Backcountry Camping, Car Camping and Dispersed Camping: What's the difference?

If you're just starting to get into the great-outdoor hobby of camping, you might be getting a little overwhelmed by the gear lists, location options and safety precautions. Don't let all of the unknowns scare you -- we have all the info you need to tackle those concerns. But what about the different types of camping? You may have heard people talking about backcountry camping, car camping and dispersed camping; what's the difference? And which type of camping is best for you? I'll cover the three most common types of camping here.

What is backcountry camping?


blog-1024x768-campingCarVsBackcountry-053017-1

Anytime you spend the day hiking and then spend at least one night in the wilderness far away from a road or any kind of development, you're backcountry camping. Backcountry camping requires carrying all of your camping gear, food, water and safety gear in your backpack. It also entails setting up camp either at a designated backcountry camping site or in an area where backcountry camping is allowed.

Backcountry camping is a great choice for people who have the proper gear and have a good understanding of wilderness safety and navigation. If you're prepping for a backcountry camping trip, check out some of these helpful articles:

A Weekend Backpacking Checklist for First-Timers

Backcountry First Aid Basics

How to Fit More Gear in Your Backpack

What is car camping?


blog-1024x768-campingCarVsBackcountry-053017-3

When someone refers to the type of camping they do as "car camping," they mean that they load up their car with all of the gear they need for at least one night of camping and drive to the campsite where they will be staying. Car camping does not mean that you're sleeping in a car,  just that you carry all of your gear in the car. Car camping gear is heavier, bulkier, and typically less expensive than backpacking and backcountry camping gear. Car camping is generally done in campgrounds, as well.

The affordable gear and easy access to campgrounds makes car camping a great choice for campers who are just starting out. Take a look at these articles about camping to prep for your car camping trip:

How to Choose a Campsite

Make the Ultimate Camp Meals with these Campsite Cooking Tools

All About your Camp Light Options

What is dispersed camping?


blog-1024x768-campingCarVsBackcountry-053017-2

Dispersed camping is kind of the "in-between" option; it strikes a nice balance between backcountry camping and car camping. Dispersed camping is camping that's located outside of designated campgrounds and away from any kind of amenities. National Forests are the most common areas where dispersed camping is allowed (as long as there is no sign saying otherwise). Dispersed camping is a great way to "get away from it all" without having to backpack in or splurge on ultralight backcountry gear; and it's free, too! If you have a 4WD vehicle, you can use forest service roads to find previously-used dispersed camping sites. Usually, you can drive right up to where you'll be setting up camp.

Choose dispersed camping if you aren't ready to jump into backcountry camping, but want to get away from the people and amenities of a designated campground. Here are some great articles to check out before your next dispersed camping trip:

5 Colorado Dispersed Camping Spots You Need to Check Out

Campfire Safety Tips

10 Tent Staking Mistakes to Avoid

Whether you've decided on a specific type of camping you think is best for you, or want to try them all, we've got tons of information to help you on your camping adventures. Check out our camping guide to get started.
Share
Comments (1)
BARBARA
2/1/2018 at 5:25 PM
Don't forget to remind folks about their responsibilities to "pack it out", get proper camping and back country permits and always know fire danger level and campfire laws. These three things account for most citations in public lands costing campers money and ruining vacations.
Join the Conversation
Name
Comment