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Camping is an outdoor recreational activity. The participants (known as campers) leave urban areas, their home region, or civilization and enjoy nature while spending one or several nights outdoors, usually at a campsite. Camping may involve the use of a tent, caravan, motorhome, a primitive structure, sporting camp or no shelter at all.
Camping as a recreational activity became popular in the early 20th century. Campers frequent national or state parks, other publicly owned natural areas, and privately owned campgrounds. Camping is a key part of many youth organizations around the world, such as Scouting. It is used to teach self-reliance and teamwork.
Camping is also used as an inexpensive form of accommodation for people attending large open air events such as sporting meetings and music festivals. Organizers often provide a field and other basic amenities.
Camping describes a range of activities. Survivalist campers set off with little more than their boots, whereas recreational vehicle travelers arrive equipped with their own electricity, heat, and patio furniture. Camping is often enjoyed in conjunction with activities, such as: canoeing, climbing, fishing, hill walking, mountain biking, motorcycling, swimming, and whitewater kayaking. Camping may also be combined with hiking, either as backpacking or as a series of day hikes from a central location.
Some people vacation in permanent camps with cabins and other facilities (such as hunting camps or children's summer camps), but a stay at such a camp is usually not considered camping. The term camping (or camping out) may also be applied to those who live outdoors, out of necessity (as in the case of the homeless), or for people waiting overnight in queues. It does not, however, apply to cultures whose technology does not include sophisticated dwellings. Camping may be referred to colloquially as roughing it, and usually lasts for more than a day.
||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United Kingdom and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (October 2013)|
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.
Possibly the first 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) was founded in 1932 with national clubs from all over the world affiliating with it. By the 1960s camping had become an established family holiday standard and today camp sites are ubiqitous across Europe and North America.
Backpacking is a mobile variety of tent camping. Backpackers use lightweight equipment that can be carried long distances on foot. They hike across land, cross rivers, and camp at remote locations, and select campsites at will, if resource protection rules allow. Backpacking equipment typically costs more than that for car camping, but still far less than a trailer or motorhome, and backpacking campsites are generally cheap. Backpacking is popular, especially amongst youth who are willing to go through a challenging experience. Although it can be among the cheapest ways to camp, backpacking is also the most uncomfortable and it is usually performed by individuals who are in a generally good condition. The equipment one needs for camping must be carried on the camper's back, making it an athletic activity not suited to everyone; however, technological development and increased interest in camping has led to an improvement in the equipment carried by backpackers. Many camping companies nowadays produce a wide range of equipment that is lightweight or otherwise specialized for backpacking. Modern technology has greatly improved the general comfort and ease of backpacking. Titanium cookware, ultra-light synthetic fabrics, heat-molded hip straps, and down sleeping bags make for a much lighter pack than similar equipment of the past 50 years or more. For many campers, backpacking allows them to experience the true wilderness, but there is the possibility of severe weather and injury in the backcountry. Some backcountry campers pack in comfortable mattresses, compact chairs, and solar-powered satellite phones.
Mobile camping may involve riding animals such as horses and mules. Pack animals increase the limited carrying capacity of riders or may assist hikers by carrying much of the load. Some pack animals, such as dogs and llamas, cannot be ridden but can carry much of the weight of camp supplies. Horse trails and horse camps may be kept separate from "hiking only" areas due to the extra wear that the heavy animals can put on these areas, but a good dog, goat, or llama can easily go just about anywhere that a human can.
Vehicle camping is similar to RV camping, but on a smaller, less glamorous scale. Off-road vehicles, trucks, or other more capable vehicles may access camp sites or locations not generally accessible to standard vehicles or RV's. Vehicles can be fitted with roof top tents for easier or more comfortable camp set ups as well.
Canoe camping is similar to backpacking, but uses canoes for transportation; much more weight and bulk can be carried in a canoe or kayak than in a backpack. Canoe camping is common in North America. Canoe camping is quite popular as a camping opportunity, although the equipment needed is more expensive than that needed when camping with a car. The advantage of this type of camping is that the canoe provides an easier way to transport everything that is needed when camping; however, paddling can be a challenging experience. Rivers and lakes that are not suitable for canoeing may be dangerous, especially for novices. 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 often used due to the constant presence of water.
