Glamping is Good for the Soul


In recent years, the traditional camping trip has gotten a major facelift. Where camping used to be synonymous with back-to-basics living, campsites can now comprise all the comforts of home: cozy furnishings, chic décor, ample space, and as many modern amenities as one’s heart desires. This travel trend has been featured on magazine covers from Southern Living to Forbes, and once written off as a fad, the phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down.

Glamping – a portmanteau of “glamorous camping” that lives up to its abbreviated name – has swept the globe.

For anyone’s wildest dream destination, there’s a glamp to fit – from rainforest treehouses along the Amazon to mountainside yurts in the Alps. However, thanks to one business, Mississippians don’t have to be jet setters to experience glamping for themselves.

Upcountry Camp is a small business bringing charming glamping setups to Mississippi homes. Whether customers want a grand Sibley bell tent for their backyard soiree, a few indoor teepees for their child’s sleepover, or any arrangement in between, Upcountry Camp makes the preparations so the customers can make memories.

“We’re getting to do something totally unique for people,” says Emily Henning, owner of Upcountry Camp.

Henning lives in Madison now, but in 2012, her husband’s job took the two to Nairobi, Kenya. Emily, a longtime nature lover, fell in love with living in the African capital city and scenic safari destination.

“Several times a year,” she recalls, “you got to go stay in these beautiful tents and go on safaris and see the most amazing animals. We just really fell in love with getting comfortable outside and doing more in nature.”

By 2016, though, the Hennings moved back to the States, and Emily began working at Emory University. All of the serenity and adventure of Nairobi gave way to the buzz and hustle of Atlanta. However, Henning brought a slice of Kenya back home with her.

She recreated a Kenyan campsite in her Georgia backyard, fashioning a tent setup complete with comfortable accents and amenities.

Soon, she was inspired to share her “glamp” with the world: she invited friends to her backyard glamp site, set up similar displays at local farmers’ markets, and even designed her own website to promote the then-novel concept of glamping. “I was like, if people in the States knew that you could camp like this, then they would,” Henning says.

Before long, Henning was receiving paying customers to set up glamp sites at various events, from backyard socials to music festivals.

Her passion and experiences had blossomed into a small business – Upcountry Camp – with both trials and triumph on the horizon.

Some of the trickiest trials for Henning’s company came mere months after its launch: “We really started to get some traction setting up glamps for people, and then in September of 2017, my husband announced we were moving to Jackson, Mississippi – even though neither of us had even driven through the state of Mississippi, I don’t think!”

In the coming months, Emily realized, she would have to leave her job at Emory University, relocate her established glamping business, and rebuild its clientele from the ground up. Naturally, this shift would be a challenge in and of itself. About a month later, however, the situation got even stickier: in October 2017, Emily received a diagnosis for breast cancer.

Luckily, Henning’s cancer was spotted early; since her subsequent surgery, she has been cancer-free. Still, by early 2018, she faced physical recovery along with the rest of her responsibilities.

“But, I joke,” says the optimistic Emily, “I’m like, I don’t think we could have done the move without cancer, and we couldn’t have done cancer without the move. Having two crises kind of worked to our advantage, because you just have to buckle down, and like, do it.”

With her plans askew and her conviction fortified, Henning moved to Mississippi with her husband in January 2018 and started making connections with private schools, museums, and other local nonprofits. “When you reach out, you get more back,” she says. Sure enough, her glamping setups began appearing at fundraisers, farmers’ markets, and social events across the metro area. The exposure paved the way for slumber-partiers, girls-night-outers, and more to sign up for glamp sites of their own.

Now, Upcountry Camp’s glamping arrangements are a trendy choice for all kinds of celebrations, from birthday bashes to bachelorette parties. Customers can opt for their glamp site to be set up in the great outdoors or in their homes; perhaps their most popular setup, in fact, is the kids’ indoor teepee slumber party.

No matter the celebration or location, though, Henning strives to cultivate comfort and connection in every glamp.

Glamping outdoors fosters connection with nature: “The more technology we have in our lives, the more we are craving and need to find ways to connect with nature,” says Henning. “And so, glamping makes it an easy way for people to do that.”

Even in indoor arrangements, Henning seeks to create a space for partygoers to connect with one another. Through the design of setups like the indoor teepee glamp, Henning ensures that “everybody is kind of equal, and everyone’s all together in one space together. I think that really helps kids feel more comfortable, and it’s something fun to do that is different.”

No matter how Upcountry Camp clients choose to glamp, they’re sure to make memories. “They’ll always talk about that time they went glamping. Even if it rained! You know, our tents are waterproof, but they have been through some serious Mississippi rain, and some of those people are the ones who’s had the best time!”

“People are just looking for ways to celebrate right now,” Henning says, “and spending time together with the people closest to you in a different way is a great way to do that.”

Especially now that travel looks radically different for many, glamping finds itself in the limelight and proves itself to be more than just a fad. The glamping industry is growing still, and businesses like Upcountry Camp are getting rave reviews for the unique experience they bring to American backyards. From Nairobi to Georgia to Mississippi, Emily Henning has trekked a long and rocky road to bring her own glamping business to life. Now, though, Upcountry Camp is helping Mississippians make memories to last a lifetime – and it looks like they’ll be creating many memories to come.