There is no universally held definition of what is and what is not camping. Just as with motels which serve both recreational and business guests, the same campground may serve recreational campers, migrant workers, and homeless at the same time. Fundamentally, it reflects a combination of intent and the nature of activities involved. A children's summer camp with dining hall meals and bunkhouse accommodations may have "camp" in its name but fails to reflect the spirit and form of "camping" as it is broadly understood.
Similarly, a homeless person's lifestyle may involve many common camping activities, such as sleeping out and preparing meals over a fire, but fails to reflect the elective nature and pursuit of spirit rejuvenation that are integral aspect of camping. Likewise, cultures with itinerant lifestyles or lack of permanent dwellings cannot be said to be "camping", it is just their way of life. The history of recreational camping is often traced back to Thomas Hiram Holding, a British travelling tailor, but it was actually first popularised in the UK on the river Thames. By the 1880s large numbers of visitors took part in the pastime, which was connected to the late Victorian craze for pleasure boating. The early camping equipment was very heavy, so it was convenient to transport it by boat or to use craft that converted into tents.
Although Thomas Hiram Holding is often seen as the father of modern camping in the UK, he was responsible for popularising a different type of camping in the early twentieth century. He experienced the activity in the wild from his youth, when he had spent much time with his parents traveling across the American prairies. Later he embarked on a cycling and camping tour with some friends across Ireland. His book on his Ireland experience, Cycle and Camp in Connemara led to the formation of the first camping group in 1901, the Association of Cycle Campers, later to become the Camping and Caravanning Club. He wrote The Campers Handbook in 1908, so that he could share his enthusiasm for the great outdoors with the world.
Another way of describing camping is by the manner of arrangement: reservation camping vs. drop camping. Campgrounds may require campers to check in with an employee or campground host prior to setting up camp, or they may allow "drop camping," where this is not required. Drop in campsites may be free or a drop box may be provided to accept payments on the honor system. Although drop camping is often specifically allowed by law, it may also exist in a legal grey area, such as at California's Slab City. Social media oriented towards drop camping provides information on recent police enforcement, campsite quality, cost, and length of stay requirements.
Data collected by the Fédération Nationale De L'Hôtellerie De Plein Air FNHPA shows that around 113 million nights were taken at French campsites in 2015, which was up by 3. 9% on the same period in 2014. French holidaymakers took 77 million of these, and the rest was made up of other nationalities, the majority of whom were Dutch, German and UK tourists. The French Government hopes to have 100 million tourists each year by 2030. The most popular region for camping is Languedoc and Roussillon with around 19,331,663 nights spent at campsites during 2015, whilst the department with the most campsites is the Vendée.