An Ergonomist goes Glamping
So, first of all I need to start with a confession. I have a bit of bad attitude about the phrase glamping. Eurocamp have been at it for decades, but now we call it glamping! On our holiday this summer we rented a safari-style tent on a campsite, it did have a bathroom and running water, so I guess we went glamping!
But a an ergonomist on my holidays - I enjoyed thinking about the usability and ergonomics of the experience.
In our tent, there were two bedrooms - one with a double bed and the other with a single bed and a bunk bed. All the beds were full size, but the space around the bed was very limited, meaning you could move around the beds, but mostly by side-stepping.
A real nice design detail was that the windows had shutters and fly screens, which kept the room nice and dark, even in the height of summer, and meant we had no issues with bugs at night. The shutters were not the easiest to use however - they were rope operated with no pulleys - which meant I completely lacked the strength to open them enough to tie them on the cleats!
I think the fairest thing to say about the kitchen is that it served a purpose! There was enough space to store all the cooking equipment, plates, cutlery, and food - but not really enough space to use it!
As this picture shows, there was no worktops - and so even setting up a kettle and the coffee maker at the same time required skills in balancing the appliances along the edge of the drying rack (I like coffee on my holidays, while Mr Ergonomist in the Wild prefers a cup of tea).
The use of a full size sink was probably a little lavish given the limited space. A compact sink or maybe including a removable draining board could have allowed more usable workspace.
Our tent also came with a gas barbecue on the deck, which was where we did most of our cooking, so the main thing we used in the kitchen was the fridge for the cold drinks - and the inclusion of a full size fridge with a small freezer section was absolutely perfect!
So, I realise that many people will tell me that having a bathroom in a tent is a ridiculous extravagance, and so I was not in anyway camping. And I would mostly agree. But I was actually really impressed by the bathroom.
The layout meant that it never felt cramped for one person using it. There was plenty of space to put all your wash stuff, store towels, in fact - there was so much space in the bathroom we used it to store our beach stuff as well. The shower was really powerful.
The only niggles I had were the oversized tap on the sink, which meant that water often splashed over the front, and the lack of a hook for my hanging wash bag (I often have this moan about hotel rooms too, so not a real complaint in a tent!)
Overall living space
By the time there was the space to access the bathroom and bedrooms, and to use the kitchen - our tent did not really have any interior living space. While we were there, the weather was gorgeous - so this was not an issue and we used the covered deck for sitting, eating, and playing. However, if you were less lucky with the weather, the lack of interior space to relax might start to be a problem.
In most holiday accommodations, there is limited space available.
The standard approach to dealing with this issue is to limit the range of functions that the space is designed for. A hotel room has no cooking area. A tent has no bathroom. Alternatively, the accommodation might use novel space saving techniques to make spaces multifunctional and allow functions to be performed in minimal space - like a caravan or an RV.
In glamping, there is a really good attempt made to include all of the full size functions within a limited space - and that is really where the glam comes in. You don’t have to compromise on the bathroom, or the fridge space, or having a full size bed (at a normal height, that doesn’t deflate during the night). The reality is, though, that there are still compromises in terms of the usability and ergonomics of the space. That said - with clever design there are improvements that could be made to reduce the compromises of the limited space and achieve a more usable holiday experience.
When choosing your style of holiday, you are making a decision about how you are going to use the space provided by the accommodation (you may not know it - but you are thinking (just a little bit) about the ergonomics!). For me, I like to take different styles of holiday and, even with the usability limitations, I loved my first glamping experience and will certainly take holidays like this in future.