If you’re just starting out camping, buying or looking for camping equipment isn’t always easy. There’s so much you can buy, and even more camping terms and phrases that it can get confusing. I camped with the Guides a few times, and in the garden each summer (all summer, the garden lawn was wrecked afterwards) as a teen with my brother. Even so, modern day camping equipment is new and can need some explanation.

get camping smart with this camping glossary -

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Here’s a glossary of camping words to help explain some of the terms if you’re confused.

Camping terms – what do they mean

Air beam – newer type of tent which has inflated beams to hold the tent’s structure instead of poles. Meant to fare better in high winds, although they are much larger and heavier tents.

Car camping – generally on campsites, where you take all the gear in your car with you. Often you’re parked next to the tent.

Carpet – goes on the tent ground sheet to provide an extra layer to walk or sit on. Has a tendency to move around so either needs heavy items on the corners, or some people try sticking velcro to hold it in place. Quite often comes as a bundle when buying a tent.

Denier – the thickness of the fabric thread used in polyester tents.  The higher the number the thicker the material. 70D is the norm, while 150D is thicker and more long lasting. Although polyester tents won’t last as long as polycotton tents.

Dome tent – tents based on a dome shape, quite sturdy as wind can’t catch on porch or straight sides. Tends to be smaller tent sizes. Good for fast pitching. 

Dutch oven – a (usually) cast iron large casserole style pot and lid which can sit on or be hung over a fire, with hot stones or logs put on top of it to cook from all sides. 

EHU – electric hook up. For those who prefer to camp with a bit more luxury. Are usually 10 or 15 AMP, so you need to be careful how many items or what you are plugging into your EHU socket, otherwise you might short the whole campsite circuit.

Footprint – an underlay sheet that goes between the ground and tent. Helps protect the tent groundsheet.

Guy line / guy rope – we always used to call them guy ropes when we were kids, but they’re really guylines. Basically the ropes that come out of the sides of the tent and are pegged into the ground to hold the tent in place. 

Guy line adjuster – little plastic things on the guy lines which help you adjust the cord tighter or looser, and help hold the line in place.

Hydrostatic head – measures the extent of waterproofing of a tent. The higher the HH figure the more waterproof the tent is. Usually comes in 4000 to 6000.

Kelly kettle – tall, metal ‘kettle’ where you put twigs and kindling in the base as a fire to heat the liquid.


King pole – a single pole which can be used with a tarp or to hold up tent porch doors to make a sunshade.

Polycotton – a heavier thicker, longer lasting fabric used for tents. These tents are much heavier, more expensive, but will last longer. Polycotton tents need waterproofing before use by getting them wet, then letting them dry.

Potable water – safe drinking water

Rock pegs* – better quality, tougher tent pegs which will go into harder ground, and hold better in storms. They come in straight or screw in, and other varieties.

Seam tape – where the tent is sewn together. After a lot of use, water may start to come through at seams. You can re-waterproof tents and paint on waterproofing to seams. With polycotton tents you need to wet the tent and dry before use so the seam stitches grow to fill to becoming waterproof.

Seasons – when relating to sleeping bags or tents, they are given a season rating. 2-4 season, with 2 season for lighter summer camping, 3-4 season better for colder weather camping.

SIM or self inflating mattress – these can be thin or up to 15cm thick. A mattress which you unfurl, then twist the knob and it inflates itself. Warmer than airbeds because the warm air is trapped inside, 

Skytrack – Newer Vango tents have Skytrack which means you can hang lights up through it.

Tarp – a mostly waterproof sheet that can be used with poles and guylines as extra protection above or over a tent or awning, or to provide extra space in front of a tent. Also useful for providing shelter under trees or over a picnic table. 

Tunnel tent – tents with a tunnel structure front to back rather than triangle or dome shame. Main entrance is usually at the front under the arch.

Waterproofing – if a tent gets old it may need waterproofing again. This can be done via spray or with a paintbrush using Fabsil* or similar waterproofing product. Let it dry fully before using the tent again.

Wild camping – going back to nature, camping off campsites so no toilets or other mod cons. You should leave the place you camping with no trace that you’ve been there.. Some countries like Scotland you can wild camp, in England you need to have permission from the landowner. Check before you go.

If you’ve got any other questions about camping or terms you’ve come across that are puzzling you, let me know. I’ll add to this camping glossary as I remember more.

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