‘Glamping’ Is a Stupid Word, but a Great Idea

July 8, 2022 Off By Hilary Pollack

What is “glamping”? Let's talk about "glamping." 

To some people, it's simply camping with a few extra amenities, such as a bigger, sturdier tent or a well-maintained shower cabin nearby. To others, it's "a way to experience the untamed and completely unique parts of the world—without having to sacrifice creature comforts." And to others yet, like Maggie McGlinchy of Guest of a Guest, it's "an activity that tries to take all the awesomely dirty and disgusting things about camping and replace it with pretentious bullshit." 

Fair. It's hard not to resent those who paid $3,000 to snooze on a memory foam mattress in a luxury safari tent at a music festival while a few acres away, you lay on the rock hard ground in your dilapidated and haphazardly erected tent, wide awake at 5 AM and still drunk/high/rolling while listening to your friend snore like a chainsaw and the thumping of the drum circle from the next tent over. You want us all to suffer like you do. And that's relatable! 

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Photo: Airbnb

Zion & Bryce Canyon Glamping Wagon with Breakfast, $159/night at Airbnb

But "glamping" is a word (and often a practice by the most annoying of people) much more hateable than the idea it actually represents: camping made less miserable and more friendly to good hygiene, a decent night's sleep, and protection from the elements. Surely that's something we can agree doesn't sound so bad. When I was 15, my high school class went on a camping trip to Pinnacles, where we were warned that there was an infestation of wild javelinas—yes, like the 30–50 feral hogs from that infamous tweet—and instructed not to keep any food in our tents. Some particularly mischievous friends sprinkled trail mix all around the tents that evening, leading to a near-sleepless evening as javelinas stormed the campground, snorting, kicking, and pressing their snouts against our pathetic shelters. As I lay convinced that I would be turned into human jerky at the hooves of vicious boars, glamping would have sounded pretty nice. Same goes for the time on another trip when I woke up soaking wet and almost suffocating because my tent had collapsed in the middle of the night during a surprise thunderstorm. Camping: so relaxing! 

Of course, we love the gentle swish of trees in the wind, the crisp-as-hell air near a babbling brook, and the feeling of laying on a big, smooth rock that's been warmed in the desert sun. But what's so wrong with enjoying these things and then sleeping in something with, say, an actual floor instead of a rapidly disintegrating tent borrowed from your college roommate? There is a happy medium between laying on a Casper mattress in your Bushwick apartment and shivering in a threadbare nylon bubble in a barren, off-the-grid wasteland inhospitable to all but a few Naked and Afraid contestants. Did we not all drool over El Cosmico's bohemian, elevated camping experience since well before the term "glamping" gave us hives? 

What if we call it… "whamping"? "Slamping"? Or just "camping for an adult with dignity who no longer wants to feel like a creaky, insect-covered hot dog for an entire long weekend"? Nobody out here is trying to be “glam,” OK? Woof.

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Photo: RVShare

2020 Airstream RV Sport 16RB (New Paltz, NY), $154/night at RVShare

The most important part of any kind of camping, from ultra-minimalist to obnoxiously tech-guy-at-Burning-Man-esque—besides to get far weirder than you would during your boring weekday existence—is to respect your surroundings and leave no trace. There have been some very justified criticisms lobbed at glampers and glamping businesses for, say, plunking a bunch of metal shipping containers on the bank of a beautiful river and somehow pretending that that's not ruining both the vibe and the local ecosystem. Even if you're staying in a crazy inflatable dome with wagyu steaks cooking to perfection on your portable fire pit, keep your plastic waste far away from that nearby stream (or avoid bringing any altogether), and leave behind a pile of dirt and bugs just as trace-free, dusty, and ant-infested as you found it. 

Of course, finding the point on the camping –> glamping spectrum where you have the best time is going to be very personal. "If I want to go camping, I want to sleep on the ground, in an itchy sleeping bag, eat cheap, processed foods and drink lots and lots of beer," McGlinchy writes. "That's what camping is. Camping is fun because you're dirty and haven't showered in three days and are constantly inebriated." And you don't have to give up all of those things, either—it's all about finding your own equilibrium. 

