OK, you have made the commitment with your friends to go camping. Do you even know what that entails? I have huge opinions about styles of camping but I’ll do my best to stay neutral.
Camping in the traditional sense is sleeping in a sleeping bag in a tent that’s set up somewhere awesome, and peeing in the woods. Don’t worry, there are many alternatives to that type of bare bones camping!
Glamping or glamorous camping is a relatively new option for those that have more must-haves on their list of amenities and want to experience a quirky kind of venue in a natural setting.
No matter if you are a hard-core nature lover or are someone that just likes to sit by a crackling fire at night, you’ll find something to love in the great outdoors.
There are important differences between camping and glamping but in my opinion, they merge somewhere in the middle. Some glamping venues are are not 5 star accommodations and some camping spots are packed with amenities and things to do.
It’s all up to you and what your vision of a great time in the woods.
Here are the differences between glamping and camping I think are important.
Glamping: You need to decide what you want your shelter to look like. You can pick from an igloo, cabin, pod, yurt, treehouse, etc. When you arrive at the location it will be set up for you.
All you need to bring is your clothes, food and drink, and items to do whatever activities you choose. Check first because you may not have to lug any activity equipment. The location might include a kayak or other items for your use. Most sites are in a beautiful natural location and will have electricity (not tentrr), a refrigerator, kitchen utensils, linens, etc. Many are close to attractions, restaurants and shopping.
Camping: Choosing where you’d like to remote-camp will take a bit more planning, packing and transporting.
Check local regulations about camping on public land. Most require you to be ¼ mile off the road and have NO fires.
You’ll have to bring all the gear. Here’s an article that will bring you up to speed on what to bring camping.
If you decide on a national or state park, you can pretty much expect a small site, a firepit, and bathrooms. They probably won’t be flush toilets but hey, it’s a bathroom!
If campground style camping is your thing, you will almost assuredly be greeted with a camp store filled with everything that you might have forgotten, a pool or a beach, nice bathrooms with showers and changing rooms, local wood for sale (don’t transport yours from home), and a place to recycle and discard your trash.
Most campgrounds now offer cabin and trailers for rent. This is where the line between camping and glamping gets blurry for me.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. As long as YOU are happy with your experience.
Sleeping Spot or Cabin, Tent, and other such places
Glamping: The sky is almost the limit on what you can expect for sleeping when you’re glamping. How about a kind size be with a pillow-top mattress? Would have verrry comfy hammock be OK with you? A down mattress plus down comforter in an igloo? Luxurious pillows, satin sheets, comfy robes and slippers… the sky’s the limit.
Whatever venue you choose, rest assured (pun intended) you will have glamorous bedding.
Camping: If you are camping off-grid, you’ll have to lug your accommodations on your back so the likely will consist of a tent with a tarp over it, sleeping back and a foam mat.
Some of my best camping memories are when I was tent camping but these old bones are not happy trying to rise from the floor after a not-so-comfy night’s sleep anymore.
Potty and Showers
Glamping: Most glamping spots take great pains in creating a comfy, clean and convenient place to “do your business.” I am high maintenance when it comes to camping – a flush toilet is on my list of must-haves.
My husband’s favorite story is that it cost him $20,000 to take me camping the first time. (the jury is still out whether it cost him exactly $20,000)
Your glamping adventure will come complete with fluffy towels, hot and cold running water, and, can you hear the familiar flushing sound? If not, you probably have a composting toilet!
Camping: The places to “take care of business” in the woods are countless. Take your pick; behind a rock, over a small cliff, by a tree for stability while squatting, and in a portable potty.
I would bring up the subject of “leave not trace” but that’s a topic for another day. What I will say is read up on the subject. With some many folks experiencing nature these days, your “business” is becoming a real problem at well-loved camping spots.
You’re on Vacation – Cook if You Have To
Glamping: Ahhh, you’ve arrived. Great! There’s a refrigerator, hot plate and maybe even a crock pot that you can let simmer while you enjoy your day hiking.
There will be dinnerware, glasses and cups, utensils and a few pots and pans. Throw your stuff into the refrigerator and get outside first. Cooking will be a breeze with all the comforts of home cooking!
You can act like a die hard camper when you’re sitting by the first toasting marshmallows and then serve up your home cooked meal too.
Camping: Some people enjoy cooking over an open fire. I’m a throw everything in tin foil with some olive oil, wrap it up, toss it in the coals for about a half hour and WHALLA, Cowboy Cookout!
The best part about camping and glamping is toasted marshmallows. Leave the graham crackers and milk chocolate at home. I’m a purist and just like the marshmallows.
Glamping: Ahhh… the joys of a hot shower. Yep, most glamping sites will have a shower in your lodging or one nearby.
Don that fluffy robe, heck you’re camping. Everyone walks around in the AM in their jammies.
There might even be a hot tub on the property if you’re lucky!
Camping: If you are really off-grid, a hot shower is a fading memory. If you are an avid hiker or a pubescent boy, the stink might force you to purchase a solar shower.
Even if it’s luke warm, it’ll wash that stink away!
There are some really nice portable shower set-ups to choose from. You won’t even have to break the bank or or back carrying it.
Hot Chocolate Anyone – OK, Coffee Too
Glamping: Roll out of your comfy bed and pad over to the kitchen area. Plop your favorite liquid into a pot to heat it up. Some are coffee aficionados, some love herbal tea, and I am a dark chocolate hot chocolate snob.
