By Jim Poling
Published Aug. 24, 2017
My first thought was that it was a ludicrous notion.
Then I said to myself: “Get cool. Explore a new trend.”
And that’s how I got to go glamping.
Glamping is a growing new trend. The word, a combination of glamorous and camping, did not exist officially before 2006.
Traditional camping to most of us is pitching a tent or building a lean-to in the woods, preferably by a lake. You light a campfire, heat a can of pork and beans over it, wash your dishes in the lake and roll out a sleeping bag for the night.
Glamping is the same idea, except someone does the work for you. The glamour comes with meals that go beyond pork and beans, and luxury tents, sleeping cots and pillows instead of your rolled up blue jeans.
You pay for the luxury of course. And that is why I thought glamping was a silly idea. Why pay for an outdoor experience that you can create yourself at little or no cost?
My glamping trip gave me some insights. First, there are people who have never experienced outdoor camping. Glamping gives them the enjoyable experience without the travails that come with being inexperienced.
There also is the issue of time. Some folks want to experience Algonquin Park, but have limited time. It takes huge amounts of time to get and organize a canoe and accessories, tent, cooking and sleeping gear and food. On a glamping trip you simply arrive carrying your toothbrush.
The world-wide trend toward glamping has been attributed partially to the financial recession of the past decade. Vacation budgets have shrunk.
Also, terrorism has caused many vacationers to avoid urban vacations. Plus, growing concerns about climate change have created more interest in the outdoors and the desire to understand it better.
There are no reliable statistics on the growth of glamping. However, Google Trends reports searches for the term glamping have increased from almost nothing to millions.
The trend began in the United Kingdom where it remains extremely popular. North America and Australia are the two areas where glamping is really catching on.
Styles of glamping vary widely, from the basic Algonquin Park canoe and tent experience to stays in tree houses, tipis, gypsy wagons and log cabins offering luxury service and gourmet dining. One glamping site in Enniscrone, Ireland offers accommodation in a retired Boeing 767 or converted railway cars.
My glamping was with Algonquin Adventure Tours. The two-day trip began at Canoe Lake with a six-hour paddle around the lake. We visited some ruins of the former town of Mowat, watched painted turtles soaking up sun and paddled Whiskey Jack Bay in hopes of seeing a feeding moose.
In late afternoon we went to the campsite at Mew Lake Provincial Park where spacious tents had rug on the ground and comfortable cots. Our guide cooked a dinner of spaghetti with beef stew and cabbage salad served in a dining tent with plastic plates and utensils. The next morning he did blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and coffee.
After breakfast there was a three-hour bike ride along the old rail bed and it included a bit of nature study.
The cost was $300 per person. Included in that is the park entry and campsite fees.
The best part of the trip was the glampers themselves. They were intelligent and interesting folks who took to the experience with a positive attitude. One family from Portugal – mom, dad and eight-year-old boy – had never been in a canoe before.
There was an evening campfire of course at which we shared some of our thoughts and experiences.
All said, my glamping experience was good. It was not outrageously expensive for anyone who didn’t have time to field a traditional camping trip, or anyone with no camping experience.
The experience could have been tweaked to add more glamour with upgraded meals and better thought out canoe and bike outings with more context and history of the area. Little things that would send the glampers away saying “Wow that was great” instead of “Yeah, that was OK.”
Toasted marshmallows and S’mores were a campfire hit. Nice, but my preferred campfire treat is an Irish whiskey and a Cuban cigar.