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Photo: Airbnb

Glamping Tent at Lazy Sky (Yucca Valley, CA) $123/night at Airbnb

With this all in mind, here's the starter pack for glamping like someone who isn't a disrespectful jerkwad. Maybe you just want a nicer tent that looks like a Supreme jacket. Maybe you wanna sleep on top of your car so you don't have to worry about bears (or javelinas). Or maybe you wanna fully rent an RV and try out #vanlife. These ideas are for stepping it up, from basic to advanced. 

The best glamping tents and shelters

A tent that looks like the freshest drop

In addition to looking as cool as a cucumber, this spacious but lightweight bell-style tent comes packed in a duffel-like bag for easy setup, and is large enough to fit a full-size bed for you and boo—or two twins if you're traveling with someone you don't want to touch knees with. It's also got a fully screened door and windows so you won't get eaten alive in the night. We like the camo look, but it also comes in moss, pink, mustard, and other sweet shades. 

The tent that gets you TF off the hard ground (and comes with an air mattress, too) 

OK, so you're good with a tent—as we all should be in theory—but less cool with feeling gravel digging into your skin all night through the paper-thin floor. Or maybe there's a chance of rain, and you wanna make sure you don't awaken in the splash zone. This tent is perfect for upgrading your comfort while maintaining Tent Life. It's got a cot-like metal frame that lifts it off the ground, an air mattress with included pump and bedding, and a durable waterproof and sunproof design. 

You want a 2-become-1 situation between your car and your tent

Have you heard about the cult of Thule/Tepui, the high-end tents designed to be pitched on top of your car or truck? They're definitely more expensive than crashing on the ground in a regular tent, but the idea is that you're 1) safe from creepy crawlies, 2) extra comfortable, and 3) can just leave your bedding inside so once this thing is mounted, you're all set to go. They're super-durable and are built to be an investment. Are they "glam"? Not exactly, but they're definitely a step up—literally and metaphorically—from the usual camping sitch.

If you wanna set up camp for a while 

Maybe you inherited a 500-acre property in the Ozarks and you're ready to start your own upscale eco-resort (side hustle!), or maybe you're just planning on camping for a whole week and want something sturdier than a $50 tent you grabbed from a sale bin at Walmart. Either way, this bell tent is a dreamboat of a shelter that can easily fit a proper bed, an array of furniture, and even the burliest of YETI coolers—and the stellar reviews show that it's impressed many happy campers. 

The best gear and accessories for comfortable camping

Get [clap] an [clap] air [clap] bed [clap]

An air mattress is one of the things to add to your camping packing list that will make a huge difference in your sleep quality. There are plenty of options out there, but this Coleman queen-sized model with a built-in pump is specifically designed for camping (and it's on sale), and this REI set comes with all of the bedding already on board, including a removable hood and a padded, insulated quilt. 

Elevate your experience

How else can you maximize your space? Try stackable cots, which can be used as bunk beds or just placed side by side so you and your buds aren't rolling around and feeling every little rock and bump along the way.

Heat your seat

Why didn't anyone think of this sooner? This heated camping chair will keep your tush warm for nine hours on a single charge. 

A superpowered portable charging station

This thing is a beast. Charge it at home before you leave (or deck it out with a solar rig for on-the-go charging) and you'll be free to charge a mini fridge, laptop, smartphone, camera, hair dryer, Hitachi Magic Wand, and whatever else you need it make it through the weekend—right at your base camp. In fact, it holds so much power that you could juice up your phone 70 times on a single charge—and it's got 10 ports and WiFi capabilities. (Looking for something more wallet-friendly? Try this ~$50 solar-charged power station, which is also handy for emergencies.)

God bless good water pressure

Look, some people like to remain as filthy as possible throughout a camping excursion, culminating in a thick layer of dust and grime on the final day of the trip that can be then rinsed off in the most #oddlysatisfying shower of the year when you return to civilization. But there are others among us who like to stay fresh as a new pair of white kicks, and that's where this foot-pump-powered pressure shower comes in. Leave it in the sun to warm up the water, then spray away at your dishes, face, nether regions, or whatever else could use a blast. 

