There's a lot of good and bad when it comes to gathering camping information from social media. It’s definitely easier to obtain advice and guidance on tips and tricks, gear reviews can save you a lot of time and money, and finding some new place to pitch a tent can be life changing. I’ve aged enough to remember not having things like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok. You gathered camping information through books, magazines, joining outdoor clubs or simply through trial and error. It wasn’t as quick and easy back in the day. However, you also weren’t overwhelmed by trolls, camp snobs, fake YouTube celebrities and bushcraft wannabes.
It’s not as if campers never disagreed with one another a decade or two ago. We’ve always debated over gear and ethics. We just did it with a campfire between us, not a computer screen and keyboard. And I must say, the last time I browsed through some popular camping channels on social media, the nasty back-and-forth discussions made me nauseous.
It was no surprise to me the most hotly contested replies online centered on the vessel you’d paddle. You know how this goes—clashing over canoe versus kayak, new aramid technology versus traditional cedar canvas, keel versus no keel, solo versus tandem, whether wearing a PFD should be optional or mandatory.
Then came the canoe paddle wars: bent shaft or straight? J-stroke or goon? Single blade or double? A close third was camp gear—tents versus hammocks, down sleeping bag or synthetic, stuff your tent or roll it, water filters or chemical treatments, groundsheet inside the tent or outside.
No technique, tradition or personal preference was off limits. For every person celebrating the efficiency of single-carry portages, someone was heralding the safety of doubling. How is the word portage pronounced, anyway? How about comfortable canoe packs versus plastic barrels? One lone voice cried out for a return to measuring in rods instead of meters but was unanimously ignored. Lifestyle choices were also disputed—dogs or no dogs, bushcraft versus survival, fish fry versus catch and release, bathing suits versus skinny dipping.
Some debates I was less familiar with—DivaCup versus tampons, orange pekoe versus spruce tea, squat versus Shewee. And some oddities too—cat hole versus carrying out, two-ply versus surrounding vegetation, real beer versus IPA, weed versus liquor, whisky versus whiskey, bringing a less fit friend versus bear spray.
It wasn’t the debates themselves that sickened me. It was the sanctimonious tone of some of the debaters that turned my stomach. I saw way too many narcissistic campers who felt the need to preach their views rather than exchange them. Who cares what your canoe is made of, or how you propel it forward, as long as you paddle? Skinny dip if you like, just be thoughtful of others while doing so. And does it really matter if you pack whisky or whiskey as long as you bring enough to share?
All the same, bouncing ideas off one another about boats, bow saws and bug repellents keeps us talking. It connects us around what we have in common—our much bigger and collective passion for getting out in the wilderness—and keeps us learning, even if we don’t always agree. It doesn’t matter to me whether you squat or use a Shewee. What matters is we enjoy those choices on trip and hopefully intrigue a few others to come out and play in the woods as well.
So long as they stuff their tent, not roll it. That’s just plain silly.