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That's a word that was completely unknown to me until I received this note from my sister, Heidi:

Glamping is big and getting bigger all of the time. Especially as the boomers retire daily. There are even 3 sites in PA and four in Ohio… and 9 in Texas.

And it is related to the off the grid and tiny house movement… also inspired by Burning Man subculture. As you can see, it was added to the Oxford Dictionary last year.

There are glamping supplies, tents, and destinations. See the official web site.

To make a full disclosure of my true feelings about the word "glamping", I must confess that I dislike this oxymoronic portmanteau ("glamor" + "camping").  It doesn't sound good to my ear, and the principles upon which it is constructed seem flimsy to my mind.

I never heard about the other things mentioned by Heidi either, but I find them incredibly interesting, especially because they echo what I was aware of about the mobility of nomadic peoples on the Eurasian steppe during the past three millennia.

The Ottomans had very elaborate tents, the Mongolian rulers had enormous ger palaces on wheels pulled by large teams of bullocks, and the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other nomads still move from site to site with their collapsible yurts.  So far as we can reconstruct the history of the first dynasty in the East Asian Heartland (EAH), the Shang (ca. 1600-1046 BC), even they felt obliged to move their capital from time to time.

Yurts have been a distinctive feature of life in Central Asia for at least three thousand years (see “Yurts in History and Art” photo album). The first written description of a yurt used as a dwelling was recorded by Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who lived in Greece between 484 and 424 BC. Herodotus, who is regarded as the father of history, was the first person in the world to record an accurate account of the past. He described yurt-like tents as the dwelling place of the Scythians, a horse riding-nomadic nation who lived in the northern Black Sea and Central Asian region from around 600 BC to AD 300. Thus, the yurt was described in the first historical document in the world.

Yurts have been continually in use since this time as habitation for the Mongolian nomadic peoples of the Central Asian Plateau. Archeological evidence proves that the first empire of steppe warriors in Central Asia, the Huns, who were active from the 4th to the 6th century AD, used yurts as their principal dwellings.


For a magisterial treatment of the subject, see Peter Alford Andrews, Felt Tents and Pavilions:  The Nomadic Tradition and its Interaction with Princely Tentage. 2 vols. [Kolner ethnologische Mitteilungen] ( London:  Melisende UK, 1999).  By the same author, also useful is Nomad tent types in the middle east / [im Sonderforschungsbereich 19, Tübingen enstanden] (Wiesbaden:  Reichert, 1997).

Additional references:

"Explore Mongolian Yurt, Tiny House On Wheels, and more!" on Pinterest

"Yurt" in Wikipedia

"Medieval Mongolian yurt on wheels", by Angel Pokrasoff


  1. Stan Carey said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 6:15 am

    I tend to prefer traditional-style camping too, but I don't mind glamping as a term or a practice. Kerry Maxwell wrote about it in her column at Macmillan Dictionary back in 2010.

  2. Simon K said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 6:17 am

    Victor, if you happen to be visiting London over the next three months, you might be interested in the excellent new exhibition at the British Museum on the Scythians, which includes a reconstruction of one of their tents, along with objects such as a collapsible table designed for easy portability.

  3. AntC said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 6:17 am

    In New Zealand, the term for what many call 'hiking' is 'tramping'. And on many of our 'Great Walks', promoted especially to tourists that would fit "boomers", there's a level of luxury available (at a price).

    You can both be in stunning, remote, bush under the power of your own two feet; and get your heavy gear carried for you; and get a hot shower and 3-course meal in the evening; and sneak all sorts of treats into your gear, since you're not carrying it.

    I'm pretty sure I've heard that called 'glamping' = glamour + tramping. [No the NZ Tourist Board did not sponsor this post.]

  4. Victor Mair said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 6:18 am

    From an anonymous curmudgeon:

    I would be cautious about associating glamping with the off-the-grid movement or with the tiny house movement. The off-the-grid people want to flee society and government controls. Glampers are comfort and luxury lovers who want to experience the wild outdoors while sleeping on Ralph Lauren sheets. The term "glamping" is a conflation of "glamour" and "camping", so how could the off-the-grid movement be related?

