We all like to go camping, but no one likes to do the packing and unpacking. Just thinking of the amount of camping gear and food that must be packed for a family camping trip can zap the fun right out of it. We camp to break away from the daily grind, to wind down and enjoy the outdoors, but if having to pack to go camping makes you not want to go camping, period, ever, step back and rethink your gear. Scale it down and simplify. Minimizing is a good thing. It means that you buy less, store less, and pack less.
Packing and setting up camp doesn’t have to be a chore. Have a plan. Start by doing an audit of your gear to differentiate between essentials and non-essentials. Decrease your load by eliminating luxury items, the things you can live without for a short weekend. Luxuries do not ensure a better camping trip; they only ensure that you have more to carry. Packing everything and the kitchen sink will weigh heavy on you, figuratively and literally. Replace the mentality of “we might need this” with “we can manage without this.” Be practical and keep it simple.1Reduce Inventory. You don’t need the latest and greatest techno-gizmo gadgets and equipment to sleep in the woods. Ever heard of “roughing it”? There’s truth to the theory that less is more. A good guideline to use is whether your great-grandparents had access to it. If they didn’t, it can be left behind. Allot one small bag per camper, which would include toiletries and clothes; anything not directly related to the setting up of the campsite, itself. Everyone at the campsite does not need a headlamp. Kudos to anyone willing to share a flashlight. Be ruthless on what not to pack. Dare yourself to go bare bones. 2Make Do. There are plenty of ways to enjoy your outdoor experience without sacrificing comfort. Improvise and be resourceful. Instead of taking bulky pillows, make your own by stuffing your sleeping bag compression sack with clothing. Leave marshmallow skewers at home; instead, use a stick. Forego all the fancy fixin’s for a gormet meal and settle for hobo foil meals. Be prepared to make do with the basics. 3No Electronics. Although it may induce a full on panic attack, challenge yourself to leave the electronics at home. There’s nothing sadder than looking around your campsite to see everyone looking down at their phones checking Facebook, e-mail, or playing games. Plus, you’ll spend way too much time worrying about keeping them charged. A cell phone for safety is okay, but turn it off and tuck it away. Rediscover conversations, story-telling, and stargazing. None of these activities requires electronics or complex gear. And if you absolutely need to know what time it is, make a sundial. 4Easy Meals. Hobo foil meals prepared ahead of time means that you don’t have to pack in pots and pans or a large, heavy Dutch oven. Easy hobo dinners include your favorite meat, chopped vegetables, and seasoning. You can bake potatoes ahead of time at home, and then wrap them in foil and warm them over the fire. Or cook corn on the cob in the husk. And hot dogs, hamburgers, and brats are always on the easy list. And s’mores! If you don’t feel like cooking for breakfast, think bananas, granola bars, or instant oatmeal. If you keep it simple there will be no pots, pans, and plates to wash. 5Scale Down Clothes. Scale down on the clothes – and that doesn’t mean running around naked. Reduce the amount of clothing you pack. Clothes take up a lot of space. For a weekend trip you need only one change of clothing. You’re not going to the Hilton, so do pack like it. Part of the beauty of camping is being grubby and carefree. Take old clothes that can get muddy or torn. If clothes get too dirty you can launder them at the campground facilities. Laundry facilities are especially beneficial if you have a large family and are trying to avoid packing lots of clothes. And if your clothes don’t get too dirty they can be worn again the next day. 6Have a Checklist. Organize and sort your camping gear into bins and ditty bags, and have a designated location in your home in which to store them, all neatly packed and ready to go. If going camping is a smooth process you will go more often. Follow a checklist so that you don’t over-burden yourself with packing too much stuff. After every camping trip, revisit your checklist and cross off anything you thought was not useful or could be substituted by using another item already on the list. In this way, you can continue to whittle down the items until you reach your ideal camping list. 7Be Comfortable. Be reasonable in designing your comfort. Don’t deprive yourself too much. After all, you’re going camping to have a good time, not to practice a bug out. A good test to determine your sleeping comfort level is to lay on the kitchen floor in your sleeping bag. If it’s too hard, take the sleeping pads. As for chairs, they are extremely bulky and take up lots of space, but they’re very nice to have. Compare your comfort level to the volume of mass you’re willing to pack. We’re not talking about going all out primitive camping, sleeping on pine cones and chasing squirrels for dinner; we’re talking about being as comfortable as possible with as little as possible, making trade-offs that only you can determine.
It’s in our DNA to prepare, and that’s a good thing, but when it comes to tent camping, challenge yourself to be prepared to be unprepared and able to make do. Remember, we go camping to reconnect with nature and revel in simplicity. If you want to enjoy that simplicity, then leave the mass volume of glamping stuff at home. You will not have all of the creature comforts of home at your campsite, but you will still be more relaxed. Take less to enjoy more. Happy camping!