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And does camping have anything to do with it?

SO THERE’S THIS travel trend that I’ve been trying to ignore. However, it seems to keep rearing it’s ugly head everywhere I turn, so I thought to myself, “Self, let’s just confront it and get it off our chest.” So, here goes.

In case you aren’t privy, glamping — or, glamorous camping — is one of the latest portmanteaus to come out of the “brain” of some marketing “genius.” Other well-known portmanteaus: smog (smoke + fog), spork (spoon + fork), wikipedia (wiki + encyclopedia), and Bennifer and Brangelina (if you don’t know where those came from, I applaud you, and am quite envious).

So why have I been trying to avoid it? Let’s see. Glamorous; Camping. Luxury; Outhouse. 1200-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets; $15 sleeping bags from K-Mart. Bliss; Miserableness. You see? The two are clearly not compatible.

Photo: spookyamd

Despite that though, there apparently is a market out there for people who are willing to shill out big dough for the appearance of “becoming one with nature.” Now, to be fair, I think glamping has been around for ages. It just used to be called “rustic lodging.”

Take for example (which is the first site Google comes up with when you search the term). They highlight an eco-lodge in the Algarve where you can sleep in a converted yurt, caravan, or firetruck. All fully equipped of course.

Or how about this ecopod boutique retreat in Scotland? What does this even have to do with camping? Looks great, yes. But for £995 per week definitely should not be in the same conversation as camping.

Is there “authentic” glamping?

That is probably not even a valid question. It’s such a new term that there doesn’t appear to be any sort of standard for exactly what the hell it is. Where are the lines drawn? What are the rules?

SpotCoolStuff Travel posted a list of their top 5 “earthy” glamping sites:

  1. Ecocamp in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
  2. Teniqua Treetops in South Africa
  3. Eco retreats in Wales
  4. Forest huts at Lake Skärsjön in Sweden
  5. Safari camp at Ningaloo Reef in Australia

In my opinion (which essentially means nothing, I know), glamping — if the term needs to be used (which it doesn’t) — should essentially be the traditional idea of camping, just with a few more amenities for comfort. The sleeping structure should still be readily portable. The bed should not be more comfortable than the one I have at home. Bathtubs and sinks — in fact all plumbing — should still not be allowed inside the tent.

So, most of these fail. Do they look cool? Definitely. Toss a free press trip my way and I’m there in a heartbeat. (Seriously, PR people. You can reach me at carlo[at]matadornetwork[dot]com. I’ll be waiting.)

Glamping? To some / Photo: OctopusHat

What bothers me is the condescension that is involved when marketers come up with ideas like this. Perhaps what gets me even more is that consumers are actually tricked by it. Boutique hostels? C’mon. They’re just slightly nicer hostels (or slightly worse hotels, depending on your perspective).

And the usage of the word “urban.” Toss that before any other word and you’ve got yourself a ready-made trend that yuppies the world over will flock to. Urban Market — where they sell the exact same things as the regular market down the block, but for much much more. Urban Burger — you guessed it. It’s a ground beef patty in a bun! Except this one costs $18.95.


OK. Your turn. Sound off below!

What do you think of glamping?

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About The Author

Carlo Alcos

Carlo is the Dean of Education at MatadorU and a Managing Editor at Matador. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He lives in Nelson, British Columbia.

  • soultravelers3

    Ha! I see your points, but camping doesn’t have to be just one thing today. We travel the world on 23 dollars a day per person even in expensive countries and much of it is by “glamping”.

    I think the best way to go “glamping” is to take charge and do it yourself. This is our 4th year of “glamping” around Europe and it is one of the best and cheapest ways to explore Europe and get to really know other Europeans. It is an ideal way for families as there is no packing and unpacking. We do it by Motorhome, but many do it with tents or in lovely stone cottages or bungalows. One can go off the beaten track or to all the famous cities. I’m “glamping” in Barcelona now in a luxury resort by the beach on 17 dollars a day, writing this as I watch sail boats out my window on the Med sea.

