What is camping? The fancy word “camping” comes from the English language and means camping in a tent outdoors. Simply put, it means camping. So, if you’re camping in a clearing by a scenic lake or in the woods, and you plan to spend at least one night outdoors (in a tent or cabin), you can say you’re camping. You will learn more about what is camping by LCNOutdoors article.
As an experienced independent traveler, I decided to share all my experiences here (in great detail) to immortalize my camping reviews in this post. Maybe someone will come in handy.
What Is Camping?
Overview of camping
By its bland nature, Camping is considered to be one of the most popular types of recreation in Western Europe. First, there is a general understanding of all campgrounds. On the beach, in the mountains, in national parks, etc. Second, it is fundamentally wrong to say that camping is a tent camp. Modern tourism standards require a developed infrastructure next to the camping area. In addition to accommodation, camping infrastructure must include parking, toilets, showers, stores, laundry, sports fields, and equipment rental. Camping, like hotels, is graded according to the comfort level.
For example, France has a star classification for campgrounds, but they are rated from one to four stars, unlike hotels. If the 1-2 star campsites are rather rudimentary, offering only the most basic services such as toilets, showers, and washing facilities. According to the 3-4 star category, the rest naturally include 24-hour security, car service, various stores, and plenty of entertainment. In some places, there are even animators that won’t bore visitors. What’s more, you shouldn’t think that campgrounds are only for car travelers. In Europe, it is very popular to travel in a tent and spend a weekend only in the immediate surroundings.
The meaning of camping
The principle of camping is based on self-sufficiency. This means that you get a place and various services but no one to supervise your work. An excellent example of camping is camping at a music festival or an athlete’s training camp. It’s a way to spend time with family and friends, get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, enjoy the fresh air and get into the romance of camping. Furthermore, by camping in a purpose-built site, you can avoid unnecessary hassles and remember to pick up trash and respect nature – a place we’d like to return to next year.
The campground is a fairly large fenced area for campers who appreciate budget travel. It is suitable for campers of all nationalities.
The camping area is usually divided into an administrative (reception) area and a recreational area. The recreational area is also divided into several sections. Respectable Camping has a cabin area for those who prefer to sleep under a fixed roof and an area for campers. Camping is popular mainly during the warmer months (we have never encountered any winter campsites).
Camping sites in the European American region tend to be filled with campervans, specialized Motorhomes. People who rest and travel in such vehicles do not have to rent a house at the campsite. Instead, they sleep and eat in the vehicle or the tents at camps. Therefore, traveling in a camper van is a very economical way to travel.
When I stay at a campground, I like to glimpse those who travel in such homes. Campers carry a lot of furniture like tables, chairs, chests of drawers, lots of pottery. You can’t get enough of that these days. So in the evening, their hosts drifted off in armchairs, and at the entrance to the car, they laid out mats with flowers in pots! Linen drying on the dryer, etc. To be honest, I was envious.
In the European American area, they often assign a particular site for campers, and people like us in regular cars are not allowed to stay. This is because they have to be connected to electricity to function. There is an electricity board in charge of this.
Camping sites are not allowed for regular cars. If the camping area is on a separate grassy area, you park your car on the side of the road and spend the night with the camper. It’s less comfortable but much cheaper because you don’t have to pay extra for electricity. Many people (and we are no exception) are crafty – we always carry a 65 foot (20 meters) extension cord with us, and when we can get close to a camper, we cheekily pull the cord towards them if there is a free plug socket. Usually, however, simple campsites are also equipped with plug sockets.
Related reading: What to bring to camping? Camping checklist
For the price, if you’re staying in a caravan, you’ll expect to pay the most for a night of camping. Slightly cheaper for campers and even more affordable for campers who don’t use electricity.
Types Of Camping
What groups are there in camping?
