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Is That Real Camping?
By Edwin J. Hill

This is one aspect of camping that generates no end of discussion - mostly how other people are doing it! The purists - backpack tent campers - look at the luxurious motorhomes and fifth-wheel trailers and say, "That is not REAL camping!"

For their part, the owners of the sumptious digs-on-wheels look out at the tiny tents and say, "Poor dears! It's too bad they can't afford to REALLY camp!" And so it goes, on and on.

Is there no middle ground? Is there such a thing as REAL camping? I know I will never be able to resolve this issue but, since I own this blog, I'll throw in my own two cents' worth.

First, I'll recount my own camping experience so you'll know I'm not really taking one side or the other out of ignorance. As you may know, I started camping courtesy of the United States Army. We shared two-man pup tents with air mattresses (on the ground) and individual sleeping bags. The temperature didn't matter! The Army is a 24/365 operation.

On a personal basis, while still in the Army, I started camping with tents that were a lot nicer than the Army version. Mine actually had floors in them! Woohoo! I thought it was pretty cool when I got a cot on which to lay my sleeping bag - no more sleeping on the hard, rocky ground.

There were no nice amenities like toilets, sinks or showers. I had to rely on the campground restrooms for that. I did have a small stove and a cooler cooled by bags of ice. Man, compared to living out in the field while on maneuvers, this was living!

I even went on a motorcycle tour once with several friends and spent the nights in campgrounds. We carried small tents, sleeping bags and camp stoves. We had a fantastic time.

Next came a pop-up tent camper. A lot of the amenities were the same but it was a lot easier to set up if you pulled in late. I still had to use the public restrooms but this trailer had lights and a table and places to sit. Wow!

My first travel trailer was not "self-contained." That meant I had to carry the waste water and the bottom half of the PortaPotti up to the restrooms for disposal. But! This one actually had a heater, a built-in stove and a gas/12-volt refrigerator. Boy, oh boy, I was moving up into the Big Time with this one!

Since that time, I and my family have enjoyed traveling and setting up in campgrounds with a variety of trailers, vans and motorhomes. Our current rig is a diesel pickup pulling a 31-foot travel trailer which has a large slide-out and is four-season capable. Of course, it's fully self-contained.

I have enjoyed every kind of camping I have done over the years (military bivouac excepted!). Of course, tent camping is more suited to warm weather but I have set up in cold or rainy weather, as well. If you're well prepared, you can make yourself quite comfortable, even with minimal equipment.

I believe "camping" is a much larger concept than tents vs. motorhomes. Once I leave home, I can go, pretty much, wherever I want. There are campgrounds all across the nation - even in places where hotels are scarce. A lot of the parks and other tourist locations have campgrounds nearby.

For one or more nights, I can rent my own, private campsite. Normal campground etiquette is that you don't make noise that disturbs your fellow campers between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. It's just normal consideration of others that is expected of everyone.

Most campgrounds are located in areas away from noisy traffic and city pollution. If you're looking to relax in peaceful surroundings, a lot of campgrounds and very few hotels can meet that expectation.

Of course, one of the grandest things about camping is the camaraderie between campers. You can walk around the campground and people will greet you as you go by. If you see an interesting piece of equipment, you can stop and ask the owner about it. They'll most likely invite you to sit down and have a cup of coffee. Try that in a hotel! They'll be calling security on you in a heartbeat.

These things all apply no matter what kind of camping you do, no matter what kind of equipment you're using. Campers love being around other campers. Believe me, many of the motorhome owners started out in a tent, too!

The bottom line is that it's all camping. Enjoy whatever equipment you're using right now and don't worry about what you think someone else thinks about it. Don't be afraid to try different types of camping. You just might come to enjoy something you never thought you would.

That, too, is a fun part of camping. Just get out there and enjoy yourself.

Ed Hill was introduced to "camping" by the US Army nearly half a century ago. Since then, he has traveled across most of the United States and parts of Europe using a variety of tents and RV's. Ed is now sharing that love of RV travel in his blog, http://www.EnjoyRVTravel.com

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