Happy Glamping: Little Luxuries To Take Your Trip To The Next Level

As the name suggests, glamping (a clever little compound word that combines “camping” and “glamour”) means you’re not exactly roughing it.

Yes, you’ll be staying in a natural setting, most likely in a cabin, yurt or a tastefully appointed tent, but you’ll enjoy many more amenities than a typical camping experience provides, including electricity, furniture, maybe even dishes and a refrigerator. The comfort of your accommodations exists on a continuum, with with yurts, upscale campgrounds and facilities that feel like rustic mini-motels on one end and “oh-my-gosh-this-is-nicer-than-my-first-apartment” on the other.

Unlike a traditional camping trip, where you’ll need to bring absolutely everything you need with you, a packing list for a glamping trip focuses on items that will make your trip more enjoyable. So research what’s included with your lodging carefully (amenities can vary widely) and save room for the little luxuries that can take your glamping trip to the next level.

A plastic tub with handles:
Most glamping accommodations won’t include running water, so keep a plastic tub with handles on your packing list. This camping staple makes it easy to carry water for washing up and serves as a basin for doing the dishes.

If you do happen to have running water, you can stash your drinks in it or use it to cart your cooking gear down to the fire pit, all in one trip.

Cold brew coffee maker:
I’m addicted to coffee, but I haven’t quite mastered campfire coffee yet. Dripo sent over a cool cold brew coffee maker to try, which which totally solved my camping/glamping coffee issues.

The kit includes a tumbler, so all you need is a paper filter and the ground coffee of your choice. I’ve been drinking the Old Vienna bold from East End Coffee Makers, both because it’s delicious and because (full disclosure) it was a gift form the ladies at Visit Pittsburgh. (As an added bonus, the proceeds benefit vulnerable adults and at-risk kids in Pittsburgh, since the company is a non-profit organization.)

You just pour cold water in and you have iced coffee two hours later, which is much faster than most cold brew set-ups. I still make mine the night before because I like (okay, need) coffee right away in the a.m., but it brews quickly enough that you wouldn’t have to.

Cozy pajamas:
Even if you’re not staying in a luxuriously appointed tent, you’ll still be camping at night, which can mean cool temperatures in a structure with no heat. Instead of bringing extra blankets and sleeping bags (which can get bulky and hard to carry), I opt for lightweight thermal layers as pajamas.

Since they’re made to whisk sweat away from the body under outdoor layers, they keep me warm but not hot. And if the weather turns cooler, you can wear them outdoors in the way they were interned to be worn, so one piece can do double duty. (That’s always a bonus in my book.)

A great book:
Since you’re not bringing every utensil you’ll ever need, you’ll have room to pack something interesting to read. (I like to read about nature while I’m in nature, but to each their own.)

I took “Forest Bathing,” Dr. Qing Li’s exploration of how being in nature positively influences our health, out into the forest on a hike a few weeks ago. It was fascinating to read about the forest while I was actually in the forest. (And the photos are beautiful, a little mini vacation in and of themselves.)

And I always love reading the poet Mary Oliver outdoors. She writes about nature and solitude with precision and beauty and finds a sense of wonder in everyday moments. “Devotions” is a great introduction to her work.

A long reach lighter:
A campfire is one of the primal pleasures of an outdoors experience and most glamping sites will have a fire pit and wood available for you. (Due to concerns about invasive species, you’ll likely need to pick up or purchase your wood on-site.)

Building a fire is a skill, so don’t make it any harder on yourself than it has to be. I prefer a long reach butane lighter so I’m not fiddling around with matches or burning my fingers on a lighter. Plus, these are refillable so I’m not creating a lot of waste.

A flashlight:
Most glamping sites are serviced by communal bathhouses, porta-potties or a vault toilet located outside of your lodging. Since most of us aren’t practiced at finding our way to the bathroom in the dark, a flashlight can help.

Most sites have some lighting, but it can be dim or on motion sensors, which may or my not work. Yes, you can use the flashlight on your phone, but bringing expensive electronics into a vault toilet is pretty much tempting fate. Don’t do it.

A waterproof phone case:
I like to take photos and track my route when I canoe and kayak and I’m always taking photos when I hike, but having a cell phone in the rain or around a body of water is risky. So when the crew at Verizon asked what kind of gear I wanted to test this summer, a waterproof phone case was at the top of my list.

I used the Pelican Marine case to take photos and track my route on several paddling trips and a few drizzly hikes, and it worked well for me. I always test a new case without my phone first, because there’s something very reassuring about actually seeing how it stays dry. Just be aware that it’ll be harder to text and sound quality will be muffled. You want this thing to be watertight, which doesn’t really promote good acoustics.

