Luxury Camping - What You Might Love About Glamping

August 20, 2012

Glamorous camping is a luxurious new option for connecting with nature and living outdoors on your next dude ranch vacation.

by Karen Braschayko

Glamping at Siwash Lake Ranch in British Columbia, Canada

 The view from the glamping tents on the Ridge at Siwash Lake Ranch in British Columbia, Canada.

Celebrities like Justin Bieber want to try it, the Real Housewives of Orange County have done it, and it’s a hot trend that has leapt through the holiday world. Glamping, or luxurious camping, is a new style of connecting with the outdoors while still living as comfortably as possible. This worldwide holiday movement has guest ranches, safari outfitters and campgrounds alike scrambling to outdo each other with outdoor amenities.

This is not the kind of camping that involves fighting with poles, searching the rocky tent floor for your flashlight, shivering in a sleeping bag, and hunting down a primitive restroom in the middle of the night. Glamping offers the extravagance of a top-quality escape with the privacy and connection to wilderness that many people crave in their vacations.

If you prefer your cowboy or cowgirl time with a side of fine wine and soft beds, glamping may be the holiday experience you seek. Curious to learn more about this novel trend, we’ve done the research so you can decide if glamping is right for your next dude ranch vacation.

A Fun New Option with Glamorous Amenities

The term camping often brings to mind nylon tents, wet sleeping bags, chilly nights, harassing bugs, incessant dirt, and hauling equipment in order to be close to nature. With glamping, instead picture sleeping on a real bed while surrounded by nature sounds and dining alfresco on the porch with a panoramic view. The ranch has already done the work of selecting a picturesque campsite, so glamping provides all of the scenery, fresh air and privacy of being next to nature without the work. All guests need to do is walk in and enjoy. The good news, too, is you can often find cheap flights to glamping locations. 

Glamping at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana.

 The horsey view from a luxurious camping tent at Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana.

Glamping differs in definition and scope of services per location, so check the website and ask questions. Structures range from sturdy canvas safari-style tents to yurts, teepees, trailers and even tree houses. Tents are often pitched atop wooden platforms, keeping guests above the ground, cleaner and warmer at night. Many outfitters take care with the aesthetics, offering exotic décor or a Western feel in the case of dude ranches.

Amenities vary, but they might include any of the following: Egyptian cotton sheets, bamboo towels, full kitchens, claw-footed bathtubs, covered and heated porches, multiple rooms, goose down duvets, hot tubs, French doors, hardwood floors, rugs, leather futons, heaters, heated showers, lamps, televisions, and wet bars. Some locations even provide staff to build your campfire and have spa services back at the lodge.

The deck for glampers at Siwash Lake Ranch, a luxury dude ranch in British Columbia, Canada.

The deck for glampers at Siwash Lake Ranch, a luxury dude ranch in British Columbia, Canada.

Breeana Woods of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has taken her family yurt camping, and she described how glamping takes much of the work out while leaving the joy of nature intact.

“It's easier to do, especially with kids during the colder, fall months — campfire breakfasts, dinners, s’mores — and then the ability to escape into our yurt shelter, complete with a solar-powered furnace,” said Woods.

With yurt camping, Woods got her husband to try something he hadn’t been keen on, and she hopes the positive experience will be a gateway. Glamping offered “the ability to convince my husband (who did not grow up camping) to embark on a weekend ‘camping’ trip. Besides being able to sell him on the idea, it also increased the chances for a ‘successful’ experience that opens the door for more adventures in the future.”

Heather Ready of the Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana, explained the appeal. “It’s different, it’s fun, and it’s unique. You get the best of both worlds — being and feeling a part of nature while staying in an elegant setting at the same time,” she said.

Bar W calls their glamping “simple elegance blended with Western informality.” Spacious canvas tents house a queen-sized bed, plush futon, full mirror, wardrobe, coffeemaker, mini fridge and chairs. A bathhouse between the tents gives each tent a private restroom, with a shared shower. 

Glamping at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana.

The large tents at Bar W are clean and comfortable inside, and they capture the casual Western feeling of a dude ranch.

Many glamping accommodations feature a porch or deck for more seating, dining outdoors or sitting under the stars. Bar W’s guests use their deck for catching the sunset with a glass of wine or enjoying coffee in the morning.

“I think the deck is probably the most popular part,” said Ready.

Siwash Lake Ranch located in Cariboo Cowboy Country of British Columbia, Canada, also offers glamping, and it has been so requested that they’ve enhanced their options. The ranch provides fine linens on four poster king beds, flush toilets, well-spaced tents, and an indoor/outdoor shower.
 

Glamorous camping at Siwash Lake Ranch.

 A soft king bed awaits glampers after a long day in the saddle at Siwash Lake Ranch.

The website describes their glamping location as “nestled in genuine wilderness... An enclave of ultra-private luxury tent suites with en-suite bathrooms and expansive sundecks overlooking the lake and ranch meadows.”

Siwash says their glamping is meant to remind guests of the romantic era of travel. Photos of glamping arrangements do bring to mind elaborate safari adventures, historical camping displays in museums, and cowgirl Annie Oakley traveling with a fashionable parlor for her tented quarters.

