Have you ever really thought about it? These are the three primary activities most of us like to partake in when it comes to the outdoors. Each is distinctly different, and each comes with their own set of challenges and definitions of success.
Each requires different types of gear and each is rewarding in their own way.
And yes, we know many people combine these activities. That's why, for this article we're going to look at the pure entertainment value of each of these outdoor activities on an individual basis.
Let's go with camping first because this is the one that most everyone has probably participated in at some point or another. It's also the most mainstream of the three activities here in the United States.
The great thing about camping is that it's wide open creatively. Camping is what YOU want to make of it.
Want to hike 20 miles back into the wilderness of Yellowstone National Park with your only camping gear comprised of a sleeping bag and hammock? Go for it. Or is your ideal camping trip more along the lines of a decked-out camper visit to a full-hookup franchise campground like Yogi Bear's Jellystone Camp Resort? Again, have at it.
We're not going to tell you one is superior to the other. We fully believe that when it comes to the outdoors, people should enjoy it the way they want. If you enjoy elaborate camp cooking over wood fire under the stars of the Milky Way, miles from another human being, that's fine. There is also nothing wrong if you enjoy parking the camper and then cooking hot dogs on a propane stove for your friends and family the next RV space over.
One thing to keep in mind about camping is that success is measured differently. Did you have a good time? There you go, successful camping trip. Most of the frustrations that come from camping are born out of the same common issues. You know, not dressing properly and getting cold. Getting wet. In one case, I ruined a $700 DSLR digital camera after my tent flooded overnight and soaked it (Yes, I tried the rice trick. It was far too late for that).
While that was annoying at the time, I can look back at it now and laugh. That was a great camping trip, even if it hit hard in the pocketbook.
Camping also has the smallest learning curve of these three activities. You don't need the latest and most expensive gear to enjoy yourself. True beginners can learn some basics and have a fun time camping in the local state park with very basic gear. It's amazing what you can learn just by watching a 20-minute YouTube video.
And the things you don't learn online or from someone else, you learn from experience. Remember that camera I ruined? That's how I learned to keep all electronics in my vehicle overnight or in waterproof bags. There is a certain amount of enjoyment that can be had just from learning the ins and outs of camping the hard way.
Let's also consider that unlike hunting and fishing, there is technically no offseason to camping. Some areas might close for the winter, but there is almost always somewhere you can throw out a tent and start a nice fire while enjoying a beautiful view.
Anglers have a bit more to figure oute when it comes to become a successful fisherman. I know this will vary from person to person, but most people are going to define a successful fishing trip as one where you catch something. That's the goal of the activity, after all.
Unlike camping, frustrations in fishing are many and common. Something as simple as a problem with your fishing rod can ruin your whole day before it even begins. Or a cold front rolls in unexpectedly and effectively ends what was a hot bite the day before. There is also a lot of junk fishing gear out there and finding out which stuff works well, and which stuff is useless can be a frustration in and of itself.
Not that there isn't junk camping gear, but there seems to be a lot more stuff that is designed more to hook fishermen than fish. My credit card still hasn't forgiven me for some of my dumber purchases in the past. Banjo minnow, anyone?
Another frustration is the learning curve attached to fishing. It's huge. Unless you have someone helping you, you're going to experience a lot of trial and error before you finally start putting fish in the boat on a regular basis.
Unlike camping, where the trials can be part of the fun, the trials of fishing feel more like lost time as you look back on all the things you did wrong.
Now before you think I'm just hating on fishing, one thing it has over camping is the adrenaline rush. When you finally have a big fish on the end of your line and it boils on the surface for the first time, it's hard to not have your pulse quicken and your nerves kick in.
It doesn't really matter what kind of sport fishing we're talking about either. A big pike on a tip up while ice fishing can bring just as much excitement as a giant black marlin in saltwater.
When things are going according to plan in fishing, and the action is fast and furious, there isn't much in life that can top that as far as entertainment value goes. It makes for instant memories that can last a lifetime.
I'll never forget the first five-pound largemouth bass I caught, or the time I had a 13-pound channel catfish break off as I was pulling him into shore (I had to act quickly to grab him in a few inches of water before he got away!).
There are many frustrations in fishing, but the success is what keeps anglers coming back again and again, hoping to capture that same lightning in a bottle. That bolt of adrenaline that just can't be replicated by anything else...except for maybe the next activity we'll discuss.
Make no mistake about it, hunting is the most difficult of these three outdoor activities. The learning curve is extremely high. There is not much one can do in the outdoors that is more humbling than a simple deer hunt.