Sail camping is a form of camping while sailing or boating. Sailors will visit islands and campgrounds along the shorelines, dock their boats, and set up camp. This form of sail camping makes a variety of land-based activities available to the boaters, as they may want a break from being on the water.
One form of bicycle touring combines camping with cycling. The bicycle is used to carry the gear and as the primary means of transportation, allowing greater distances to be covered than backpacking. A small number of "bike-in" campsites exist along trails only accessible by mountain biking. People who enjoy riding their bikes consider bicycle camping a great alternative to enjoy the beauty and quiet of nature. Due to the lack of protection against bad weather, individuals who are bicycle camping usually carry a different type of equipment, which is helpful especially when raining. Poor road conditions and low temperatures are safety issues when camping during the winter. This type of camping is popular because it is more "pure" than car camping and yet easier than backpacking. An alternative form of bicycle camping that has become popular in some parts of the world involves cycling organisations offering organised multi-day rides and providing riders with facilities and luggage transport. The Great Victorian Bike Ride in Australia is one of the oldest and most successful examples of this, operating since 1984 and involving thousands of riders on a nine-day journey of around 550 kilometres (340 mi) each year.
Motorcycle camping is more comparable to bicycle camping than car camping due to the limited storage capacity of the motorbike. Motorcycle camping riders, as well as bicycle touring riders, often use some of the same equipment as backpackers because of the lighter weights and compact dimensions associated with backpacking equipment.
Campgrounds and commercial campsites
Campers span a broad range of age, ability, and ruggedness, and campsites are designed in many ways as well. Many campgrounds have sites with facilities such as fire rings, barbecue grills, utilities, shared bathrooms and laundry, as well as access to nearby recreational facilities, but not all campsites have similar levels of development. Campsites can range from a patch of dirt, to a level, paved pad with sewer and electricity. (For more information on facilities, see the campsite and RV park articles.)
Today’s campers have a range of comforts available to them, whether their shelter is a tent or a recreational vehicle. Those choosing to camp closer to their car ("car camping") with a tent may have access to potable hot water, tent interior lighting and fans, and other technological changes to camping gear. For those camping in recreational vehicles (RVs), options may include air conditioning, bathrooms, kitchens, showers, and home theater systems. In the United States, Canada and Europe, some campgrounds offer hookups where recreational vehicles are supplied with electricity, water, and sewer services.
Tent camping sites often cost less than campsites with full amenities, and most allow direct access by car. Some "walk-in" sites lie a short walk away from the nearest road, but do not require full backpacking equipment. Those who seek a rugged experience in the outdoors prefer to camp with only tents, or with no shelter at all ("under the stars").
Although many people see in camping a chance to get out of the daily routine and improve their survival skills, others would rather benefit from the many amenities that campsites are nowadays equipped with. If a few decades ago camping meant a great deal of responsibility and knowledge about wild nature, today any individual who wants to spend a weekend away in the woods may also expect a high level of comfort.
The amenities that can be found in a campsite vary greatly, as do the prices campers must pay to use them. Usually, the most visited places tend to be more comfortable, more sought after, and more expensive. The cheapest option when it comes to camping still remains backpacking or tent camping, although it can lack some of the comforts of other options.
Many companies manufacturing camping accessories produce different types of equipment or gear that is intended to make camping a more comfortable activity. The gear used in camping is crucial and it can be a life saver. The right tent or food storage unit can easily save campers from insects or even bear attacks. The camping community has been known for its proclivity towards leaving unused gear at the trailhead for other hikers to use or swap.
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.
Glamping (glamorous camping) is a growing global phenomenon that combines camping with the luxury and amenities of a home or hotel. It originated in the early 1900s from European and American travellers camping in Africa. The wealthy travellers did not want to give up the luxurious lifestyle while camping so their campsites included many of the comforts they were used to at home. Glamping is camping in style and comfort. Amenities that are sometimes used by glampers are: lace tablecloths, embellished luggage, and down sleeping bags. Also called boutique camping, luxury camping, posh camping or comfy camping, glamping allows travelers to experience nature without the hassle of finding camp space, carrying their tents, and erecting and taking down their own tents. Lodgings at glamping sites (glampsites) include structures such as yurts, tipis, pods, bell tents, safari tents, tent cabins, and tree houses. Glampsites range in price from as little as $50 per night to thousands of dollars per night, depending on the level of luxury. Sites offer amenities such as fresh bed linens, en suite washrooms, food service, private verandas, and, most importantly, direct access to the great outdoors.