Many of my compatriots mistakenly believe that camping holidays are exclusive to young people. No, I have seen many campers in Europe who are significantly older than 50 years old. Many families with infants. These trips are trendy. There are campers everywhere, and camping life is in demand. Europeans don’t have trellises for growing cucumbers and grow them all summer long by watering or pumping water from raised beds. So they travel. We are in the eye of prejudice. So it’s rare to hear from outsiders at a campground, and encountering cars from outside Europe at a European campground is a miracle in itself. But it would be best if you did it. It’s very convenient.
Something like this. Not a word of fiction, just personal photos and my own experiences camping in different countries. I haven’t stayed at a campground in Asia, but I can safely leave feedback about campgrounds all over Europe.
What are the ways of camping
For some campers, camping is about staying in a tent, getting away from civilization, enjoying food, and having fun. But there are others for whom camping is just a stopover, a place to sleep and recuperate. In this case, we are talking about different types of camping. Here are some of them.
A type of vacation where the purpose is the trip itself, such as biking, canoeing, or hiking, and the campground serves as a place to sleep and cook.
Backpacking enthusiasts go on trips that push the limits of their perception of the world (the best backpackers may even have some titanium cookware, while those who prefer to travel light limit their luggage to food, water, and gear).
People gather together in campsites by appointment (they may be relatives or members of the same club, organize such gatherings regularly, and plan their vacations carefully; we all know that tourist camps are examples of social camping).
This is an outdoor activity that allows you to learn the skills you need to survive in the wilderness, such as finding food and orient yourself.
Some campsites (Italy is also an exception) have laundry facilities with washers and dryers. But, unfortunately, you have to pay extra for these things.
If you don’t have a tent, rent a cabin! This is usually the case. A small or large plot of land is enclosed with a plastic fence, depending on the number of people in it. Inside, there are several cabins, each with two bunks.
Between the houses, there are bio-toilets. At the end of the place, there is a mess hall. These campsites are popular with campers because they are an easy, inexpensive way to camp. Athletes love the camps here because they are located near the camp and don’t have to go anywhere.
As for the prevalence of camping in foreign countries, this type of tourism is becoming more and more popular, as evidenced by the increasing number of campgrounds opening across the country. There are even camping sites explicitly opened for those who travel. There are camping sites in every major city, not to mention the suburbs. You can find more than 50 camping sites in a city or county where travelers can stay with or without Motorhomes.
Large companies make a good profit at camping sites. The same company that becomes a sponsor of an event can open paid campsites in this territory. Just imagine. Take any music festival, theater festival, sports festival. For example, each one has its camping site next to it. Depending on the type of accommodation, the average cost for one night is $2,500-$5,000.
The Benefits And Disadvantages Of Camping
Benefits of camping
All over the world, camping holidays are valued for the opportunity to escape the urban environment and immerse yourself in nature. However, people don’t choose tents over hotel rooms out of desperation; some benefits aren’t always obvious.
You have fresh air above, below, and around you 24 hours a day. Camping in Europe is cheaper than a hotel room in the same country (the most expensive camping we’ve ever stayed in cost a few dozen euros for a beachfront campsite). Although the campsites in Italy (forgive this negative feedback from Italians, but it’s true) are more expensive than a decent hotel in Poland, the level of comfort is very high.
In most cases, the cost of accommodation in guesthouses, hotels, and recreation centers is much higher than where you rent tents or Motorhomes. This is especially true in popular tourist areas during the high season. If possible, “wild” parking will be completely free, but infrastructure will be minimal.
Accessibility of entertainment
It is also worth mentioning that this is one of the easiest ways to relax in nature and feel like a hiker. Almost all of the activities are simple and easy to learn. Everyone will feel like a savage and not long ago learned how to make a fire. At the same time, this festival can be convenient for the whole family and is very unifying.
Another benefit is that you can control your own time. When you stay in a hotel, you have to adapt to the pace of the place. But if you’re camping, your tent is your world. You can cook when you want to, travel when you want to, and go to bed and get up when you want to. The only difficulty is getting to a popular campsite on time. However, if you’re on a wilderness vacation, that’s OK too. Everyone can test their time and space management skills here.
