Sharan Bala and Charlotte Carter-Allen were roughing it.
Under a mid-morning sun Friday, the women, who live in Manhattan but are from Holland and London, respectively, each held on to one side of a twin-size air mattress and lugged it through a field of white teepees until they reached their own.
The bed would be for Bala and her boyfriend, when he arrived, while Carter-Allen and another friend slept on colorful sleeping mats in the six-person teepee. A short walk away on the grounds of the Elks Lodge in Southampton were air-conditioned bathrooms, showers with hot water, a bar tent and an outpost of the New York City restaurant Fat Radish.
This is glamping, or “glamorous camping.” The common practice at music festivals abroad and on high-class safari trips in India and Africa, made a splash in the United States as the sold-out lodging option of choice for attendees at the Escape to New York festival in Southampton this weekend, said Maureen Baker, the glamping manager.
“Most Americans think camping means sleeping in the dirt,” she said, and glamping is definitely not that.
In addition to the teepees, glampers could also stay in safari tents outfitted with one to three full-size beds each. There were colorful carpets and bedding, throw pillows, snacks and drinks.
In lieu of a campfire and s’mores, performance artists, musicians and the bar kept glampers entertained well through the night.
“We were all out until 5 this morning,” said Suzanne Smallshaw, 26, of Manhattan, on Saturday morning. Smallshaw was sharing a teepee with five friends, and was attending Escape to New York with a total of 15. “So there wasn’t a lot of sleeping in the teepee.”
Fred Fellowes, who modeled Escape to New York after his successful Secret Garden parties in the England, said the glamping stateside has lived up to its predecessors abroad.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant,” he said, as he boarded a yellow school bus taking glampers to the festival grounds on the Shinnecock Reservation nearby. “We had a great party here last night.” Smallshaw said she came to the glamping site armed with dry shampoo and prepared for the worst, but she was pleasantly surprised.
“There’s a bathroom, a shower,” she said. “That’s pretty glamorous, which is not always the case.”
As glampers emerged from their tents and teepees on Saturday morning, some dressed and headed toward the lounge area, and others stammering toward the showers in pajamas or towels, glamping staff walked around delivering snacks.
Lola Jupiter, a member of the staff, peeked into teepees, her arms full of popcorn and energy bars.
“When you’re out in the wilderness,” she said as she deposited a few treats at the entrance to each teepee. “It’s important to have the basic necessities.”
Carter-Allen, 23, said she was enjoying glamping much more than traditional camping. She said last time she camped - in England - she got trench foot, which occurs when feet are exposed to cold, damp conditions in restrictive footwear, in Carter-Allen’s case it was rainboots.
“It was gross,” she said. “Let’s just put it that way.”
But walking around the grassy glamping field in sandals this weekend, she said she was feeling more confident about this experience.
“No trench foot for me this time,” she said. Then she thought again: “Well, maybe. You never know what will happen.”
Picture: A "glamping" safari tent, which festival organizers furnished with a full-size bed, chair and pillows.