Camping is one of life’s most pleasurable activities but packing for it can be anything but.
The stress of thinking about all of the things you have to bring along and making sure everyone will be living comfortably while you’re away is enough to make anyone want to stay home, so why not try a simplistic approach?
What is minimalist camping? Minimalist camping is the act of camping with the bare minimum, and forgoing many of your usual comforts from home.
It presents a great bonding experience, lets you connect more with nature, and takes a lot of the stress out of following a huge list of things you need to bring along.
If you’ve always loved camping but loathed the stressful part of it, minimalist camping could be your new favorite hobby.
To help you get started, we’ve covered the basics of the good and bad of this camping style, how to prepare for a trip, and some helpful tips you can put to use when planning your first minimalist adventure.
What is Minimalist Camping?
Minimalist camping is a special type of camping where you aim to bring as little as possible with you. Similar to lightweight camping, it’s about packing lightly and relying on things like natural water sources and fire to give you what you need.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to minimalist camping, so you can create your own unique style that suits your group.
However, you should be aiming to travel light and rely on the bare necessities while you’re in the wilderness, and be prepared to give up many of the comforts that you have at home.
While this might sound similar enough to everyday camping, it’s not.
Most people today have quite a hefty list they tick off before they go camping, bringing along items they could probably do without and adding undue stress to the whole process, so the minimalist approach is all about traveling light and making the most of natural resources.
The Pros and Cons to Consider
While most people can agree that they love nothing more than a good camping trip, it can be a little harder to find those in favor of this toned-down approach.
To determine whether minimalism is the right style for you, we’ve compared the pros and cons that this brand of camping has to offer.
Minimal stress: When you travel light and rely on your environment to give you what you need, you’ll find the whole camping experience a lot less stressful. This is the best approach for families who love getting into the wilderness but find the preparation and planning of camping to be too demanding.
Closer to nature: If you’re camping in the wild and don’t have any electronics or home-like comforts to distract you, you can get a true sense of nature. Minimalist camping is the perfect approach for people who want a more natural style of camping that lets them become one with the environment.
Less to pack and travel with: Minimalist camping’s signature move is to travel lightly and this means less time spent packing up the car, unpacking the campsite, and packing up against once you have to leave. Just knowing that you’re traveling with the bare minimum is enough to make this style of camping more enjoyable.
Lose some creature comforts: Traveling light means giving up some of your usual comforts and if you like to sleep in the nicest tent with the plushest sleeping bag, it might not be for you. This style of camping can still be comfortable but you need to be prepared to go without some of the regular comforts of home.
Challenges with cooking: If you’re someone who enjoys food, you won’t like the minimalist camping style. Be prepared to put up with rationed food, meals that are freeze-dried, and not as much cooking gear to work with, so your meals will be fairly plain.
More effort on the trip: While you save some of the stress during the packing and moving stages of camping, you’ll spend more time and effort foraging and filtering water. It all depends on where you’d rather put in the work, as all camping requires at least some effort.
How to Prepare for a Minimalist Camping Trip
Although a simpler alternative, there is still some planning that has to occur on a minimalist camping trip.
Follow these steps to get the preparation stage sorted so you can get into nature and start enjoying the adventure.
Lightweight shelter and warmth
A tent or other form of shelter is a must in any style of camping, and when you’re going minimalist, choosing something lightweight is the easiest approach.
A tarp is the lightest option but might not be enough coverage for everyone, so choosing an ultralight tent is the next best approach.
Plan your sleeping bag according to the level of warmth you’ll require, and nothing more, letting this do the bulk of the work at night.
Rather than carrying drinking water along with you, plan around filtering your own water.
Choose your desired filtration device and be sure you’re staying somewhere with access to water that can be filtered, and you’ll save a huge amount of weight and stress from your packing list.
You want to make every bit of space count with minimalist camping, which is why investing in a good multitool is the smartest idea.
With a multitool, you get it all, including a knife, tweezers, screwdriver, pliers, and anything else you can think of, all housed in one compact package.
Relying on fire
Although traditional styles of camping use a fire for things like roasting marshmallows and telling stories around, minimalists use it for so much more.
