Camping Words and Terms

Camping Words and TermsThe following table is meant to help understand words and terms used in camping. It includes terms used to compare tent and equipment features.

If you come across an unfamiliar word in an article or review it might have an explanation here. Use it to help you choose those features that are most important to you as you shop for camping gear.

Some of these definitions of terms may of necessity be a little trite – others deserve an article or two of their own, and if/when I write them I’ll link them from the term.

I will add to the table as I think of camping words and terms that could need explanation 🙂

You can sort the terms alphabetically by clicking on the heading ‘Term’, or you can search for a term in the Search Box.

BackpackingTaking everything you need to camp with you in, or attached to, a pack carried on the back with shoulder straps. Usually combined with hiking or walking. This can make for a challenging outdoor experience. The equipment can be more expensive than that used for car camping, although it can also be combined with using a vehicle that is left at a base while the backpacker goes off for days or weeks.
Wild campingAlso known as wilderness camping - in wild places where there is no road, track, campsite or facilities. Everything needed to cook, sleep and stay dry must be carried. Some knowledge of foraging for food can be useful.
Wilderness campingSee wild camping
Mountain campingI know it's obvious, but just so you know there's a term for it..
Bicycle campingCamping with all the necessities carried with you on a cycle tour. Greater distances can be covered with bicycle touring. Needs to be light weight gear, but may be distributed between a backpack and a bicycle rack.
Recreational campingCamping for fun, not out of necessity. This encompasses camping in all its forms and is often combined with activities such as hiking, touring etc.
Motorbike campingCamping with all the necessities carried with you, similar to a cycle tour. Allows a bit more weight but must fit into well-balanced bags or saddle bags. Fairly light weight gear helps, especially if two-up. More comfortable if only small or no backpack is worn.
Canoe campingPopular in Eastern North America, among 'real-deal thrill seekers' who love the rush of water take their gear with them and camp on the shore overnight .
Kayak campingSimilar to canoe camping - just another means of thrilling transport with nights spent outdoors. May end up being wild camping..
Survivalist campingThis is camping with the bare minimum - perhaps no tent or specialist gear. An extreme form of wilderness camping. Many survivalists may be expert foragers, and enjoy solitude.
GlampingCamping with luxurious or stylish accessories - the emphasis on being outdoors without 'roughing it' and taking everything that can be carried for comfort and aesthetic pleasure.
RVstands for Recreational Vehicle, also known as camper van, trailer, motor home.
RVing - the practice of camping in a RV
ATVstands for All Terrain Vehicle. Also known as a quad, quad bike, three-wheeler - a small open motor vehicle with one seat and three or more wheels fitted with large tyres, designed for use on rough ground.
Bearhang or bear hangA device you can make to keep your food safe from bears and other wild animals. Wiki Article 'Make Your Food Bear Safe when Camping'
Tent campingWell, it's camping with a tent! It may be obvious, but the term is used to distinguish from those who camp in a cabin or vehicle - or any other method that does not involve a tent.
Cabin TentUpright style of tent. Near-vertical walls maximize livable space, and some models come with features such as room dividers and an awning or a vestibule door that can be staked out. Upright styles offer the easiest in and out access.
Dome tentA tent where the shape is formed by flexible poles - usually narrower at the top and with sloping sides. Variations are those that have an extra pole that pulls the wall to a more vertical position such as the Marmot Limelight 3 Person Tent
Shelter tentCan mean a screen room and sun shelter, a simple tent pitched for a day at the beach or a cover over the camp picnic table. Some can double as sleeping shelters if needed. Some with all-mesh walls are known as screen houses, meant for warm conditions to keep occupants shielded from bugs, but not rain.
Gear loftA small storage area for smaller items such as flashlight, cellphone,keys. It is usually supended from the top of the tent and may be integral, tie-on or hooked. It may come with the tent or be an add-on accessory
GuyA rope or cable attached to the tent and fixed under tension to a stake in the ground or another firm object, such as a tree, to lend stability to the structure. Also known as Guylines
FlyMay also be referred to as a rain fly or flysheet. The outer layer of a tent arranged so that it does not touch the inner tent, keeping moisture out and affording shade. May be used as a stand alone shelter without walls.
