Thanksgiving Prep: Glamping Big Bend National Park

Camping and luxury are not mutually exclusive, and "glamping" is more than just a funny word--it's a legitimate travel craze. There are dozens and dozens of websites dedicated to glamping, or "glamour camping." The travel industry is capitalizing on the concept by offering people an alternative somewhere in between tent/car camping and a hotel stay. Rather than renting a hotel room, or driving around at dusk searching out an open campsite so you can pitch your own tent before dark falls, glampers can rent yurts, tents, trailers, and even treehouses to get a taste of the outdoors without sacrificing (much) comfort or convenience.

Of course, some of us still want to camp--really camp--in a tent, cook our own food over a fire (or, at least, a flash stove), and still more of us (read: ME) are doing it at Big Bend National Park for Thanksgiving. The combination of camping and holiday festivities begs for the addition of some GLAMOUR, so I touched base with my favorite female campers to get advice on how to glamp on a camp budget.

Alaska Glamp Squad: Dolores, Kate, Helen, moi, Morgan, & Sally.
Alaska Glamp Squad: Dolores, Kate, Helen, moi, Morgan, & Sally.
Photo by Joshua Payne

Glamping Must-Have: Booze

Experienced at more than just camping, Helen Idzorek is a canning, preserving, garden-growing inspiration from my Alaska days. (We butchered and canned a moose together once.) Helen (and her mom, Peggy, and sister Kate) are my family's go-to experts on everything from growing veggies in the backyard to canning them in our kitchen. When asked what luxury item she would bring on a camping trip her answer was short and simple, "Two wine bags." Knowing Helen, one is for camp and the other for her Camelbak.

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Booze might seem like a given on any camping trip, but when weight and/or space are an issue, it becomes a luxury item fast. Field geologist and Ph.D candidate at the University of Texas, Dolores van der Kolk has spent many summers camping and working on Alaska's North Slope. When she's packing enough gear to weigh down an entire helicopter (seriously), Dolores has to calculate for weight exactly. "Beer is a treat, because you want the most bang for your buck," she explained. "You've got to bring high-alcohol beers. A Chimay is our celebratory beer; it goes out wrapped in bubble wrap."

For cold weather camping, my friend (and fellow Thanksgiving glamper) Kate Magee recommends whiskey and cider. "Add a cinnamon stick if you're going all out," Kate wrote in an email. "Warmed up on a single stove, it's my go-to for cold weather camping." Kate also advises adding a bottle opener/corkscrew to your permanent camping kit--better safe than sorry.

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Glamping the Chena River in April 2014. Air Repair, Clarins, Kiehl's, and Chanel on board.
Glamping the Chena River in April 2014. Air Repair, Clarins, Kiehl's, and Chanel on board.
Photo by Christina Uticone

Glamping Must-Have: Beauty & Hygiene

Part of the fun of camping is getting dirty, and staying dirty, but after a few days that can get pretty itchy--and stinky. In lieu of a shower, no-rinse body wipes (like baby wipes) are a must. And while you don't need to worry about doing your hair, think ahead to what Unwashed Scalp Day Four will feel like--and then pick up some dry shampoo. Many drugstore brands (Dove, Herbal Essences, TRESemme) carry a version now for around $5.

Going beyond mere cleanliness to true glamping--and if you've got the room to pack them--there are a few other must-haves to take camping to the next level of luxury. "Those Jack Black lip balms are the best," enthused Dolores, who introduced me to the line on a camping trip in Alaska a few years ago. The SPF 25 can't be beat, especially for an oft-forgotten space on the body that is oft-subjected to sunlight, and they smell yummy, too. Another glamping must-have was submitted by camper/hiker/angler/hunter extraordinaire Morgan Kertzmann, who discovered her favorite glamping luxury in my travel bag. "I have to bring my Body Shop Vitamin C energizing face spritz!" wrote Morgan, adding, "And pomegranates, so we can all get our dirty little paws in 'em!"

Glamping is also the perfect time to employ all of those little travel-sized and gift-with-purchase sample sizes rolling around your bathroom drawers. The random 32 Oral Care Effervescent Breath Crystals that came in a recent Birchbox are definitely coming to Big Bend, as are various serums and creams from Caudalie, Clarins, and Chanel for a late-night campfire spa session; my Air Repair skincare kit is also a must.

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Man Glamp Fail: Corey remembered his dress shoes, but not his hiking boots, for a wedding in Chugach National Forest.
Man Glamp Fail: Corey remembered his dress shoes, but not his hiking boots, for a wedding in Chugach National Forest.
Photo by Christina Uticone

Glamping Must-Have: Music

Big Bend Glamping partner-in-crime Kate Magee considers any car camping trip a luxury trip when compared to backcountry deprivation levels. Hours after sending her list of glamping necessities she followed it up with one more. "I just thought of another--portable speakers," Kate wrote. "You wouldn't believe how small--even backpacking-friendly--some portable speakers are these days. The best are rechargeable with Bluetooth, so you don't have to worry with cords." No more running down the car battery to listen to music, plus tunes to bring along anywhere you hike for a midday picnic? Shopping speakers now.


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