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The History of Glamping: Luxury Camping's Early Roots and Modern Trend

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Ever wondered about the history of glamping and glamping tents?

Glamorous camping, coined as “glamping” as recently as the 21st century, has actually been around for quite some time. What started as humble beginnings grew into a global popularity in the outdoor recreation and outdoor hospitality industries. From mobile glamping businesses to glamping trade shows, it appears that glamping is here to stay. But if you’ve ever been curious as to how glamping was invented, read on to learn all about it.

The Early History of Glamping

Today, the term “glamping” might be used to help the outdoor industry and businesses reach a broader audience. In other words, an audience of people who might not otherwise be willing to venture outdoors. After all, for some, those extra creature comforts make camping look a bit more appealing. But the truth is glamping has much earlier roots. It even bordered on luxurious, opulent camping, to say the least, even if they had no idea what to call it.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

The earliest history of glamping can be traced back to lavish summit meetings held between King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France. At the summit, they put their wealth on full display, glamping to the nines in the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

image of paint The Field of the Cloth of Gold
Anonymous Artist | Field of the Cloth of Gold

The Conservation Movement

Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and several other conservationists also helped spark the early history of glamping (and camping, as a whole). Roosevelt even publicized a 1903 camping trip around Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and the Midwest area, which inspired and encouraged Americans to head into the wilderness and enjoy the great country for themselves.

In addition, the invention of the automobile made car camping affordable and much easier. Having their own transportation allowed folks to pack their canvas tents and bring along all the creature comforts, including anything from dining tables and chairs to wardrobes and trunks of silverware and fine china.

British Safari Expeditions

Not long after, during the 1920s, wealthy adventurers from England and America went on African safaris, setting up canvas safari tents during expeditions and hunting trips that were fitted with electricity, hot water, and folding campaign furniture.

Around the same time, glamping with safari-style wall tents also took off in places like Australia, Costa Rica, and Thailand. Even today, you can find glamping accommodations for modern overland safaris and hiking expeditions.

The Modern History of Glamping

glamping tents and vintage camp trailer

The earliest glampers might not have known what to call it, but the word “glamping” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016. (In fact, the earliest record of the word can be found in a 2005 travel section article of the UK’s Guardian.)

Why? Because glamping saw a huge increase in popularity in the modern era, mainly due to a need for experiences and the outdoors.

The Short-Term Rental Market

It’s little surprise that the acceleration of the short-term rental industry played a significant role in glamping. With an abundance of cookie-cutter hotels, folks began to crave one-of-a-kind accommodations and experiences. Unique camping experiences plus ensuite bathrooms and high-end amenities? Glamping was the answer.

Airstream trailers, yurts, bell tents, and treehouses. Rental sites like Airbnb found a niche market and offered an abundance of glamping styles that everyone could appreciate.

Plus, with sustainability on the minds of many, eco-friendly glamping accommodations – complete with solar power, composting toilets, and local goods and services – became a smarter way to travel.

Glamping History and Social Distancing

When social distancing became the norm during the COVID-19 global outbreak, people sought clever and safer ways to escape and travel.

Luckily, glamping offered a perfect medium ground for campers and those who preferred a touch of luxury too. And being outdoors during the pandemic was simply good for both mental and physical health.

Luxurious Outdoor Retreats

During the pandemic, many people were introduced to glamping. And now, many have grown quite attached to the outdoor lifestyle. Campgrounds are still filled up and glamping is still a growing trend.

But today, glamping outfits have become so much more. Whether it’s bell tents or vintage campers, folks are taking advantage of the DIY movement and fixing up their very own luxury outdoor retreat. Pitch it in the backyard as an extra guest suite or fall into a nomadic lifestyle, it doesn’t matter! Glamping is the outdoor sanctuary you want it to be!

The History of Glamping and Beyond

The history of camping is longer than that of glamping. But the history of glamping might just be getting started. And it’s clear why glamping shifted from simple upscale camping trips into elaborate wedding venues and unique rental accommodations.

Ultimately, folks needed an escape.

Whether modern glamping was spurred by the desire to unplug from our world’s ever-growing age of technology or the desperate need to reconnect with a family vacation everyone agrees upon, one thing’s certain: there’s no wrong or right way to go glamping (or camping, for that matter).

Bring the level of opulence or simplicity you and your guests prefer. Whatever it takes to find peace and tranquility outdoors.


Brette DeVore
Brette DeVore

As a former hospitality interior designer with an adventurous spirit and love for travel, I now help interior designers and tourism-related businesses in creating online content and media.

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