six years old, the teenage girl who babysat me from time to time went on a camping trip with her boyfriend and friends. I remember being incredibly jealous and longing for the time when I would be grown enough to do “fun stuff“ like that. Then when I was eight or nine, my dad took me on my first camping experience and, suffice it to say, it was a far cry from what I was expecting. What I thought was going to turn me into an expert outdoor adventurist consisted instead of a weekend of half-cooked food; an irrational and constant background fear of snakes, wolves and bears; and more bug bites than I could count.
It was a full decade before I gave camping another go, and sadly, it was a similar experience to my first. Resigning to the fact that perhaps I was incapable of surviving a long weekend without my flat iron and a Keurig, I chalked it up to being too high maintenance and accepted that I’m just not cut out for it. That was until about a few years ago when I first heard the term “glamping,” an obvious portmanteau of glamour and camping that included many luxury amenities and sometimes even resort-style services. My interest was piqued once again, and I felt a glimmer of hope that I might finally be able to redeem myself for my prior camping fails.
Unlike many travel trends that have come and gone, glamping has proven its staying power. With so many variations on the experience available, there’s something that could appeal to almost anyone. Couples, families, singles, groups of friends large and small and even honeymooners and corporate teams are choosing this type of excursion as a way to connect to nature while still enjoying a comfortable sleep and the conveniences of electricity and running water.
I recently had the opportunity to visit a bona fide glamper extraordinaire, Regan Atkinson, at a remote, private campsite, where she was preparing to spend the weekend with 25 friends and fellow glampers. Atkinson agreed to give a quick lesson in what’s involved, what to bring and what first-time glampers should know and expect.
Atkinson grew up in the country but has spent her adult life and career in major metropolitan cities like New York and San Francisco. When she comes home to Louisville, she longs to be outdoors amidst all that nature has to offer; however, she still appreciates the comforts of a prestigious hotel. Enter, glamping.
When I arrived at her campsite, Atkinson welcomed me into a large yurt, 18-feet in diameter. Inside, the ground was covered in gorgeous Moroccan rugs and oversized floor cushions. The tent was equipped with lighting and fans running off of a generator. Atkinson’s 16-foot Casita camper was parked nearby, allowing access to a proper restroom and food prep resources. String lights hanging from tree to tree between the yurt and the camper dotted the evening sky. Five hammocks were ready to provide peaceful relaxation to those who choose a quick nap in the sun or under the stars. The setup was charming and lovely and had quite an inviting vibe to it.
On multiple occasions, Atkinson has taken her Casita camper to Burning Man, an annual event held in the Nevada desert touted as an experiment in community and art. She considers her first trip there in 2007 to have served as the catalyst for her love for glamping. Because desert conditions are consistently harsh, she quickly learned the importance of having a comfortable place to seek refuge during the hottest part of the day and developed an immediate appreciation in those circumstances for soft textiles and good bedding.
The number one detail first-timers need to know about glamping is that it still involves more camping than glamour in most cases, and it has to be. Even when glamping, you are essentially on your own in the great outdoors, close to nature and away from the insular protection and luxury of solid walls, air conditioning or heating and conventional amenities. You’ll still need to consider how much of your time you’ll spend outdoors when packing. Atkinson recommends always including lots of pillows; warm, solar mood lighting; a portable record player; a personal headlamp (to find the bathroom in the darkness of night); and some creature comforts that you rely on when you’re at home, such as slippers, cozy clothing and coffee.
What you pack will largely depend on the weather and where you are going, but it’s always better to be prepared for the unexpected, especially if you are glamping in a location at a good distance from civilization. Don’t assume you’ll have a completely glamorous experience. Even if you stay in a yurt with a woodburner and comfortable bed, you’ll still want to bring bug spray, candles and all-weather gear to ensure that you’re prepared for a generator failure or a fierce thunderstorm. The good news is that the majority of glamping resort destinations do not require you to bring any gear. Many now offer comforts you won’t usually find at traditional campsites, such as Wi-Fi and spring-fed, heated shower houses.
For those of you ready to embark on your glamping excursion, there are a number of glamping sites featured on Tripadvisor and similar travel sites, and it’s a good idea to do your research before you book. Besides Black Rock City, Nevada (where Burning Man is held annually), Atkinson names Moab (Utah), Brevard (North Carolina) and Golden Bluffs (California) as a few of her favorite glamping destinations. There truly is something for everyone in the world of glamping; it’s all a matter of finding the right balance of comfort with roughing it that makes a fun experience. Most importantly, make sure to invite some of your closest friends. As Atkinson puts it, “As long as you are with people you love, anything can be an adventure.” VT