One false move, one mistake and your day can be ruined in a nanosecond.
With camping and fishing, you can just throw your gear in the truck and go at a moment's notice. While you CAN do that with some forms of hunting, like dove or squirrel, it's not something you want to make a regular thing.
Hunting requires planning and preparation, which depending upon the person, is going to be part of the entertainment or just a necessary evil along the way. For instance, I LOVE checking my trail cameras to see what has walked by. Every card check is like Christmas morning and you better believe that adds to the joy of hunting!
On the flip side, I loathe setting up blinds and treestands. It always seems to take me longer than it should, and I find myself second-guessing myself often. "What if that big buck takes that trail instead of this one?"
Can we talk about gear for a moment? Much like fishing, there are frustrations to be gained here. There is a lot of junk on the market. But unlike fishing and camping, buying the wrong hunting gear can be one of the most expensive mistakes you will make.
Sometimes, you just don't know if that new handgun and holster are going to work out for you, not until you've used them in the field for a while.
While I can laugh about the $20 Banjo minnows, it's harder for someone to laugh if the $150 electronic predator call they just purchased, which turns out to be a total lemon. More expensive mistakes make gear a little more frustrating for hunting than the other activities.
Then there is the need for patience. Every so often, you might get lucky and harvest your target buck on opening morning, but usually, it's going to take more than that.
You're looking at many long hours of waiting in a treestand or blind. You're anticipating miles of walking up and down treacherous terrain in weather conditions that will have others questioning your sanity. There is a lot of hard work that goes into a successful hunt!
Now, your enjoyment of that work is going to vary from hunter to hunter. For me personally, I try to enjoy it as best I can, but it's hard for me to not get frustrated as the season wears on and I still haven't SEEN, let alone shot a decent buck.
Right now, I'm in the middle of a six-year buck-less drought, although that is mostly of my own choice. I have passed on many smaller bucks that I wanted to see grow another year. While I do get some enjoyment out of that, I think most hunters can agree it's not the same as a successful harvest.
Because when a hunting plan does come together and you harvest that big buck, it brings an adrenaline rush equal to, if not superior to the one you get from fishing.
The last buck I shot back in 2013 was a 117-inch 10-point on Michigan's firearms opener. Not a monster buck by any means, but after I watched him drop, my hands started shaking and they didn't stop for a good ten minutes after that.
Not even the biggest fish I ever caught gave me that kind of a reaction! That rush erases all the frustrations in a fraction of a second.
And I admit, that rush is so great, it has carried me through many a fruitless deer season in the past. No wonder I keep donning the camo every year.
There is also something immensely satisfying about eating meat from an animal you harvested yourself. You can kind of get that feeling from a fish you caught, but it's different with an animal you've hunted.
I can't even really find the words to explain why that is, but I'm willing to bet at least some of you reading this are nodding your head in agreement. You get it.
Which is best?
So, as far as entertainment value goes, what wins out? Hunting, fishing or camping? We could do a cop-out and say all three are equally entertaining for entirely reasons. It would be somewhat true, but it just seems like too simple of an answer. Because of that, I'm going to say hunting is the best of the three.
Now, don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the other two activities and I take part in them as often as I can. I have incredible memories from both camping and fishing. But there is just something about a successful hunt that beats out the other two.
It's a close race, the kind you'd need a high-speed camera to determine the winner on, but I'd say hunting just barely edges the other two out.
The reasoning for that is simple. It's all about that rush of adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment that comes about when you have a successful hunt. As I've mentioned above, I've had that feeling carry me for several seasons at times. It's that powerful. And it's why so many of us keep coming back to the woods year after year. We want to experience it again and again.
I'll even go so far as to say the data backs it up. State wildlife agencies across the country depend on hunters plunking down their hard-earned dollars for hunting licenses. Many businesses in popular hunting areas often have their entire livelihoods dependent on hunters and their business each season. It's comparable to both camping and fishing in some areas.
Even our own analysis of what you read the most on this very website backs this up. Our best traffic of the year happens every hunting season when people have got deer, archery, guns and ammo on the brain.
When you take all these things into account, it really says something about the activity. Would people be spending all their hard-earned time and money on something they didn't get an immense amount of joy from?
If you don't agree with my analysis, that's fine too. This is just one outdoorsman's opinion of each one taken on its own merits. If you still can't pick a favorite, just combine all three. After all, they do perfectly compliment one another!