    Yes, in the 32 countries & 175,000 miles ( most overland) that we have explored so far, we have been in some spectacular and authentic natural places and we have also been in many stunning 5 star resorts like in Dubrovnik, Venice, Portugal and Bordeaux etc.

    Glamping is just another one of those silly terms, but Luxe camping is a MUCH cheaper & more fun way for families to explore Europe than hostels, hotels or rentals!

  • Alouise

    When I was growing up camping meant driving to some campsite out in the boonies, pitching a tent and spending a week in close quarters with my family. Definitely not luxurious, I thought getting a trailer with a stove was living the high life. I think a big part of it is marketing, but if people are happy then so be it. I stayed at some campsites in Europe in cabins with plumbing, and on-site bar, convenience store and laundry facility. That seemed pretty glamorous to me.

  • Karl

    You know I kinda like the term ‘glamping’ (does that make me sad? :D)and I am for anything that can jazz camping up a little. I have seen and there are some amazing looking and unusual places advertised. I also think that although this new ‘term’ might be a fad….for now its highlighting camping on a different scale to an audience who might not have thought about camping in these terms.

  • Leigh

    Carlo, your opinion definitely means something. Especially since you’re so damn funny about the whole thing.

    I thought glamping was walking through the mud in make-shift shoes made of tires.

    I can’t say I’m against a little luxury while camping, but these words to make my stomach lurch just a bit. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, though. Like everything else.

  • Caitlin Fitzsimmons

    This is glamping:

    Glamorous: Bed with luxury linens; chef-prepared gourmet meals, champagne on the beach.

    Camping: The tent-cabin is not a permanent structure. The showers and toilet block is outdoors along a track.

    I can see why you think the word is a bit cutesy but the concept, surely, is not that difficult to understand. It is a new trend and it’s not the same as rustic cabins.

  • joshua johnson

    if you ever catch me glamp***, or even typing the insidious word glamp***, please, for the love of everything good and right, tell my wife I love her and take me out back to shoot me.

  • Carlo Alcos

    Love all your comments! Obviously there are some passionate opinions about this. Just to be clear, which I think most of you understood anyway, I have absolutely nothing against the act of…ugh…”glamping”, but the actual term itself is a different matter. It’s not as if anything changed overnight, that a whole new genre of accommodations sprang up. I think much of it has been around for a long time, someone just thought this sucker up and stamped the label on existing places. What got me is that while looking around the Internet for “glamping” I came across all different kinds of accommodation types, and I couldn’t pin down what it means.

    I’ve been lucky so far, I’ve never come across anyone who has actually said, “I’m going glamping this weekend.” What a day that will be.

    • Caitlin Fitzsimmons

      I don’t like the term much either because it’s a cutesy invented word. On the other hand, I do think it needs a term of its own.

      “It’s not as if anything changed overnight, that a whole new genre of accommodations sprang up.”

      I think you are 100% wrong here. The truth is that this IS a new genre of accommodation that has been invented, not overnight, but in the past five years (or decade at the most).

      And in your original post, you did seem to be objecting to the act of “glamping”, not just the word. You specifically said that it shouldn’t have a bed more comfortable than the one you have at home or plumbing in your tent. You’re entitled to that opinion, of course.

      • Carlo Alcos

        Well that’s the thing, there is no clear definition of “glamping.” What I was doing there was giving my take on what I think glamping should be…or whatever the term is that is trying to describe it.

        My point is that someone has taken camping and all the connotation that camping encompasses and repackaged it to appeal to a different, more affluent bunch, to give off the impression that what they’re doing is “camping”. As I said, it’s just marketing BS (the same way boutique and urban is used nowadays). It’s probably more a comment on society than anything else, really.

  • Christine Garvin

    Glamping would be sweet at the end of a week of camping.

    And Carlo, think you might be waiting for a while. As long as you aren’t holding your breath or anything.

  • Patrick

    Glamping is about camping in an original way.
    It doesn’t necessarly mean to be luxury like we often read.

