Glamping is a Real Thing, but You’re Doing it Wrong
If you’re one of the three or four people in North America who hasn’t yet heard the term, “ Glamping ” is a portmanteau word for Glamour Camping. Simply put, it means you’re going camping in high style. That means no paper plates, no fire-charred hot dogs, and for the love of all that is right and proper in the world, no S’mores. Glamping means that you sleep in a bed that would pass muster in a basic tourist hotel, eat gourmet food, and of course there’s Wi-Fi.
There are as many ways to Glamp as there are Glampers, but one of the best is to invest in a luxury vintage-design travel trailer. Readers of a certain age just shuddered, but don’t let your childhood memories of travel trailers colour your opinions just yet. There’s a whole new world of trailery goodness out there waiting for you.
The way we were
Long ago and far away, I was four years old when my parents loaded me and my baby sister into a full-size Chrysler station wagon in New Jersey, and drove us all the way across the continent to a new home in California. We pulled a small travel trailer where we cooked our meals and slept at night. That trailer stayed with my family for years, and I can still remember every detail of that little aluminium house in the driveway.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why travel trailers are enjoying a retro-surge these days. Middle-aged empty nesters and more than a few young families are realizing that trailer camping or Glamping, is actually pretty comfortable and convenient, and you don’t have to buy a whole new powered motor vehicle to use one. With the compact SUV now reigning as America’s most popular vehicle, most people can use their daily drivers to tow a light trailer and camp in regal comfort. For a good spacious SUV, (See article on the All-New Discovery Land Rover SUV) .
Real vintage trailers
The price of a new travel trailer can easily top $50,000 for a basic mid-size unit. To be frank, they work well but they lack any kind of panache. If you want to be truly in the groove, you need to be looking at restored vintage trailers. These provide old-school craftsmanship and a heavy dose of retro mid-century aesthetic at an attractive price point. Wendy Durighello has been restoring vintage travel trailers since 2004, and you can see the results of her work at tininntraveltrailers.com.
“When I started, I wanted something affordable I could camp in and tow behind my vehicle,” Durighello says. “Then I noticed how well they worked, and how every nook and cranny had a purpose. So I started refurbishing old trailers, and I found I could sell a trailer in any month of the year. I’ve sold trailers all over the country.”
If that sounds good to you, check out sistersonthefly.com. Sisters on the Fly is a social group for women who like to camp, and their website offers dozens of classified ads for vintage trailers in various states of restoration. Prices range from $3,500 to well over $30,000, so they’ll fit almost any budget.
You can also order up a subscription to Vintage Camper Trailer magazine, or just browse the associated website at vintagecampertrailers.com. You’ll find information on the budding vintage trailer craze, and plenty of trailers for sale there, too.
Afraid of commitment?
OK, so buying a vintage trailer means you have to stash it somewhere, and that can be a drag. Or maybe your car isn’t set up to drag a town of stuff around behind you. That’s OK – we’ve got you covered.
With the surge of interest in trailer – Glamping, RV park and resort owners have purchased and restored their own trailers and set them up in semi-permanent spots with running water, electricity, and even little patio areas set up for dining. A place with all the comforts of home is the essence of the Glamp.
The Flats RV and Campground in Canal Flats, B.C. is a perfect example. When Glamping, Glampers can choose from six vintage trailers including a 1964 Airstream “Bambi” and a 1961 United.
“Everyone wants to stay in an Airstream!” enthuses Kelly Kask, owner of The Flats. “We have a large range of visitors travelling the highway to Alaska, as we are the last stop prior to the world-famous Lussier natural hot springs.”
The Flats is located just 40 minutes north of Cranbrook, nestled in the East Kootenay Mountains. Check out their offerings at theflatsrv.com.
Pender Island, B.C. hosts the Woods on Pender RV park, with seven fully restored Airstream trailers permanently arranged with cedar decks and relaxing Adirondack chairs. You can even rent one with a hot tub to complete your Glamping milieu. Find out more at woodsonpender.com.
The Sou’wester Lodge on Washington’s Long Beach peninsula has similar installations, and additional campgrounds are installing vintage trailers as fast as they can get them ready.
“We’ve captured the public’s imagination,” says Thandi Rosenbaum of the Sou’wester Lodge. “A typical guest is an urbanite nature lover who is in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. We have a lot of young families as well as single people. People are attracted to the craftsmanship and the creative expression in general.”
Travelers to B.C.’s Vancouver Island can even rent vintage trailers on Airbnb that can be delivered to the resort campsite of your choice.
You can access a long list of available glamping resorts here. http://mobilehomeliving.org/9-great-vintage-travel-trailer-campgrounds/
Hawley Bowlus would be proud
William Hawley Bowlus was an engineer and shop foreman who worked on Charles Lindbergh’s record-breaking “Spirit of St. Louis” airplane in the 1920s. In the 1930s, he more-or-less invented the silver pillbug-shaped travel trailer. Made of lightweight aluminum sheets, the Bowlus Road Chief was the top luxury trailer of its day, and the inspiration for the later Airstream.
A few years ago, a young entrepreneur named Geneva Long got the idea to create an updated version of the legendary Road Chief. She and her parents, John Long and Helena Mitchell, had previously restored a vintage Road Chief, so they knew what they were getting into.
“The reality is that vintage trailers are not that comfortable,” Mitchell says. “Our market is people who appreciate fine design and who appreciate craftsmanship.”
The new Bowlus Road Chief offers fully modern technology inside, but retains the streamlined art deco exterior design values of the 1930s. The result is a trailer like no other on the market, almost steampunk in its exterior presentation. But this is far more than a skin job – there’s a purpose behind the design. The way the Road Chief is built gives it an aerodynamic exterior and plenty of space inside. A Road Chief will sleep up to six people in comfort, with modern mattresses and easily configurable facilities. Hawley Bowlus would be proud.
When you step inside the Road Chief, you’ll find real wood paneling and quality construction and materials, and a series of high-tech features like lightweight Lithium-Iron-Phosphate storage batteries, wireless brakes, and a full 4G/LTE data setup with Wi-Fi. Optionally, you can get solar panels that will recharge the batteries during the daylight hours.
The galley in the Road Chief is lined with stainless steel sheets like a commercial kitchen, and the outdoor table setup clips to the side of the trailer for stability and convenience. This is a trailer that will allow you to toss your hot dog sticks in the trash, and make crème brulee instead of those sticky S’mores.
The most basic “On the Road” model of the Road Chief sells for $137,000, or you can choose the Limited Edition Lithium+ model for a cool $219,000. The company is ramping up sales as fast as people can learn about the Road Chief. To date, about 25 units have been sold.
“Our customers are people who have travelled the world, but who haven’t seen America yet,” Mitchell says.
See North America the way your grandparents did
It doesn’t get much press these days, but America is dotted with pleasant and accessible parks and campgrounds set next to lakes, rivers, and mountains. A road trip with a trailer gives you freedom of movement, a normal-size car in which to explore the area, and a comfortable base of operations.
The Columbia River Valley and B.C.’s great Okanagan region are home to dozens of parks with trailer camping, ranging from the primitive to the fully-connected, at prices that beat even the traveller’s motels. Fishing, kayaking, hiking, and many other activities await you on the far side of the horizon. Whether you choose vintage trailering, weekend rentals, or a new high-tech marvel dressed in old-school shine, the road is ready to welcome you.