Different Styles/Philosophies of Camping
Every camper has different needs, wants, preferences, and goals. The way in which people camp is often linked to what they choose to bring with them. A piece of gear one camper calls essential, another might call unnecessary and would leave at home (or not even own). Here are some general definitions of some different schools of camping, and please note that it is possible to mix certain styles rather than be a purist:
Minimalist/Bushcraft – One that takes the “bare essentials” when camping, chooses to use cheap/free gear, takes more advantage of natural resources, but may or may not have low weight as a priority. Ray Mears is a master (easily one of the best in the world) of Bushcraft and his writings and documentaires I am a big fan of and were/are an influence in my progression as a bushcrafter/camper. Examples of gear a more minimalist/bushcraft influenced camper might take with them are an old wool blanket, sturdy knife and/or axe, canteen for water, pot for cooking over campfire, etc. Pros: Cheap, easy to pack; Cons: Considered “uncomfortable” by some, more advanced knowledge and skills required
High-Tech – Opposite of Minimalist. Has the top of the line gear and covers many different wants/needs, but may or may not have low weight as a priority. Examples of gear would be pretty much most of what you will find at camping/outdoor specialty stores, and most campers own at least a few pieces of high-tech gear. Pros: Considered “very comfortable” by some, only very basic knowledge and skill required; Cons: Expensive, difficult to pack
Ultralight – One that has a low *base weight (*all gear not including consumables and clothing) of gear as a main priority, and is typically defined as a base weight of less than 10lbs/4.5kg. Examples of gear a more ultralight influenced camper might take are down-feather sleeping bag, razor blade, recycled plastic bottle for water, mini-alcohol stove for cooking, etc. Pros: Saves energy, opens up camping as an option for people unable to carry heavy loads such as the physically weak or handicapped; Cons: Narrower options for choice of gear, certain gear tends to favor high-tech (i.e. expensive)
Lightweight – Similar to Ultralight, but low base weight less of a priority, and is typically defined as a base weight of less than 20lbs/9.1kg.
Traditional – Low base weight not a main priority, typically defined as a base weight of 20lbs/9.1kg-40lbs/18.2kg.
Ultraheavy – Low base weight not a priority, typically defined as a base weight of over 40lbs/18.2kg. Pros: Broadest options for choice of gear; Cons: Reserved for athletic/physically strong people only, more gear means more money and difficult/time consuming to pack
Obviously there are other styles of camping and different schools of thought on the matter, but these are just a general overview of some of the more prevalent ones, or at least the ones I have the most experience with or that are an influence to me. I would not label myself as a member of any one group of campers, and choose to be more of a hybrid style, picking up what I feel are the useful influences and leaving behind what I deem are the not-so-useful. It also depends a lot on the details of any given camping trip that I will draw more from one school than another. For example, what season, how long the trip will be, how many other campers (if any) are going, what terrain, what weather, etc. -- these all play a part in how I will choose to camp on a given trip.
If you want to dig in and learn more about the above schools of thought, google and wikipedia are your friends, and saves me having to put a whole bunch of links throughout the text. :)