    To me Glamping is about finding glamorous concept ideas for the weekend without spending too much money.

    Here is a good example of what I call glamping:

    They rent fully equiped VW vans to venture around Europe in couple.
    You can drive and sleep where you want and leave very unique moments.

    • Carlo Alcos

      I hate to break it to you but that’s just camping with a campervan, which I’ve done many times over many years, and never called glamping. And don’t think I don’t know you just posted that comment to advertise that site. I’m onto you.

  • Spencer Spellman

    Love this discussion Carlo! If I want luxury, then I’m going to go stay at a nice hotel. I think adding luxury and plush to camping, kind of take the a-m-p-i-n-g out of it. That’s the beauty of camping is that it’s out in the great outdoors, and a different experience than if you’re staying at a nice hotel. Not that people shouldn’t do it if they like the plush. I love luxury, believe me; but I camp because it offers experiences that the plush stuff can’t do.

  • david miller

    ‘glamping’ -

    the way this term is conflated with camping (and the way some ppl in this comment thread spoke of it as ‘exploring’) evinces a certain context through which ppl view the world, travel, and especially ‘camping’.

    it’s a context based primarily on comfort and convenience.

    this is the point of origin of commodified thinking.

    it’s a way we begin increasing the distance between ourselves and place..

    and then deluding ourselves that we are ‘exploring place.’

    this is why concrete language is so importnat.

    one isn’t ‘exploring place’, but ‘paying for a night in a luxury yurt rental’ (or whatever).

    if language isn’t concrete, how can thinking / perspective be concrete?

    this is also why commodified thinking leads to negative consequences: it doesn’t just reduce place / experience / expression but also perspective

    it does this by obfuscating the relationship between person and place

    it increases the distance between person and place.

    the person marketing or selling the commodity, the purveyor of the commodified experience, then attempts to fill this space with suggestions of ‘iconic scenery’ and/or ‘memorable experiences’.

    the commodified thinker then buys the ‘iconic scenery’ and/or ‘memorable experiences’.

    and evaluates them based on the level to which they ‘delivered on the promise’ of providing the scenery / comfort / experiences.

    if he or she also writes, then he or she tends to describe this scenery / comfort/ experience using commodified thinking and terminology (ex: ‘the yurt was impeccable . . the staff was courteous’) as the ‘common ground’ through which they can ‘connect’ with other readers.

    thus they ‘complete the cycle’ of commodification, serving as a kind of advertisement or marketing (even if the ‘review’ is negative) for the commodified experience.

    • Carlo Alcos

      Once again, taking it to a whole new level. Thanks for the perspective, I couldn’t agree more.

  • TomTomKnowsBetterThanYou

    I sort-of glamp.  I have a car booster pack that will run a 12V dash fan for 3 nights which can be recharged at my car in a short time.  The white noise of the fan and the moving air both help tremendously.  I only camp in the mountains, its much cooler.  The top photo of a glam camper isn’t very attractive to me, ugly in fact.  I use a tent and if I go to a state park with power I take a Carry-Cool window AC unit which I place on a plastic milk crate so the front protrudes through one tent door and I use a vinyl shower curtain and clothespins to seal the opening and around the AC unit. Instant air conditioned tent baby.  Hey, call me a wimp but I sleep soooo good.   The tent isn’t well insulated but it holds the cool in just like you were at home.  My only complaint about camping is when someone goes who just has to have “big food”.  What is big food?  Full meals that require extensive cooking.  I’m happy with sandwiches and such, I don’t need rice and gravy out in the woods.  You just end up sweating gravy when you hike.

    • Carlo Alcos

      Air-conditioned tenting? Where exactly are you camping?

  • Rob Elger

    Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. If I ever have too much money, that is where I’m going “Glamping.” On Vancouver Island, it looks spectacular.

  • Anonymous

    I want to try glamping! I saw a website that showed yurts, tipis, safari tents and more from different parts of the world:

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