    I don't see the connection with tiny houses either. I've been looking at tiny house books for years. We've also researched the tiny house movement for years before we bought this house we're living in now. The West Coast has a number of architectural firms that specialize in fabricating upscale prefabricated modular homes that are built off-site in factories then snapped together in a flash. We looked into these. They're often featured in a popular glossy upscale magazine called "DWELL", which is read by high-end design and architecture fans.

    There is a corresponding, more recent trend of millionaire survivalists that are buying or building bunkers, but that's different. Modern life has all kinds of permutations. No movement is pure.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 6:20 am

    Thank you very much for the tip, Simon K!

  6. Laura Morland said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 7:08 am

    FWIW, I agree with the anonymous curmudgeon who wrote the he or she "would be cautious about associating glamping with the off-the-grid movement or with the tiny house movement."

    From what I can judge by the link you provided, "glamping" seems to be "glamorous camping," pure and simple — a one-off holiday for the rich, not an "all-in," 24-7 lifestyle choice for those who care to live lightly on the earth.

  7. Victor Mair said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 7:24 am

    From another anonymous curmudgeon:

    The word "glamping" is sooo irritating to me.

  8. Keith said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 7:34 am

    I've seen the word "glamping" as an alternative to "car camping" frequently over the past decade or so. That is to say, you have a big frame tent and collapsible tables, chairs and even clothes racks in the boot of an estate car.

    I can say, though, that before encountering the word I had seen the thing itself in Yugoslavia in 1989.

    A tent pitched close to my little Vango Force 10 was inhabited by somebody that my then girlfriend and I referred to as "Miss Hungary" who would each morning, dressed in a bikini, bring plush rugs out from her big four-person frame tent and vacuum clean them.

  9. austimatt said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 8:40 am

    I have no issue with glamping as a word or concept but as soon as I hear it I think clamping and cramping – neither of which I want to experience on holiday.

  10. Dennis Paul Himes said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 9:34 am

    The term "car camping" is ambiguous. Some people (including myself) use it to mean camping in a tent at a place where you drive a car up to the campsite. Other people, however, use it to mean sleeping in a car.

  11. Ben Zimmer said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 10:57 am

    The Oxford English Dictionary added glamping in its September 2016 online update, with citations going back to '05 ("These days it's more ‘glamping’ than camping, with the best companies offering state-of-the-art pre-erected tents and luxe mobile homes with ensuite bathrooms that feel like an Oscar-winner's trailer." —The Guardian, 19 Feb 2005).

  12. TKMair said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 12:06 pm

    Cheers to your anonymous curmudgeon! I feel I could have written that comment myself, and thus, echo its sentiments.

  13. TKMair said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 12:10 pm

    Both curmudgeons! Though I mainly meant the first, more elaborate one. LOL. Glamping is a somewhat irritating term and practice in my view too, but not that bad on the whole, considering how much other ridiculousness abounds now. Harrumph.

  14. Nancy Friedman said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 2:05 pm

    I wrote about "glamping" in July 2007, a few months after USA Today cited it: At the time, it was still primarily a Britishism, but it already had begun to make inroads into North America.

  15. Mike K said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 2:18 pm

    The word glamping was almost certainly intended to be derogatory by its coiners and original users, which I think explains the annoyance it generates.

  16. Victor Mair said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 3:54 pm

    From yet another anonymous curmudgeon:

    It's an ugly word.

  17. Brian Olson said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 4:17 pm

    I've been glamping for years. Definitely heard it first amongst burningman types. In 'backpacking' you carry everything on your back in one pack for as many miles as you care to go, and make camp and supplies from that. Glamping probably has a high overlap with 'car camping' where nothing is really optimized for weight or size because you can just drive up to your camp site. Glamping probably brings _more_ stuff because you'll want changes of costume and blinky lights and accessories and camp decorations and art projects.

  18. Alyssa said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 5:21 pm

    I think the ugliness of the word is part of its appeal. It comes across like you're mocking yourself a bit. "My family goes camping every year. Well, more like glamping – there's electricity and showers."

