Camping is an outdoor recreational activity
Camping as a recreational activity became popular among elites in the early 20th century. With time, it grew more democratic, and varied. Modern participants frequent publicly owned natural resources such as national and state parks, wilderness areas, and commercial campgrounds. Camping is a key part of many youth organizations around the world, such as Scouting, which use it to teach both self-reliance and teamwork.
Participants leave cities to spend time outdoors in more natural areas in pursuit of activities providing them enjoyment. To be regarded as “camping” a minimum of one night is spent outdoors, distinguishing it from day-tripping, picnicking, and other similarly short-term recreational activities. Camping can be enjoyed through all four seasons.
Camping may involve sheltering in the open air, a tent, caravan, motorhome, or primitive structure. Luxury may be an element, as in early 20th century African safaris, but including accommodations in fully equipped fixed structures such as high-end sporting camps under the banner of “camping” blurs the line.
Camping describes a range of activities and approaches to outdoor accommodation. Survivalist campers set off with as little as possible to get by, whereas recreational vehicle travelers arrive equipped with their own electricity, heat, and patio furniture. Camping may be combined with hiking, as in backpacking, and is often enjoyed in conjunction with other outdoor activities such as canoeing, climbing, fishing, and hunting.
There is no universally held definition of what is and what is not camping. Fundamentally, it reflects a combination of intent and the nature of integral aspect of camping. Likewise, cultures with itinerant lifestyles or lack of permanent dwellings cannot be said to be “camping”, it is just their way of life.
Possibly the first commercial camping ground in the world was Cunningham’s camp, near Douglas, Isle of Man, which opened in 1894. In 1906 the Association of Cycle Campers opened its first own camping site, in Weybridge. By that time the organization had several hundred members. In 1910 the Association was merged into the National Camping Club. Although WW1 was responsible for a certain hiatus in camping activity, the association received a new lease of life after the war when Sir Robert Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts movement) became its president.
The International Federation of Camping Clubs (Federation Internationale de Camping et de Caravanning) ubiqitous across Europe and North America.
History – The father of recreational camping in the UK was Thomas Hiram Holding, a British travelling tailor. He experienced camping out in the wild from his youth, when he had spent much time with his parents traveling across the American prairies. Later he embarked on a cycling and camping tour with some friends across Ireland. His book on his Ireland experience, Cycle and Camp in Connemara led to the formation of the first camping group in 1901, the Association of Cycle Campers, later to become the Camping and Caravanning Club. He wrote The Campers Handbook in 1908, so that he could share his enthusiasm for the great outdoors with the world.
Adventure camping – Adventure camping is a form of camping by people who race (possibly adventure racing or mountain biking) during the day, and camp in a minimalist way at night. They might use the basic items of camping equipment such as a micro-camping stove, sleeping bag, and bivouac bag.
Dry camping – Dry camping is camping at a site without a reliable preexisting water source; such locations are known as dry camps. Campers must carry their own water in and out of camp, which requires much more preparation than would otherwise be required. Dry camping is very common in deserts, and is often preferred due to the risk of flash floods.
Backpacking – Backpacking affords a maximum wilderness experience. Specialized gear allows enthusiasts to both enjoy popular local recreational spots and access the most remote locations.
Technological advance and consumer interest in camping have led to lighter and more diverse backpacking gear. Improvements such as titanium cookware, ultra-light backcountry, cell and satellite phones are sometimes carried for emergencies, with varying coverage.
Backpacking may involve riding or being accompanied by pack animals such as horses, mules, and llama. These increase carrying capacity at the expense of trail condition.
- Ultralight backpacking enthusiasts bring as little as possible while camping, inherently producing a smaller footprint and minimalized impact on a wilderness environment. The choice to camp with less, or even the minimum necessary to survive, may be a matter of preference (where it may overlap with “survivalist” style camping) or reflect the activity being pursued. Camping while engaging in such back-country activities as rock climbing and cross-country skiing puts a premium on the amount of gear that can effectively be carried, thus lending to a less rather than more approach.
Canoe Camping – Canoe camping is similar to backpacking, and often affords much more weight and bulk to be carried when extended portaging is not involved. Electric motors or small gas ones may be attached on some canoes, where allowed, for a faster journey on the water. Waterproof bags and fishing gear are common gear.
- Bicycle camping combines camping with cycling, both in developed and natural areas. A form of bicycle camping that has become popular in some parts of the world involves cycling kilometres (340 mi) each year.
- Motorcycle camping is more similar to bicycle camping than car camping due to limited storage capacity. Lightweight, compact backpacking equipment is used.