Air conditioning, refrigerators and luxury bedding are becoming camping staples as young travelers bridge the gap between nature and home life. Northwest Arkansas is home to a few modern camping experiences, including the Hideout Airstreams and White Tail Tents.
Glamorous camping, or glamping, has risen in popularity with half of millennials and nearly half of Gen Z having shown an interest in glamping, according to the 2019 Northern American Camping Report. The glamping market in the U.S. is projected to grow nearly 15% by 2024 to a value of $1 billion, according to Arizton.
Glamping encompasses a broad range of camping styles, including luxury tents and campers. In November 2020, a group of friends launched The Hideout Airstreams, an urban glamping business located in the Mill District of south Fayetteville.
“We have all camped together a lot,” said Natalie Bailey, co-owner of The Hideout. “Now, we all have kids and really appreciate all those comforts and conveniences that the airstreams provide.”
The Hideout encourages people to try camping by providing a welcoming place to start, Bailey said.
The two airstreams – called Stella and Pearla – have electricity, air conditioning and running water that a typical camping experience does not offer, while keeping an outdoor feel, Bailey said. Guests are comfortable while still “sleeping closer to the stars,” she said.
“It feels closer to the outdoors than a house,” Bailey said. “The barrier between yourself and the outdoors is less of a barrier than a home or hotel. With the glamping side of things, you still have the comforts that make it less intimidating to somebody who may not be willing to ‘rough it.’”
Stephanie Dishman, 53, a Pea Ridge resident, has been camping her whole life, but glamping is a new experience for her, she said. Typically, Dishman and her family take their camper to lakes and streams for easy access when canoeing or fishing, she said.
“My family has always loved camping, and when my boys were small, we would actually go camping and ‘rough it.’” Dishman said. “As I got older, of course, sleeping on the rocks isn’t as comfortable.”
Dishman camps with her family year round, and glamping allows them to go camping from the safety of their RV even in bad weather, she said.
“I’m sure there are more campers out there that will say, ‘well, I’ll never go glamping,’” Dishman said. “I was probably one of those until I, you know, got the opportunity to have a camper.”
While glamping is a relatively new concept, White Tail Tents established Northwest Arkansas’s first glamping business in October 2019. The business was a spur-of-the-moment decision motivated by a passion for traveling, said Stephanie Byrnes, owner of White Tail Tents.
“My husband and I traveled full time for a year in a camper with our kids,” Byrnes said. “So many people would tell us, you know, ‘I’d love to go camping with my kids, but I just can’t.’”
The company was founded by Byrnes and her husband, Anthony, along with another couple, Colby and Cassandra Roberts. The two families are dedicated campers, and the idea came from the dream to make camping more convenient and accessible for people intimidated by traditional camping, Byrnes said.
“We just wanted people to experience (camping),” Byrnes said. “It made it so that they didn’t have to invest in the gear up front but maybe they could get a taste of camping.”
The owners set up the tents at the location of the customer’s choosing, including backyards and private campgrounds like Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville, Byrnes said. They provide decorated canvas tents with bedded mattresses, as well as added accessories like s'mores kits, outdoor movie projectors and fire pits.
“We saw several companies overseas, specifically in Australia and the U.K., that were doing these canvas tents that we thought (were) really interesting,” Byrnes said.
Byrnes and her husband learned of the term “glamping” after traveling the United States in their camper for a year in 2017, she said. Glamping became a global trend in 2007, and in 2016, “glamping” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary, according to GlampingHub.
“I definitely think that (glamping) is something that feels a little more fun and adventurous and interesting that people have been excited to try,” Bailey said.
Bailey and the other founders of the Hideout live in the Mill District. The business started with the hopes of bettering their neighborhood, she said.
“Hopefully, it inspires people to think out of the box a little bit,” Bailey said. “It takes a lot of creativity and a lot of persistence, but we’re all for, you know, encouraging others to do something that isn’t easy and provide something cool for their community.”
For many campers, the most important part of glamping is the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, Dishman said.
“My boys grew up camping, and now, my grandkids are learning about glamping because that’s all they know,” Dishman said. “It’s something that everyone would go out of their way to make time for.