Whatever your poison, you can enjoy it easily and quickly while glamping.
Camping: If you cannot function without coffee, make the first thing when you wake up. By the time you are moving around, it’ll be hot enough to boil the water and brew your choice of beverage.
Is it Just Me or is it Hot in Here?
Glamping: Don’t fret. Glamping units usually include a heat source and air conditioning. If climate control is on your list of must-haves, choose wisely or you might end up as one hot camper!
Camping: Well, you’re on your own. Again, don’t fret! Maybe there’s a cool stream or beach nearby you can take advantage of. The great part about camping is sitting by a fire at night. The cool evenings will make sweating your butt off during the day worthwhile.
Is it Worth the Hassle?
Glamping: Imagine driving up to your weekend residence which includes a closet for your clothes and a full-size refrigerator for your food. No hassle here!
Camping: OK, so camping takes a bit more planning. It’s worth it though! Drunk humans are not the only hassle when you’re camping, non-humans can be a pain too. I’m not just talking about bears either.
Well, let’s talk about bears and get that over with. Bears are like overgrown racoons. They are fat, lazy, slow moving (for the most part), foragers that would rather raid your cooler than pick berries. Can you blame them? I pack some good s*** when I camp!
It seems I’m in good company when I suggest that to deter bears, you safely pack your cooler and all your food in your car. If your car is not less than a 5-minute walk, bring a sturdy satchel and long rope because you’ll have to hang any food from a branch high enough that they cannot reach it from the branch or the ground.
I should tell you an easy peasy way to get that rope over the branch but heck, I don’t want to take away all the fun of camping! PS put a rock in a small bag and duct tape it securely to the rope.
Onto other creeping things; squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, ants, mice, and the dreaded rats. Same applies as you would do for bear. Pack it hanging from a tree or in your car.
And the answer to my question, is it worth the hassle? Yes, if wonderful outdoor memories and fun physical activity are your goals, it is!
I’m No Cook but Read On!
Glamping: I don’t have much to say here. Just pretend you’re at home. You’ll most likely find a stove, oven, toaster oven and microwave in your palace.
Camping: If you knew me, you’d know that cooking is #392 on my list of fun things to do. It’s a different story when I’m camping. Hmmm… now that I think about it, maybe it’s the clean-up I hate.
You’ll likely be busy having fun during the day so I tend to make all in one meals. There are several ways to accomplish that. Try placing a well-oiled cast iron pan filled with meat, cubed potatoes and veggies on a bed of hot coals or wrap the same meal in tin foil and do the same. You might want to get fancy and have a grate over the fire to grill burgers or make your whole meal. The crème de la crème is a cookstove. If you have one of those, just pretend you’re home in your own kitchen.
I guarantee that most things you cook while camping will taste better than at home.
Water, Water, Everywhere of Nowhere
Glamping: The hardest part about water when you’re glamping is turning to on/off lever. HA!
Camping: If you’re camping at a campground you might have to walk to a central location to get potable water. Wilderness camping is another story. You either have to lug it in with you or camp near a water source like a pond or stream.
You must boil or treat water gathered from a pond or lake before using it for cooking or drinking. I worked in a hospital that had a parasitic outbreak in the community in the 70’s and yikes, I never saw so many stool samples in my career as a Medical Technologist. Believe me, you don’t want a parasitic infection from untreated water.
Are You a Loner or a Social Butterfly?
Glamping: If you love meeting new friends on vacation, glamping is a great choice for you. Most large glamping communities have organized activities for adults and children. You are sure to meet like-minded folks if you partake in these fun things to do. Who knows, you might meet your new best friend playing corn hole!
Camping: If you are the type that would rather sit by the fire and search for a shooting star, camping is a fantastic choice. Make sure you traveling with folks that you won’t mind spending 48, 72, or more hours face to face with.
I am very social but love to go camping because it forces me to slow down, look around, enjoy nature, and even read a book or 3!
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned – How Much Will it Cost?
Glamping: You will spend way more money glamping than camping. No doubt. BUT, if your dream vacation includes experiencing a yurt but being able to zap your soup in a microwave – the expense will be worth it!
Camping: Admittedly, most of my wilderness camping was done in my 30’s. My list of must-haves has grown to include a flush toilet. I STILL go wilderness camping with my horses in a combo RV/horse trailer. I get the best of both of my worlds.
Wilderness camping is usually free or very low cost.
Are We There Yet?
Glamping: Admittedly, glamping is in its’ infancy. Although the term was coined years ago, in most parts of the country it’s not quite mainstream yet. Don’t let that stop you in your search though. There are glamping focused websites that list hundred and even thousands of different types of venues in nearby spots and far-flung places. You decide how far you’d like to go to fulfill your dream camping experience.
Camping: Camping has been a “thing” for many decades. There are spots in just about every locale that you can camp for free or very low cost. Research National Parks, State Parks, National Forests and conservation lands owned by public companies and non-profit organizations. You can drive hours of pop to a spot down the street! Even city folks have options that are very close-by.
There are die hard rugged campers out there that poo poo the existence of glamping. Like it or hate it, it’s here to stay and the movement is growing by the day.
Glamping is not as common, you might have to drive a bit further and it’s definitely more a more expensive way to experience the outdoors but it gets many more folks out in and enjoying nature!
Happy glamping/camping everyone!
Photo by Lisa Nyman on Reshot