Every great camping trip begins with packing, and in the carefree days before kids we didn’t take much. A small tent, sleeping bags, logs, burgers and red wine seemed to be all we really cared about bringing. But then our baby arrived and the packing list doubled, or maybe trebled. We bought a bigger tent, large enough for two plus a travel cot (5 man) and somewhere to play if it rained.
We started camping with other families, we had another child, and suddenly I found myself shoving extra duvets, pillows, folding chairs, saucepans, airbeds, cool box, clothes pegs, balls, lego, teddybears, candles, fairy lights… into every corner of our estate car. A car which we felt was essential for our growing family, but actually was ‘for when we go camping’. With all this boot space the packing was now getting ridiculous. For hours before every trip I was in a state of high alert, madly rummaging under the bed, rushing to the shed, up to the loft, to the supermarket, back to the shed while frantically ticking off my vast list of essential camping equipment and shouting instructions to my husband. Heart racing, eyes wild, I would collapse exhausted into the passenger seat, ‘I think we’re ready. No, wait a minute..’ and out I would leap.
Well, the estate car died and I bought a Citroen C3 Picasso just because I liked it. (The C3 Picasso is alot smaller than the C4 Picasso). The boot is not enormous, it is about the same size as a Ford Focus’s. I am offically OVER this packing frenzy. I have decided to go minimalist. Mini camping, or maybe even micro-camping. Our camping friends love their home comforts and have electric heaters, fridges, multiple lanterns, flags, fold out beds… and their advice was to get a roof box, or a trailer.
No! I want less stuff, less hassle and more fun.
The trouble with all this stuff is it becomes a barrier to going to all. The idea of gathering all these items, packing, unpacking, then doing it all again in reverse when you come home is just too much for many people and they decide, quite understandably, to just not bother. So why should we make the effort to go camping with our families?
The benefits of minimalist family camping
The benefits of spending time in nature are huge. 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 wellbeing of children as well as their willingness to care for and protect the environment as they grow.
Getting our kids out into nature is our responsibility. Opening the back door and expecting them to switch off the TV and run outside is often not enough, we need to take them ourselves, to help them find the fun outdoors beyond the glare of screens and colourful plastic toys.
Camping is a cheap, quick and easy way of doing this. I’d like to remove the barriers to camping by making the process of getting our family there a whole lot easier.
The aims of minimalist family camping
• to have mini adventures after school, pitched up and cooking on an open fire in a beautiful spot in the countryside by 5.30pm.
• to have a compact but effective camping kit in just a couple of bags that will keep us warm, fed and happily playing in nature more often and more easily.
• to be packed and pitched in just 30 minutes each.
• to stop buying unnecessary camping equipment and reduce environmental waste.
• to spend more time in nature
• to move from stressed to my best… a nicer, happier parent with more time to play.