It’s a paradox, but sometimes camping in a tent can be more comfortable than in a hotel room. This has to do with the fact that you organize your own life in a tent and are responsible for what goes on there. In a hotel, the treatment depends on the hotel, cleaners, and staff. The facilities might be good, but the service is not very well. That’s why camping is one of the best things you can do.
Plus, you can cook your meals without thinking about what to buy or the quality of the food. This way, you are in control of your stay. And if you learn how to organize your tent properly, camping can be a perfect vacation.
Disadvantages of camping
- For me, the biggest drawback is the communal showers and toilets that you have to walk to first. Trying to jump to the bathroom at night when you are in a hurry is suspicious. But drink a little less water or fluids, and you will sleep until dawn.
- If you have a kitchen, you will want to wait until morning to wash up and cook.
- Camping can be arranged for Motorhomes travelers by having the tent set up separately while the car is parked 50 feet away. This is not the most comfortable option, forcing you to haul a lot of stuff back and forth. But we rarely encountered such campsites – for the most part, parked cars next to the tents.
- Your entire life that night will be in the public domain. Unless, of course, you’re holed up in a tent/camper/cabin. What you eat, what you sit on, how much you drink, and what color your dishes are will be seen by your neighbors. This doesn’t bother me, as I love to gawk at my neighbors and their giant washbasins as the European wives drag their dishes into the kitchen.
Camping has also become increasingly popular worldwide in recent years. Locals and foreign tourists alike are engaging in it. Several developed countries have become popular camping destinations.
Another option is glamping or camping hotels for the more demanding, but there are not many yet. There is no clear definition of what a glamping hotel is, but judging from the offers on the Internet. You can conclude that they are cottages in the countryside. You can enjoy the beauty of the lakes and forests without being isolated from civilization.
Various kinds of camping activities are widely available in various countries. The new trend in this area is glamping, whose name comes from combining the words “glamour” and “camping.” Hopefuls, having paid a lump sum, have the opportunity to live in nature, but not in a tent, but in a special tent equipped with antique furniture, eating expensive cuisine and admiring nature or being close to it from the window. In the United States, such a holiday costs about $600 a day, compared: in Thailand – about $1000, in Australia – more than $2000. Here, as they say, each takes what he needs.
Related reading: What is glamping?
What are Developed Campground Rules and Regulations
All users of national forests are subject to federal regulations. This is not a comprehensive or official list of rules. For a complete one, click here.
Things to Bring on a Camping Trip
The list of necessities can be long or short. Everyone’s idea of camping is the same. Regardless, some things shouldn’t be overlooked.
There are two basic requirements for what you bring on your trip: 1. keep weight to a minimum, and 2. and take up as little space as possible.
This is why many manufacturers produce folding camping furniture. Usually, folding tables and chairs are available in different configurations. But there are also unusual things, such as folding travel cabinets. Campgrounds are generally poorly lit, so it’s worth bringing a flashlight and glow sticks to camp.
Preferably a special camping tent with several compartments, conditions for storing things (hooks, hangers, vestibules, etc.). The ability to install lanterns, insect screens, etc. And that can withstand rain or strong winds.
- Sleeping bags or camping kits, including blankets and pillows.
Although campers are almost always in one place, you need to have a camping kit because, at any time, you may want to go somewhere else for the night. That’s where sleeping bags come in. In particular, sleeping bags allow you to sleep more comfortably, even if you have a tent.
- Tent pad, mattress, or Karemat.
To avoid sleeping on a bare floor in a tent, you should also have a pad, an inflatable mattress, or at least a topper. This will help keep your back away from uncomfortable surfaces.
- First aid kit.
Of course, as with any trip, you’ll need a first aid kit. It should have all the medications you need to administer first aid in the event of any injuries or wounds.
- Towels and hygiene products.
Of course, even when hikers are outdoors, they don’t forget to take care of themselves. That’s why it’s important to bring towels, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.
- cookware and cooking utensils.
