What Does Camping Mean?: A Comprehensive Guide for New Campers

By Ryan Wilson

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what does camping mean

If you’re new to camping, you may wonder “What does camping mean?” Camping is an outdoor activity where you temporarily live and sleep outside, typically in a tent, recreational vehicle (RV), or under the stars. It’s a way to connect with nature, escape from your everyday routine, and spend quality time with friends or family.

The term camping encompasses a wide range of approaches to outdoor accommodation, from minimalistic camping to more comfortable glamping.

If you’re new to camping, understanding common terminology and various camping styles will help you get started in the activity. This will help you plan and prepare better for your outdoor adventures.

No matter your experience level or preference, camping offers a unique opportunity to explore the great outdoors, make lasting memories, and enjoy a sense of adventure. With the right preparation and a positive attitude, you can make the most of your camping experience and develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world.

In the post below, I’ll help you to answer for yourself “What does camping mean.” I’ll also provide you with an overview of different forms of camping, what you need to go camping, and what sorts of activities people usually participate in while camping.

What Does Camping Mean

what does camping mean

Camping is the act of living outdoors temporarily for recreational purposes, often involving activities like hiking, fishing, and cooking over an open fire. It can mean different things to different people, ranging from roughing it in a tent without electricity, to roaming in an RV, or even enjoying the comforts of a lakeside cabin.

Camping as a form of outdoor recreation has a rich history that dates back to at least the 1800s when people began escaping to the wilderness as a way to reconnect with nature and escape the stresses of urban life.

The idea of spending time outdoors for leisure grew in popularity, leading to the establishment of local, state, and national parks with designated camping areas to accommodate this growing enthusiasm. Nowadays, camping is a popular pastime for families, friends, and individuals who seek adventure, tranquility, or a chance to unplug from the digital world.

When planning your next camping trip, it is important to consider the type of camping experience you want. For the more adventurous, backpacking offers a sense of solitude and self-reliance. If you prefer a less challenging trip, car camping, where your vehicle is parked close to your campsite, provides easier access to amenities, such as restrooms or showers, if available.

While some campgrounds offer campsites with minimal amenities, such as a picnic table, and fire ring or grill, others cater to those who prefer more luxurious accommodations like glamping, where the campsite may include a fully-furnished tent, comfortable bed, and electricity for charging devices.

Types of Camping

types of camping

What is Tent Camping

Tent camping is a classic form of camping where you set up a temporary shelter (tent) at a campsite. You get to enjoy nature, campfires, and outdoor activities.

The advantages of tent camping include affordability, flexibility in choosing locations, and a more authentic camping experience. Some disadvantages are potential exposure to bad weather, limited amenities, and the need for additional camping gear.

Tent camping can occur near your vehicle or camping amenities (e.g., pit toilets) or in areas far from other people and create comforts.

What is Car Camping

what is car camping

In car camping, you use your vehicle as a base for your outdoor activities, sleeping either inside your vehicle or in a tent near your car. This type of camping provides easy access to camping gear stored in your car, reduces the need to carry heavy packs, and offers additional security.

What is RV Camping

what is rv camping

RV camping involves using a recreational vehicle as your shelter while exploring the outdoors. RVs allow for more comfortable accommodations and access to amenities like electricity, water, and a kitchen. However, RV camping can be more expensive than other types and requires finding designated RV campgrounds or suitable boondocking locations. Additionally, maneuvering and parking larger RVs can be challenging.

There are are a number of online options for renting RVs to test out if they are a good fit for your camping style. With the range of options available, there is usually something that fits everyone’s needs.

What is Backpacking

what is backpacking

Backpacking is a form of camping where you hike to remote backcountry locations carrying all your shelter, gear, and food in a backpack.

This type of camping allows you to experience secluded natural settings away from crowded campgrounds. You’ll need to plan carefully for backpacking trips, as you must carry all essentials and be prepared for unexpected situations.

Backpacking takes an additional level of skill and knowledge that car or RV camping does not. Make sure you go with someone experienced at backpacking before you venture out on your own for the first time.

What is Glamping

glamping e1698449534964

Glamping, or glamorous camping, is a luxurious version of camping that offers more comfortable shelter options such as cabins, yurts, or upscale tents. Glamping combines the excitement of outdoor activities with the comforts of modern living.

While this type of camping is more comfortable and convenient, it’s also more expensive and may not offer the same connection with nature that other methods provide.

