Camping Terms Everyone Should Know Before Venturing Out

Camping is a full-time job that requires many gears, and with lots of equipment comes a lot of terms. Is your camp in the backcountry or the frontcountry? Are your tents freestanding or not? What exactly are bivy sacks is it? It’s all somewhat confusing and quick, so we’ve compiled brief explanations of the most commonly used camping terms to help you navigate the jargon-filled world of camping.

A-frame tents

A-frame tents are tents made in the form of an A or, more precisely, an arc or a triangle. The tents are more traditional and traditional than the modern styles of tents like dome-shaped tents or ones with geometric designs.

A-frame tents


Backcountry is the standard North American term to represent rural areas that are not developed. It is common to camp in the backcountry; however, not always. For instance, you could be camping on a well-developed campsite in a National Park with plenty of amenities like restrooms as well as showers. 


Backpacking is the act of camping in which you walk to the destination with everything you need inside the backpack. Backpacking could be anything from an overnight trip to a through-hike.



A billy, also known as a “billy can”, can be described as a tiny iron container used to heat the water or cook meals on a campfire. Billy cans usually have a handle on the top for easy cooking over the campfire. However, makeshift billy cans can also be constructed from coffee or other containers. The billy was first introduced in Australia and is now a well-known symbol of bush life.

Bear canister

The bear container is a mobile food locker with a hard-walled that secures and locks food items as well as other scent-filled items such as toiletries and trash from animals and bears.

Car camping

In spite of the name, car camping isn’t camping in your vehicle but rather is camping in which you drive instead of walking to the campsite.


A mix of cycle touring or backpacking biking enthusiasts pack their camping equipment into bags that easily fit around your bicycle.


A bivy sack is easy and light to carry your sleeping bag. It can be utilized instead of a tent for highly light camping and biking. 

Double-wall constructions

A kind of tent that features an inner, breathable wall that is attached to the main body of the tent and an additional rain fly, which is waterproof and can be removed during dry weather to allow night-gazing.

Freestanding tent

Freestanding tents make use of poles which, once they are installed, help maintain the structure and shape of the tent without the tent needing to be tied down.

Freestanding tent


A term used to describe “charming camping.” glamping disposes of roughing it up and has built-in structures like yurts, including beds, hot water running and power.

Groundsheet (footprint)

A groundsheet, sometimes referred to as a footprint for a tent, is a layer of fabric that is placed under your tent for protection against the elements and to provide insulation. The footprints were included initially with tents. However, most modern tents are built with reinforced bottoms and do not have different footprints to cut down on weight.

Guy line

Guy lines are rope cords which typically are located on your fly sheet or the body of your tent and are usually fitted with plastic sliders connected to them. The staked-out ropes add flexibility as well as strength, waterproofing and breathability to your tent.

Cowboy camping

Cowboy camping means camping in the open air without shelter. Suppose you’re into living rough and camping like an old-fashioned cowboy using an impromptu camping pad for sleeping, a sleeping bag, or none at all. The cowboy camping experience doesn’t require a shelter or tent, but keeping your backpack small and your adventures completely free is essential.


The shape of this tent is among the most commonly used designs that modern campers use. Dome tents typically have light aluminum poles for tents that meet at the top of the tent in order to create an elongated structure. These poles can be found on the outside or inside of the fabric of the tent. They are secured at the bottom of the tent with straps, clips or stakes or pegs. Although traditional dome tents are rectangular or, square contemporary dome tents can be found in various dimensions and shapes that can accommodate all camping groups, from families of two to enormous families.


Kindling is the term used to describe the small sticks and twigs are used to light the camping fire.

Mummy bag

This kind of sleeping bag is made to be a snug fit around your body, allowing you to save warmth. Mummy bags feature the hood at the top of the bag to ensure your head is warm as well as an elastic at the foot to shield your feet from cold. Alongside their effective warmth Mummy bags are smaller and lighter to carry than sleeping bags that are rectangular.

Mummy bag

Potable water

Potable water is a different term for drinking water that is safe to drink without any further water treatment. If you’re going on a hike or outing, ensure that the water that you drink is potable. Or utilize a water purification device first. 

Pole sleeves

The pole sleeves are made of fabric which runs on the exterior or the interior of the tent. In pitching, the tent poles of the tent are able to slide into the sleeves.

Tent site (tent pad)

Campgrounds that are established or well-developed are usually equipped with tent sites. There is a specific area of smooth ground, gravel or sand where you can place your camper.


In the end, it’s essential to know the camping terms before you head into the wild. This will allow you to improve your communication with your camping companions and make the trip more enjoyable. Therefore, get out and go going camping!

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John Jeffries
By John Jeffries

I am John Jeffries, and I love writing about camping and tourist destinations. I'm a bit of an expert on the subject, as I've been camping and hiking all over the country. I also enjoy writing about lesser-known tourist destinations; my goal is to help people find new and exciting places to visit. When I'm not writing, I can usually explore new places or spend time with my family.

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