- For other uses, see camping (disambiguation)
Camping is an outdoor recreational activity involving the spending of one or more nights in a tent, primitive structure, a travel trailer or recreational vehicle at a campsite with the purpose of getting away from civilization and enjoying nature. Camping describes a whole range of activities, from survivalist campers who set off with little more than their boots to those who arrive in large recreational vehicles equipped with their own electricity, heat, and patio furniture.
Camping as a recreational activity did not become popular until the early 20th century. It continues to be a response to the increasing urbanization and isolation of Western society. Camping is often associated with a sense of nostalgia or of romanticism for 'the times of our fathers'. It simultaneously evokes images of 'oneness with nature' and 'man against nature' – independence and self-sufficiency. Camping may be referred to colloquially as roughing it.
Camping may be an end unto itself, but often it is in conjunction with other activities, such as hiking, swimming or fishing. (It may be combined with hiking either as backpacking or as a series of day hikes from a central location.) National parks and other publicly owned natural areas of interest are popular venues for camping. Camping is often restricted by law to designated sites in order to prevent campers from damaging the environment.
Types of camping
Campers span a broad range of ability and ruggedness, and campsites are designed accordingly. Most campers prefer to use sites with special facilities such as fire rings, bathrooms and utilities, but not all campsites offer similar levels of development. Campsites can range from a bare piece of grass to a level paved pad with sewer and electricity. These latter are often designated for the use of handicapped campers. (For more on facilities, see the campsite article.)
Tent camping commonly employs an automobile to transport equipment to an established campground, although sometimes a pack animal, boat or bush plane may be used. Some people camp with tents because they feel that camping with a trailer (caravan) or motor home detracts from the experience of being out-of-doors. Because the gear is both relatively inexpensive and rugged, and can be used for years, tent camping is popular with young families. Children tend to enjoy camping. Tent camping sites are often less expensive than campsites with full amenities. Most of them allow direct access by car. Some "walk-in" sites can be reached only by a brief walk, but do not require full backpacking equipment.
Recreational vehicles are more like wheeled houses—some cost more than houses—and some are outright luxurious, featuring air conditioning, bathrooms, kitchens, showers, satellite TV and even Internet connections. RV campers often choose these devices because they consider tent camping uncomfortable and too much work. In the United States, many campgrounds offer "hookups" where motorhomes are supplied with electricity, water and sewer services. Some retirees in the U.S. sell their homes and lead a nomadic lifestyle in their RVs, often moving with the seasons.
Backpacking is a variety of tent camping. Backpackers use lightweight equipment that can be carried long distances on foot. They hike across the land, camping at remote spots, often selecting campsites at will if resource protection rules allow. Backpacking equipment costs more than that for car camping, but much less than a trailer or motorhome.
Survivalist campers learn the skills to survive out-of-doors in any situation. This activity may require skills in obtaining food from the wild, emergency medical treatments, orienteering, and pioneering.
There are also people who vacation in established camps with cabins and other facilities. Many children are sent to camp for periods during the summer. Some camps have the traditional woodsy orientation, some are operated by religious institutions, and children's camps may be specifically educational. Hunting camps are common in some regions, among both subsistence cultures and some developed ones.
The term camping may also be applied to those who live outdoors out of necessity (as in the case of the homeless) or for people waiting overnight in very long lines (queues). It does not, however, apply to the lifestyle of societies whose technology does not include sophisticated dwellings.
Common tent camping equipment includes:
- A tent, lean-to or other shelter device
- A sleeping bag for warmth
- A sleeping pad or air mattress is often placed underneath the sleeping bag for cushioning against sticks, small rocks, and other pointed objects
- A portable stove to prepare hot meals and/or drinks where campfires are forbidden or impractical
- A lantern or flashlight
- A hatchet, axe or saw for cutting firewood (where allowed; see campfire) or constructing camp gadgets
Much of the remaining needed camping equipment is commonly available in the home, like dishes, pots and pans. Lists of what to take are available in camping books. Many people opt not to use their home items but equipment better tailored to camping, such as heavy plastic tableware and salt and pepper shakers with tops that close to keep out rain. Backpackers use special lightweight and highly portable equipment.