What’s the difference? Camping, glamping, and backpacking

So you love hiking, you love nature, but how do you level it up?  How do you spend even more time in the outdoors?  Well, you might as well sleep outside too, so that you can soak up the entire experience of being outdoors!  There are a few ways to accomplish this – you’ve heard the terms – camping, backpacking… But wait, there are different types of camping?  What’s glamping?  We’re here to explain.


Generally speaking, this means you are “setting up camp” – a shelter and a sleep system – somewhere outdoors.  But there is more terminology thrown around these days that we thought would be helpful to explain.

  • Tent camping
    • This is the traditional image of camping – you set up a tent and sleep inside the tent overnight
  • Hammock camping
    • This is just like tent camping, but a fun alternative – you sleep in a hammock!  We have never personally done this, but we certainly see the appeal – hammocks are just so comfy!  
    • This is usually reserved for areas or seasons when the evenings are warmer.  Of course, you can always use a sleeping bag while in the hammock as well or have a quilt handy
    • Some folks will even hang a tarp above the hammock in case it rains over night
    • Others will even buy a bug net to use so you aren’t pestered by little friends throughout the night since you’ll be exposed to open air (rather than enclosed in a tent)
  • Car camping
    • I used to think of this as driving to an established campground that has amenities (toilets, running water, fire pits, and sometimes grills and showers) that you paid and reserved a campsite at, parking at your campsite, and setting up a tent right next to your car at your campsite
    • However, I am finding that this definition is changing and now moreso refers to actually sleeping in your car with a sleep system you have set up inside your car
    • Usually, folks will use a hatchback or SUV, fold down all of the seats in the back (and middle rows, if applicable), and lay down their sleeping bags in this space
    • Some folks will make it even fancier and construct wooden planks or other ways to create an elevated platform to lay the sleeping bags down on, so that storage space can be utilized underneath this platform
    • This is a nice alternative to tent and hammock camping if you are worried about sleeping in the true outdoors without a roof over your head, or if you simply don’t own a tent or hammock
  • Dispersed camping
    • This refers to setting up camp (tent, hammock, or your car) in an area that is free and available to the public (Forest Service or BLM land) that is NOT in an established campground.  This is the opposite of paying for a reservation at a campground (see car camping, or glamping).  
    • This requires a bit more planning: knowledge of which areas you can do this (hello Google maps!)- usually this will be along forest access roads (usually marked FR-##) where you can park along the main road, or park and then walk a short distance from your car to set up camp
    • One way that we find areas for dispersed camping is to look up the trailhead or hike of interest that is in National Forest land on Google Maps, and then search around this general area to scout out possible roads and pull-out spots from roads virtually, and then have these maps printed or readily available when you drive there in person
    • Since you cannot make a reservation, this is first come, first serve!  If someone has already set up camp in a spot you are eyeing, then leave them be, and continue on to find your own spot
    • This also means, since these are undeveloped sites, these areas do NOT have any amenities!  Meaning, there are no bathrooms, running water,  trash removal etc.  You will have to pack in everything that you need, and pack out everything as well. 


  • Generally speaking, this is camping with nicer amenities or other luxuries – this is “glamour-camping”
  • In my mind, this refers to one of two things:
    • 1) Tent camping at a paid campsite within a campground that has nicer amenities and luxury items (see car camping above), e.g. hot showers, laundry services, childrens’ activities, portable projectors to watch movies, etc
    • 2) Sleeping inside a structure that you have not necessarily set up yourself – for example, a yurt or other sturdy framed construction is a good example.  These usually have some sort of amenities inside the shelter, like a small refrigerator, or even a heater, and of course the convenience of you not having to set up your shelter.  Yurts also usually have an actual bed with a mattress, rather than sleeping on the floor of a tent


  • This means you are hiking with your tent and sleep system to a different area, away from your car, and setting up your tent and sleep system (“setting up camp”) in the woods or another location that is not easily accessible from your car
  • In this situation, you are carrying with you on your pack and person, everything you need to eat and sleep comfortably and safely overnight.  You will be filtering your own water, cooking your own food, and packing out all of your trash.
  • This requires the most amount of knowledge about the outdoors and the most amount of preparation

Now how do I pack for these things?

Check out our packing list here! Happy adventuring!

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