Five Types of Camping.
(originally written In July 2008, post delayed). I decided to plan a fun little trip last month that I have wanted to do for a few years now. When we were kids, my brother and I would go up with my dad to a little lake in the west side of the Sierra’s called Ward Lake. The fishing was always amazing and the hikes were always a ton of fun to just take off and get lost. This time I wanted to do a little bit of back country camping. Hike away from the car and set up camp with whatever we could hall on our backs. My original thought was that I’m 24 y/o so backpacking in the sierra’s is a must, even if it takes getting back in shape to do it. So I called my dad up and asked if he wanted to go up to Lake Edison in the Sierra National Forrest at about 8,000 ft. We had a good time. He taught me how to fly fish, so we went up the creek a few miles one day and caught about 60 golden trout between the two of us. We took his kayak across the lake with us so that we could fish out of it as well. It was a much needed trip, but this trip got me thinking about camping and the people who do it.
So basically, there are 5 ways to go camping. Each style has it’s own types of camper and different people find there own comfort level based on their sense of adventure, their collective history of camping experiences and their financial situation & physical ability. First, the Cabin Camper or perhaps better put, rustic hotel camping. This type of camping provides minimal contact with the outdoors. One may find a squirrel on the front porch in the morning or a blue-perched outside the window but animals and wildlife are not the attraction in this style. Cabin campers will bring a car load of groceries into the cabin’s kitchen and arrange the refrigerator as they would their own, stocked with all of the necessary condiments, hamburgers, a watermelon and maybe a case or five of sodas and sparkling mineral waters. People that enjoy this style of camping tend to be from the city and vacation just to find a bit of peace and quiet from the normal loud and busy schedule of life at home. Attached to their vehicle is usually some sort of recreational vehicle, a boat, a couple wave-runners or even just a family rack of bicycles. Honestly, I don’t really consider this camping, but others do so I had to list it.
The second style of camping is similar to the last except that instead of staying in a cabin, the family sleeps in an RV or 5th wheel. This is a major investment to the camper and often suggests that camping is a frequent getaway, again from a more sub-urban setting. They are also apt to bringing other recreational vehicles like boats and wave runners but the benefit to these style campers are that they can travel further into more rustic spots on the river or the lake. There is with most RV and 5th wheel campers more time spent outdoors partaking in the areas activities and even a campfire for grilling and roasting marshmallows. RV campers enjoy this style because of the always close in proximity bathroom, shower and miniature kitchen for the essential clean and neat feeling that they highly value. My aunt and uncle take these kinds of trips pretty regularly and for a day or two at the lake I think this is pretty fun.
The third type of camping is what I call car camping. This style is what most families in America would call real camping. It’s adventurous in that you park your car at a campsite, set up your tents and from that point on the family and friends are all outdoors around the campfire, taking day hikes, fishing, enjoying each other’s company and even getting a little dirty. Showers and bathrooms are not a necessity on these types of trips, but often there are public restrooms and bear-proof containers to keep the trip a little bit more pleasant. This style of camper is typically a younger suburban family that can handle life away from cell phone service, and the comfort of the indoors for a few days. These campers will more than likely encounter more wildlife than the previous campers. Day hikes allow for summit climbing and nature walks away from camp where one may encounter a deer or a night encounter with the frequently visiting black bear after the scraps not stuffed in the provided containers. Roasted marshmallows and beverage coolers are easily loaded and unloaded from the car so a group can usually bring plenty of food and pass-time activities to fill the day with. Story-telling around the campfire is always a lot of fun in these types of situations. Something about camping under the stars brings out a more intimate atmosphere and conversations tend to be deeply spiritual. There is a lot of joy that comes with the ability to lie down in your tent and look up at the starry-night sky. Depending on the altitude and clarity of the sky, one of my favorite things to do is count shooting stars and satellites that scrape across the atmosphere when there is no sign of light other than the dimming glow of an exhausted fire and the stars themselves that make the sky seem barely lighter than the black horizon nearly un-recognizable in the distance. There are a lot of memories of these kinds of trips. I grew up doing this every once in a while with my dad and brother. The most beautiful place I’ve been car camping was outside of Muscat, Oman; a few miles from Wadi Tiwi called white beach. I so eagerly want to go back there, but that’s a different story.
The fourth style of camping is what for the longest time I figured was the most extreme; Backpacking. Backpacking is all about hiking. The most essential part of this type of camping is in my opinion a good pair of hiking boots. Without this, you might as well go back to your car and set up camp from there. A backpacker must pack lightly and efficiently, bringing only enough for as long as they’ll be gone. Backpacker’s choice of food is narrowed down to the very light dried bags sold at camping stores and whatever other lightweight things that they might desire. In California at least in certain altitudes backpackers are mandated to bring bear canisters to keep bears from raiding camp and destroying everything that gets in its way. This style of camping requires the packers to minimize their excess into the essential comforts that are lightweight enough to either fit inside the pack or attached to the outside with straps and carabiners. All of the joys of outdoors camping are involved in this style of camping and the market today is filled with new technology that allows for gear to weigh less, pack into smaller sizes and provide more efficient and comfortable ways of carrying your stuff around. Backpacking is of course, more dangerous than the other types but, with the necessary precautions and warnings heeded this style camping is definitely worth the money it takes to do it. Backpackers are usually young athletic college students or recent graduates, newly weds and extremely adventurous adults that are capable enough for the physical strain and don’t have to worry about tending the little ones too much. Children are definitely welcome, in fact I would encourage more families to partake in backpacking trips but be sure to note the attention that it takes to keep a child from wondering off and getting lost in the wilderness. This type of camping is my new found love.
I went last weekend with my dad and learned a lot about what I still need to do to make my future trips more efficient, but I also learned something about another type of camping, the fifth style. I met a few guys along the Pacific Crest Trail at Lake Edison that had been traveling for 3 months and were only a third of the way to their destination. They started at the border of Mexico and California in San Diego/Tijuana and were headed toward Vancouver, BC, Canada! These guys hadn’t had a shower in weeks and were dreaming out loud of eggs over easy, bacon, rye toast with butter dripping off, tall stacks of pancakes with butter and syrup covering the plate and glasses of juice and coffee running down their throats. It was funny to listen to and not always pleasant to stand next to, but I couldn’t help but admire their ability to take on such a wild journey. They were on their ultimate adventures. They carried only the bare essentials and together were there own sort of community, all with the same goal: Get from point A to point B. And some had lost up to 60 lbs along the way. I don’t think I could have sensed an ounce of stress or worry in any of their faces. There were some really skinny people both men and women along the way, they were hungry but there was a sense of satisfaction that they gained from every step. It was amazing to see. They referred to themselves as PCT-ers (Pacific Crest Trail), or if they were only on the 211 mile stretch from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney they were called JMT-ers (John Muir Trail). Those that have aspirations to do the trail are called future hikers. I think that’s what I might call myself right now. We’ll see… I hope you enjoyed this blog about camping now go outside and stay out for a while.