Minimalist Family Camping
Is it possible to be a minimalist family camper? Doesn’t every child need a pile of stuff to keep them warm, safe, fed, entertained and happy outdoors?
Well, I believe that behind every over-packed estate car is a frazzled parent, physically and mentally exhausted from madly planning and packing hundreds of items for the ‘perfect’ holiday. Would our children notice if we didn’t do it? If we just met their basic needs for food and shelter and, above all, love?
The benefits of camping
Recent studies have shown that sedentary, indoor lifestyles and excessive screen time has a detrimental effect on children’s health and happiness. The Wild Network is an organisation committed to encouraging children to spend more time outdoors. They have identified a crisis in child development caused by our sedentary, indoor lifestyles:
The lack of outdoor play, learning and nature connection in childhood is a deeply held systemic problem. Over many years multiple barriers have been imposed on childhood; they are complex and inter-linked but their impact is profound. Multiple pieces of evidence now exist that show how a life without time outdoors in nature has significant impacts on the physical and mental well-being of children as well as their willingness to care for and protect the environment as they grow.
Recent research by Public Health England indicates high levels of TV viewing have a negative impact on children’s well-being and self-esteem, and that children who spend more time on computers and video games can experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression.
So how can we lure our children, and ourselves, away from the dazzle of technology to reconnect with those simple pleasures which can only be found outdoors. Opening the back door and expecting them to switch off the tech and run outside to play in the garden (if we are lucky enough to have one) is often not enough. The most effective way is to get the whole family out of the house, to physically remove ourselves from the plastic toys, computer games, tablets and TV shows. We could go to the park for an hour, or take a walk, but it is prolonged time in nature that really gives us time to unwind.
So, pack a simple camping kit, travel a short distance to a wild, natural camp site and see what happens. You may experience some resistance, you may arrive and wonder what on earth you are all going to do for 48 hours without electricity, but something happens when there is ‘nothing to do’. Your brain slows, your shoulders drop, children start fiddling with sticks, watching clouds and poking around in the mud. You build a camp fire and start talking to each other. Without a sofa to sink into or a TV to stare at, children are more inclined to run around, climb a tree, play football or play hide-and seek a new friend. It’s wonderful for kids to have the chance to be wild and free, away from the constraints of school, time and social pressure.
What is the point of minimalist camping?
If you can reduce your camping kit to the bare essentials, and get a small tent that is quick to pitch, you’ll find the benefits amazing:
Speed – your friends may think you’re crazy leaving the glamping equipment at home but you’ll be pitched and unpacked with wine in hand before they have found their mallet.
Re-wilding - you can ‘re-wild’ your children, getting them away from phones, gadgets and plastic toys into the habitat we have naturally evolved in over thousands of years... the great outdoors.
Micro adventures – enjoy short adventures with your family after school, and be pitched up and cooking on an open fire in a beautiful spot in the countryside by 5.30pm.
Stress-free – with little packing to do and a quick set-up you can avoid stress and family tensions. No need to argue about how to pack the car, which tables to take or feel resentful to be doing more than your fair share.
Travel – it’s easier to explore new places, that bit further afield from home when you can stay cheaply overnight in a tent.
Great for single parents – no need to feel daunted about taking your children camping without a partner to help you, if you do it the minimalist family camping way it’s all so much easier.
Save money - you can stop spending money on endless equipment which looks lovely but is ultimately unnecessary. Yes, I know it is fun buying new things but try and hold back. Is it really, really useful? Do you already have something that does the same job?
Save space in your home – where do people keep all this stuff? Is your shed, garage or spare room filled with camping equipment you only use once a year. Think what else you could do with that space.
Drive a smaller car – it will be cheaper to buy, more economical to run and nippier around town.
Save the planet – next time you go to one of those camping warehouse-style retailers, just picture the entire contents of the store in a massive hole in the ground. One day, most of it will be landfill, and much of it will have been barely used. Don’t add to the pile.
5 simple minimalist rules to get started
1. Pack light! The joy of minimalist family camping is being able to get set up as quickly as possible and start enjoying yourselves.
2. Pack small Every tiny bit of space you can save by choosing tiny packs adds up to a big space saving.
3. Pack once By creating your grab’n’go kit at the start of the year everything, except clothes, is ready to go.
4. Stay warm at night with less A sleeping bag, insulated SIM, thermal underwear and a hat is all you need to keep warm at night.
5. Eat fresh daily Pack the first meal and breakfast, then buy fresh daily. No need for a big coolbox or electrical hook-up.
How I tackled camping with less
On my mission to reduce the size and quantity of our camping equipment I began by examining what we usually took, looking at what took up the most space and thinking about how to downsize it. I also got ruthless and tried removing things I thought we could do without from our packing list.
We then bought a tiny 4-man dome tent and went camping, initially for weekends close to home, fine tuning after each trip. Had we needed the chairs? Should we get a smaller firepit? Were we warm enough without the spare duvets? What was the best way to store food? Did we even need to store food? We survived, had a good time even!
I researched compact camping products, downsized our upgrades, and every time I shopped chose the smallest version I could. What tiny treats could we pack to add some fun and luxury to the experience? When I had worked out what to take I needed to pack and store it easily so developed the 3 Box System (see blog) for all the bits ’n pieces and found a large holdall to contain all the sleeping bags, mats and pillows.
My easy Grab’n’Go camping kit was ready!
Is it possible to be a minimalist family camper?
YES!! If you can be brave, pack light and pack small your whole family can camp very happily, with just a neatly packed car boot, no roof box or trailer, safe in the knowledge you have everything you need and nothing more. There is a simplicity and elegance in minimalism, in living with less. Finding what you need is quicker and easier, there is less clutter to look at, to cope with. Everything has a home and keeping a tidy tent is simple. Your children’s needs for warmth, food, entertainment and sleep will still be met. So will yours.
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Email me! I love chatting about camping and minimalism so tell me how you're getting on, ask a question or share a handy hack. I'd be delighted to hear from you.