Outdoor Lodging, Not what it Used to Be

By Owen Gallagher

Crawl out of your king-size bed, linger a few extra minutes in your private bathroom, then enjoy a quick breakfast in your kitchen while the ceiling fan calmly keeps the air-conditioning circulating against the mid-summer heat. Now all you need to do is pull back the tent flaps and take in the sights, sounds and smells of nature up close.

That's right, tent flaps. No, you're not dreaming; you're glamping. The term is a mash-up of glamour and camping, an experience that lets you connect with the great outdoors and nature without giving up modern luxuries. Glamping --technically defined as staying in a unique, non-RV accommodation that includes an enhanced level of services and amenities -- is a growing trend throughout the country and New Jersey.

The 2019 North American Camping Report, detailing five-year trends for the Kampgrounds of America, says 45 percent of all campers are interested in a glamping experience. Their options in New Jersey range from glamping tents and small cabins to park models that are much like a hotel room with all the comforts of home ... and maybe more. Shop around and you could find a one-of-a-kind experience in a teepee that comfortably sleeps six or a replica of a traditional covered wagon that could actually be driven on the road if the need arose. If those options are appealing, act fast, campground owners say, because there are a lot of people looking to book those sites.

Christine Salerno, general manager with her husband of Holly Shores Camping Resort in Lower Township, Cape May County, says they already feature four glamping tents among their 300 campsites and are adding two more because they are so popular.

Their glamping tents are 60-foot-by-20-foot canvas units with a small kitchen, air conditioning and heat. "I like to kind of refer to them as a MASH tent or a Hemingway-type tent," Salerno says. "It's fully furnished. It has a king-size bed and two twin beds. ... It has a ceiling fan and bath in it. It's pretty glampy. People love it. It's not just coming to a camp site and camping in a tent. It's an experience."

Salerno says manufacturers are catching on and making units that offer the charm of roughing it without sacrificing the creature comforts of home. "For Mom and Grandmom who are like, 'I'm not sleeping in a tent,' it's definitely the way to go," she says.

Jean Taylor, of Camp Taylor in Columbia, Warren County, says the deluxe cabins and luxury RVs they rent on their 400 acres adjacent to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, rent fast because they have kitchens and bathrooms. Rental tents are also popular because they save you from having to buy and bring all your own equipment, which is a great advantage if you're just trying camping for the first time. "It's already set up, it's up on a platform, it has a regular bed, you're not sleeping on the ground," she says. "It has a heater in it. There's a tarp over the entire thing so the tent won't leak even if it does rain, so it's all the conveniences without having to pack everything. All they have to do is bring their food and clothes."

Taylor says her family's campground is not really a resort. "We're attracting the people who want to reconnect with nature and have the outdoor experience," she says. But in addition to their primitive tent sites, some spots do have water and electric so campers can plug in a cell phone or use an electric coffee pot. Camp Taylor also offers high-end, deluxe cabins and luxury RVs with a bathroom, TV, pots, pans and dishes. "You're basically just bringing your food and your love for a unique outdoor experience," Taylor says.

Luxury tent rentals that satisfy the glamping trend were new this past year at Kymer's Camping Resort in the Kittatinny Mountains in Branchville, Sussex County. Karen Kymer, who is also president of the New Jersey Campground Owners Association, says campers in the tents just have to bring their own blankets, sheets and towels, food and other such things. Campers without their own RVs also have options of rustic cabins, which have a half bath, refrigerator, microwave and TV. Premium cabins have a full bathroom and mini kitchen, while the park model is like a little apartment with a full kitchen, a full bathroom and bedroom.

The variety of choices are good for the many family reunions the camp sees, Kymer says. "You have people that, maybe the husband is a real true camper, but the wife isn't and they want to have that outdoor experience, so the they kind of compromise and maybe they'll take a cabin, so you're still in an enclosed structure."

Whatever the choice, Kymer says the experience is still about the outdoor experience and getting connected to nature.

That is in an integral part of glamping. It's about a new way to live out a passion for nature, recognizing the appeal of activities such as an old-fashioned hike through the woods, but not necessarily a late-night hike to the bathroom.

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New Jersey Campground Owners & Outdoor Lodging Association
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