Of course, one of the most important things is food, and in the wilderness, it is difficult to prepare food adequately if you are not prepared. That’s why you should always bring burners, charcoal grills and utensils, and various other cooking tools.
- A flashlight with powerful batteries.
Extra set of clothes, socks, and underwear in stock. Protective cream and bug spray. And then there is a very comfortable campsite. If you use electronics, be sure to bring a rechargeable battery with you. The rest of the things are already a matter of personal discretion. So, if you wish, you can bring along camping tablecloths, folding tables, chairs, radios, etc.
By the way, for those who want to go to nature and do not like all these romanticized tents, it is necessary to pay attention to special “houses on wheels.” For rest in such motels even came up with a separate name – Motorhomes travel. They are certainly not cheap, but nothing stops you from taking such a motor home for rent and spending your vacation in maximum comfort.
Many organizers of camping sites will provide them. Therefore, you should be ready to do everything, if possible, to take advantage of the services offered.
Related reading: What to bring to camping? Camping checklist
- You can save a lot of money on accommodation and food if you stay in a campground.
- You will have to stay in tents and use toilets and showers in public sanitary areas.
- Plan your route ahead of time and check the rules of the campgrounds you visit before you go. Many close at 8-10 pm.
- Always use a switchboard to pitch your tent. You will need an extension cord to reach it.
- Keep track of valuables. The administration is not responsible.
- Prepare carefully: pack your things for any weather, bring warm clothes, an umbrella, and waterproof shoes.
How To Choose And Experience Sharing
How to make the right choice
Motorhomes, although vehicles, have all the attributes of a home, albeit a mobile one. Traditional homes are situated on the ground. Motorhomes also require, albeit temporarily, parking on the ground to ensure proper rest and accommodation for their owners. The purpose of campgrounds and campsites is to house Mobile homes within their premises temporarily.
Campgrounds are areas used for complex tourism purposes. They are a common form of commercial, recreational land use in many countries. Real estate and permanent buildings in campgrounds are rare. Campground sites are set in natural areas, often near natural or historical landmarks, focusing on providing for active outdoor recreation or educational activities in a culturally proximate setting. Hotels offer rooms for guests, while camping sites are suitable for temporary camping with tents, caravans, and Motorhomes. Camping sites include bungalows, caravans, and Mobile homes. The latter may have wheels, but unlike caravans, they are not vehicles.
Mobile homes, like caravans, are purchased for seasonal, temporary stays, or vacations in nature in an environmentally friendly environment. Their owners do not decide to expropriate the land but prefer to pay seasonal rent to use the campsite.
Caravans (Travel trailer)
Caravans, like vehicles, have more opportunities to change their temporary residence than Mobile homes. You can change more than one campsite during a season or a holiday. In the latter case, it looks like a journey. So it is possible to get a double impression from a caravan. On the one hand, a caravan attached to a truck, migrating from one campsite to another, is a means of travel. On the other hand, the whole season stands camping in one place (often more than one), covered with protective aprons, barns, Motorhomes, similar to bungalows or Mobile homes.
The relationship between Motorhomes and camping is the most temporary. Motorhomes are purchased for road trips, not long-term camping. For Motorhomes, camping is often just a place to spend the night and maintain (flush, refill, clean toilets). This need for parking has led to a form of camping known as “stellplatz.”
In contrast to a campground, a stellplatz is simply a parking area with a catering area for Motorhomes (usually a vending machine, paid with coins or tokens). They may be located in natural areas and urban areas. Campsites can be paid (much cheaper than campgrounds) or free. They often have an advantage over camping sites due to their proximity to natural or cultural attractions. Campsites are usually only available for Motorhomes and caravans.
Overnight stay in the wilderness
Regulations for such overnight stays vary from country to country. For example, sleeping in a car is prohibited, and pitching a tent in a clearing is prohibited in another. Check the rules beforehand according to your itinerary.
For example, in France, according to the official website of the French government, wild camping is prohibited.
- on highways and public roads.