FootprintThe area taken up by an object, in this context, a tent. The term is used by tent users and manufacturers to refer to a specially fitted ground sheet made just under the size of the extent of the fly so that falling rain does not reach it and run inside.
Minimum weightSee both minimum weight and packaged weight of a tent. Minimum weight includes only the tent, fly, and poles. This may be less than you actually carry depending on extras such as stakes. The weight you carry may be somewhere between the two weights mentioned.
Packaged weightSee both minimum weight and packaged weight of a tent. Packaged weight is everything included when you buy the tent including any spares, manual and storage bags. You may not need everything for every trip, so the carrying weight may be less.
WeightCompanies sometimes refer to other weights, such as 'trail weight'and 'fastpack weight' -they can differ from company to company. Some times 'trail weight' is interchangeable with 'minimum weight'. Some use it to mean the minimum weight components plus whatever other items are necessary for pitching. Fastpack weight refers to tents or parts of tents that can be pitched using only the fly and poles as in 'bare bones setup'. Many people do this for fair weather and fast and light trips.
Bare bones setupTaking only the poles, fly and fitted footprint to create an ultralight shelter – leaving the tent body home. Can be done in warm weather to save weight.
VestibuleA sheltered area separated from the sleeping area. Can be used for keeping stuff such as wet boots, backpack etc. undercover but out of the way.
Polyethylene (PE)A waterproof plastic material that is tear and puncture resistant making this a strong material for tent floors
Polyurethane (PU)A coating used on tent fabric for water protection; PU coatings are rated in MM (millimeters), for example "PU coated to 450 mm"; a higher MM coating will increase water resistance
Fiberglass(or fibreglass) A reinforced plastic material composed of glass fibres embedded in a resin matrix. Poles made from this are strong and flexible, resilient in the wind. Less btrittle than carbon fiber.
AluminumA strong, lightweight metal. Poles made from this are favoured by backpackers. Usually more expensive than fiberglass.
Steel FrameHigh strength tent poles for upright walls on larger tents.
FrameThe construction formed by the poles of a tent.
Shock-Corded PolesTent Poles that are held together with plastic or wire cord run through the inside of the poles to keep the pole sections connected. Joins 2 or more poles
No-See-Um MeshA tightly woven mesh that provides a barrier against insects and allows for breathability and ventilation.
WickingThe movement of moisture by capillary action from the inside to the surface (with reference to textiles or fabric.
Anti-Wicking MaterialsFabric, thread, webbing and zippers treated to repel water rather than absorb water
RipstopA woven fabric, often made of nylon or polyester, using a special reinforcing technique that makes them resistant to tearing and ripping.
Taped SeamsSeams that have plastic tape applied over the seam during the manufacturing process to cover needle holes. Done to increase weather protection
SkinIn tents, this is the layers of the tent. For example, the flysheet is the outer skin. A single skin tent only has one layer e.g. beach shelters. A double skin tent consists of an inner tent and a fly. The gap beween the skins reduces the ingress of water via wicking.
Catenary cutA curved cut to provide shape on a seam. The curve is arrived at by the curve assumed approximately by a heavy uniform cord or chain hanging freely from two points not in the same vertical line. It is believed that added benefits of less sag and better wind performance can be acieved withthis kind of shape.
DAC polesPoles manufactured by Dongah Aluminum Corp. (DAC) of Korea. The ccomany engineers have found ways to reduce weight of aluminum tent poles by shrinking pole diameter and wall thickness. These pole types are commonly found in top-brand backpacking tents.
King Size BedThe standard US Size is 76" x 80" - You never know, you might have a tent that fits one!
Queen Size Bed The standard US Size is 60" X 80" (inches). Best selection for two adults but possibly too small for some.
Twin Size Bed The standard US Size is 39" x 75" Small, for one adult. Extra long size is 80" in length.
Negative-angle windowsThese are windows that are set so that they slope inwards toward the bottom edge, providing a small overhang at the top to reduce the amount of rain getting in.
PitchA word with many meanings but in this context: To assemble or erect a tent - to set it up.

If you would like to make suggestions of camping words and terms to add, please feel free to use the comment box below – mind your language though – we aim to be family friendly! 😉