The ultimate indestructible speaker

There's nothing worse than the dreaded staticky struggle noises indicating that someone spilled their michelada on the Bluetooth speaker and the tunes are over. In addition to looking like something Marc Jacobs would have designed for use on a 1970s construction site, this super-rugged, waterproof, crushproof Bluetooth speaker has 40+ hours of battery life on one charge, and can even charge your other devices on its USB ports. Most importantly, it's there for blasting all the yacht rock your glampsite can handle. 

For the eight-millionth time, leave no trace

We stan Parks Project, which aims to raise advocacy, awareness, and enthusiasm for the national parks that make our country a pretty rad place to live (sometimes). This kit is simple: protective gloves, sturdy bags, and a healthy reminder to clean up after yourself and your grody party posse. 

The fire pit that doubles as a grill

Hanging by a burning pile of logs: awesome, no doubt about it. But if you're looking for less smoke and a gentler impact on the local ecosystem, consider bringing this portable fire pit, which still uses wood or briquettes but—thanks to its patented "fire mesh technology"—produces 80% less smoke than most fire pits, and integrates a "Leave No Trace heat shield" that leaves the ground below the pit damage-free. Once you're done toastin' and roastin', you can fold it and pack it up, and it even comes with its own carrying case. Plus, it comes with a grilling grate, if you wanna not only warm your tush by it, but cook on it. 

Which brings us to…

The best cooking accessories for camping

A compact camping grill that makes perfect burgs

Roasting marshmallows over the campfire? Fine. Trying to cook a beautiful medium rare smashburger over a campfire? Way tougher. This affordable little grill has a nonstick ceramic grate and auto-ignition to make In-N-Out dupes and on-the-fly hot dogs an anytime snack. 

Some decent knives for once in your life

At home, you should have super sharp and solid knives for all of your cooking needs—this we know. But how many times have you gone camping only to realize that no one brought anything but disposable plastic serrated knives, which you now have to use to try to cut everything from steak to fruit to the baguette? Grab this dedicated camping knife set, which promises to "dice fragrant onions, slice through juicy tomatoes and halve fluffy bagels," and be prepared for all your food to instantly look and feel 100x more gourmet. 

A portable beer keg

Of course, crushing a 30-pack is the classic move, but sometimes you want your camping beers to drink a little more… like an on-draft craft. (Plus, your local brewery will likely be more than happy to fill this bad boy up—just ask!)

A mixology kit that can handle any free-range muddling, shaking, or straining 

You know how sometimes you're out in the middle of the rugged wilderness and you just really need a Corpse Reviver, a mojito, or a tamarind margarita garnished with freshly foraged sorrel and mint? It happens! (Does it?) And when that craving strikes, this is the mixology travel kit that can do it all, from the basics (open a bottle, measure a pour) to the less-anticipated (add a perfectly carved twist of lemon peel). Is it cheap? No! Is it bougie? Yes! Does a paloma sound great after a long day of hiking? Always! 

The best ‘glamping’ rentals, from yurts to RVs to tiny cabins to trailers 

So, where are you doing all of this stress-free, misery-free camping? Check out one of these sites:

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Photo: RVShare

Teardrop 2017 Little Guy 6x10 Silver Shadow (towable; based in Ulster Park, NY), $89/night at RVshare

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Photo: Airbnb

Red Rock Teardrop Trailer #1 (Moab, Utah), $109/night at Airbnb

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Photo: Airbnb

Hemlock Camp (North Creek, NY) $113/night at Airbnb

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Photo: Airbnb

Stunning yurt property near Creede, Colorado, $175/night at Airbnb

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Photo: Airbnb

Glamping tent, Self Ck inProf. SanitizedPrivate (Wittier Springs, CA), $189/night at Airbnb

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Photo: Airbnb

Best View Around: Luxury Camping (Port Angeles, WA), $196/night at Airbnb

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Photo: Airbnb

The Kyoob at Shash Dine (Coconino County, Arizona), $310/night at Airbnb

As always, happy camping. (We don't wanna call it glamping, either.) 

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.