This natural source of heat and illumination can replace all of the other things you normally take along like extra blankets, torches, lights, and cooktops, so think about all the ways you can put it to good use.
The food choices in minimalist camping might not be that thrilling, but they’ll keep you from going hungry and ensure you have the nutrition you need.
You can forget about bringing along fresh items like milk and meat, and swap them for things like powdered milk and dry options including nuts and jerky.
If you’re able to cook before you go, this works best, as it saves you from carrying along all of the utensils, spices, and other components.
Simple clothing options
Go as basic as possible when packing clothes for a minimalist camping trip and consider if you can do some washing while you’re there.
You’ll want a change of clothes for each day, including a waterproof jacket and boots, and enough sun protection for the entire trip.
Foraging is the traditional way of finding things you need in the wilderness, and when you arrive at your destination, it pays to spend some time doing this.
As long as you know how to choose foods safely, you can source everything from fresh berries to herbs and spices, all without having to bring it from home.
Tips for Camping Like a Minimalist
Ask any seasoned camper and they’ll tell you that it’s a skill to be mastered, with many people spending years getting it right. To get a crash course in minimalist camping though, we’ve got a few tips that can make it easier to master.
Think about the nutrients of the food you’re packing and opt for high energy snacks to eat throughout the day. These will give you the boost you need, won’t take up much space, and reduce the need for cooking larger meals that require lots of cookware and utensils.
Choose a campsite that has access to facilities like running water so you can rely on this as well. With a guaranteed water supply, you can clean the few clothes you have each day and not have to pack lots of drinking water, saving lots of space and stress in the meantime.
Find garments that serve as a storage space as well, like a jacket with large pockets or pants with belt loops for hanging things from. This will ensure you make the most of everything you’re wearing and give you easy access to the items you need.
If you plan on hiking or spending the day away from camp, you can layer your clothing on the journey. This means less being carried in your backpack because you’re wearing it, and once you become too hot, you can easily remove one layer at a time.
Take only the basics that will allow you to bathe and brush your teeth, and leave all other toiletries behind. Be prepared to get a little dirty and live this way for a few days, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how little you can survive on while minimalist camping.
Minimalist camping doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, so think about lightweight ways that you can stay entertained. Rather than a TV and radio, bring along a deck of cards, or play some word games with friends each night over the campfire so you don’t get bored.
A compact fishing reel is all you need to catch your dinner for the night, and it can give you a much-needed break from the freeze dried and powdered foods you’ve been eating. Brush up on your fishing skills and put them to good use to truly get into the minimalist lifestyle.
Bring along a handheld GPS unit that does the work of a map, compass, and smartphone in one. Some of these devices weigh less than 5oz but will be a godsend if you happen to get lost.
Start with an overnight trip to get used to the minimalist way and then work your way up to something longer, or remove just a few of your usual comforts at first. Some people find they manage just fine and others miss the more comfortable traditional mode of camping, but it’s best to test the waters and ease your way into it gradually.
Once you experience the joys of camping with the bare minimum, you’ll wonder why you ever felt the need to take all of that stuff with you.
Minimalist camping is something that should be experienced at least once in your life, for a low-stress and simple approach to getting back to nature.
Minimalist camping is just one of many popular styles you can experience if you like to spend time in the wilderness without all of the stress, and it’s definitely worthwhile trying them all.
To find out about other camping styles and what they have to offer your next adventure, we’ve answered some FAQs that can give you the lowdown.
What is Lightweight Camping?
Lightweight camping is where you go camping with minimal gear or take along only items like tents and sleeping bags that are classed as lightweight.
There are different levels of camping depending on how heavy your belongings are, including traditional, light, and ultralight.
What is Boondocking?
Boondocking is a style of camping done with an RV and refers to any time you park your RV without traditional hook-ups, like electricity and water.
This type of dry camping is better done with an RV and occupants that are prepared for it as you’ll need to have things like a generator, water supply, and charged battery to do it right.
What is Glamping?
The term ‘glamping’ is a shortened version of glamorous camping, and it refers to a camping style that features more luxurious accommodation and facilities than most are used to.
This camping style is popular among those looking for a high-end rustic retreat that feels more like a resort than a campsite.
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