Camping conjures up different images depending on the person. For some, it involves a tent. For others, it means an RV that ticks off states visited across the USA. Then there are those unique souls that find both those options far too bourgeoisie. So, what are the different types of camping?
- Car Camping
- Tent Camping
- Hammock Camping
- Primitive, Rustic, Or Backcountry Camping
- Cowboy Camping
- Bivy Camping
- Motorcycle Camping
- Bicycle Camping
- Canoe Camping
- Truck Camping
- RV Camping
- DIY Van Camping
- Cabin Camping
- Backyard Camping
Table of Contents
1. Car Camping
Car camping has two different interpretations. One is that you are driving to your campsite and sleeping in a tent, cabin, or pre-set-up glamping tent. Thus, you can pack everything you can fit into the car and have the option of strapping things on top, to the back, or even towing a trailer.
It is one of the most popular ways to camp because of the extra packing space. Thus, food can be fresh and heavy. It also allows items that won’t fit in a backpack, such as fat, fluffy pillows, collapsible chairs, and large camping stoves that will enable you to cook more than one item at a time.
However, the other interpretation of car camping is people use their car as their bed for the night. People sleep across the backseat, collapse seats, stretch out into the truck, or recline the captain seats.
It is often the camping choice for people new to camping that are still deciding if it is for them. Car camping allows people to dip their toes into the concept without spending a fortune on big items, such as a tent.
2. Tent Camping
Tent camping means people are sleeping in a tent. Most people pack their tent, but not everyone. Some places have tents that they will set up for clients in advance. These are the same kind of tents found at a Walmart or Amazon. Some of these can be huge, sleeping up to twelve people; others are small, perfect for two.
Other places offer tents that are semi-permanent. Some of these are modeled after the Native American traditions, such as a tepee favored by some Plains tribes or wigwam (wickiup), which are dome-shaped.
Other permeant tents are on platforms and might even offer glamping amenities such as a bed with sheets and blankets, electricity, microwave, or hot shower.
3. Hammock Camping
Hammock camping is rising in popularity, as they often provide better sleep quality. It’s also an excellent choice where the ground is rocky, thorny, or soaking wet. Camping hammocks come in various styles and sizes and, thanks to clever hacks, are not restricted to areas with trees.
Hammocks sound cheaper and a more minimalist camping style than using a tent. However, this isn’t always true unless you’re using the bare minimum hammock equipment that leaves the camper exposed to the elements.
Camping in a hammock typically involves extra tarps, mosquito netting, an underquilt, overquilt, heavy-duty clamps, and ties. Also, although there are double hammocks, they’re not the most pleasant unless you restrict the bedtime users to one. Thus, you ideally want to pack one hammock per person.
Consequently, hammock camping isn’t always the cheaper and lightest option for backpackers. Again, it depends on the setup and accessories of the hammock or tent.
4. Primitive, Rustic, Or Backcountry Camping
Primitive, rustic, or backcountry camping involves venturing into areas with little to no amenities. Some of these options are done on official campgrounds; others are in places like Federal Land, where people can pitch where they like, provided they follow the area’s guidelines.
Generally, the terms are understood as follows.
Rustic camping is typically the easiest of the three. It typically offers potable water, a basic toilet (although not necessarily a flush), trash disposal, a firepit, and picnic tables.
Primitive camping often is potable water and a toilet of some fashion. Some primitive sites offer nothing but a patch of ground on the actual site, but there are amenities within walking distance, such as potable water. You usually pack your trash out of these sites.
Backcountry camping typically involves hiking into the spot or using a 4 x 4. These areas often don’t have designated camp spots (although some do, especially in National Parks). Most of these provide nothing, and you pack your trash out. However, some areas will provide a chained bear box.
However, these camping terms are not always used according to the above definition and sometimes are used interchangeably. Thus, clarify how the term is being used before jumping in unless you have no problem stopping at spots that might not even have a drop of water.
5. Backpacking (Hiking) Camping
Backpacking is where you carry everything you need in a pack and hike it to your destination. Backpack camping could be rustic, primitive, or backcountry camping. However, sometimes routes take backpackers to modern campsites with full amenities and the occasional BnB.
Backpackers often use tents, but hammocks, bivy, or just using a tarp or rain fly are other common options. For people that can’t carry a full pack, there are trekking companies that haul the bulk of the gear and pitch a tent for you or arrange for a B&B. Thus, all you have to carry is a day pack.
6. Cowboy Camping
Cowboy camping is a minimalist style of enjoying the outdoors where you sleep under the stars. These days, it is rarely done with a horse. Instead, people hike, bike, boat, or even drive to their destination.
Cowboy camping doesn’t use a tent or hammock, and gear is stripped to the bare minimum. It is rarely done at a modern campsite. Hard-core survivalists usually stick to the backcountry carrying less than ten items, including a knife or multitool. They might not even pack a match or lighter.
Some cowboy campers will use a tarp for shelter or a bivy. Some bivy bags are robust; others are simply mosquito netting to sip over themselves and their sleeping bag.
7. Bivy Camping
Bivy camping is similar to cowboy camping, as there is no tent or hammock. Bivy bags are essentially mummy bags that you zip up over yourself inside your sleeping bag. Most add warmth while keeping you dry and protected from bugs and snakes. However, some bivy bags are nothing but fancy mosquito netting.
