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What Kind of Camper are You?

2011 April 2
by Richard Timothy

This Smirk began as a Facebook post that I borrowed from some random post on ruminations.com, a highly entertaining resource for random thoughts and observations made by everyday people. In fact a lot of my random one-liners I post on Facebook come from there. The post I’m referring to is, “If you’re camping and you have WiFi, you’re not camping.” Turned out, this got me thinking about camping and what it even means anymore.

I know what it used to mean. It meant complete isolation from the populated world. You embraced the nomadic lifestyle of our hunter/gatherer ancestors and would strap an industrial sized backpack with padded shoulders straps and a belt to help take some of the weight off your back and shoulders. You brought your house and your bed with you (a tent and sleeping bag), and food, or something to catch your food with like a gun or a fishing pole. You had to go find your own rocks to build a campfire circle and hunt for wood dry enough to be used for your camp fire, and “cheating” was considered bringing some lighter fluid to help you start a fire, although some of the “puritan” campers would say that bringing matches let alone a lighter was cheating.

On more than one occasion in my youth I went camping in the middle of winter, of course it was for scouts. Now perhaps I leaned some valuable survival skills being a part of a club that requires you to take part in a winter camping weekend where you go into the woods and spend the afternoon digging a snow cave that you actually use as shelter for the night, and your only heat source is a candle you personally constructed using wax coated cardboard rolled up and placed into an empty tuna fish tin. That experience specifically brings a lot of memories to mind and, well, let me just say… screw you Boy Scouts of America! Seriously, that organization did more to cater to and sculpt my hate for spending the night in nature than all the Friday the 13th films combined.

I realize that the camping has changed since I was a kid. It has gone through a bit of an evolution and honestly I’m all for it. Now, even though I’m not really a camper, I can still “camp” based on the new hybrid camping options for people not willing to commit to the true and pure form of camping. As I see it, here are one’s current camping options:

True Camping
This is the type of camping where there is no question of whether you are camping or not.

  • Camp Access: Zero road access, you have to hike at least half a mile to get to your camp site. 4x4ing or using an ATV to get to the camp site does not count; it’s cheating and will never count as true camping. However, using horses, or canoes is an acceptable option.
  • Shelter: A tent that you had to haul with you and put together once you arrived at the camp site. Using a tarp draped over a branch to make a self made tent is not only allowed, but does qualify you as a “hard core” true camper. Note that there are a number different variables that qualify you for this extreme camping classification, but will not be addressed in this Smirk (fell free to add them in the comments if you have your own).
  • Sleep option: A sleeping bag. If you want some cushion use hand pulled grass and place it on the ground under your sleeping bag. In some warmer climates it is common to sleep on top of the sleeping bag under the open sky, or in a hammock.
  • Running Water: Rivers or creeks only, and if you want hot water for your coffee/tea you have to boil it over an open fire.
  • Cell Phone: Zero coverage. No bars, no texts, no emails, and no Facebook updates or Tweets. In fact the only thing your phone is good for is to tell time and as a flashlight at night until the batter dies… there is absolutely no recharging your phone in true camping. Also, the only allowable electronic device when truly camping is a flashlight, and possibly a digital camera for documenting the trip. Any MP3 players or any device that allows you to watch a movie or play a game automatically demotes you from “true camping.”

Mostly Camping
This is the type of camping where ones addiction to their toys limits their ability to become a true camper. Most of the essentials of true camping stay intact, such as using a tent and sleeping bag, and not having any artificial running water like showers or toilets. Road access is still a no no, but how you get to the camp site can alter a bit. This usually happens through the use of one or multiple ATVs getting your goods to camp. This equates to foam pads you can sleep on, and food in coolers, even ice cold beer that does not have to be stored in the river to keep it cold. Bringing a grill to place over the fire to cook the store bought meat is also a possibility. However, electronic components are still out minus the previously mentioned camera and/or flashlight, and some sort of music playing device, either electronic (iPod, etc.) or music instruments that you personally play (guitar, harmonica, bongos, etc). I stand firm in supporting the idea that the key reason for camping is to unplug and get closer to nature.

Sort of Camping
The first thing is that you have road access, but you are in a forested and/or nature filled setting. Like when you go to assigned camp sites in national parks or forests, or KOA campgrounds (but only if you are sleeping outside and in a tent and not in one of their little cabins). Yes, you still need to be in a tent or a similar structure for sleeping. There are out houses or restrooms close by, and in some cases you have running water, and sometimes you will even have access to take a hot shower. However, in some instances the water dispensers will have a sign next them informing you whether the water is safe to drink or is only for washing up. You may or may not have cell phone coverage, but you can easily recharge it in your car, which is about 10 to 40 feet from your camp. Also, if it gets too cold or a storm begins you can always leave your tent and escape to sleep inside your car for the night.