What Might Surprise You About Glamping

Glamping is a new trend, and many people only learn about it as they book their stay, explained Ready. Many aspects of the luxury camping experience can surprise guests, in a good way. 

"It’s kind of a new, fun way of traveling," said Ready. "People are jumping on it, and it’s sort of just taking off now. I think they’re more surprised at how great the tents are when they get here. Then they think, ‘Now I want to go glamping around the West.’”

The level of personal comfort is much higher than people may expect when they hear camping is involved. Climate control, for instance, is much less of a challenge than with standard camping, and this extends the glamping season.

“I think what might surprise people about this is how comfortable it is inside, and how warm and at the same time cool it can stay,” Ready said. “In the afternoon, when people come back they usually take a nap, and they have no problem sleeping. We’ve got a fan in there, and it’s perfect. But at night it stays warm as well. We’ve got a couple heaters and electric blankets in there. When they go to the bathroom and it’s a little chilly, with crisp air, they walk back into their tent and it’s nice and warm.”

The bathroom for glampers at Siwash Lake Ranch.

The luxurious bathroom for glampers at Siwash Lake Ranch is far from roughing it.

For Woods, her surprise was that the amenities went almost too far. “I was surprised and a little disappointed, at first, to see that there was a light switch in the yurt,” she said. “However, it still felt like camping, in many ways — no running water, no faucets, no electrical outlets, etc.”

Woods warned that the popularity of glamping might make it harder to try in some areas. “Glamping-type facilities and sites are pretty popular these days, so plan ahead or expect to face a lengthy waiting list,” she said.

At Bar W, guests are surprised to find that everything stays dry, even during thunderstorms, said Ready. “We’ve had some storms in the evenings. Some of the kids have said they’ve slept right through, and they didn’t hear a thing. They stay dry. It’s really fun.”

Also, staying in a tent does not mean giving up that vacation feeling of returning to a fresh room and clean towels after a long day on the trail.

“They still get their rooms cleaned every day just like anyone else would at the lodge or in the cabins, so they come back to a clean room,” said Ready. “Their coffee’s ready to go for them in the morning.”

What You Might Love About Glamping

The proportion of nature to comfort is high, so for people seeking both, glamping can make for a satisfying vacation.

Woods valued the nature aspect of glamping. “Comfier bunks and beds equals good sleep, but you’re still surrounded by sights and sounds of nature just beyond the thin canvas walls. There was access to nature, wildlife and
great hiking. Like all forms of camping, we were still surrounded by the great outdoors, away from 'civilization' and our ‘normal’ life routine. It was a very refreshing escape.”

Glamping tents at Siwash Lake Ranch.

The comfortable living area for glampers at Siwash Lake Ranch includes hardwood floors.

Ready explained that many Bar W guests are a bit skeptical about glamping, but once they try it, they’re hooked.

“A lot of people who aren’t familiar with glamping are hesitant to book it,” Ready said. “I think they really don’t understand until they get here, and when they get here, they are wowed by it. They love that they’re in a tent and they can hear the coyotes in the valley. They can hear the horses. We have the cows up at the pasture, and they can hear them mooing. So they love that part of it, but yet they’re not roughing it by any means. All of the guests have absolutely loved it.”
 
The Ribbler family stayed at Bar W, and they had this to say about their glamping experience: “My family is far from the ‘rugged-type,’ and the thought of staying in a tent for a week was kind of frightening for us. We had no idea what to expect of glamping, but the pictures online looked nice. When we reached our tents, upon first impression they looked clean, and when we unzipped and went inside we could not have been happier. All the comforts of home with a breathtaking view.”

Glamping at the Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish, Montana.

The Bar W's glamping tents are situated next to the horse pastures, and each provides a porch with a panoramic view.

Glamping offers the same in-nature experience of camping, and on a ranch such as Bar W, you may end up sleeping right next to the horses.

“On the property, [the glamping area] is located just up from the outdoor arena and corral, so it faces out into the pasture,” said Ready. “In the morning you can have your coffee and watch the horses get caught and saddled, and in the evening a lot of times deer and wildlife will come down into the pasture. So it makes for a really nice viewing area.”

Ready explained that rather than hearing the cooks making breakfast in the morning, other guests moving around, or household noises up at the lodge, glampers wake up to equine and nature sounds.

“You get to just be out there more, rather than in the lodge where there are other people around,” said Ready. “Not that they can’t hear the wranglers in the morning getting the horses ready and saddling, but it’s just more of a unique way to stay at a ranch. They’re kind of right in the middle. Because they’re right by the pasture, they get to see all of that happening throughout the day and in the evening when they’re out feeding the horses. I think the view is the best part of it.”

And that sounds perfect for horse people.

Learn more about these ranches, their glamping amenities and other services on their websites, www.siwashlakeranch.com and www.thebarw.com. Learn more about great dude ranch vacations, guest ranches and riding holidays in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide.

Karen Braschayko is a freelance writer and horse lover who lives in Michigan.
 

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