We are well in the summer swing now and have had national holidays. Many people have gone camping many times now. Most people end up basically bringing their house with them and stuff all of their junk into a tiny little dome tent. But, some people enjoy minimalist camping or primitive camping. They also enjoy the minimalist primitive backpacking skills.
This type of camping is what I am talking about now. I am not saying that I absolutely love this style of camping. What I want to achieve today is to explain to you how important it is to reduce your camping needs. I want you to learn to be comfortable with less equipment.
I admit that I am not as “minimalist” as I could be, but I am a primitive camper. I still bring more gear than what I can carry on my back, more times than not. Ultimately, I want to be able to pack everything in my single hiking pack for comfortable camping. One thing that this achieves is a higher amount of self-reliance in the wilderness in an emergency situation or bug out scenario. The next thing we achieve as we reduce our camping needs is the ease of packing for a weekend camping trip.
In order to do this, we need to figure out a few things. