Off Map Campground

Canvas Tents sit on wooden platforms at the Off Map campground.

To a pair of University of Notre Dame grads, glamping — aka, “glamorous camping” — means a dozen safari tents rigged up in more than 30 acres of meadow, surrounded by another 35 acres of woods near South Haven, Mich., according to the South Bend Tribune. All the fine bed linens of a hotel and wall decorations fit under the rugged, wood-framed white canvas, which drapes open for a wide view.

Glamping means a barn that has been converted to five full bathrooms, each with showers and such, a short walk, Mike Doyle says, on grass paths. Breakfast is served in the house, which is topped with two geodesic domes, where you can lounge about for your lazy hours, too.

Off Map holds its grand opening Monday (June 28), a short drive from Lake Michigan beaches and the Kal-Haven Trail.

But ask anyone, and glamping is a matter of interpretation.

For some, such as those in the 21,000-member Facebook group Camping Indiana, the term could mean a tricked-out RV — maybe one that you’ve renovated yourself. It could mean a Class A motorhome. But, you may ask, what’s so trendy about that? The essence is this: Take camping and add comforts or luxury.

Sam Shanley, who is Doyle’s business partner and a fellow 2012 Notre Dame grad, got his “aha” moment a few years ago when he traversed the U.S. and its national parks while roughing it — bedding down nightly in his car. He noticed glamping grounds, and they were all full. That fit his and Doyle’s long-dreamed idea of starting some kind of a business together.

The pair searched for the right land and found it last year in these 75 acres in South Haven where the home had been built maybe 15 years ago. Fields, once farmed in its past, were let go so the meadow could grow. Shanley left his Chicago home to live on the property. Doyle still lives in Chicago with his wife and kids, commuting on weekends.

The 12 sites are 100 feet or more apart, Doyle says, adding, “We didn’t want them to be on top of each other; at the same time, we wanted there to be a quick trip to the bathroom.”

Ten of the tents have king-sized beds while two have three twin beds. The local zoning allows for up to 30 sites, he says, but, wanting to “walk before we run,” any expansion wouldn’t come until next year.

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