Camping is an activity that’s been growing in popularity for several years now. It’s a great way to break the pattern of everyday life, allowing you to escape from many of the stressors found in more populated areas. If you need some time to decompress, this is one of the best ways to do it.
Now, when you first hear the word “camping,” there’s probably a distinct image that pops into your mind. But did you know that there are many other types of camping you can go enjoy, aside from the one you initially thought of? We’ve listed a handful of them below, so that you can see if there’s something in there that you might want to try out for yourself.
Tent camping is accessible and cost-effective, with a low barrier to entry.
Backpacking offers liberation and freedom, allowing exploration beyond typical campsites.
RV camping provides the ability to enjoy nature on wheels, without sacrificing comfort.
Car camping can mean tent camping with a nearby car or actual camping inside a car.
Glamping offers a luxurious camping experience with amenities like beds and dressers.
Overlanding focuses on vehicle exploration with camping along the journey.
For touring cyclists, bikepacking shifts the weight from their feet to their bike.
Ultralight camping minimizes weight, emphasizing the bare essentials.
Hammock camping lets you hang between the trees off the hard ground.
Winter camping provides solitude, unique experiences, and extra padding from snow.
Survival camping demands bushcraft skills for self-sufficiency.
Bivy sack camping is tentless and minimalistic, focusing on lightweight gear.
Tarp camping is basic and portable but requires knowledge of knots.
Cowboy camping involves no shelter or minimal gear for a more rugged approach.
Dispersed camping, or boondocking, allows camping on public land for free.
Canoe camping is a water-based adventure, forcing you to paddle to your next campsite.
Backyard camping is a convenient way to introduce camping to all ages.
Workamping involves working at campsites in exchange for a free or discounted stay.
1. Tent Camping
The most recognizable and popular form of camping, tent camping is a great option for people of all ages and walks of life. If you’re new to the camping scene, this is an ideal way to get your feet wet without needing to spend a lot of money on gear. Hypothetically, the only equipment required to make this work are a tent and sleeping bag, which can both be bought for cheap from certain retailers.
If you want to pitch your tent at a campground, keep in mind that you will need to make a reservation. Depending on what type of camping you’re doing and the time of year (holiday season costs more), you’ll have to pay between $10-$40 for the reservation.
Otherwise, if you don’t want to pay a fee, you can always try out dispersed camping, which we’ll talk about below.
Read More: Best Budget Sleeping Bags to Keep Your Wallet Happy
Out of all the different types of camping, backpacking has to be my favorite. Despite the added weight, sore feet and shoulders, and long days, there’s just something about it that’s inexplicably freeing. For me, knowing that all of my possessions are on my back is such a magical feeling, because it makes me believe I can go anywhere, as long as there’s a water supply.
Unlike tent camping, where you’ll be leaving your shelter and most of your gear behind whenever you hike, backpacking opens up so many more possibilities. The only limits come down to what you can safely and legally do. Otherwise, if your feet can take you there, why not go for it? In many cases, you’ll be among a select few who get to see remote views that no one else could experience any other way.
Read More: The Most Comprehensive Backpacking Checklist You’ll Find
3. RV Camping
Want to enjoy nature without giving up your favorite commodities? Going on an RV trip can be one of the best ways to take in the scenery without making too many compromises along the way.
There are several different types of RVs, between Class A, Class B, Class B+, and Class C. My parents own a Class B sprinter van that I had the pleasure of vacationing in while I was growing up, but if the cramped space of a van isn’t for you, I’d suggest going with a Class A.
Of course, the problem with RVing is that you have to own an RV in the first place. Or do you?
With an increasing number of people renting their RVs out when they aren’t in use, you can use a service like RVPlusYou for delivered RV rentals. That way, you can still enjoy mobile home life without shelling out the cash to buy your own.
4. Car Camping
You’ll often hear “car camping” and “tent camping” used interchangeably. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can get a little confusing, since car camping can refer to two different things. The first is, obviously, tent camping with your car nearby, like we just mentioned. But the other is what we mean by it in this article, which is the literal definition: camping in your car.