What is Dispersed Camping

what is dispersed camping

Dispersed camping (also known as boondocking) is a type of camping where you set up a campsite without designated facilities, usually on public lands like national forests.

Dispersed camping allows you to experience untouched nature and solitude, but it requires a strong sense of self-reliance, as you’ll need to provide your own water, sanitation, and trash management. It’s essential to practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the environment.

What is Stealth Camping

what is stealth camping

Stealth camping involves setting up a low-profile, temporary shelter in a location without being noticed, usually to avoid paying fees or to camp in unauthorized areas. This type of camping requires discretion and expert knowledge of the area. The benefits include solitude and low or no cost, but there are drawbacks, such as the risk of fines or expulsion if discovered and potential impact on the environment if proper care isn’t taken.

The Difference Between ‘Going Camping’ and ‘Going to Camp’

going to camp

When you go camping, you typically venture into the wilderness, a semi-wilderness area, or campground for a short period of time, either alone or with others. Your accommodations may include sleeping under the stars or in a tent, and you may cook your meals over a fire. This type of camping allows you to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy a more rustic experience.

On the other hand, when you go to camp, you usually stay at a facility built within a wilderness area. These facilities often include cabins, a cafeteria, sports amenities, and a body of water such as a pond or a lake for recreational activities like canoeing or swimming.

Going to camp is usually said in relation to a “summer camp” where kids go for a week or two to experience different outdoor activities. In this type of setting, you have more comforts and conveniences available to you compared to traditional camping. There may even be a theme associated with the camp where people (primarily kids) are taught a certain set of skills.

What Do You Need to Go Camping

camping gear

Preparing for a camping trip can be a little stressful in deciding what do you need to go camping. While there is a lot of gear you can take, some is just based on personal preference, while others are essential gear you’ll need to ensure a comfortable and safe outdoor experience. Regardless of whether you’re a tent camper or an RVer, there are a few essential items that should be on your packing list:

  • Tent or shelter: Your home away from home, a tent provides shelter and protection from the elements. Make sure to choose one that’s appropriate for the location and weather conditions you’ll experience.
  • Sleeping bag: A good-quality sleeping bag is vital, as it will keep you warm and cozy on chilly nights. Consider a mummy bag for better insulation in colder temperatures.
  • Sleeping pad: To ensure a comfortable night’s sleep, a sleeping pad prevents you from directly lying on the cold, hard ground. Check out our review of the LOSTHORIZON sleeping pad.
  • Camp stove: A portable stove is necessary for cooking meals and boiling water. Bring fuel and a lighter or matches as well.
  • Cooking Gear: You’ll need some cooking pots, pans, and utensils to cook your food while camping. Depending on what type of camping or cooking you’re planning to do, you may or may not need specialized pots and pans. I like using a set that has cooking gear and plates and bowls to eat from.
  • Cooler: Store perishable food and drinks in a cooler to keep them fresh. Don’t forget to pack ice packs or ice to maintain the temperature.
  • Headlamp: Light up your campsite and navigate your surroundings more easily after dark with a reliable light source.
  • First aid kit: Be prepared for any potential accidents or injuries with a well-stocked first aid kit. Check out some of my first aid recommendations.
  • Water filter: If you’ll be camping somewhere without a supply of drinkable water (also known as potable), then you’ll need a way to treat your water so that it’s safe to drink.
  • Water container: For most camping trips, you’ll water a water container to both bring water with you, and also to get additional water at the campground. Check out my post on the best water containers for camping.

For specific types of camping, additional gear may be nice to have or neccessary:

  • Portable toilet (for car or RV camping): A portable toilet can be very useful, especially if the campground doesn’t have adequate facilities. Check out my review of Thetford Porta Potti 365. I love it for camping with my family!
  • Bear canister (for backpacking): When venturing into the wilderness, you may need to store your food and scented items in a bear-resistant container to keep both you and the bears safe.

This is not a comprehensive list of gear you’ll need when camping, but highlights some of the most important pieces. Take at look at REI’s essential camping gear list. Before buying all this gear, try going camping with a friend that is an experienced camper and likely has a lot of the gear you’ll need already. Additionally, a lot of camping stores offer rentals of key pieces of gear such as sleeping bags and tents.

