Is Camping a Sport? (Settling the Debate Once and for All)

You want to participate in sports that will push your physical limits and get you some fresh air. For many, this leads them to consider whether camping can check these boxes. Is camping considered a sport?

Camping is not considered a sport because there is no competition involved. However, it is physically demanding, is excellent for mental health, and has similar attributes to an individual or team sport. You can also implement other sports activities while on your trip to enhance physical fitness.

If you want to know why camping should be considered a sport, here are the reasons you should consider before packing up the car.   

Should Camping Be Considered a Sport?

Camping should not be considered a sport despite the physicality that frequently accompanies a trek into the great outdoors.

Sports typically have a competitive nature, regardless of whether you compete as an individual or a team. The goal of a sport is to win based on your skill or physical prowess.

While it is important to have a successful time spent camping, competition isn’t typically associated with it. There are hierarchies of people who are more apt at camping than others.

Still, they aren’t likely to be rewarded for their efforts unless they’re on a survival reality TV show like Alone, where hardcore survivalists compete to survive 100 days in extreme locations for $500K!

If you garner enough camping or survival experience, maybe one day you could be a contestant.

Camping is meant to be a laidback activity that allows you to relax, ground yourself, and unplug from the busy world around you.

Instead of being classified as a sport, camping is viewed more as a recreational avenue for exploring nature. There is nothing that you can win or lose when it comes to spending time camping.

However, camping should be considered a sport because of the physical requirements of preparing your campsite and the activities involved.

Even though there is no competition, it still sharpens many physical skills and has some of the same benefits as sports. 

Here are a few reasons why we consider camping an excellent sport, minus the competition.

Should Camping Be Considered a Sport

1. Competition with Self

Even though you may not be competing with someone else, you can still compete with yourself.

Is it possible to set the tent up faster than you did last time? How about starting a fire? Can you hike to the campsite quicker than you did last time?

All sports have inherent physical activity, and you can take the spirit of sports into the great outdoors with you.

Compete with yourself to learn more about your physical limits and have a little fun with camp setup and tear down.

2. Implementing Competition with Friends

There are also ways to introduce a good-natured competition with others going on this adventure with you. Race to see who can set up camp the fastest.

While there may not be any rewards for winning, it is a fun way to introduce a bit of a contest into camping, making it much more like a sport.

Don’t forget you need a reward for winning. For example, the winner might have the right to choose a camping duty for the loser.

The person to pitch their tent first might get to choose what duty their friend has to do, such as cooking or cleaning after a meal.

3. Stress Relief

One of the main reasons people play sports is because it allows them to blow off a little steam and helps them manage their stress levels.

Whether you have a fast-paced job or just want to get off the grid for a while, being in nature and the physical activities frequently associated with camping can similarly affect your mental health.

Exercise helps moderate stress levels by releasing endorphins and reducing the body’s cortisol level (the stress hormone).

Spending a couple of nights camping can similarly reduce your cortisol levels. Doing so may reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions.   

4. Physical Activity

While some people spend their days at the campsite lounging in a hammock and soaking up some good old-fashioned vitamin D, many take a more active approach to camping.

They might go swimming in the local watering hole or take a long hike up a nearby trail. Because you are doing these things recreationally without any competition, they aren’t often viewed as sports.

However, you can quickly turn them into sports by setting up fun challenges and competitions among the other campers in your group. You can even get campers from nearby sites involved!

If you engage in some of these activities, camping may feel more like a sport than a leisurely activity you sometimes do on the weekends. 

5. No Technology

How often do you see people simultaneously playing sports and messing around on their phones? The answer is likely never.

Sports are one way people disconnect from their social life for a while and boost those endorphins another way.

Similarly, many people use a camping trip to disconnect from social media, email, and even phone calls for a few days. Unplugging is also great for reducing burnout and improving mental health. 

6. Learning New Life Skills

Part of the reason we encourage children to participate in sports is that it has the potential to teach valuable life lessons such as perseverance and teamwork.

Camping can also teach some of these valuable skills. Going camping teaches basic survival skills: how to set up a tent, cook your own food, and start a fire, to name a few.

Even if you aren’t a child, you can still benefit from learning a repertoire of new skills from your time outside.

It will increase your feeling of independence if you are camping solo or just a sense of competence if you work as part of a team on a weekend excursion.

Learning New Life Skills

7. Closer to Adventure

You never know what could happen next when out in the wilderness. You are just a few steps away from an adventure.

Whether you decide to explore an unmarked trail, follow the local wildlife, or cook up a meal from foraged foods, adventure waits for you at every turn.

Even without the competition of a sport, this adventure is enough to keep you on the edge of your seat. It gets the adrenaline pumping, just as you might experience in the heat of an intense game.

8. Good for Mental Health

Not only is camping great for stress relief, but it can profoundly impact mental health. It can lower anxiety levels and break you out of a cycle of depression.