Pretend Camping
Pretend camping consists of sleeping in a nature filled area, again like a KOA campground or a some similar place, but you end up staying in a place that has a solid floor, a roof overhead and an electrical outlet. These places have beds and one light… in short you experiencing a “roughing it” hotel visit. I once stayed in a yurt in on a beach in Oregon, yes it was a big tent, but there were three beds and an electric heater. We were right by the beach, but I had no disillusions, we were pretending to camp.

There is a different type of pretend camping where people set up a tent in their yard and “camp” for the night. Traditionally this is reserved for the smaller people of the world, and no, I am not talking about that group of people that prefer the PC identifier of little people. No, I mean kids, and just because you are spending the night in a tent, if you can still have a plate of pizza rolls hand delivered at a moment’s notice by your mother… all you are doing in that tent is pretending… and maybe staying up late reading comic books. In truth you are having a sleep over and nothing more… which brings me to today’s final camping category.

“You’re Not Camping” Camping
If you are staying in a furnished log cabin, or in an RV, guess what? You’re not camping. Even if you are out in the woods surrounded by nature, there is nothing remotely campish about this type of camping. Still, some people chose to call it camping, which is why I’ve added it to the list. I think the general rule of thumb is that if you have a fully functioning kitchen, running water, a television and DVD or gaming consol, central heating and cooling, and a bed with sheets and a comforter, well, you can call it any word you want, but you my friend are not, and never will be camping in this type of environment… I’m just saying.

Well there you have it, my list for deciphering the type of camping you enjoy and the type of camper you are. Personally, I prefer the “You’re not camping” camping. Don’t get me wrong I like to see nature, take pictures, and go on nice walks together. It’s just that I’m not that interested in spending the night together… can’t we just be friends and leave it at that?

What kind of camper are you?

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords: camping, camping in snow cave, hiking with backpack, camping by car, and RV camping.

© Richard Timothy 2011

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Arthur Pearson permalink
    April 3, 2011

    Hand-pulled grass? No such thing deep in Northwest forests. However, the ground is carpeted with roughly a foot of ‘duff’, consisting mostly of fir, hemlock, and pine needles. This is why campfires are a bad idea. Duff is inflammable.

    • Richard Timothy permalink*
      April 4, 2011

      Growing up in Wyoming I did this all the time when I’d go camping. Of course this was just below the Yellowstone area and there was always long grass that I could use… well that was only when we’d go hiking in about 5 to 10 miles. There was one spot that was essentially an open field area. In thinking back there a few places that a did not have grass, it was mostly removing all the big rocks and calling it a night. 🙂

  2. Arthur Pearson permalink
    April 3, 2011

    Equestrians have to bring in baled hay. There is nothing to graze.

    • Richard Timothy permalink*
      April 4, 2011

      That might be the case where you are from, all I can say is that where I grew up I had friends that would go camping all the time using pack horses, and as far as I know they never took hay with them. It must be a location thing… guess a should have added the disclaimer that my camping perspective is based on camping in western Wyoming in the 70’s and 80’s. Location definitely changes the camping experience.

  3. Arthur Pearson permalink
    April 3, 2011

    Otzi the Iceman, embedded in a glacier for five thousand years, was once thought to be the earliest known backpacker, but the partial wooden frame found with him has been re-interpreted as a portion of a snowshoe. He did have some woven baskets, like old fisherman’s creels, and a firestarting kit. He was definitely ‘roughing it’, because he had a copper axe, and domesticated wheat content in his stomach. He was ‘camping’ John Muir style.

    • Richard Timothy permalink*
      April 4, 2011

      Nice. It’s truly amazing to me at the extreme camping people do. First time I went camping all I was allowed to use to start a fire was a flint and steel. I mean kudos to them for being so passionate about getting back to their hunter/gather roots, I just hope they don’t feel bad when, by some random chance they ask me to join them, I tell them no.

      Thanks for all the comments Arthur. I have a sneaking suspicion that you know a thing or two about the subject, where as my knowledge is predominantly satirically based. Cheers.

  4. April 6, 2011

    Camping gives me the willies. I would not survive a weekend had this been the only option for me. Hey, I have started a new project that is…well, I am not sure what it is but its original fiction not atypical and appreciate the visit as well as feedback. I think it will be a “series” of short story blogging. If you want to contribute to the tales, feel free to knock something up.

    http://talesfromamotel.blogspot.com

    • Richard Timothy permalink*
      April 13, 2011

      I do dig the concept behind this new project you are starting. Very cool. I’ll be sure to put something together and submit it. Thanks for sharing this with me.

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