More people than ever are getting into camping. So we thought it would be fun to look at the many different ways to camp. Use this guide to all camping types and styles to help you figure out what works best for you.
Sleeping in the outdoors, exploring the wild, travelling on the cheap and getting away from it all are just a few of the reasons people go camping. Ultimately, camping means something different to everyone. It varies from building a basic shelter in the woods to travelling in luxurious motorhomes.
The key to buying the right gear for your time under canvas is knowing what type of camping your group will enjoy. At the simplest level camping gear can be very cheap or even free. At the most complex you can invest a small fortune.
But most people will spend less on their entire camping gear, and a week of camping than they would on a seven nights in a hotel. Plus of course you will still have all the gear for future camping adventures for many years to come.
In order of simple to most complex (cheapest to most expensive!) here are all the types of camping our team can think of:
This is building your own camp/bivouac – or bivi – out in the wild, or in your back garden. Using natural materials you build a shelter to keep the elements at bay. Most people will still use a decent sleeping bag and matt for a comfy nights rest.
Using just a waterproof tarp you can create a shelter. You might utilise natural features such as trees and branches or perhaps hiking poles to help get the shelter overhead. Much quicker than building a bivi from scratch but super light to carry and very cheap.
This is originally an Australian concept. Basically a cross between a sleeping bag, roll matt and tent you simply roll it out and sleep under the stars. Some have waterproof outer layers, fly nets and a little tent that covers your head if the weather is bad. Of all the camping types and styles a swag bag is one of the quickest to set up.
Confusingly, many tent brands make very basic single wall tents they call bivis/bivouacs. These are small, lightweight, quick and easy to erect and often low cost. Just like building your own bivouac it is one of the simplest ways to camp. Check out this review of the Snugpak Journey Solo if you want to buy a bivi.
If you are going to be camping among trees then a hammock is a great way to get a comfy night sleep. You are off the ground, don’t need a sleep matt and can pack fairly light. Hammock camping can range from very basic hammock, to using a tarp to keep out rain, to full blown hammock tents.
One of the easiest ways to camp is in your garden. There is no need to travel, book a pitch, pack your gear or worry about the weather. Just put a tent up in your garden and sleep out. This is a real joy for kids and a great way for them to try camping on their own for the first time.
This is camping using any type of tent just not in a designated campground. It could be going to some local woods, hiking a long distance trail or an expedition into the wilderness. The key thing is you set up on your own, away from facilities and carry all your own gear in and out of your site.
As if wild camping is not difficult enough, survivalist camping involves living off the land. So you don’t take many supplies with you and instead forage, hunt or fish for your food. As an added complication some people combine this type of camping with backpacking so they move on each day.
If you are doing a multi day trek and camping along the way you are backpacking, or trekking depending on what part of the world you are from. Of the different ways to camp this is one of the most rewarding. But as you are carrying your own gear you’ll want pack light with a small and simple tent like the Camp Minima reviewed here.
While cycling and kayaking are about as different as sports get they are both ways to travel long distances. As with backpacking this is about carrying your own gear and setting up camp in different spots every night. So most people pack light and will look for a small tent. If you need to transport your bike to the start of the trail check out these bike racks.
This is very similar to bike camping except with a motor it is a little easier to transport your gear. Of course camping from a motorbike means you will have limited space to pack your gear. Check out these motorcycle overlanding tips by author Graham Field for some useful packing tips.
All of the above can fall under the term ultra lightweight camping. As the name implies this type of camping is all about keeping your gear light and minimal. Many backpackers and wild campers will go down the ultra lightweight route the main difference is as the weight comes down the price goes up.
This is probably the broadest of all camping types and styles. Most campsites have water, toilets and washing up facilities some also have electric hook up and other perks. Campsites vary greatly from almost wild to holiday park in style, so choose carefully to find one that suits your style of camping.
Festival camping is easier than other ways to camp as you can buy hot food and drinks etc. But there is usually some walking with your gear so pack lightly. Unfortunately, many people treat festival camping gear as disposable. Instead pack it up, take it home with you and use it again and again. If you don’t want to keep it donate it to your local Scout group or a charity.
Of the different camping types and styles this is probably the most popular. Rock up in your car with as much gear as you can cram in and camp where you park. It means you can go to town with a large, heavy but comfortable and robust tent such as the Skandika Montana 8 Sleeper.
While most people only camp in the warmer months that doesn’t mean you can’t get your fill of the outdoors during the winter. However, you need a four seasons tent, warmer sleeping bag and other gear. It can of course be dangerous if you are camping out in sub-zero temperatures, so check out this article about winter camping sleep systems.
On expeditions there aren’t any camp sites! Some are long journeys so you will need ultra lightweight camping gear. But many expeditions have a basecamp which is a semi-permanent set up with better facilities. Being out in the wild, faced with difficult conditions for a long duration, expedition camping is among the most challenging requiring specialist gear.
If you have a pickup truck or a van you can use it to camp in. It differs from campervanning as you only have a basic area to sleep rather than the full facilities. You can even buy or build storage units for truck bed camping to really make the best use of your space.
As adventures go overlanding has to be one of the best. Set off in a vehicle that can handle off-road terrain and camp wherever you end up at nightfall. Overlanding holidays can be done independently or on one of the many small group tours. In our opinion if you want to travel the world there are few better options.
Trailer tents and roof top tents are both popular. The principle is your tent pops up from your roof storage box or your trailer making it quick and easy to erect. Of the different camp styles, trailer tents are particularly good if you can’t fit much in your car. Watch out if you need to take a leak in the night from a roof-top tent.
If you don’t have your own gear, can’t be bothered to put up a tent, or can’t live without extra comfort then glamping might be for you. It involves staying in a pre-setup camp, usually with plenty of additional luxuries such as good beds, wood burners, stoves and fridges. Of all the camping types and styles this is one of the most expensive.
Now we are into the types of camping that some would argue are not actually camping. A caravan is like a home away from home, stock it up, hook it onto your car and set up is easy when you arrive. The good thing is you can still use your car to explore the local area, making this one of the best ways to camp for a holiday.
From the classic VW camper to an enormous Winnebago, campervans and motorhomes are a great way to travel. While officially you are not allowed to stop and camp anywhere many people do. If you are discrete, tidy and courteous it can be hard to tell if it has someone is sleeping inside. But is it camping? That is up to you to decide.
This can be either a very simple set up or extremely complicated. Imagine setting up camp knowing it was going to be permanent – I bet there are many things you would do different to normal. There are people who choose to live off grid, or just prefer a life under canvas who camp in this way year round.
Unfortunately, the last of the camping types and styles is a reflection of worldwide problems. Refugee camps are made to be temporary homes. They are usually for people that are displaced through war or persecution but they also home people after natural disasters. According to the UN refugee agency there were 79.5 million displaced people in 2019.
We hope you found this guide to different types of camping useful. We look forward to seeing you on a campsite, in the wild or under canvas by the side of the road! Check out these camping articles for more inspiration.