It may be back-to-school week, but summer doesn’t officially end until late September. That means here in Vacationland there’s still plenty of time to go camping.
But now, there’s camping and then there’s “glamping,” a new way of giving the inexperienced or finicky camper a way to combine the luxury of a boutique hotel room with proximity to the great outdoors.
It used to be that camping in style meant sleeping on an air mattress and having a separate canopy or screen house for the picnic table. Now, it means something else entirely.
“Look at the chandeliers and lighting in here and the mosquito netting on the bed. I mean, this is opulent,” says Beth Geary, marketing director for Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport, which started offering a dozen glamping tents in addition to traditional campsites and RV hookups this summer.
Picture a large, safari-style tent complete with a king-size bed, bedroom furniture, a seating area and almost every amenity you can imagine.
“We wanted to make this experience as comfortable for our guests as possible. It gets hot in a tent. So we put in portable air conditioners, fans. We added minifridges. It’s really trying to think through the guest experience and providing everything one might need,” Geary says.
Those needs include a heated, saltwater pool; a general store that offers steamed lobster dinners; breakfast sandwiches; and ingredients for s’mores. There’s even a preset campfire in the communal fire pit each night.
Erin Ricci and her two young daughters came up from Massachusetts. They don’t own camping equipment, so all they had to bring was a change of clothes.
Ricci says the three-day trip was the highlight of the girls’ summer.
“They really loved the fact that we just came and everything was done and it’s kind of like the ‘wow’ factor. It’s beautiful. And just to have the campfires already lit for you. Like we don’t know how to do all that stuff. So, the fact that we could enjoy everything without knowing what we’re doing was great. And they loved it. They’d never been camping before and now I don’t think they’ll ever go real camping, now that they’ve done this,” she says.
In Maine and around the country, glamping is catching on in different ways: yurts, treehouses, tepees and, of course, fancy RVs in all shapes and sizes. Geary says her guests define it differently. But they’re all willing to shell out the cost of a nice hotel room for the convenience of being close to nature without sacrificing comfort.
Glampers seem to be a mix of those who haven’t camped before, like Ricci, and Ricci’s friend, Girl Scout troop leader Jen Mayer, and her daughters, who have.
Mayer says she never liked sleeping on the ground, but she says she and her girls are in love with glamping.
“It was wonderful,” she says. “There’ll be no going back at this point.”
But, for some people, nothing says true camping like struggling to put up a tent as the other campers watch, trying to start a fire in the rain and cooking a hot dog on a stick.
Stephanie Hill of Rutland, Vermont, has been coming to this campground since she was 8 years old. She’s now 32 and has brought her two kids, ages 3 and 6.
“I think it would be nice for like a couple to do. But, I don’t know. It’s very different, very different if you’re into like the fancy kind of camping. But, we like the traditional,” she says, asked what she thinks about glamping.
For Hill, even sleeping in a camper isn’t really camping. Hill’s husband, Josh Ouimette, says he wants his boys to be comfortable “roughing it” and unplugging from the world.
“Here, it’s amazing because you hear the ocean at night. Sleeping in a tent there’s no other sounds except for the animals outside the tent and the ocean waves right around the corner. It’s great,” he says.
The couple typically spends a week or two each summer tenting out at Sandy Pines. But they’re not the only ones planning to return. First-time glampers Ricci and Mayer say they’re also making reservations with their kids for next summer.