I went glamping in Texas this past winter, and it was way less glamorous than I anticipated.
Below-freezing temperatures kept me up at night, even with a heated mattress and an electric blanket.
By my final night, I actually woke up overheating from the extensive preparation.
Every other year since 2014, I've been glamorous camping — or glamping — in Marfa, a town in the high desert of West Texas surrounded by mountains.
Glamping generally provides more amenities than regular camping and more wildness than a traditional hotel. I like to connect with the environment by staying at the nomadic hotel and campsite El Cosmico.
But this was my first time staying at the campsite during a colder month, leading me to experience more of the camping side of glamping than the glamour.
Using a 20% discount for staying more than three nights, I booked a safari tent for four nights at $83 a night.
I was excited to go glamping, but I was slightly unprepared for the colder temperatures.
El Cosmico's website clearly states that temperatures in Marfa can drop under 32 degrees Fahrenheit — below freezing — from November to March, but I hadn't checked the weather until I arrived. Thankfully, I still packed long underwear and other warm clothes.
The temperature was supposed to reach as high as 70 F during the day but would plummet below freezing at night for most of my trip.
El Cosmico has unique shelter options spread throughout its 21-acre grounds.
Most guests stay in yurts or teepees, which range from $90 to $250 a night. The cheapest option — self-camping — can cost as little as $30.
Those with a higher budget can stay in vintage trailers or the Cosmic Kasita (a stand-alone micro-home) that cost up to $430 a night.
Although some accommodations come with a heater, the safari tent — which I stayed in — isn't permitted to have high-voltage items as a safety precaution.
I checked in and grabbed my wheelbarrow to haul my belongings.
I checked in at El Cosmico's lobby, which had puffy couches, a fireplace, and music playing in the background. There were also face oils, salves, and herbal extracts for sale.
After checking in, guests can use the on-site wheelbarrows to cart their luggage to their shelter. Sometimes, there are even small dogs available to tow them.
My safari tent had soft bedding and a heated mattress pad.
The tent's canvas walls surrounded a queen bed on a wooden platform. The bed also came with an adjustable heated mattress pad.
The bedding's design is inspired by a vintage serape, giving the tent a cheery feel with the striped colors of a desert sunset.
Nightstands, lamps, a small desk, and a stool furnished the rest of the tent.
I had access to both outdoor and indoor bathrooms.
I loved using the bathrooms at El Cosmico because they had complimentary Dr. Bronner's soap. One of the outdoor bathhouses even has a private bathtub, allowing for a soak under the stars.
I usually take a bath with Epsom salts after my seven-hour drive to the campsite, but it was so cold on this trip that I opted to use the indoor showers in the lobby. Thankfully, they were open 24/7 despite the lobby closing at 11 p.m.
I asked the staff how to prepare for the upcoming cold, as temperatures were forecast to drop below freezing that night.
The front-desk attendant assured me I could stay warm in my tent with electric blankets, which were available upon request.
She suggested I turn myself into a "hot sandwich" by turning on the mattress heater under me and putting the heated blanket on top of me.
I left to meet friends and asked her to leave an electric blanket in my tent.
Although the first night wasn't the coldest, it was the worst.
I used the indoor bathroom to get ready for bed at 10:30 p.m. and returned to my tent. The electric blanket was waiting for me — but the attachment that plugged into an outlet wasn't.
The temperature dropped to 39 F, but since the staff had gone home for the night, I had to sleep without the blanket turned on. I put on my long underwear, turned on the heating pad, and placed my luggage at the foot of my bed to try to keep the cold air out.
My mattress pad took longer to heat than I realized, but after finally falling asleep, I kept waking up because my face was so cold.
When I got out of bed in the morning, I immediately retrieved the plug-in attachment for the blanket from an employee in the lobby. I also wished I'd packed better for the weather.
After getting the attachment, I confirmed my booking for the Dutch tub.
I confirmed my reservation for the Dutch tub — a wood-fired hot tub — that night, which I paid $85 to prebook.
I thought a long, hot soak would be a good way to get warm before I fell asleep.
I found that staying warm at El Cosmico depended on planning ahead and being a little creative.
Prior to soaking, I turned on the mattress pad and the electric blanket, giving them ample time to heat up.
My friends and I stayed in the tub as the temperature outside slowly began to drop to 25 F.
When I got out of the tub, I used the indoor bathroom to rinse, then bundled myself in sweats to walk to my tent. I kept my luggage barricaded at the foot of my bed and wrapped a flannel shirt around my face for warmth.
I slept well the second night but knew I needed a more solid plan for the third.
The following night was forecast to be the coldest of the trip, with temperatures dipping to 14 F.
While I was in the lobby that morning, I saw several people go to the front desk asking to move from a tent to a trailer. I didn't try to upgrade because I was confident I'd stay warm and be able to sleep well with what I had.
I felt prepared for the third night.
That night, I started getting ready at 9 p.m., long before the temperature started dropping. I turned on my blanket and mattress pad and showered in the indoor bathroom.
Back in my tent, I wrapped my shirt around my face again and fell asleep.
I woke up to a frozen water bottle and icicles in the sink.
My face wasn't cold at all, thanks to my flannel shirt, but my water bottle — which was only a foot away from me — froze while I slept.
When I got up and walked to the lobby, I noticed icicles coming out of the faucets of the outdoor bathhouses.
On my final night, the temperature only dropped to 34 F.
By the last night of my stay, I knew exactly what to do: preheat my bed, shower in the indoor bathrooms, sit by the fire, wrap my face in my shirt, and wear my long underwear.
I ended up waking up that night, but only because I was too hot.
If I go glamping in the winter again, I might consider booking heated accommodations.
I'll definitely come back to El Cosmico for another glamping trip. After all, part of my tricky experience was because I hadn't prepared for the weather as much as I could've.
If I return in the winter, I'll probably stay in one of the accommodations with a heater — although I did kind of enjoy roughing it in style.
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