How do you define "camping"?

At present, there is an interesting thread in GQ about whether certain cultures go camping. As in any hobby, there are various strata of purists who disagree on the level of hardship and dedication required to fit that definition.

Since the term can be stretched to include anything from million-dollar motorhomes to simple backpacks, I’m curious about what opinions hold here.

The attached poll is single choice only, with the assumption you’re picking the highest level of equipment/comfort which you would still define as “camping”.

Since I should go first, I’ll have to select the top choice if only to avoid hypocrisy. We use a trailer (pulled by our truck) and always refer to it as “going camping”. I figure as long as you’re stuff is mobile and it all goes home with you, it’s camping.

Your thoughts?

I’ll guess I’ll go with the moderate snob view. If someone invited me to go camping with them, I’d be sorely disappointed if their definition included sleeping inside something that requires a license plate. In fact, I find the kind of camping that involves you never being out of sight of your vehicle as kind of gray-area disappointing as well, although that’s what I do with my daughter – and I don’t know what I would call that besides “camping,” as opposed to “sleeping in the car.”

If you’re happy with your definition, I wouldn’t argue, though. It’s more like camping than staying in a Motel 6.

I think it depends more on the facilities that you’re staying at as opposed to the equipment you use. Staying in a hard-sided trailer in the middle of a deserted forest is more like camping (IMO) than making your own lean-to on the patio of a Las Vegas casino.

In my family, we call that “staying at a campground”.

In my mind, I think it comes down to motivation. If you are sleeping in your car at a campground to save money on your way somewhere (a virtuous choice in our family), that’s “staying in a campground”. If you are sleeping in your car because you want to spend a few days in a natural setting and it’s just easier to throw an old mattress in the back of the van than to mess around with a tent, that’s closer to camping.

Staying at a hotel/motel with no cable TV.

It’s a matter of opinion really. There are varying degrees of “camping” for some people it’s a trailer, others they park their car and walk 50’ to a campsite set up their tent. For myself I enjoy 7 days in Algonquin park in a canoe with all my gear portaging & exploring. That’s my version of camping.

It’s probably a feature of my generartion (and older) that the term came into use before all the motorized versions were common or popular. Sleeping on the ground and cooking over a fire were the basic elements. As I grew older (20’s and older) it included stuff you could haul in a car (or truck) and which might involve stoves and lanterns and other gas-powered equipment. But sleeping on the ground remained a requirement.

I don’t think my definition has ever expanded to include being in a vehicle for the sleeping part of the excursion. Not that I have a better term for it, but I don’t see that as “camping.” I don’t have a problem with doing it, I just don’t call it camping.

Camping to me is more about location than supplies.
RV in an RV park or “campground” that’s more like a parking lot != camping.
RV in a wooded campground= camping.

However, I reserve the right to mock that type of camping. :slight_smile:

It’s not camping if you’re not sleeping in a tent.

I don’t really care, if you towed you camping gear in a trailer or boat, behind your car. If you’re sleeping in a tent, you’re camping.

Campground, RV park, backyard, the woods, doesn’t matter, if you’re sleeping in a tent, you’re camping.

Similarly, staying at home when the water (or just the hot water) is turned off.

My parents had a camper that went onto the pickup. It had all the amenities: multiple sleeping bunks, small kitchen and bathroom with shower. We went on many camping trips during my childhood: to the beach, lake, redwood forests, mountains. There were times I slept in the camper, but I also had my own tent I could pitch if I wanted to and I did more often than not. I loved sleeping in the tent.

As I got older, I went camping and backpacking with friends whenever I could, always sleeping in a tent, sometimes with the car parked next to it, sometimes not. Once we kayaked into our campsite.

Now that I have a family of my own, we have always gone ‘car camping’ because it’s easier for the kids. When my son was little, we sometimes slept in the back of a big old station wagon with the back door raised open. Later, we had a minivan, so we could take a lot with us in huge plastic bins, but prefer the primitive sites (without utilities) because they are usually more private and rugged. Our tent was nicknamed “Trump Tower” because of its size. But we still use a backpacking stove, not a huge Coleman.

Since we have downsized to a coupe, our tent has also been downsized to a 4-man. Now, that we’re down to one pre-teen, I expect we’ll start backpacking again soon.

So, I guess I would say that it’s all camping in different variations. RV camping, car camping, backpacking. If you’re going away from home overnight and you’re not staying at a hotel/motel/private home, you’re camping.

In my book, camping requires sleeping in a tent set up on the ground. Sleeping in a vehicle of any description doesn’t constitute camping.


There is, of course, also glamping where your tent is on the upward slopes of 4* with room service, but that doesn’t really count either.

That’s still camping, but it isn’t as intense.

Tent on the ground. But that’s a very flexible limitation. For example, we camp with friends every Thanksgiving, and have been doing this trip for over 25 years in a row. It started with throwing backpacking equipment in the back of the truck and carrying ice chests for the beer. Now…three truckloads of equipment. We sleep on a queen-size inflatable bed, have more stove burners than at home, and last year’s wine list ran a full page. But I still think it’s camping.

Staying outside for more time than it takes to get to the car.

There’s definitely a continuum, just as there is with cottages. I was going to say that the defining characteristic was sleeping on the ground, but now I’m not so sure. I’d say that one for-sure characteristic is that the accommodations are mobile; everything is packed up and departs with you when you leave. This still leaves the question of RVs though.

I believe I’m going to have to modify my earlier criteria from “sleeping on the ground” to “sleeping on the ground or on a cot” because the notion of “camp” needs to include those usages where military camps are either expressed or implied. In many of those situations, bedding is off the ground but under a tent or other temporary cover.

Another consideration is “what makes for a “campsite”?” and that probably has to include the hookups for motorized campers and such.

Worth looking at, perhaps, is

I didn’t vote because the poll doesn’tallow for multiple options. Backpacking & tenting both count as camping to me.

I chose “tents on the ground.” I think car camping (driving to a camp ground and sleeping in a tent near your car) counts. One choice that isn’t in the poll: sleeping in a lean-to or shelter, especially one that you backpacked to, is definitely camping.