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Camping With Style

Maybe camping has never agreed with you — the sleeping bags, the bugs, the outdoor meals. Never fear: You just might be interested in glamping.

“Glamping” — or glamour camping” — is sweeping the globe as a form of camping that gets you outdoors but doesn’t exactly rough it.

Glampers stay in yurts, teepees, tents or cabins that have been “glammed up.” In the United States, many glampers use vintage campers decorated with 1950s-era paraphernalia, like pink flamingos in the yard surrounding the camper, or pink-and-gray outdoor lights. Also called boutique camping, those participating can get their dose of the great outdoors without leaky tents and bug-encrusted picnic tables.

Southern Iowa is the latest area to celebrate the trend as the First Annual Glamour Camping Weekend was held in Chariton at the Country Cabins & Frontier Trading Post last month. Campers gathered in the south-central Iowa town for a weekend of camper tours, storytelling, a 1950s dance, and fishing and hiking at nearby Red Haw State Park.

Nick Cattell, owner of the property, said he had been looking for a purpose for a 1950s building for several years, which had been a motel catering to pheasant hunters and apartments in later years.

“I was looking on the Internet for some ideas of what to do with a big building, and I saw this little town in Germany had brought in vintage campers, decorated around them, and rented them out,” he says.

Cattell bought into the idea of glamping by re-doing his hotel rooms to look like a lodge — rooms are paneled in knotty pine with wood floors. “Glamour camping doesn’t necessarily have to be in a camper,” he says. “It’s anything that gets you close to the outdoors.”

When Cattell announced his glamping weekend, calls started flooding in. Not everyone was expected to show up with a camper. “Some are bringing tents, and we had 25 women coming who didn’t have campers,” Cattell says, adding that several were renting rooms at his facility. “We weren’t really sure what to expect!”
Those in the hospitality and tourism areas say that while the idea of luxury camping isn’t new — national parks offered cabins already in the early 1900s, for example — glamping has made a resurgence during the recent recession.

Folks wanted to go on vacation but couldn’t afford luxury travels, so they pulled out their old campers and re-worked them into a more elegant form or looked for parks and campgrounds that offered ready-made facilities.

In Iowa, the Department of Natural Resources offers cabins with electricity and cooking facilities — and some with indoor bathrooms — at 19 state parks. Another state park, McIntosh Woods State Park near Clear Lake, offers yurt rentals. The average cost is $25-$75 a night.

Cattell says the Chariton area has taken advantage of the festival, which fell on the same weekend as the countywide garage sale. “This has been good for everyone, and it can only grow,” he says.

Van Kooten is a freelance writer from Pella.