Sunset Magazine tours 11 modern “glampgrounds”, a portmanteau of glamorous campgrounds. They show one glampground full of custom Airstream trailers, AutoCamp Russian River.
This is a concept that we have discussed on TreeHugger for years: if you are going to live in smaller spaces, then it works best if you are part of a community, and that there is much to learn from the trailer park. We previously looked at Autocamp Santa Barbara, a converted trailer park, but this new one, opening in August, is far more impressive. It is in Sonoma County, 90 minutes north of San Francisco, and is designed from scratch, with 24 custom Airstream trailers and 10 luxury canvas tents.
Elevated four feet above grade, the structure is comprised of unyielding materials to brace against disastrous floods like the deluge that submerged Guerneville’s roads in 1986: board formed concrete walls, locally harvested redwood ceilings, and blackened steel that will patina over time. “The material palette had to be robust enough that a tree floating through the building wouldn’t damage it,” explains Weber.
I assume that the Airstreams can just be hitched up and towed to higher ground; that is a benefit of mobile living. It also treads lightly on the ground; they write on the Autocamp site:
AutoCamp is not only luxury camping, but a great way to experience environmentally-sustainable, small-space design. We love hotels, travel, and design, but we also value the preservation of our local and global environment.
To put it simply, we believe that great design has the power to change the world, and that smart planning and small space design can help us reduce our environmental footprint. We invite you to come experience the simplicity of small space design at AutoCamp.
However these are not restored old Airstreams, which would have been greener still; they are custom designed by Dan Weber in a Midcentury Modern style, with all the comforts. Each sleeps four and come complete with Casper mattresses, fancy organic linens and even the coffee is from their favorite local roaster.
Some are be appalled at the idea of glamping; Sunset talks to one camper who considered it “but we didn’t want to feed the industry that is killing the experience. Commercializing camping is a terrible trend.”
I am not so sure; one could also compare it to the many campground resorts that were all over the US and Canada in the postwar years, most of which have disappeared. They filled a real need for people who could not afford or didn't want second homes, cottages or cabins or even their own trailers; it makes much more sense to rent like this. Also, there are lots of people who don’t want to sleep on the ground, and fewer young people are camping. As Scott Hale, a consultant, tells Sunset: “The outdoors needed a bit of a refresh to engage a new generation.” Not to mention good WiFi and a few hidden Pokémon.
Starting at $175 a night, it is a lot more costly than camping. But it is a great introduction to small space living, and it does get people outside, and compared to some of the wretched excess in the area, it’s pretty modest. I think it looks like fun, and hope that people realize that there is no need to look down at the trailer park, but that it is a great model for development for anyone. And as consultant Hale notes, "We need a bigger audience to help steward the natural world.”