Camping is a fun activity that can involve physical activity and working together with others, much like many kinds of sports. Does camping fulfill all the requirements of being a sport?
Camping is not considered a sport; it is not competitive, it has no rules, and it is impossible to regulate. The focus of camping is not typically getting exercise, learning teamwork, or winning. There are no camping teams or competitions in schools, for professionals, or in the Olympics.
Though camping may seem like it could fall into that category, there are many reasons why it is not, by definition, a sport.
What is a Sport?
The definition of sport can be drastically different according to different people and organizations. For example, the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), which is a group of sports federations that organizes sporting events and sport-related groups, says that a sport should include an element of competition, not rely on luck, not have a major risk to health and safety, not be harmful to a living creature, and not only have equipment provided by one supplier. According to the GAISF, sports don’t even need to have physical activity; there is a category of primarily mind-related sports including chess.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the requirements for a sport include physical activity, skill, and rules. It can be a competition, but can also just be a game or activity. This differs from the GAISF definition because it doesn’t require competition but does require physical activity.
When looking at the kinds of activities that are considered sports, we can see a few key patterns. Sports have a competitive element; there are easy ways to determine winners and losers. Sports have rules that can be taught and followed. They also have ways to regulate the rules and difficulties. This is nearly impossible when it comes to camping, so it’s not a sport.
Despite what the GAISF says, sports require physical exertion. Those who participate in sports also tend to have similar focuses, and most sports have teams or competitions in schools, for professionals, or in the Olympics. While hiking involves physical exertion, camping doesn’t always involve it.
Camping is not competitive. There is some argument that people can compete by setting up or taking down the campsite faster, lighting a fire more quickly, or seeing who can sing campfire songs the loudest. However, camping itself is a multifaceted activity that is difficult to be “better” than someone else at. It is hard to decide who the winner or loser of a camping trip is.
Camping is made up of a bunch of smaller activities. Sure, you can turn each one of these activities into a competition, tally points, and come up with an overall score for the entire camping trip. However, not all camping trips are the same. People like doing different activities while they’re camping, which means that unless you are doing the exact same things as your competitors in the exact same way, it is not a fair competition.
Even if it is possible to have a fair competition while camping, most people don’t compete at all while camping. Competing is not the point of camping, and for many people, a competition would take all the fun out of it. Camping is not meant to be a competition, so it is not meant to be a sport.
Sports have rules. Every sport has specific rules attached to it. They have rules about how you earn points, where you can and can’t go, what you can’t do and what happens if you do those things, and many other types of rules. Basketball has rules about how many points you earn depends on where you shoot the ball from. Soccer has rules about ways you can and can’t touch other players. Football has rules about where the ball starts. Even sports like figure skating have rules about how many points you earn and how you are supposed to look.
Camping doesn’t have rules. There are no ways to receive points or get penalized. Since you can’t “win” camping, there wouldn’t be consequences even if you broke the rules.
There are some things that you are supposed to do while camping. There are safety rules that you need to follow, like putting out your fire or keeping your food safe from bears. There are also rules of basic human decency that you should follow, and there are laws that you need to keep while camping. These are guidelines that you really should follow rather than rules. If you don’t do these things, you’ll potentially die, make someone upset because you were rude, or get arrested, but you won’t “lose points.”
Safety regulations, rules of etiquette, and the laws of the state or country you are in are all things that you should follow while you are camping. However, these are not the rules of camping. They are there to protect you and other people, not to regulate the game.
Sports require regulation. They take place on fields or courts of a certain size. They use balls of a certain size or shape. They have time limits, specific equipment, and certain sizes of teams. It is impossible to completely regulate a sport, but there tend to be some regulations to make sure that the teams or participants are on as equal footing as possible, relying only on skill.
Camping is not regulated in any way. The equipment that people use is not regulated. The types of camping equipment that are available are vastly different and have different sizes, quality levels, etc. Some people will forgo a type of equipment that someone else may use. People use different types of tents of different sizes. Someone can use a pop-up tent that can be set up instantly.
Not all campsites are the same. Some are larger, some are on an incline, and some are near water. Your campsite is not going to look the same as anyone else’s, even one that is only one campsite over. It is impossible to regulate a campsite because nature is varied and unique.
