Text by Rose Davidson
Spending the night in a tent is a traditional part of many camping experiences, but it’s not the only way to enjoy the great outdoors. Glamping gives you the best of both worlds: outdoor adventures with indoor sleeping conditions.
Whether you’re camping beneath the quiet southern pines or in a bustling national park like the Grand Canyon, glamping is the perfect way to enjoy the simple wonders of nature and indulge in a little luxury, all in the same trip.
We’ve done the research on some of the best options out there. But if you name it, you can probably camp in it. The more adventurous at heart, for example, could enjoy camping in a floating orb, or even 100 feet up the side of a cliff!
Camper vans and recreational vehicles, or RVs for short, are allowed in many campgrounds. RVs are spacious and often equipped with places to cook, sleep, and relax. Camper vans are much smaller and more compact, offering a space to sleep and store your food and gear. Because you can hop in and drive at any time, both RVs and camper vans are convenient for extended travel.
Tips: Check the rules for your destination—not all campsites allow RVs due to their size. If the cost of owning an RV or camper van has your eyes bulging, consider renting through a peer-to-peer rental service such as Outdoorsy or RVshare.
Travel trailers are a lot like RVs, but they require a separate vehicle, like a pickup truck, to pull them. Similarly, truck campers fit inside the flatbed of a pickup truck. Travel trailers have plenty of room for activities, and they can be equipped with amenities similar to RVs, like running water, electricity, and beds. Since these methods require a separate vehicle to move them, they allow you to come and go from the campsite in your truck.
Tips: Similar to camper vans, truck campers are typically small, so they’re ideal for 1-2 campers. Driving with a trailer attached to your vehicle can be cumbersome, so take a little extra care while on the road. Some larger travel trailers require heavy-duty trucks to tow properly.
A more recent trend on the glamping scene is the geodesic dome, or geo dome. The domes look like something you might see on Mars – and there’s no better way to spend an evening with outer space than stargazing in bed. The dome is a made up of straight lines that intersect to form triangles. This pattern distributes stress evenly across the dome, making the structure incredibly strong while staying light on materials.
Tips: You can buy and bring your own dome from a growing variety of retailers, or search for a pre-installed dome to rent at your destination. Rentals are often equipped with furniture and extra amenities, like telescopes or private bathrooms. Some domes have large see-through panels that may limit your privacy. Do your research before you go to find out how secluded the area with your dome will be. If needed, pack a sheet or screen for added privacy.
Many campgrounds rent out cabins or lodges on site. With your main living space all set up, you’re free to spend more time and energy doing what you came to do: exploring the great outdoors around you. Cabins offer greater shelter from the elements than traditional tents, but can still be fairly minimal if you’re intent on “roughing it” a bit.
Tips: Cabin and lodging in certain campsites can book up quickly, especially in the summer and fall. Make your reservations early to guarantee you get a spot.
Elevate your camping experience in a treetop cabin. Don’t worry, these aren’t your children’s treehouses – most are equipped with all the modern amenities of a regular cabin, with the bonus of a beautiful view. Treehouses can be found in campgrounds across the U.S. through sources such as GlampingHub and HipCamp.
Tips: While some treehouses are accessible via ramps, others rely on stairs or ladders. If climbing ladders or stairs is a challenge, or you have a fear of heights, you may prefer to opt for a traditional cabin.
Originally used by nomads in central Asia, yurts have become a popular way to upgrade a traditional camping experience. Yurts are large, round tents that use a specific framework based on tension and compression to hold their form. They range in size from an office to a small family home. They’re portable and can be spacious enough for fireplaces, electricity, plumbing, even doors. They have low ecological footprints, and can provide a stable shelter for long periods of time.
Tips: A yurt can accommodate larger groups of campers – but be ready to get cozy with your campmates in the large open interior. If you’re buying and bringing your own yurt, plan to spend a day or two setting it up properly, especially if you want to include amenities like heating and plumbing.
As more and more campers across the country pledge to join us in the Great American Campout, we invite you to shake it up and consider a new experience outside the tent. It doesn’t matter how you camp, so long as you do.
Adapted from "Think Outside the Tent: Different Ways to Camp" by Abby Barber