Camping Stereotypes: Scurrilous Myths and Old Chestnuts about Camping
Googling 'camping stereotypes' (I'm nothing if not an intrepid researcher) brings up stories of 'camp', that strange American institution where quieter kids cry homesickly into their sleeping bags every night, noisier ones think it's hilarious to put spiders down other campers' backs, and parents all over the land gleefully clink their cocktail glasses together while laughing manically over the barbecue.
This is a stereotype in itself, of course. But we all have them. I didn’t really have any about camping before I got bitten by the bug, just a general vague concern about lumpy ground and wet sleeping bags (which is so not a problem nowadays with all the luxury options, camping pods and yurts about).
I certainly didn’t have any negative stereotypes about the type of people who go camping, reasoning that even if you're one of the more annoying campers, your holiday will still be vastly morally superior than boking up in a street in Benidorm every summer. But alas, not everyone is so enlightened.
I’ve ranted here before about Jeremy Clarkson’s attitude to camping, but I'm not going to let that stop me, as he really is the embodiment of the stereotypes snobby types have about going under canvas or into pod, taking to the road in a campervan or towing a tourer. It’s all about peeing in a bucket and caravans clogging up the countryside, apparently. Which does lead to the question of how non-campers see us lot.
Are we all those hearty YMCA types in stout shoes and knee socks George Orwell shuddered about, singing lustily as we clamber over stiles? Green types who poo outdoors and don’t use loo roll for fear of harming the environment? Noisy stag or hen parties jumping unclad into a campsite pool at 3am and making all the parents on site want to stab us on sight? Parents who let their kids rampage through other people's tents?
And what about camping itself? The most commonly held stereotype about camping seems to be a family away from it all for a week, in the rain, with the kids moaning and the parents emitting a false and relentless cheery attitude while everyone starves because no-one can light the campfire and the toddler gets sick from eating worms. Plenty of people can tell the story of nightmare camping experiences in their childhood, leading them to dive head first into the car when finally released from the tent, and vowing never to go camping again as it's only for saddoes and will always be rubbish.
Those of us who are more enlightened Pitchup.com types run up against this stereotype when we proudly announce in the office that we’re off camping for the weekend, only to be pressed up against the photocopier for half an hour while the clearly still traumatised person from finance relates all the supposedly bad things about camping. We should pity them really.
And then there’s the stereotype of campsite rules and owners. The image that comes immediately to mind here is of an elderly and grumpy gentleman, prowling the campsite one minute past 'quiet time' waiting to pounce on a giggle – think Argus Filch from the Harry Potter series. There’s also the overly chipper and possibly quite mad eccentric type – think Scottish hotel owner from Little Britain – chasing you around the campsite trying to get you to join the peace circle. Even though no-one I know who's been camping, even those who don’t like it, have ever met either of these types, it's still one of those dearly-held stereotypes held by the unenlightened about camping that many campsite owners are like this. Frankly, this is an unscientific approach.
We know the truth, though. Camping has taken off big time in Britain in the past few years, with campers coming from all walks of life from pensioners to parents to celebrities. The stereotype of campers as sad or earnest individuals who only go camping because they can't handle a week boking in Benidorm should be long gone. And, with camping options now including treehouses, wigwams and luxury lodges all around the country, camping itself has moved on from these stereotypes too.
So next time your enthusiasm at work about going camping is greeted by 'Ewwww' from a person who never washes up their mug, point them to Pitchup.com and then stand over them until they’re forced to agree that camping and campers are all the height of brilliance.