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Types Of Camping

Two tents pitched in backcountry forest campsite alongside a turquoise lake in Alberta Canada

Photo by Shreya Swaika, Pathloom


Thinking about going camping this summer, but not really sure where to start?

A good starting point when considering a camping trip is knowing what type of camping will be best suited to you. It is very important to know what exactly you are getting into, so that you can be better prepared when you embark on your summer adventure! Even if you have been on camping trips in the past, you may discover through this article that there are several different ways to camp, and might find something new that piques your interest.

If you are new to camping and want to get a better understanding of why camping is awesome, check out our article on 'Why Camping Will Turn Your Summer Around.'

Open orange tent with triangular exit looking at extinguished campfire at high-altitude backcountry campsite in Washington

Photo from Unsplash

Here at Pathloom, we have broken down camping into a few clear categories to help you decide what is right for you:

Types of Campsites: Developed, Designated and Dispersed

Types of Camping: Frontcountry and Backcountry

Modes of Camping: Tent, Shelter/Lean-to, Hammock, ‘Cowboy’ (Sleeping Bag), Car, RV/Van

Getting to a Campsite: Hiking, Canoeing/Kayaking, Cycling, Horseback, Car, Motorbike, ATV/Dirt Bike, RV/Van

Large, yellow-green, pentagon-shaped, group tent under the milky way and dark night skies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Photo from Unsplash

Types of Campsites:


Developed: Has all the amenities one would need to be comfortable and almost feel at home! These include flushing toilets, showers, internet, charging outlets, picnic tables, tent pads, fire-pits, logs, among other amenities.

Designated: Has minimal amenities like maybe a pit toilet or rock fire ring and tent pad area.

Dispersed: Has no amenities and is focused on self-reliance in the wilderness.

Dispersed wildness campsite in a Northern California forest clearing with a fire pit and picnic table

Photo by Shreya Swaika, Pathloom

Types of Camping:


Frontcountry Camping

This type of camping is the perfect blend between home comforts and outdoor recreation.

One of the most common ways to frontcountry camp is to drive your vehicle to a campsite and then pitch your tent right next to it! It is affordable, easy to plan, and family-friendly. Frontcountry campgrounds can be developed or designated sites and can either be booked in advance, or, more frequently, can be operated on a first-come first-serve basis. Frontcountry campgrounds have varying amenities, so looking out for which amenities most suit your needs is a good way to start. There is no limit (other than the space in your vehicle!) as to the amount of food, drinks, cooking utensils, etc. that you can bring. Depending on the size of your tent, a blow-up air mattress can be inflated on the spot, and you can carry comfortable blankets and pillows taken right from your bed at home. This way, you do not have to be apprehensive about sleeping on the floor or being uncomfortable.

Orange and gray Mnmal Works Tent in coastal field near the shoreline under setting sun

Photo from Unsplash

Designated Campsites for Vans and RVs:

Another way to frontcountry camp is to have a Van or an RV. This significantly simplifies the camping experience for families because it is just like a movable home in the woods. It is also a good option for those that do not warm up to the idea of sleeping in a tent but still want to experience a night in the outdoors. An RV can be either a motorhome, or a trailer attached to your vehicle by a hitch. Either can be owned or rented depending on your preference.

Young couple sit under umbrella outside Jetstream trailer hookup on cement pad in field campsite during late evening

Photo from Unsplash

Backcountry Camping

The “backcountry” is an area that is remote, and usually difficult to access. Depending on where you live and what your interests are, there are several different ways to arrive in the backcountry. It can be accessed by hiking, cycling, horseback riding or canoeing/kayaking in. Overlanding and driving your vehicle are also ways to access the backcountry.

Designated and Developed campsites need to be booked in advance or can be obtained on a first-come first-serve basis. Some are fully developed with similar amenities to frontcountry camping, whereas others could have just the bare minimum. There can be more than one tent site available, so you could be sharing the campsite with other fellow campers. The number of tent sites is still much less than what one would find in a frontcountry campground, so do not be deterred by the partially communal nature of backcountry campgrounds. You will need to pack-in all your equipment, so carrying only what is essential is key. You can expect to filter your own water and protect your food from potential wildlife in the area if the campsite does not have food storage options. You will also need to pack out your own garbage and leave the area as if you were never there.

If you are looking for something less luxurious than a designated or developed backcountry campsite, something with a hint of survival and adventure, then dispersed camping may be just what you need! It is the term used for camping anywhere outside of a developed or designated campground. It means going into the forest and pitching a tent in the wild.

Illuminated blue tent under dark night sky with visible milky way in Glacier National Park

Photo from Unsplash

Dispersed camping is allowed in most National Forests and Bureau of Land Management areas, and it is good practice to check which areas permit dispersed camping before planning your trip. In most cases, camping is not permitted near developed recreation areas such as designated campgrounds, trail heads and picnic areas, or near water sources and bodies.

The options and variants to the types of dispersed camping trips are numerous as one can access the desired location by vehicle, foot, bicycle or any watercraft. If you are not interested in a long hike, and just want to spend a night in the wilderness whilst sleeping in the back of your car or a tent, dispersed camping is a great option. You can also use an ATV or dirt bike to go off-roading and set up camp in a remote location. Alternatively, you can plan this style of camping if you want to explore an area and spend all day hiking with the option of setting up camp at will. The same applies to a cycling trip, kayaking/canoeing or even horseback riding.

Two kayaks on rocky Olympic National Park lakeshore with paddles close by

Photo by Shreya Swaika, Pathloom

The major advantage of this style of camping is that it can be planned last-minute as no bookings need to be made ahead of time, except for places requiring permits. With the current Covid-19 situation, this is a great way to take a few days off and go on a trip solo or with company. There is no limit on the ways to plan a dispersed camping trip solely due to the independent and primitive nature of it. A dispersed camping trip does require a lot more planning as it does not come with any facilities or amenities. If an escape from people and crowds is what you crave, this is definitely for you.

Overlanding is another type of backcountry camping that involves driving any vehicle, ranging from motorbikes to trucks and jeeps, over numerous miles typically through off-highway and rugged terrain. Due to the motorized nature of it, overlanding trips can spread over international borders as well. The chosen mode of shelter is usually tenting on top of the vehicle.

Man sitting on top of an overlanding vehicle equipped with mounted roof tent under starry and clear night sky

Photo from Unsplash

To wrap up, there are many different combinations of camping trips one can plan. Having an idea of what the options are should help you decide which of these will best meet your requirements. The best part about planning a camping trip is the endless opportunity to try new ways to approach it, so whether this is your first time, or you’re a seasoned camper, there will always be a new and exciting perspective on camping.

For tips on how to recreate safely in the outdoors this summer, read our article on 'How to Recreate Safely During the Coronavirus Pandemic.'

Pathloom is a Bay Area-based technology startup on a mission to get more people outdoors, more often by reimagining the way people discover the outdoors.

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