The idea is far from new – African safari camps have been doing it for decades, bedding guests down in room-sized tents with carpeted floors, real beds and en-suite loos. But until a few years ago, it hadn’t caught on outside the African savannahs. Europe was first to embrace glamping, and it is from France that Huttopia expanded into the United States, opening its first glamping resort near Conway in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
We stayed there two weeks after they opened, and we all loved the experience — although for different reasons. I loved not having to spend two days before the trip digging out and packing all the camping gear. My husband Tim liked not having to worry if he’d brought the right tent poles or forgotten the tent stakes, and not having to wrestle with yards of wet canvas when it was time to go home. We both loved electric lights and the comfort of sinking into a real bed after a day in the outdoors.
Mary, aged 16, and Jordan, 13, liked not having to help with any of the above, but mostly they loved the pool and the inviting hammocks under the pine trees. They spent time on the lake — our tent faced onto the water, a few yards from the beach — using the resort’s kayaks, canoes and paddle boards.
We all loved getting up in the morning and walking to the poolside terrace to eat fresh-made French crepes for breakfast from the shiny Airstream lunch stand, and stopping for hand-made ice cream in the afternoon. In the evening there was a list of custom-made pizzas. Or we could cook on the porch of our tent, on a Colman stove that never ran out of propane in the middle of dinner.
Each campsite has a picnic table (we also had an indoor table and chairs in case of rain) and a fire ring, so in the evening we could toast our marshmallows over our campfire. All the good bits of a camping trip without the intensive labor.
Besides the king-sized bed and dining table, our tent had a double bed and a single bunk. Curtained “bedrooms” are at either side of a tiny bathroom with a shower. A kitchen included work surface, sink, small refrigerator, cooking utensils, china dishes and real glassware. Details like the French press coffeemaker, salad spinner and real wine glasses betrayed the Huttopia’s French beginnings. (So did the petanque court near the terrace, where guests can gather in the evening for music or a magic show for the kids.)
We had the Trappeur tent, the largest and fanciest. Canadienne tents were the same, but without the indoor bathroom (shared bath houses have fully equipped individual bathrooms). Bonaventure tents were smaller, with a king-sized bed, electricity, a refrigerator and Colman stove. For those who have tents and the energy to put them up, there’s a section of traditional campsites with tables and fire rings. Huttopia’s manager Justine Pancin told us they intend this as a place for all kinds of camping — except RVs, which are not allowed.
Huttopia is New Hampshire’s first glamping resort, but they exist in various forms elsewhere, at all levels of “glamp” from pre-pitched tents with air mattresses already inflated and waiting for your sleeping bags to the luxury safari-style tent we stayed in. In Kennebunkport, Maine, Sandy Pines Campground has several luxury tents, and near Acadia National Park there’s an Airbnb luxury tent on an organic farm.
There are glamping sites near popular parks and monuments in the west. At Treebones Resort in California, Mongolian-style yurts stand on a Big Sur bluff, and opposite El Capitan State Beach in Santa Barbara, El Capitan Canyon has both tents and rustic cabins. Huttopia has another campground in Sutton, Quebec, in Canada.
Not all places that advertise as glamping offer tents; in fact many are cabins or cottages, and some are luxuriously outfitted RVs. Tree houses, tiny houses and other offbeat accommodations are often listed as glamping, too. Be sure to check carefully to see what’s included, as that also varies greatly.