These are one of my travel necessities anywhere I go. In the city, you’ll want earplugs to block out traffic noise, sirens and other people moving in their own rooms all around you. Out in the wild, some people find the stillness and silence even harder to get used to than the ever present noise.

So bring a pair of earplugs and take that variable out of the equation. Since you’ll probably still be sleeping near other people and the birds will be singing bright and early, the night won’t be silent for long.

A basic daypack:
If you’re glamping, I’m guessing you’re going to be enjoying your accommodations and relaxing outside, so unless you have serious hiking or climbing on the agenda, there’s no need to go all high tech and outdoorsy when a simple daypack should work just fine.

Throw in your water bottle, snacks and a map and hit the trails. Pack a book or a travel journal or a couple of beers and you’re set for relaxing outdoors.

Shower shoes:
Ah, college memories! Just like in the dorms or in a youth hostel, you’ll be sharing shower facilities, so pack a lightweight pair of flip flops to take you from your bunk to the bathhouse and even into the shower.

They’re affordable and weigh next to nothing, so they’re easy to pack. It’s also nice to have a spare pair of shoes around so you don’t have to lace up your sneakers or hiking boots if you want to pop out to the fire pit or the bathroom.

Two towels:
Yes, this makes me sound like a diva, but hear me out. Glamping is fancy, but it’s still camping. You’re going to get muddy and dusty and dirty. You might go swimming in the lake or wading in the river. And because you’re staying in a physical structure, not in the grass or on a patch of bare ground, you’re going to need to wipe things up when you spill.

So bring one big, thick towel (a beach towel works well) for the bathhouse and one grubby towel for everything else. Packing just one towel seems like a good idea until you go to shower and realize your towel is covered in dirt and leaves and smells like beer.

A sleep mask:
You’ll be staying in something sturdier or more upscale than a typical tent, but the day will still dawn bright and clear and that sun will still come streaming through the thin curtains a few minutes (or maybe hours) before you want to see it. If rest and relaxation are on your agenda, pack a sleep mask.

The folks at Brave Era sent this one over and it’s pretty fabulous. It’s made of the same super soft silk as their sleep sacks. I’m completely aware that I sound like an absolute princess for telling you to bring a silk sleep mask into the wilderness, but hey, this post is about little luxuries, not necessities. You certainly don’t need it, but it’s awfully nice.

A hanging travel roll:
You’ll be showering in a communal bathhouse, so you’ll want to store your toiletries in something that you can hang over the door to your shower stall or from the shower head. Trust me, that tiny little shelf provided always gets wet and it’s not actually wide enough to hold much, so even a tiny toiletries bag just tumbles to the floor. Every. Single. Time.

A hanging travel roll is my favorite solution. And it rolls right up and doesn’t take up a lot of room in your suitcase.

Reusable water bottles:
It’s vital to drink a lot of water outdoors, because dehydration can sneak up on you. And you’ll want to minimize your waste when you’re glamping, so bring a sturdy, reusable water bottle with you and fill it up often.

I’ve talked about my collapsable water bottle here before (and just so you know, I’m an ambassador for the company), but I still remain obsessed with it. A bottle that can be compressed when it’s not in use is a real space saver.

A fitness tracker:
I was initially very skeptical about fitness trackers, since it seemed like the features I was most interested in (tracking my steps, heart rate zone and distance walked, hiked or biked) could all be done using apps on my phone. But my husband is obsessed with his, so when the folks from Verizon sent over a Fitbit Versa to try for a few weeks, I was curious.

It was useful in my everyday life, but vital for camping (and glamping!). It holds a charge for days (the packaging says four, which was about right in my experience) and it was very user-friendly, even for a gadget skeptic like me. It’s waterproof, so I could hike, walk and bike in the rain. I even used it to swim laps in four different states, which turned out to be one of my favorite features.

The most useful feature for glamping was one I hadn’t even thought of — the alarm. During a trip to Cross Ranch State Park, the electrical outlets in our cabin weren’t located in the bedroom, so we didn’t trust that we’d hear the alarms on our phones to get up for our kayak trip in time. So I just set the alarm on my wrist, which worked just fine.

What about you?
Do you prefer glamping or camping? Why?
What are your favorite items to pack for a glamping trip?
Where are your favorite glamping spots?
What books about nature do you recommend?

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2 Replies to “Happy Glamping: Little Luxuries To Take Your Trip To The Next Level”

    1. The little comforts do really help! And I’d really recommend learning more about (and practicing) forest bathing. I’ve been researching it for a class I’m teaching and the scientific data present a compelling case! Only five hours of activity in nature a month make a big difference.

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