  19. Chris C. said,

    October 5, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

    No glamper can outdo the portable palace of Kublai Khan at Shangdu — if Marco Polo is to be believed, anyway.

  20. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    October 6, 2017 @ 6:06 am

    Glamping has been around for quite a while in the UK, but to me it's not really something that you can do for yourself – it's something that you do in purpose built structures, whether wooden 'pods' or shepherd's huts or yurts or whatever the latest fashion is. Putting a big tent in your car and heading off to a campsite with a shower block is still just camping.

    So it *could* be associated with Burning Man and small house type things, in that it's about temporary buildings made of mostly natural materials – but as far as I know it isn't, because glamping is a very middle class and conventional thing to do.

    I don't think the word was meant to sound pejorative, but it was possibly meant to sound a bit silly in a 'cute' sort of way…

  21. richardelguru said,

    October 6, 2017 @ 6:13 am

    When I saw the title I immediately thought that we would be exploring the world of illegal parking, and clamping companies busily doing the equivalent of gazumping each other.

    But that's probably just me.

  22. Ray said,

    October 7, 2017 @ 7:29 am

    (I can't hear "glamping" without thinking about tugly woods and vorpal blades.)

  23. Victor Mair said,

    October 7, 2017 @ 8:03 am

    From the first curmudgeon:

    HA! I love the story about the Hungarian girl in the bikini and vacuuming her rugs.

    It would be worth a lot to see that. I'd extend my stay as long as she was camping.

    I differ with Keith on one point: car camping is not the same as glamping. Car camping might be viewed as a midpoint between backpack camping and glamping.

  24. Victor Mair said,

    October 7, 2017 @ 8:15 am

    From the first curmudgeon:

    I think Mike K is wrong: the word "glamping" couldn't have been intended as derogatory. After all, it was used by Sunset Magazine, the very font of posh.

  25. Victor Mair said,

    October 7, 2017 @ 8:22 am

    From the first curmudgeon:

    Again, Brian Olson is wrong.

    There is little or no overlap between car camping and glamping.

    I have been car camping, as have many seniors who no longer care to carry their house on their backs, like a turtle. Yes, you can carry more stuff in the back of the car, but it might be mean, nasty, cheap old kit and you cook your own food.

    When you're glamping there is none of that. There are four poster beds and swag curtains. No lie! Just check the Google image search for glamping.

  26. Victor Mair said,

    October 8, 2017 @ 1:22 pm

    From an American Anglophile:

    The glamping commenters have gone on to other things after an exchange with a lot of humor and a surprisingly negative response to the word and the concept.

    I noticed that a number of commenters mentioned that glamping was well established in the UK before it became a phenomenon in the US.

    I can well understand that. The practice of taking the train out of London for elaborate picnics is part of the city life. The transportation system (and the lovely, pastoral environment itself!) lent themselves to this sort of outing. (You might look at the UK railway travel posters of the 1930s which marketed this concept extensively.) Also, the elaborate network of canals and narrow houseboats, available for rent, are a long-cherished tradition.

    But to look for the true antecedents of glamping you need look no further than the British explorers, who have been going on elegant safaris for centuries.

    Also, their long-established tradition of walking. I experienced this when I was in England about eight years ago and learned that the walkers would walk from gastro-pub* to gastro-pub. I visited some of these rural pubs and watched as the walkers stopped in for a mid-day pint or a wonderful gastro-pub meal. I suspect it has been like this as long as there as been an England.


    *[VHM: word coined in 1991]

  27. mollymooly said,

    October 10, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

    I suspect the relative prevalence of different subtypes of camping vary greatly between the US and the UK, so it would not be surprising if the Briticism "glamping" finds its meaning altered once imported into America.

    Relatedly, I have never encountered the term "car camping", not because it's unusual in Ireland but rather because it's the default type. Admittedly, I have seldom camped, but I think in much of Europe most camping is done at campsites rather than "wild camping" (which might infringe landowners' rights).

  28. Nancy Friedman said,

    October 10, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

    @mollymooly: "Car camping" simply means you drive to the campsite rather than backpack in.

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