Camping sounds like it would be simple, and in many ways it is. You literally go outside, bring some food and water, pitch a tent and voila, you're officially camping! Realistically, it's a bit more complicated than that and can be daunting if you're a first timer. Not knowing where to go, what type of equipment to buy, or even basic camping etiquette can be enough to keep people from joining the camping club. That, my friend, is a travesty. I hope my Happy Campers series of posts will help you overcome any anxiety and answer any questions you may have about your first camping experience.
In this post, we'll answer the question: What type of camping do you want to do? If you're new to camping and just wanting to explore the outdoors, you're likely thinking about what I've dubbed car camping. I'll explain what I mean by that below. However, I still think it's useful to know about the different types of camping so you can keep them in mind when you buy equipment. I'll cover a basic equipment list, camping etiquette, and more in later posts.
Car Camping aka Glamping
Roughing It Rating: 3/10
Car camping is the most casual of the three types of camping I'm discussing in this post. You can pack up your car with as much crap as it will fit and drive it right up to your campsite. Will we need two packs of blue gatorade this weekend? SURE throw it on in! You don't have to worry too much about weight or space and you can afford to bring luxuries like a huge tent and queen sized air mattress. You usually set up your tent within 25 feet of your car. Many state park campsites will have water spigots at each site and toilets and showers within walking distance. It's basically like hanging out in your house but you get to see the stars and have a campfire instead of watching tv.
Go car camping if:
- You're new to the outdoors and camping and want to get your feet wet
- You want certain comforts like running water and toilets
- You don't mind if there are other campers nearby
- You have heavy equipment or luxury items that you don't want to carry far (24 pack of beer anyone?)
- You want to bring your dog or small children (note: always check with your park ahead of time since pet allowance will vary. Some parks also allow dogs in their hike-in and backcountry campsites)
Walk-in or Hike-in Camping
Roughing It Rating: 5/10
Walk or Hike in campsites are generally a far enough distance from where you park your car that you don't want to have to make multiple trips. I've been to parks where the distances vary from a couple hundred yards to up to 3 miles. Hike in campsites often don't allow fires so you'll need to bring enough water and food that doesn't require cooking (or bring a portable stove like a Jetboil). You've also got a 50/50 chance that there is a composting toilet nearby. Be prepared to pee in the woods (Ladies, I've got a post coming for you specifically about how to do that without peeing on your shoes).
Go Hike-In camping if:
- You want to experience nature away from everyday comforts
- You'd like a bit more privacy from other campers
- You don't mind carrying your gear the distance to your campsite and back
- You're fine not having running water or toilets (note: some hike-in campsites will have composting toilets nearby)
- You're ok with not having a fire
Roughing It Rating: 8/10
On the scale of Glamping to Roughing It, backcountry camping is full on Rough City. You're living out of your pack on these trips and potentially hiking long distances each day between campsites. Does a bear shit in the woods? Yes, and so will you on this type of camping trip. You might even get to see a bear. I wouldn't recommend backcountry camping for your first camping experience; however, I would argue the rewards of this type of camping are far higher than the other two.
Go Backcountry Camping if:
- You want to experience the outdoors in all it's glory
- You want privacy and are ok with not seeing another person outside of your camping party for long periods of time
- You're ready and willing to carry everything you'll need in your pack
- You feel comfortable with basic outdoor skills like food storage and Leave No Trace principles
Stay tuned for my future Happy Camper posts where I'll cover the basics for each of the above types of camping.No matter what type of camping you decide to do, just get out there.