Camping is an outdoor activity involving overnight stays away from home in a shelter, such as a tent or a recreational vehicle. Typically participants leave developed areas to spend time outdoors in more natural ones in pursuit of activities providing them enjoyment. To be regarded as "camping" a minimum of one night is spent outdoors, distinguishing it from day-tripping, picnicking, and other similarly short-term recreational activities. Camping can be enjoyed through all four seasons.
Camping describes a range of activities and approaches to outdoor accommodation. Survivalist campers set off with as little as possible to get by, whereas recreational vehicle travelers arrive equipped with their own electricity, heat, and patio furniture. Camping may be combined with hiking, as in backpacking, and is often enjoyed in conjunction with other outdoor activities such as canoeing, climbing, fishing, and hunting. Fastpacking involves both running and camping.
There is no universally held definition of what is and what is not camping. Just as with motels which serve both recreational and business guests, the same campground may serve recreational campers, migrant workers, and homeless at the same time. Fundamentally, it reflects a combination of intent and the nature of activities involved. A children's summer camp with dining hall meals and bunkhouse accommodations may have "camp" in its name but fails to reflect the spirit and form of "camping" as it is broadly understood. Similarly, a homeless person's lifestyle may involve many common camping activities, such as sleeping out and preparing meals over a fire, but fails to reflect the elective nature and pursuit of spirit rejuvenation that are integral aspect of camping. Likewise, cultures with itinerant lifestyles or lack of permanent dwellings cannot be said to be "camping", it is just their way of life.
Different types camping may be named after their form of transportation, such as with Canoe camping, car camping, RVing, and backpacking, which can involve ultralight gear. Camping is also labeled by lifestyle: Glamping (glamorous camping) combines camping with the luxury and amenities of a home or hotel, and has its roots are in the early 1900s European and American safaris in Africa. Workamping allows campers to trade their labor variously for discounts on campsite fees, campground utilities, and even some degree of pay. Migrant camps are formed not for recreation, but as a temporary housing arrangement. Campgrounds for custom harvesters in the United States may include room to park combines and other large farm equipment.
Another way of describing camping is by the manner of arrangement: reservation camping vs. drop camping. Campgrounds may require campers to check in with an employee or campground host prior to setting up camp, or they may allow "drop camping," where this is not required. Drop-in campsites may be free or a drop-box may be provided to accept payments on the honor system. Although drop camping is often specifically allowed by law, it may also exist in a legal grey area, such as at California's Slab City. Social media-oriented towards drop camping provides information on recent police enforcement, campsite quality, cost, and length-of-stay requirements.
Campers span a broad range of age, ability, and ruggedness, and campsites are designed in many ways as well. Many campgrounds have sites with facilities such as fire rings, barbecue grills, utilities, shared bathrooms and laundry, as well as access to nearby recreational facilities, but not all campsites have similar levels of development. Campsites can range from a patch of dirt, to a level, paved pad with sewer and electricity.
Tent camping sites often cost less than campsites with full amenities, and most allow direct access by car. Some "walk-in" sites lie a short walk away from the nearest road, but do not require full backpacking equipment. Those who seek a rugged experience in the outdoors prefer to camp with only tents, or with no shelter at all ("under the stars").