Camping does not involve teams, just groups of various sizes. Any number of people can go camping together. Someone who is camping alone will not have anyone to help them, but will have less to set up and won’t have to cook for anyone else. A large group is going to have more hands to complete more tasks, but they will also have to set up more to accommodate their group. If camping required a certain number of people, some people would need to leave people behind or find some new people to join them.
Not everyone who goes camping even does the same things. Some people will go to a lake to swim or boat, some will go on hikes, and some will just hang around the campsite, enjoying nature. There is no regulation for what camping even entails. It is an activity with a lot of variation that can be easily changed to fit your needs.
Even if people wanted camping to be regulated, it would be impossible to do so in a way that makes it fair to everyone. Campsites are different from one another. Some people can’t afford to purchase the same kind of equipment as others.
Weather conditions are also impossible to control. Everyone is going to have a very different experience while camping, and even if camping could be regulated, most people wouldn’t want their ability to choose how to spend their camping trip taken away from them.
One piece of sports criteria that camping does fulfill is the requirement for physical activity. You could argue that any activity requires some physical motion; video games are not sports, but they require you to move your hands to work the controller.
However, camping does take quite a bit of physical exertion. You need to haul your equipment and luggage from your car to the campsite, which can often be a long distance. You need to set up a tent, which can be difficult, and set up a sleeping bag, pad or cot, and other equipment in your tent. You need to light a fire, which involves gathering fuel, setting up logs in the right shape, and actually lighting the fire, which often leads to a lot of frustration.
The problem is that once the setup is complete, there often isn’t much more physical exertion required until you need to take the campsite down and pack it up. The setup and take down tend to be the hardest part of camping, and during the time between, there isn’t really much “sport” to camping. People will often go swimming or hiking on a camping trip, but those are considered separate activities. You can go hiking or swimming without going camping.
If physical activity were the only criteria that camping didn’t fulfill, I would go ahead and give it the title of a sport. However, since camping doesn’t fulfill the other criteria either, it doesn’t really matter whether or not camping has enough physical exertion to be considered a sport.
This requirement for sports is a tricky one, and someone could argue that it doesn’t matter. However, most people playing sports tend to have the same reasons for playing sports. People typically play sports for three reasons that camping doesn’t share: to get exercise, to learn teamwork, or to win. People will also play sports to have fun or to enjoy nature, but those are also reasons why people go camping. The other three are not really anyone’s reasons for going camping.
Camping does allow you to get some exercise, but people don’t go camping to get exercise. If someone wants to get exercise, they probably won’t spend all the time, effort, and money required to go on even a short camping trip. Wanting to get exercise is not a reason to pack up and go on a camping trip.
Children often play sports when they are younger. This helps them to learn teamwork and practice collaborating with others. This is the reason why many parents sign up their children for sports. It helps them with their social skills too. People don’t go camping or send their children camping to learn teamwork. There isn’t really a major skill that people learn while camping.
As we all know by now, camping is not competitive, so there is no way to win. This means that people don’t go camping to win anything. A lot of people will play sports because they want to beat someone else. They will play a game of football or run a race or participate in another sport to prove that they are better at that sport.
There are also reasons why people go camping that don’t typically apply to sports. People often go camping to get away from normal life, to spend time with their family, and/or to feel more independent. These are not reasons why people will typically play sports. These reasons more closely align with those of going on a vacation.
Teams and Games
There are no professional camping competitions, no camping teams in high schools or colleges, and no Olympic athletes compete in the sport of camping. The National Camping League (NCL) is not a real thing; people don’t go around wearing the jerseys of professional campers.
Colleges don’t give out scholarships for making bead necklaces or telling the best scary story during camping games against a rival high school. Olympic athletes don’t get medals for falling asleep while everyone else is staying up late talking.
No one recognizes camping as a sport in the professional sphere or in schools. Not every sport is played professionally, in schools, or in the Olympics, but this would have been a big point in camping’s favor.
Camping is definitively not a sport, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a cool activity. You can go camping with your friends or family or random people that you meet online. You can buy equipment for camping and devote your life to becoming good at it. You can brag to your friends about how fast you can build a fire or put up a tent and use your expertise while camping with them. Even if it isn’t a sport, camping is a great way to spend time with friends and family.