- on environmental protection sites.
- Less than 1500 feet (450 meters) from protected historical sites.
- On nature reserves.
- On the beach.
- Less than 300 feet (90 meters) from water sources (wells, drinking fountains).
The mayor’s office of each municipality can set its own rules: for example, it can prohibit wild overnight stays on all public territories. And to pitch a tent on private property, you must have the owner’s permission.
Lessons from experience
We have camped in the wild three times. All three times because we were too late to decide where to stay.
- the first time: we spent a crazy night on the Lyon-Madrid highway. We just pitched a tent on the lawn of a gas station rest area.
- the second time, we wild camped in a national park in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The rules state you can only spend the night in the same area. We pitched our tent late at night, and in the morning, we woke up to the non-stop buzzing of bees and found ourselves sleeping in the middle of someone else’s apiary.
- The third time was in Aquitaine, where we pitched our tent in the bushes at night and found ourselves sleeping in front of a private house in the morning. According to French law, this is forbidden. We left quickly.
Nothing happened to us during those crazy nights. But that doesn’t mean I recommend repeating our experience.
Tip. Look for a place to spend the night before it gets dark. Your tent should be well away from roads, buildings, and private houses. Try to hide it behind cars or trees to avoid drawing extra attention. Leave the place clean afterward. It is better to bury biological waste.
Types of campgrounds
This is about organization and priority zones. Now, let’s see what types of campsites are available and which countries offer the best camping holidays.
Camping by the sea
Personal experience shows that in these campsites, everything is very streamlined. Places are booked in advance, and when you spontaneously arrive at the camp, you may not get a spot. We had to drive a bit along the coast of Genoa to find a campsite with some vacant “lots” (or sites as they are called in Europe). The camps are the most expensive (which is understandable – you want to get as much money as possible during the bathing season). But there are plenty of cafes, souvenir stores, and small grocery stalls. Kids can ride their bikes around. Mothers can push their strollers around, and so on. Often, there’s even a beach of your own, where no one else will go.
Camping by the sea is like a small backyard garden for your family – with paths, flower beds, and a children’s playground. The thing about beachside camping is that it lasts for days at a time. People camp here for weeks at a time. It is important to read these reviews carefully to avoid unpleasant memories.
Camping in the National Park
The infrastructure in the park (there are similar campsites scattered throughout Scandinavia) is less developed but less crowded and more comfortable. You can pitch your tent in a fenced square or elsewhere, depending on the site plan. There is hardly any difficulty in getting any space. The core group is campers who like to combine nature with budget travel. There are no “beach seals” to be found here.
By the way, not all campsites have kitchens. In Italy, for example, we never found a campsite with a kitchen and no opportunity to cook with cooking utensils. But in Norway, Finland, and Germany, camping without a kitchen is nonsense. Instead, you can choose from small kitchens with a few rice cookers and a small table or spacious kitchens with dining areas and sofas. And Scandinavia’s campgrounds are some of the cheapest in Europe.
When a campsite is outside the whole world. The camping area can be functionally divided into several parts. The main part is the accommodation area, which is the main part of the site and is divided into several sections. Rented bungalows and Mobile homes often occupy this part of the area. Together with the regulars of the seasonal Motorhomes site, they form the best part of the site. Other areas are free of charge for any camping: tents, Motorhomes, or caravans from guests to guests. Sometimes the campsite’s policy is to allocate separate sites for Motorhomes.
The facilities you will find are part of the camping infrastructure and can vary in level, but a minimum of hygiene must be guaranteed. It may include a sauna, a laundry room, a kitchen. Sometimes it may be just a toilet, basin and shower, and a token amount of hot water.
Shower and toilet facilities
All campsites have communal washing facilities – both for campers and glampers. Occasionally there are queues to use the showers, toilets and kitchen sink. Showers can be paid for (by the minute or unlimited) or are free. Somewhere there will be only one cubicle without hangers, and somewhere there is a corner where you can expose your body without witnesses and have the opportunity to hang towels. Italy is another exception. In Italian campgrounds, there is very little toilet paper even next to the toilet.