Hatchbacks and SUVs are great for this, since you can just lower the seats and spread out with your sleeping bag. Cars aren’t quite as comfortable, but they can still work if you recline your chair far enough. Bring some extra blankets and a travel size pillow, and you might be surprised by how much you enjoy the experience.
Of all the types of camping, this one is great because it requires little to no gear. Just do a little preplanning to make sure you’ll be legally parked overnight, since not all locations will allow you to loiter during the wee hours of the morning.
Short for glamorous camping, “glamping” has been a growing trend since 2007 when it first started gaining momentum in the UK and Europe. It’s a luxurious form of camping that typically sets you up with a bed, electricity, and some form of plumbing, whether it be a flushable or compostable toilet.
If you’re really lucky, you may even have access to a dresser, a grill, and nearby restaurant options. However, the main point behind glamping is to get you right up in the middle of nature without forcing you to get rid of all your creature comforts. In addition to a bed and electricity, the tent itself is often nicer than what you’d experience in traditional tent camping. Most glamping tents are made from canvas, either in the form of a teepee, a yurt, or a large cabin tent. But if sleeping in a tent still isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there are plenty of other options that fall under the glamping category.
Spend a night in a treehouse, a cabin, or even a renovated barn for a unique glamping experience. Whenever I travel, the first thing I do is check Airbnb for a glampsite that I can stay at instead of a hotel. Not only are they cheaper, but they’ll make your trip a lot more fun too.
At its core, overlanding is simply a form of vehicle exploration, where the journey itself is the goal. Overlanding is different from other vehicle-centric recreation in a number of ways, most notably in that you have to have a heart for adventure, a vehicle that can take a beating, and the self-sufficiency to fix problems as they arise.
Camping isn’t the purpose of overlanding, but you will find yourself doing it over the course of your journey. Whether you’re sleeping in your car (or on top of it, in an SUV tent), at a campsite along the way, or in a dispersed location, a lot of unique experiences will be open to you. And frankly, that’s what you’d expect from this sort of hobby to begin with.
If you’ve never gone overlanding before, make sure you have the proper skills and equipment to make your trip a success. Invest in quality tires, upgrade your suspension, have a basic recovery kit to help you out of sticky situations, and don’t forget your navigational tools.
7. Bicycle Camping
Also referred to as “bikepacking,” bicycle camping takes the weight off your feet and puts it on your bike. Touring cyclists will typically follow a certain route, often while mountain biking, though some road cyclists will participate in this activity as well.
Since all of your gear will be loaded onto your bike, it’s important that it’s all small and lightweight. This is especially true for your tent and sleeping bag, which will be taking up the most space. As far as shelters go, consider getting something like the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 bikepacking tent for space saving comfort. We’ve also written a review on some of the smallest sleeping bags when packed, which are all perfect for a touring cyclist to bring on the trail.
Read More: The 8 Smallest Sleeping Bags When Packed
8. Ultralight Camping
A subtype of backpacking, ultralight camping is when you’re actively cutting back on weight, until you’re only carrying the bare minimum in your pack. This includes getting an ultralight tent for shelter, though you may find that a simple tarp or a bivy sack are more to your liking. If you’re ultralight backpacking, you may or may not use a sleeping bag depending on the climate. Instead, you might opt to use a simple sleeping bag liner instead, which is much lighter.
Depending on how far you want to take it, you may even consider cutting off your toothbrush handle to shave off another ounce or two. I once went backpacking with a guy who would even dehydrate baby wipes before he left on the trip, and then he’d add a few drops of water before using them. Some of these tactics might sound a little crazy, but when weight is your primary concern, you’ll go to any extreme to make sure you’re as lightweight as possible.
9. Hammock Camping
Switch out that tent for a hammock if you want a truly unique and exciting way to go camping. Hammock camping is one of my favorite ways to sleep outdoors, simply because I have a hard time drifting off when I feel the rocky ground under me. I also appreciate being several feet above the ground, in case a rain shower drifts through and saturates the area.
