11/05/2010 03:52 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

To Glamp or to Camp -- That Is the Question

The Answer? Both

I've always liked the idea of camping. It's the actual camping that I took issue with. Sleeping on the ground. Dodging bugs. Eating food cooked on sticks. Not exactly my idea of a good time.

But night skies full of stars. Campfires with s'mores. Spending the day taking in the great outdoors. Now that I could live with.

But the truth was, I had never really done any sort of camping, so how could I know what I really liked? I decided it was high time I checked it out and signed on for a rock climbing trip to Joshua Tree with a place called Inner Passage, taking my very first stab at roughing it.

We climbed during the day and slept in pop up tents at night. The only food we cooked on a stick was marshmallows. And I didn't even get one mosquito bite. I loved climbing, despite my protests mid-climb.

Not showering for three days was not nearly as bad as I expected. But I could go my whole life without ever using one of those glorified campsite port-a-pottys. I can imagine myself going camping again. But my experience left me wondering -- especially now with the weather getting colder in many places -- what's a person to do when you want a camping fix without the camping fetters?

Then I heard about something called glamping.

You heard me right. Glamping. Glamorous camping. I had my first experience on a small island just off of Darien, Georgia called Eagle Island. I stayed in a very comfy lodge. Meals were served on real plates. My bed was heavenly. And yet my days still consisted of hiking and kayaking and shelling. Like the best of both worlds to my mind.

Here's the lowdown:

Glampfire* vs. campfire
Both mean ghost stories and s'mores. But the former also means a pre-stacked fire pit down the path or a fireplace on the screened in porch, where no mosquitoes are welcome.
*Thank you to Margo Millure of for the coining of that word.

Oyster roast vs. weenie roast
The staff who attend to Eagle Island will cook up their famous "five moon" oysters for you (think 5 stars in the wilderness) steamed on the porch and served up with cheese and bacon. And hot dogs are, well, hot dogs.

Hot tub vs. no tub
Glamping properties generally have bath tubs or, like Eagle Island, hot tubs. The one there is even on the screened porch. It's filled, heated, and waiting when guests arrive. At most campsites there's no shower in sight... and you can forget about a tub.

Bed linens vs. bed rolls
Glamping means beds with thick mattresses and high thread count linens. Camping means a sleeping pad and bag. Keeps you warm. But comfy is a whole other issue.

Walls vs. flaps
The latter means whipping winds are but a sheet of nylon away. The former means bugs and storms are relegated to the out of doors at all times.

Here's the thing. I loved my climbing trip to Joshua Tree and we had great food from homemade blueberry pancakes to fajitas and everything we needed provided for us. Quite a step up from traditional camping, I know. Still, the rocks are the stars, not the accommodations.

I also loved my time on Eagle Island where I felt like I didn't have to compromise on accommodations or enjoying the outdoor experience. I really could have the best of both and leave behind the less enjoyable bits. (Like snooty guests and dressing for dinner when it comes to luxury resorts and sleeping on the ground and praying for clear skies when it comes to camping.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking camping at all. Especially if that's the only way I get to do some serious climbing. But I do like four walls and indoor plumbing... The truth is, I like them both. But what I like even more is knowing the options to semi-rough it or go whole hog both exist.

So, if you long to be in the sticks without having to pick them out of your hair or your teeth, glamping might be right up your alley. You still get to wear your hiking shoes and commune with nature. But, with glamping, the only thing that's dirty at the end of the day is your martini.

For more info on where I glamped:

For more info on where I camped:

Sign up for our email.
Find out how much you really know about the state of the nation.