Historical camping is camping using the methods and tools of a specific time in the past. Historical reenactors often camp with gear correct or similar to that available in the period they represent (Wild West, Medieval, Civil War, etc.). Such camping is done for personal enjoyment and for instructional purposes. Camping may be limited to the group, solo or open to the public as at reenactments and rendezvouses. Their equipment is often made by specialized blacksmiths, leatherworkers and tentmakers or may be self-made.
Minimalist campers bring as little as possible while camping. These campers may choose to do so if their trip involves backcountry camping, or other situations where it would be more efficient to bring less gear. Many survivalist campers exercise this style of camping.
Survivalist campers learn the skills needed to survive in any outdoor situation. This activity may require skills in obtaining food from the wild, emergency medical treatments, orienteering, and pioneering.
Winter camping refers to the experience of camping outside during the winter – often when there is snow on the ground. Campers and outdoorspeople have adapted their forms of camping and survival to suit extremely cold nights and limited mobility or evacuation. Methods of survival when winter camping includes: building snow shelters such as quinzhees, igloos, or snow caves, dressing in "layers", staying dry, using low-temperature sleeping bags, and fueling the body with appropriate food.
Workcamping allows campers to trade their labor for a free campsite, and sometimes even for utilities and additional pay. Workcamping is usually seasonal, from May to October, although in warm weather countries or states such as Florida and Arizona, they can be year round. Work campers are mainly individuals or couples who come into a recreational facility with their own RV and offer their labor to maintain that particular facility. In exchange, they can camp for free and might sometimes receive wages. Camp host programs allow people to camp for free for extended periods in exchange for volunteering to introduce visitors to campground facilities and organizing some activities.
The equipment used in camping varies with the particular type of camping. For instance, in survival camping the equipment consists of small items which have the purpose of helping the camper in providing food, heat and safety. The equipment used in this type of camping must be lightweight and it is restricted to the mandatory items. Other types of camping such as winter camping involve having specially designed equipment in terms of tents or clothing which is strong enough to protect the camper's body from the wind and cold.
Survival camping involves certain items that campers are recommended to have with them in case something goes wrong and they need to be rescued. A survival kit includes mandatory items which are small and must fit in one's pocket or which otherwise could be carried on one's person. This kit is useless in these circumstances if it is kept in the backpack. Such a kit should include a small metal container which can be used to heat water over a campfire, a small length of duct tape which can prove useful in many situations, and an emergency space blanket. These blankets are specially designed to occupy minimal space and are perfect for making emergency shelters, keeping the camper warm. Also because of the aluminum-like color this blanket is reflective which means it can be easily seen from an aircraft. Candle stubs are good in starting a fire as well as in warming an enclosed space. One or two band-aids are mandatory in this type of camping. Any camper, and not only the survival ones, need waterproof matches and a large safety pin or fish hook which can be used in fishing. Rubber gloves, antiseptic wipes, tinfoil, jackknife, or halazone tablets (which purify the water) are also to be included into a survival kit. Although these seem too many items to be carried on one person, they are in fact small, lightweight and definitely useful.
Winter camping can be dangerous without respecting the basic rules when it comes to this particular activity.
- Firstly, the cold is protected against with clothing of three types of layers as follows: a liner layer against the camper's skin (longjohns), an insulation layer (fleece), and a water- and wind-proof outer shell. Although cotton is one of the best quality fabrics there is, it is not recommended to be worn on winter camping because if it gets wet it dries out very slowly and the wearer could freeze. Rather than cotton, winter campers should wear wool or synthetic materials. The boots must be waterproof and the head must be protected against the cold. Although it seems a good choice, campers are advised not to wear too many pairs of socks as they might restrict blood flow to the feet, resulting in cold feet. Gaiters should also be worn to avoid snow and rain wetting the boots.
