“Glamping” has emerged as the buzziest of buzzwords in the outdoors. Camping itself has always existed on a spectrum, from minimalists sleeping in remote wilderness areas to RVers in parking lots. Glamping has emerged as a way of pushing the envelope on the posh end of things, sometimes in spectacularly extravagant ways, but it can be more simple than that, too.
The word itself is, not surprisingly, a mashup of “glamour” and “camping.” Just as classic camping has always existed on a spectrum, so does glamping. On the one end, uber-luxe options are essentially five-star hotel suites installed in a spectacular outdoor setting. At the other end, where most glampers live, are those who simply elevate their car camping setup so it feels more like a cozy home. This type of glamping is a great way to introduce a new camper to the outdoors, or to celebrate a special occasion.
The big differentiator is comfort level. You’re semi-roughing it. That said, there are no hard-and-fast rules. When you book a glamping getaway, the provider may set up your campsite for you and offer luxuries such as a spa-like private shower or room in your tent for a “closet” where you can unpack and hang your clothes. But every experience will be unique.
DIY glamping may be as simple as adding a bigger tent, a plusher mattress or gourmet cookware. Decorative campsite touches are also part of the fun; think of it as outdoor decorating with an outfitter’s sensibility. If an artsy rug, a French coffee press, a string of LED cacti lights or an elegant camp chair speaks to you, then it’s a candidate for your glamp.
If glamping sounds like the right approach for your outdoorsy getaway, you have a few options.
Book an all-inclusive glamping getaway: Going all-inclusive is often the most expensive approach to glamping. There’s a big appeal to letting a service professional plan all of the details, though, so that all you have to do is show up and chill out. You can look at glamping-specific travel services or seasoned travel providers who have added glamping to their trip offerings.
The REI Co-op offers its own take on the all-inclusive glamping spectrum with its REI Adventures Signature Camping trips. Genteel touches like getting morning coffee and post-hike foot soaks delivered by your camp host are juxtaposed with days of outdoor activities like hiking, rafting or zip-lining. Many REI Signature Camping trips are set up in national park group camps or on adjacent private lands, and a few international camps are near iconic places like Machu Picchu and Tanzania.
Book a glamping rental: Think vacation rental services for yurts, though options also include tents, trailers, tiny houses and more. Do an internet search for glamping listing sites and you’ll find options that fit a range of budgets. You’ll also notice that many of these sites include plenty of traditional accommodations, like lodges or cabins.
Become a DIY glamper: Precursors to the glamping trend include kitschy gadgets like the Rolla Roaster marshmallow utensil (to take the place of a pointy stick scavenged from the ground). Because today’s outdoor gear stores, including the REI Co-op, are offering more and more camp accessories that are fun, innovative and/or stylish, your ways to accessorize are now limited only by your imagination—and, to be smart about this, by your wallet.
Below are ideas worthy of consideration for your DIY glamp. We’ve provided shopping links for convenience, but borrowing home furnishings is a common glamping practice.
1. Bring Cozy Bedding
The true key to glamping is having a luxurious, comfy bed to retire to at the end of the day. Start with a comfy base like an elevated cot or a massively plush sleeping mattress. Make the bed with an insulating layer, some soft sheets, a comforter and lots of pillows. Complete the room with side tables, a rug, slippers and your favorite reading material. Fair warning: You might have a hard time getting out of your tent in the morning.
For daytime snoozing, a campsite hammock is an essential napping accessory.
2. Add Touches of Home
Items like colorful rugs, fresh flowers in a sturdy vase, a small mirror, art prints and other decorative touches truly take your site from camp to glamp. Have fun and get creative. Flea markets are great places to find goodies. Just don’t bring anything too fragile or that you’ll worry about ruining.
3. Light Up Your Space
Add ambiance to your camp with a variety of lights. Mini-LEDs and faux candles placed in tents and around your lounge area provide maximum glamping feel with minimal effort. Solar-powered lanterns add sustainable chic.
4. Make a Comfy Living Room
The key to any successful lounge space is furniture you can kick back in. You can go big and plush with your seating or with a more modern aesthetic. (Read How to Choose a Camp Chair for shopping tips.) Make sure you have plenty of tables, too, both big and small. Cupholders, whether in your chairs or in your tables, help keep your favorite camping elixir close at hand.
If you add a campfire centerpiece, it needs to be a serious commitment. Know the fire restrictions before you go and learn the proper way to tend your campfire. A high-tech fire pit doesn’t just look cool: It also lets you control your blaze more precisely and leave your site scorch-free.
5. Make Gourmet Meals
Since weight isn’t an issue when car glamping, you can bring a cooler and cast iron to make amazing front-country meals. Fresh cinnamon rolls, salads and grilled anything are all on the menu. Bring a multi-burner stove to make more elaborate meals easy to plan. Have each person plan a meal and see who can get most creative with their outdoor cooking. Check out some of our favorite recipes.
6. Set Up Stations
Create areas with labeled ingredients and/or steps for all to enjoy at their leisure. A handwashing station with soapy and clean water, sanitizer and towels is great to keep kids somewhat clean. An energy station with snacks (in critter-proof containers), drinks and battery power to recharge electronics will keep people happy all day long. An evening s’mores station with a variety of choices will let people get creative with their campfire classic.
7. Bring the Entertainment With You
Games of all sorts are even better outside. Take inspiration from this list or make your own. Glow sticks are endlessly fun for kids when the sun goes down. If you have the technology (hey, we are glamping here), set up an outdoor movie night with a projector and a screen.
Do you have other glamping suggestions? Show us your setup on Facebook and Instagram!