What to Do When Camping

what to do when camping

When you plan a camping trip, a variety of fun activities await you. A lot of people wonder what to do when camping. I can assure you, there is a lot to do! Among them, hiking offers excellent opportunities for exploring the great outdoors . It’s an enjoyable way to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and discover scenic views.

If you prefer water-based activities, consider fishing or swimming in nearby lakes or rivers. These activities allow you to relax while enjoying the refreshing water. Additionally, you can experience the tranquility of water by kayaking or canoeing. Paddling through calm or challenging waters connects you with your surroundings and enhances your camping experience.

One of my favorite camping activities is wildlife viewing (but then again I’m a wildlife biologist for work). Keep an eye out for unique birds, mammals, and other creatures as they go about their lives. Just remember to observe from a safe distance and avoid disturbing the animals in their natural habitat.

In the evening, treasure the stunning night sky by stargazing. Far from the city lights, camping sites often allow for clearer views of the twinkling stars, constellations, and other celestial bodies.

Relax and unwind at your campsite with a warm, tranquil campfire. A warm fire creates an inviting atmosphere for stories, laughter, and friendly conversations. And who doesn’t love roasting marshmallows over a campfire.

You may also find joy in recreational activities such as reading, playing cards, board games, or tossing a Frisbee.

Camping isn’t just limited to overnight stays; you can also enjoy picnicking in the great outdoors. Pack your favorite snacks and visit a nearby meadow or forest clearing to savor a meal surrounded by nature.

How Much Does Camping Cost

how much does camping cost

Camping costs can vary significantly depending on several factors like the type of campsite, time of year, and location. You’ll be considering a range of options, from tent sites to RV parks, or even cabins and glamping experiences.

Tent sites usually cost between $10 and $30 per night and can be found in national parks, state parks, or private campgrounds. These sites often provide basic facilities like restrooms, showers, and picnic tables.

RV sites typically range from $30 to $50 per night. At these sites, you’ll usually find amenities like electricity, water hookups, and dump stations. RV campgrounds may also offer additional facilities, such as laundry rooms and camp stores.

While cabins are a more comfortable camping option, they come with a higher price tag. Cabins can be found in both national parks and state parks, and prices can vary widely depending on location, size, and amenities.

Glamping experiences, such as yurts, treehouses, or luxury canvas tents, provide a unique and upscale outdoor experience. These options require a larger budget, with prices ranging from $100 to $500 per night.

Campground fees vary based on the location, facilities, and time of year. While developed camping areas with more amenities are likely to charge higher fees, there are also low-cost or free camping sites available in nature, especially within designated Wilderness areas and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.

In general, expect to pay higher fees during peak seasons like summer and holidays, as well as in popular national parks or state parks. Keep in mind that reservations may be required for some destinations, so plan accordingly.

Lastly, don’t forget to budget for camping gear and equipment costs. There is no firm answer for ” how much does camping cost” because it depends a lot of what gear you already have, what gear you can borrow, and what you’ll need to buy or rent.

This may involve investing in a quality tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, and other necessary items. Gear investment can be a one-time cost, with the possibility of lasting for multiple camping trips.

Many local outdoors stores offer camping gear rentals, so you don’t have to shell out a lot of money for a hobby you might not even enjoy! And check with friends to see if you can borrow some of their camping gear. I’m always happy to share mine with friends.


Camping is one of my favorite activities to enjoy the outdoors with my friends and family. It’s a great way to relax and unwind away from the everyday stresses of life.

There are a variety of types of camping to fit almost everyone’s needs. Some people might scoff at glamping or other forms of camping saying that they’re not “real camping.” But that’s simply not true. Camping is all about enjoying the outdoors, so whatever version of camping helps you to do that is great!

You really just need to consider “What does camping mean to you” and then go from there.

Camping is definitely worth trying at least once in your life to see if you like it. It’s certainly not for everyone, so don’t worry if you decide it’s not a great fit for you.

If you’re interested in trying camping for the first time, check out some of the National Park campgrounds. And take a look at some of my gear reviews to help outfit your next trip.

Photo of author


Ryan is an avid outdoorsman who loves camping, hiking, and backpacking. He was initially reluctant to join the camper world, but after his first camping trip in one, he became a convert. He especially loves how camper ownership extends the camping season and makes it easier to be more adventurous with young kids. When not enjoying his free time, he works as a professional wildlife biologist studying the ecology and conservation of large mammals in Alaska.