The down-low on camping vocabulary

As I’ve been talking to other families about camping, I’ve noticed a variety of reactions. Of the ones who seem skeptical, it seems that they have a view of camping in their heads and children don’t fit into that view very well. I can totally understand this – sometimes, depending on the ages, kids DON’T fit into certain types of camping. My purpose though is to encourage you to take the leap and pursue a camping style that you CAN do with kids. Why don’t I go over some terms to help clarify?

RVs, campers, and pop-ups are vehicles designed to provide maximum comfort while camping. My parents had a pop-up and a camper when I was young, and I have many happy memories of the latter. A popup is a trailer that basically provides a place to sleep, perhaps a table for eating, and usually a minimal food prep area (small sink, and perhaps a stove). Some can be a lot nicer with other features, and some can be just a glorified tent on wheels. An RV (recreation vehicle) can be either a trailer or its own vehicle, and is designed to provide all the comforts of home while on the go. Again, they can range from simple to fancy, but in general you have bed(s), table(s), seating, a kitchen, and bathroom.

Tent camping, on the other hand, is as it sounds – sleeping in tents. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be on the ground (you can sleep on a cot), but generally people do use sleeping bags and sleeping pads/air mattresses.

Car camping is the term used to describe my style of camping – where you pack your car, drive to the campsite, set up camp usually pretty close to where the car is parked. You use the site as a base camp for day hikes, etc. Car campers don’t have to worry about weight and allows them to focus more on comfort than space (for example, bringing a bigger tent).

Backpacking is when you carry everything you need in a pack on your back, and usually hike a ways before stopping for the night to set up camp. When you’re backpacking, weight and space are your #1 priority, and you make decisions based on that. I’m not sure how feasible it would be to backpack with small children, but if you do it then you should leave a comment because I want you to write a guest post! If you’re used to backpacking, then perhaps for this season in your life, you could consider car camping.

I wanted to define these so others can figure out what style fits them and their families the best. Overall, the main point is to get out into nature no matter what your family looks like. 🙂


my favorite camping guide book

Around the time that we started camping after we got married, I stumbled across this book:


The Best in Tent Camping: Georgia: A Guide for Car Campers Who Hate RVs, Concrete Slabs, and Loud Portable Stereos, by Johnny Molloy

Hands down, this is the best guidebook I have read, and if you are interested in tent camping in Georgia, I highly recommend you get it. (We also own his book about tent camping in the Carolinas, though we have only used that one a couple of times.)

The author lists the top 50 campgrounds in Georgia, based on his experience tent camping throughout them. I like the focus on tents, since that is the kind of camping we’re interested in. We’ve camped at 8 campgrounds so far in Georgia, and every review has been spot on. He even gives advice down to what specific sites he recommends. The book isn’t really focused on family camping, so he doesn’t highlight any specifically kid-friendly aspects, but to me that’s somewhat minor.

One of the things I like to do is take the book with me every time we visit a campground, and take notes in the margins. I record when we visited, my thoughts about the campground, and anything else I might want to know.


I usually make these notes during the midday down time while we’re still at the campground – it’s a nice way to relax a little and take in the surroundings. I always appreciate them when we’re considering returning to a campground, or when recommending to others. It’s amazing how fast you forget!

There are many other books in the series (not all written by the same author), so if you have tried any others I’d love to hear your thoughts.