There is something magical about being in nature, whether for an afternoon or an extended period. It can even lessen the symptoms of mental burnout from a demanding job.

Of course, it helps if you are off your mobile device and focused solely on being present in nature.

9. Great Bonding Activity

Many people enjoy the camaraderie that accompanies sports when a team works together to win. You can get a similar effect when camping if you go with your family or friends.

You can check out my article on family camping tips which serves as a guide to ensuring a happy and safe family camping experience.

Working together to get the campsite set up, a fire started, and food in your belly each day camping is a great way to enhance the bond with others.

It also strengthens the teamwork muscle as each person involved in your camping party plays an important role.

Assign everyone a job and see how you can merge those skills to make your camping as smooth as possible.

10. Having Fun

Our parents likely cemented it in our minds when we were younger, first participating in competitive sports.

The important thing is to have as much fun as possible, regardless of whether you win or lose. Camping is a great way to have fun while enjoying the best of what nature offers. 

11. Improves Health

You may have already guessed it. Camping, much like competitive sports, can increase physical health.

Your blood gets pumping when setting up a campsite, exploring the area nearby, and even hiking through the woods to find firewood so you can eat or keep warm.

You already know that it improves your mental health, but it can also profoundly impact your physical health.

Plus, most people find some type of competitive sport to play while camping, further enhancing their health. 

12. Pushing Physical Limits

Many people enjoy sports because it tests their physical limits. Camping can similarly push you, especially if you do everything independently.

Most people will push themselves during the day to get as much done as possible such as hiking or geocaching. There is always a way to push yourself physically while camping.

Pushing Physical Limits

What Sports Can You Play While Camping? 

Camping isn’t technically a sport because it lacks a spirit of competition unless you implement one among your friends or fellow campers.

There are several aspects of camping that could potentially be considered sports. Let’s take a closer look at camping activities that could qualify your time in the woods as a real sport.

1. Trail Running

You may be interested in trail running if you enjoy a vigorous jog through the woods on a well-worn trail.

You can do this activity solo and set your personal records, but many areas also feature competitive trail running activities.

Be aware of opportunities to combine your love of camping with a local event like this if you want to participate in a sport simultaneously with your trip.

2. Geocaching

Have you heard of geocaching?

Outdoor enthusiasts love the competitive nature of this activity, allowing them to make forays deep into the woods, using GPS to mark their location and find new containers, known as caches.

Geocaching takes place all over the globe, so be sure to look into what locations are near you.

3. Disc Golf

If you are camping with a group of people, you may want to come prepared with all of the equipment necessary for disc golf.

Also known as frisbee golf, this sport involves throwing your disc at targets while adhering to some of the same rules as traditional golf.

The goal is to get the disc into the basket in as few throws as possible. The player with the lowest score at the end of the course (9 or 18 holes) wins.

Many campgrounds are even developing their disc golf courses so that you can play this sport without having to pack lots of extra equipment. If this interests you, research these campgrounds ahead of time.

You can also search using the UDisc app to find nearby courses on a map. The app also includes a scorecard and gives you course stats.

4. Team Sports

Camping with a group allows you to play some more traditional team sports. These can include football, soccer, baseball, and kickball.

Organize your campers onto teams and bring your own balls to play any number of these team sports.

The bonus is that most people are already familiar with the rules, allowing you to start a game as quickly as possible.  

5. Lawn Games

If you don’t mind bringing extra equipment, you can play many lawn games on a large enough camping site.

The games you bring will likely vary depending on how far you have to hike from the car to your site, as some of these lawn games can be quite heavy and cumbersome.

However, if you are camping in an RV or driving up to the campground, then you may be able to play games like cornhole or lawn bowling.

For those who have to travel some distance between their transportation and campsite, you might want to stick with easier sports that require less equipment, such as horseshoes, bocce ball, or ring toss.

Even ladder ball can be a fun and compact game you can take with you.

6. On-Site Sports and Amenities

Some campsites make it easier than others to add some sports to your trip.

Many campsites have rock climbing walls, ropes courses, volleyball nets, basketball courts, mini-golf, horseback riding, or tennis courts for you to use at your leisure.

If you’re camping near the water, they may also have lakes or rivers to go canoeing or swimming. For detailed safety tips, you can also check out my article on camping near water.

Be sure to check online or on a campsite map to see if any of these other recreational facilities are there so that you can plan ahead.

On-Site Sports and Amenities

Camping Is Just as Rewarding as Any Other Sport…

Camping is not considered a sport because it lacks the competitive spirit of what many consider “true” sports.

However, it has a lot in common with sports, ranging from how it promotes your physical health to your mental health to your skill level.

You can have just as much fun camping as you do when playing competitive team sports. Moreover, you can play some sports while camping to enhance your recreational activities in nature.

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with his pet bunny when not out in the woods, exploring the infinite beauty of mother nature.

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