- Secondly, one should include carbohydrates into their diet to keep their body warm as well as to provide energy. Hydration is very important so winter campers should drink plenty of water to keep themselves well hydrated, noting that water stores must be kept from freezing.
- Thirdly, the tent must be carefully chosen to shelter it from the wind.
List of common equipment
The following is a list of commonly used camping equipment:
- First aid kit
- Tent, lean-to, or other form of shelter
- Hammer or mallet to drive tent stakes into the soil (hammer are often a claw hammer, which is also helpful for removing them)
- Sleeping bag and/or blankets for warmth
- Sleeping pad or air mattress to be placed underneath the sleeping bag for cushioning from stones and twigs, as well as for insulation from the ground
- Lantern or flashlight
- Hatchet, axe or saw for cutting firewood for a campfire
- Fire starter or other ignition device for starting a campfire
- Folding chairs for placement around campfire
- Ropes for stringing clothes line and for securing the shelter
- Tarp for adding additional layer of storm protection to a tent, and to shelter dining areas
- Raincoat or poncho
- Hiking boots
- Fishing pole
- Chuck box to hold camp kitchen items for food preparation, consumption and cleanup
- Trash bags, for the handling of waste; see leave no trace
- Cathole trowel for sanitation in areas where a toilet is not provided
- Insect repellent, particularly one that has DEET
- Sunscreen for protecting the skin
- Personal care products and towel
- Cooler to store perishables and beverages. If electricity is available, a thermoelectric or stirling engine cooler can be used without the need for ice. Campers at modern campgrounds will normally bring perishable foods in coolers while backcountry campers will bring non-perishable foods such as dried fruits, nuts, jerky, and MREs.
- Beverages or portable water filter for areas that have access to rivers or lakes
- Cooking implements such as a tripod chained grill, Dutch oven, or La Cotta clay pot can be used for cooking on a campfire. A portable stove can be used where campfires are forbidden or impractical. If using a campground with electricity, an electric frying pan or slow cooker can be used.
- Firewood for campfires
- Emergency Preparedness Kit
- Multi-Tool or knife
- Global Positioning System (GPS)
Much of the remaining needed camping equipment is commonly available in the home, including: dishes, pots and pans; however, many people opt not to use their home items, but instead utilize equipment better tailored for camping. These amenities include heavy plastic tableware and salt and pepper shakers with tops that close in order to shelter the shakers from rain. Old kitchen gear purchased from thrift stores or garage sales may also be used in place of home items as an alternative to buying specialized (and more expensive) camping equipment. Backpackers use lightweight and portable equipment. 
Many campers enjoy socializing with small groups of fellow campers. Such groups will arrange events throughout the year to allow members with similar interests or from similar geographical areas in order to collaborate. This allows families to form small close-knit societies, and children to form lasting friendships. There are two large organizations in the UK who facilitate this sort of camping: the Caravan Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club.
Some who participate in this sort of camping feel that it brings a closer form of bonding, as members become more mutually dependent than they would otherwise be in modern society. Social camping can also build more of a bond between members of the same family and between different families. It is common for many campers to organize this type of activities with their friends or neighbors. Social camping goes beyond uniting families and it may also give the opportunity for lonely campers to enjoy this type of activity with individuals who share their enthusiasm in this matter.
Because of the bonding this type of camping promotes, it can also be used as a personnel training facility. In fact, many companies offer their employees this type of training because it helps connect people who do not necessarily know each other but who need to work in the same environment and need to get along successfully. Including this type of activity in a personnel training package is becoming more and more popular and it is also recommended because of the benefits it brings.
In more recent years, those who camp alone have been able to share their experiences with other campers, through blogs and online social networking. There are many online websites especially designed for people who are looking for camping companions or for those who only want to share their experiences with other people. In this case, campers may provide the others with useful tips resulting from their own experience. Individuals who are willing to camp are likely to access this type of websites and connect with other campers, especially if they are novices, because it gives them the opportunity to learn more about this activity.
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- Images of historic camping and hiking on the Long Trail, Center for Digital Initiatives, University of Vermont Library