Bivy bags are handy for the mountaineering community, as they can be hung in awkward locations without room for pitching a tent. In addition, bivy bags typically take up less packing space than a tent or hammock and often can be used without a tarp.
8. Motorcycle Camping
Motorcycle camping is defined by how you reach your destination. It can be done in various ways, from packing everything you need on the bike to having some items, such as a tent, provided by the campground. There are even tents with space to shelter the motorcycle.
Motorcycle campers hauling their gear must watch the weight and bulk of the items they bring. Space is limited, and motorcycles perform differently when carrying heavier loads. When packing the bike, the weight must be evenly distributed to ensure road stability.
9. Bicycle Camping
Bicycle camping is similar to motorcycle camping, although the gear is typically further restricted. Motorcycles can hold more weight than a typical bicyclist has the strength to haul.
However, many bicycle campers will travel with a tour. Like trekking tours, these companies will haul some of the bicyclist’s gear, lightening the bike load while bringing extra comforts to the experience at night.
10. Canoe Camping
Canoe camping involves getting to your destination by boat. Canoes are often preferred over kayaks, as they can carry larger amounts of gear. Unlike a motorcycle or bike, a canoe can carry a full cooler of food and drink in addition to tents.
However, waterproofing is essential when canoe camping. Dry bags, trash bags, and tarps are common ways to store gear. When using buckets with sealed lids, it is crucial to also strap them shut with bungee cords. Securing equipment to the boat will also help prevent things from getting lost if the boat tips.
When packing a canoe, it is essential to distribute the weight properly throughout the boat. Rowers must also be aware of the strength, stamina, and where each person sits in the boat. Paddler positions also impact the amount of weight that is safe to carry and where it is placed on the boat.
11. Truck Camping
Truck camping is where campers sleep in the back of the truck that they also use to haul their stuff. It is roomier than sleeping in a car but cozier than sleeping in a van or RV.
Truck camping isn’t just an alternative for people who don’t want to buy a tent. It is an excellent way for older folks and people with chronic illness and disabilities to sleep off the ground without investing in an RV. Nor is everyone who truck camps able to deal with the setup a hammock requires.
Truck camping is also an excellent way to spend the night in treeless locations with rough terrain. My friend’s father routinely spent vacations in Eastern Oregon’s desert. The ground was covered in sagebrush and rocks. He had no interest in fumbling around with a hammock.
So, he threw an old mattress in the back of his rig and slept under the stars. He loved it. It was glamped-cowboy camping at its finest.
12. RV Camping
RV camping is huge amongst the retired community. It allows freedom to see the great natural wonders without requiring a young, healthy body that can sleep on packed dirt. Some folks sell everything they own and live out of their RV, changing locations every few weeks.
Not that RV camping is restricted to the silver-haired brigade. People with families, disabilities, and those with snake-phobias embrace RV camping too. For some couples, it is a compromise. She might have grown up sleeping under the stars while the other finds anything less than a hotel as “roughing it.”
13. DIY Van Camping
DIY van camping has taken off in the last few years. Some vans are kitted out so fancy, they’re basically a tiny RV, complete with indoor plumbing. Others are more like truck camping but with more elbow room.
The biggest mistake in van camping is buying a jalopy as a fixer-upper. But a terrible engine means the van will soon be nothing more than a metal cabin on tires. So if you are going to spend the money doing up a van, make sure that the engine and all other vital components are able to take you where you want to go for years.
14. Glamping Camping
Glamping is an expansive term that can mean luxurious and expensive to “we’re packing all our own gear, but they’re providing the tent.” The first version is the stuff of Hollywood films and dream honeymoons. Thus, you get the great outdoors, with all the comforts of a hotel placed in a tent.
The other version is used by campers trying to save valuable packing space. These folks are typically arriving on foot, motorcycles, bicycles, or boats and don’t want the extra weight a tent or hammock brings.
The latter version is also used by people who love tent camping but have special needs. We have friends where this is the case. The wife became disabled in her early 30s. She’s still enjoying tents and doesn’t even need electricity, but she wakes up with joints dislocated without a bed. So a touch of glamp allows her to do what she loves.
15. Cabin Camping
Cabin camping is often considered a type of glamping. Some of these are luxurious, and all you need to pack are your food and clothes. These are great for people who enjoy comforts or simply want an easy and relaxing vacation.
Other cabins are far more rustic and only provide a roof, walls, and a bed with a bare mattress. There isn’t even a table in some of these, and they require greater attention to packing.
The latter is used for different reasons. For example, in some popular backpacker routes, the area requires hikers to spend the night in these bone-basic cabins instead of outside to limit the damage to the surrounding environment caused by pitched tents and hammocks.
Other people using the uber rustic cabins might be hunters or folks like our friends who’ve sworn off tent camping in bear country. They had two encounters and decided they were done despite not being hurt in either incident.
16. Backyard Camping
Backyard camping is perfect for introducing young children and pets to camping. The house is right there if anything goes wrong, and nobody can wander off into the woods (unless your property borders the woods and you don’t have a fence). Also fun for children’s birthday party sleepovers.
Backyard camping is also an excellent way to deal with heat waves if you lack air conditioning and your home is impersonating an oven at night. Unfortunately, these homes do not cool off; thus, pitch your tent in your backyard or just sleep inside a mosquito net bivy bag under the stars and enjoy breathing that fresh, night air.