What I like about Europeans because they are free. They wear bathrobes on their naked bodies to shower through the campground (sometimes you have to walk a long way). In Italy, they even waved a roll of toilet paper at you.
Other parts of the campground
In addition to the space occupied by the administration building and the reception, it should serve the recreational and entertainment purposes of the campers. Here, as well as in the domestic area, you can find different levels of infrastructure and services. Campgrounds, like hotels, have different star ratings (from one to five).
The level and quality of a campsite’s facilities, infrastructure and services are reflected in its star rating. For example, camps can have swimming pools, tennis courts, mini-golf, restaurants, and markets, or they can accommodate only a bar with a non-special open-air area for active games.
However, not only the quality of infrastructure, equipment, and amenities make a campground attractive to campers. Equally important is its relationship to landmarks, both natural and cultural, the natural quality of the area, its green spaces, and its proximity to industrialized areas. As a result, you may find that smaller campgrounds are the way to go, while the more service-rich five-star campgrounds are just out of sight.
Part of the camping infrastructure is related explicitly to caravans. This includes electrical installations on the sites that house Motorhomes and caravans. Special outlet boxes are mounted on poles above the ground. These are used to connect the typical cables for the electrical connections of the Motorhomes. Water connections are also provided at special campsites. The same poles with sockets above and taps below can be installed. You can connect the tap directly to the campground’s water line (if the design allows) or regularly fill the tank with clean water. However, such large-scale water connections are rare. There are usually few areas connected to the main utility, and caravans are in use throughout the season. Only a few taps around the campsite from which you can fill water.
Sometimes there is only one tap in a purpose-built sanitation area for all your Motorhomes chores – draining used water, filling it with clean water, cleaning the toilets. These areas are also furnished to varying degrees. It’s a good idea to put a communal water belt on a reel or roll it up. But more often than not, you must use your plumbing.
Ideally, provide a central sloping platform for discharging wastewater. Then, no matter how you place your Motorhomes on the site, the water from the wastewater tap will drain into a central collector. More often than not, when you place your Motorhomes on the site, you have to align them above the collector so that the drainage tap is right on top of it. Sometimes a thick flexible hose is used to drain the water, with one end attached to the collector and the other to the drain valve.
There are special wide toilets for cleaning biological toilets (regular toilets should not be used because of the possibility of clogging). However, even these toilets are not always available (especially in campsites). In such cases, the bathrooms are also discharged into the sewer like wastewater.
Some Perspectives On Campgrounds Around The World
You won’t be afraid to communicate too much – Europeans are closed people and won’t impose on your friends, even if a bush of honeysuckle separates you. Or if they don’t share anything at all. They’ll drink beer 40 inches (1 meter) away from you.
A ranking of campgrounds based on personal experience, as follows.
- The most comfortable and economical is on the Scandinavian Peninsula.
- The best-equipped place in Germany.
- The US, the strangest place.
- The scariest but “vacation oriented” is in Italy.
Oh, by the way, I had forgotten about the campgrounds in the US! So, why they are the strangest?
National parks in the US don’t have kitchens (but they’re still tolerable).
This was a shock to me. Americans don’t have showers (and the cleanest countries do too). There is only one campground in Gimedi National Park that has showers. You had to drive there and stand in line and pay for a shower. There was also no place to wash dishes – you had to fetch water from the sink in the toilet and wash your dishes under a fir tree somewhere. But there were at least ten rolls of toilet paper in each cubicle. Indeed, they were all bolted to the wall.
The security staff (excuse me, rangers) are meticulous about cleanliness. God forbid you to put your food away untidily, a bear will come and gobble it up. That’s why Gimedi has a bear-proof box at each site.
There are enough hotels in US National Parks, but their prices are inhumane and go against all the rules of budget travel. Also, you have to book a year in advance.
Related reading: How is camping overseas? Lessons from experience