It's been a great year for camping from early Spring right through summer, at least so far! The 'meeja' love covering stories about camping. Many outlets cannot resist taking the mickey whilst others fail to move beyond the failure to understand what it's all about - 'he was believed to be living rough in a tent' being typical.
A recent trend has been the 'Golly, gosh, what jolly japes we had in our 'yurt/tipi/ger' approach. They are usually accompanied with advice on packing Ugg boots, antique wine coolers and creating a 'cosy ambience' inside the tent. No sign yet of advice to pitch along ley lines but it will come, no doubt.
Unlike what happened with cycling a few years ago, 'new campers', appear to have embraced the outdoors as a fashion statement. In lifestyle magazines, they appear to live in a parallel universe to mine. The people I meet on campsites are not ordinary folk; they are full of tall tales of adventures, trips and tours. Happily, I've yet to meet anybody trailing around communing with nature in rainbow robes and designer wellies.
The surge of interest in festivals must account much of the focus on style rather than substance. Ere long, Glastonbury will no longer feature bands and artistes and nobody will notice. So, why does the 'meeja' focus on eccentrics and loveys? My view is that most presenters and reporters believe that unless a story is trivial or bizarre, it's not worth covering.
It must have gutted them that hundreds of thousands of people enjoy camping weekends and holidays, living outdoors and walking, cycling or sightseeing as suits. Of course, by 'camping', I mean using a tent. There are legions of stories every year about people camping in a caravan, motor home or barn. It's not camping!
Similarly, the term 'backpacking' has been hijacked by the gap year industry. Before backpacking became a commonplace name for lightweight camping with everything carried in a rucksack, UK-based writers referred to hike-camping, tramp camping or, indeed, just plain camping. For around 20 years from 1970, backpacking meant walking and camping with all your gear and food carried in a rucksack. Self-contained, backpackers could stroll hills, valleys and foreign lands, honing skills whilst taking in the scenery and solitude.
The hordes of gap year youngsters travelling the world are not camping so, to me, they are not backpacking. Just because marketing people have started describing rucksacks as backpacks and budget travellers as backpackers doesn't mean it's right. Of course, 'backpacker' is a more acceptable way to refer to young irresponsible people honing their scrounging skills by preying on less fortunate people in the Third World before adopting the self-absorbed lifestyle of a student. Parents would be far from happy if the gap year idlers were referred to as locusts or parasites.
Photo: The first reference I found to 'backpacking' - Jack Cox's 'Camping in Comfort', 1963