Camping goes mainstream: Glamping and RVs help make outdoor overnights effortless

The Birdhouse

By Dr. Lee Payne

There was once a time when camping conjured up images of trudging through the backcountry, backpacks slung over tired shoulders while keeping eyes peeled for bears.

Some might still argue that roughing it with tents and sleeping bags is the real way to camp, but gone are the days where that’s your only option.

Now, glamping has come into the spotlight, with luxurious sites set up in beautiful places from Joshua Tree National Park to Yellowstone, Zion and beyond. It’s a budding industry that’s suddenly exploding and could be worth $4.8 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research.

But what is glamping, and when did it go mainstream?

In 2016, the term was added to the Oxford dictionary: “a type of camping, using tents and other kinds of accommodation, facilities, etc. that are more comfortable and expensive than those usually used for camping.”

The idea behind this phenomenon is that more people can now enjoy the outdoors without first learning how to build a fire, assemble a tent or tie up a bear bag. The trend is growing at a time when camping has never been more popular.

The number of camping households in the U.S. now numbers 78.8 million, according to the 2019 North American Camping Report. In addition, the 2020 report showed that nearly four in 10 campers say they want to try glamping, with one in three prospective campers saying the same thing.

Glamping shows it’s possible to access a beautiful place while enjoying a swanky stay. You’ll still need bug spray but will have a much better chance of getting a good night’s rest.

The Birdhouse is an open-air lodging option at the Suwannee Cabin Sanctuary. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel)

I spent two nights in the Birdhouse, an open-air cabin on stilts enclosed with screens and complete with three twin-sized beds, a mini-fridge and ceiling fans. It overlooked the Suwannee River and felt akin to a large Florida Room attached to a house, except this one has its own porch, too.

There’s an outdoor shower sans hot water, but visitors might not mind that during Florida’s hot summer months.

It was outdoorsy without the hassle of putting up a tent or discomfort of sleeping on the ground. The accommodation still feels a little warm during summer months, but ceiling fans help. And no need to worry how much ice is in the cooler — that’s what the fridge is for.

As someone who grew up camping and is used to roughing it in a tent, I had the tendency to pooh-pooh glamping when I first heard about it. But after trying it, I’m sort of hooked.You might want to give this a try, it is as smart and as comfortable as staying in a Holiday Inn Express.