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Are You a Camper or a Glamper?

When I realized just how cold it was going to get in the Canadian wilderness that night (less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit after the sun set), I layered on nearly everything I had packed. My makeshift camping pajamas consisted of leggings, yoga pants, sweatpants, several pairs of socks, a T-shirt, a flannel shirt, a sweatshirt, a fleece, gloves and a hat. Were a wild animal to sink its teeth into my leg as I waddled to the bathroom in the dark that night, I wouldn’t feel a thing.

Despite my armor of cotton and fleece, I woke up in shivers more than once throughout the night. I had gone to bed with wet hair, my head soaked from a full-moon whitewater rafting excursion on the Ottawa River. Curled up on a cot in a tent at Horizon X base camp in Bryson, Quebec, I dreamed of hair dryers and warm laundry. This experience was, I had been told, “glamping.”

Like “staycation” or “tourist-tastic,” the term “glamping” is one of those awkward pop culture word fusions that people either love to state or love to hate. Clearly, it means “glamorous camping.” But beyond that, its definition is vague. Does it involve butlers? Gourmet meals in deluxe heated cabins? Pedicures under the stars?

My luxuries at Horizon X included cots, tented cabins with wood floors, hot showers in non-potable water (which could be no longer than four minutes or there wouldn’t be enough water for the rest of the camp!), and, thankfully, a Jacuzzi. There were beds in a few of the tented cabins, but I was not ruthless enough to claim one. This was a step up from conditions at some other campsites, many of which don’t even offer tents or cabins. Was I glamping?

I looked into some luxury camping options to compare. Tour company Abercrombie & Kent houses travelers on African safaris in mobile tents with king-size beds and en-suite private bathrooms that have running water. Multi-course meals are served to guests in a candlelit dining tent. Global Expeditions in Arizona offers tents with queen beds and daily turndown service in the Rockies and other U.S. destinations. Turndown service in the great outdoors — surely this is glamping.

Spending a night in the bush on a fancy king bed sounds amazing, but I wouldn’t trade my stay at Horizon X for a thing. A hot, albeit short, shower, a cot and good company were sufficient for me. The campsite was rugged and beautiful. The full-moon whitewater rafting excursion was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. And after spending two chilly nights in the remote Canadian wilderness, my own bed at home, my private heated bathroom and that leftover slice of pizza in the fridge never looked so glamorous.

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