You’ll need more than just a hammock, though, if you want to stay safe and protected. A rain tarp is necessary for keeping you dry, and a bug net is essential for preventing insects and other critters from entering into your space. I’d recommend getting a bug net that wraps all the around your hammock, so mosquitoes and flies can’t bite you through the fabric. In colder temperatures, you’ll also want an underquilt to keep you nice and toasty.
As you might expect, this type of camping only works in areas with trees, otherwise you’ll have no way to support your shelter. Unfortunately, that rules out desert camping, as well as certain alpine and tundra settings.
10. Winter Camping
Not a huge fan of the summer crowds? Try camping in the winter, a time of the year when you’ll practically have the entire campground all to yourself.
Very few people are brave enough to camp in the snow and colder temperatures, which makes it the perfect time for introverts and privacy lovers to get out. If you think you’ll be miserable the whole time, I’d challenge you to give it a try anyway. Get an insulated tent, boots, gloves, a jacket, and other cold weather gear, and I dare say you’ll enjoy the experience more than you would in the summer.
The snow gives you extra padding to sleep on, so you won’t feel the uneven ground beneath you as much. And if you’re properly layered, staying warm shouldn’t be much of a problem either. Personally, I think it’s much better than melting in the summer heat with no way to escape!
Read More: The Benefits of Winter Camping and How to Prepare
11. Survival Camping
You’ll have to pull out your bushcraft skills for this one. Survival camping isn’t for people who don’t know how to be resourceful in the wild, as it can be a dangerous activity if you don’t know what you’re doing. The goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, making your own shelter, finding your own food and water, and piecing together everything you need for survival.
Most survivalists won’t bring a tent, but some may pack a tarp to be used as a form of shelter or for some other utility purpose. A bushcraft knife is pretty standard as well, but any gear beyond that is up to individual preference. Some common materials found in a bushcraft kit include paracord, a fire starter, water filters, a first aid kit, a folding saw, and cooking equipment.
If you want to try this type of camping, you’ll have to get comfortable with trapping, fishing, or gathering all of your food in nature. There’s a lot of room for error here, so make sure you’re aware of what’s safe to eat and what isn’t.
12. Bivy Sack Camping
A form of ultralight camping, bivy sack camping was once an activity left to the outdoor extremists, nutcases, and adrenaline junkies. However, as the trend started picking up, more and more people were willing to try this tentless type of camping.
Bivy is short for “Bivouac,” which is a term referencing any improvised shelter for temporary use. Most often, it comes in the form of a sack, which looks like a sleeping bag for your sleeping bag. Sometimes they come with a hooped pole to lift the material away from your head, while other times they come with no support whatsoever.
Sleeping in a bivy can make you feel an odd combination of exposure and claustrophobia. On the one hand, you’ll be keenly aware that there isn’t much between you and the untamed wilderness. On the other hand, settling down inside a small tube can cause anxiety for those of us who don’t like tight spaces. All that to say, it’s a fun activity if you want to cut ounces or try something new, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
13. Tarp Camping
Another form of ultralight camping, tarp camping is about as basic as it sounds. And frankly, that’s why many people like it!
Minimalistic, lightweight, and portable, using a waterproof tarp as your only form of shelter can be an attractive prospect. However, it isn’t without its drawbacks, as we’ll see in a moment. But first, how does tarp camping even work?
For starters, you’re going to need to refresh your memory when it comes to a few different knots. A slack tarp is a useless tarp, and the knots (or hitches, in this case) that you tie are going to keep the material taut enough to let the rain slide off. The three hitches worth learning are the Evenk hitch, the Taut Tarp hitch, and the Adjustable Guyline hitch. To learn more about them, and how to tie them, you can click on the links located on the respective hitches.
Once you know how to string up a line, it’s just a matter of throwing your tarp on top and staking it out. It’s helpful if there are trees nearby to attach your lines to, but you can also invest in tarp poles as an alternative. Now that you’ve got a tarp setup to protect you from the weather, let’s look at some problems you might face.
First off, bugs are going to eat you alive, unless you’ve put up a netting. This is the primary reason why most people steer clear of tarp camping, and it’s a pretty good one in my opinion! Aside from that, a tarp can be difficult to set up in inclement weather and treeless areas, and it takes more time and knowledge to piece together than a tent does. Since it’s not an enclosed space, it won’t be quite as warm either.
