How to glamp right. Hint: don't be me

I'm still recovering from a 3-night glamping adventure, so no serious miles-and-points analysis today. Instead, here are my thoughts on what you should keep in mind when going glamping for the first time.


I grew up in Western Montana, which means I grew up camping. Camping meant driving (as kids) or hiking (as adults) as far as you could before sundown, leaving just enough time to throw up tents and start a fire before having a quick dinner, telling some jokes, and turning in for the night. Space and carrying capacity being limited, you packed exactly what you planned to eat for each meal, each day in the wilderness — plus maybe a few protein bars.

So when my friends invited me camping, that's more or less what I expected. It turns out Madeline Island is a fully-developed resort community that happens to have a state park where camping is permitted.

Things I did wrong

Here's a quick rundown of the things I did wrong on this glamping adventure:

  • Pillows. When you're hiking into camp, you bring a sleeping bag with a padded top — a pillow would take up an impossible amount of space. When you're glamping, you drive right into the campsite, and can fill the whole car with pillows if you like. After the first night, I ended up sleeping in the car since it was more comfortable than lying flat on my back on the gravel ground of the campsite.
  • Sports equipment. When you go glamping in a resort community, there are community amenities like tennis courts and softball fields. Since I've been teaching my partner tennis this summer, the trip would have been a lot more fun if we'd brought some rackets and balls. Check ahead of time what amenities are available near your glampsite.
  • Bathing gear. Needless to say, when camping in Western Montana your only chance at a bath is a very quick dip in the nearest (ice-cold, glacier-fed) river. Our glampsite had running water and showers, but it didn't occur to me to bring towels. Or shampoo. Or soap. Remember: I thought we were going camping!
  • Firestarters. On the night my partner and I got the campfire going, it took us hours to carefully coax the wood up until it was finally hot enough to cook on. When our friends started the fire, they put some prefabricated fuel cubes in the fire and lit them, which only took a few minutes. Do that instead.

Things I did right

Having said that, I got a few things right:

  • Way too much food. Rather than planning each meal in advance, we went on a shopping spree beforehand buying both the stuff we wanted to cook over the campfire and a variety of snacks that we knew we'd eat eventually. This was a great move, since when glamping the urgency of coordinating meals is much lower, and you may end up needing more snacks between meals.
  • Camping uniform. Since I wasn't planning to shower, I picked a pretty simple camping uniform: long underwear, a pair of shorts, and a long-sleeved, lightweight shirt. It kept me mostly bite-free from disease-carrying insects, and worry-free from getting dirt and grass stains, since they were basically my workout clothes.
  • Reading material. Just like when camping, the days in camp are long and boring. Bring everything you can think of to read. Stock up on podcasts. Download movies. You may think you're there to enjoy nature's beauty, but when the sun rises at 5 AM and sets at 9 PM, it's unlikely you're going to spend every daylight hour communing with woodland creatures.


This trip was not exactly like anything I'd done before. I've stayed at relatively luxurious guesthouses in the national parks of California and Alaska, and I've gone camping in the wilderness areas of Western Montana. But the idea of combining showers and flush toilets with tents and sleeping bags on the ground positively baffled me.

Still, while I probably wouldn't drive 6 hours in each direction to do it again, I'll say I'm glad I gave it a shot.