I joined the ranks of happy campers when I was a teenager and my mother coerced my father into buying a travel trailer, a 1967 StarCraft. Our first road trip, with Dad behind the wheel of his new Chrysler pulling his new camper, Mom riding shotgun, and my younger siblings and I happily squabbling in the back seat, ended in disaster. No one told my parents that a regular car may not be equipped for towing a travel trailer, as they found out when the new car’s engine overheated and caught fire while navigating through the “hills” of West Virginia! Next time they ventured out with the StarCraft, Dad was driving a new Chevy station wagon customized with a huge radiator, lots of horsepower, and some heavy-duty brakes.

In the years that followed, we enjoyed successful family trips in the travel trailer to exotic RV resorts in South Carolina, Florida, and Virginia. Later, when I had a family of my own, I remembered those camping trips and I wanted my family to share some of the same camping experiences that I had growing up. 

We started camping in tents with the kids, roughing it. We pitched a tent, slept on air mattresses on the ground, cooked meals on a two-burner camp stove, and washed with ice cold water hauled in buckets from a nearby stream. When I think back to those simple camping trips the words “freedom” and “breathe” come to mind.

It would seem inevitable that as time went on, sleeping in tents that were no longer waterproof, on air mattresses that leaked, would become less attractive. We still enjoyed tent camping despite the occasional inconveniences, so the perfect solution was to graduate to a pop-up tent trailer.

Upscale furniture, firepits and gas grills are typically found in upgraded RV glamping sites like this one at teh West Outer Banks KOA in North Carolina, July 2021. (Sharon Schultz / Outlook by the Bay)

Our Fleetwood pop-up tent bestowed us with years of camping high and dry and sleeping on a soft mattress. The Fleetwood had a heater, which allowed us to camp year-round, and electricity, and was much easier to set up and break down than a regular tent. It was small enough to be easily towed by a car, and it was able to go places that larger vehicles could not. Eventually, we found ourselves camping with our grandchildren and our 4 dogs and began to experience claustrophobia. It was time to upgrade again.

Today, our second home is a 33-foot class A motor home called the Hurricane. In fact, we recently returned from an excellent camping experience on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. On this trip my husband and I were accompanied by our daughter, two of our granddaughters and all four of our Bichon pups. By traveling in the Hurricane, we escaped the blazing summer heat and stayed cool, rested, and well-fed, thanks to air conditioning, real beds, and a full kitchen and bath — just like home!

Yes, we’ve come a long way baby, far from the world of tents, deep into the heart of the RV community, where camping is better known today as “glamping.”

Glamping is a new opportunity to make your camping experience luxurious. There was a time when the words camping and luxury would never appear in the same sentence, but no longer. Today’s recreational vehicles come in an endless variety of models, sizes, and floor plans to suit every need and every budget. 

Motorized recreational vehicles are categorized into three classes for easier identification. Class A motor homes are the largest, most luxurious, and certainly most expensive — perfect for glamping hands down. Class B camper vans are the smallest of the drivables, cozy and compact, and quite easy to navigate and park, while class C motor homes fall somewhere in between the first two classes in size but may have the most spacious living areas of the three. 

Travel trailers need a separate vehicle of suitable size, based on their length and weight, to pull them with. They are not motorized like the previous three classes but come in an equal variety of sizes and floor plans. Consider the enormous Fifth Wheel trailers which require a truck with a customized bed to accommodate the hitch, or Toy Haulers that carry vehicles in a garage space separate from the living quarters, eliminating towing behind the coach. 

Tent camping appears to be trending among campers in the 20-30 age group, especially among those with environmental concerns. With the proper equipment it is possible to have all the necessities in a much smaller footprint. Minimalists and green space advocates are particularly drawn to this least invasive method of camping. In fact, it is currently trendy to convert your SUV or truck into a sparse, but comfortable sleeping space. Tailgate tents come in all sizes and are made to attach to any vehicle with a hatchback to extend the space in the cargo area. Add a pair of hooded window covers with screens to keep the rain out and the air flowing, to create a cozy and comfortable overnight sleeping space without much to do.

Camping or Glamping? Trailer or Tent? Still undecided? It is estimated that one million retirees will spend at least part of the year traveling on America’s roadways in an RV and camping resorts around the country are ready, willing, and able to glamorize their camping experience. On any given day, there are 100,000-200,000 recreational vehicles traveling on America’s highways. Many RV parks now offer upgraded campsites for an additional fee. They include wooden decks instead of gravel or dirt pads, bright, pastel patio chairs and tables with colorful umbrellas, party lights, lush landscaping, and more.

Not sure yet? One of the many lifestyle changes resulting from the coronavirus lockdown is a nationwide trend that encourages RV owners to rent their vehicles to others. COVID-19 taught us that there isn’t safety in numbers and that the outdoors is the best place to be. Companies that rent recreational vehicles to customers are not new but renting from a private owner is. Ads from individuals with motor homes and travel trailers for lease appear on all the social media platforms and media outlets. Most rented campers are ready to drive away to the destination of your choice while others may remain as a stationary living space available for short-term rentals. The terms and costs governing the use of these vehicles are as varied as their floor plans. 

Not to be left out by the glamping rental movement, RV resorts and campgrounds around the country currently offer all types of recreational vehicles to rent right on the property. The motor homes and trailers are situated on choice, upgraded campsites, with complete hookups and all the bells and whistles the resort offers. 

Many campgrounds have cabins for rent with accommodations that vary between rustic and luxurious, and some campgrounds even offer new and innovative glamping tents. These super tents are constructed from heavy canvass material that is secured to a raised wooden platform. There is carpet, electricity and lighting, a bed, tables, chairs, microwave, a fridge, and lots more. These glamping tents are available for rent to tenting traditionalists looking for a more relaxing camping experience.

So, there it is — camping vs glamping. Which one will you choose? Having already run the full gambit, I don’t see myself giving up the Hurricane anytime soon — except maybe for an upgrade.

Sharon is a freelance photojournalist and a proud “Bay” Boomer from Anne Arundel County. Contact Sharon via email at [email protected].

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Sharon is a writer/photographer and a proud “Bay” Boomer from Anne Arundel County and can be contacted at [email protected]