14. Cowboy Camping
If you thought tarp camping was minimalistic, just wait until you learn more about cowboy camping. This style of outdoor living doesn’t involve any kind of shelter at all, unless you want to cheat a little and use a tarp.
That’s mostly where the restrictions end, though. You can still use a sleeping bag, pad, and all your cooking equipment within the boundaries of cowboy camping. However, I do know some people who like to cut out as much as they possibly can. Instead of carrying a stove and cooking utensils, they may just bring a pot and hang it over an open fire. At the very least, it’s a good way to make some cowboy coffee to fit the vibe.
If this doesn’t sound like something for you, that’s okay. From my experience, I’ve only found three reasons why anyone would want to pursue this type of camping. First of all, it’s a great way to save time, especially if you’re rolling into your campsite late in the day. Why waste time pitching a tent when you can just unpack your sleeping bag and call it good? Second, some people like the feeling of vulnerability that comes with cowboy camping. I’m not one of them, but I have a few friends who really enjoy feeling so close to nature. And thirdly, it provides experiences that you might not have otherwise. Can you imagine falling asleep to the rustling of trees as you look up at the starry sky above? That’s something you’d rarely get to see inside a shelter, unless you have a good stargazing tent.
15. Dispersed Camping
Dispersed camping, also known as boondocking and dry camping, is when you make camp somewhere on public land. Of all the different types of camping, this is by far the one that I partake in the most. No reservations are required because you won’t be staying at an actual campground, which means you’ll get to enjoy nature for free. It also means you won’t have access to any facilities commonly found at campgrounds, including toilets, showers, electricity, and (sometimes) Wi-Fi.
Dispersed camping is a more rugged way of experiencing nature, but it also opens up a lot more possibilities. In the US, you can boondock almost anywhere on public land, which includes areas managed by the BLM, DNR, and National Forests. Usually, these places only ask that you stay a few hundred feet away from any trails, bodies of water, or campgrounds.
Need help finding dispersed campsites? The Dyrt Pro is a great resource that clearly marks off public land that you can camp on for free, as well as regular campsites and RV hookups.
16. Canoe Camping
I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life, and if you’re anything of an outdoor enthusiast, you know where I’m going with this.
The Boundary Waters.
A good portion of northern Minnesota is just one big network of lakes, portages, and dispersed campsites. In fact, many campsites are only accessible by canoe, so you’ll have to buy or rent one in order to make this method work. It’s a fun way to see stretches of land that would be hard to access any other way, though you do have the extra responsibility of managing your boat. Walking it from one lake to the next can be a real pain, but once you’re on the water, it’s usually quite peaceful.
17. Backyard Camping
No one ever said you had to travel far in order to go camping! If you have a yard, consider pitching your tent there for the night. It’s a great way to introduce the concept to children and/or pets to see if they’d be willing to go camping “for real” at a later point in time.
Make it cozy by bringing out some pillows and blankets to sleep on. You could even fire up the grill, hook up some string lights, and put on some music to make a party out of it. Your options are practically endless, since you’ll still have access to everything inside your house to make the experience as comfortable as possible. And best of all, there will be a real, flushable toilet waiting for you inside when you need it.
If you don’t have a yard for backyard camping, don’t worry, you can still get most of the way there. My wife and I live in an apartment, and we often set up the tent inside our living room for some indoor camping. It’s not quite the same as being outside, but it’s a fun change of pace nonetheless.
It might sound a little silly, but workamping is actually a real term used to describe people who work at campsites. More specifically, it’s a word that references people who live in an RV and conduct an activity in exchange for something of value.
Workamping isn’t just for retired folks who hop from campsite to campsite, doing odd jobs to get a few nights rent free. Doing any sort of remote work while camping could fit the definition, whether you’re a blogger, a construction worker, or a racecar driver. And in this post-Covid environment, I think more and more of us can identify as remote workers who would enjoy moving our “offices” to a more serene part of the world.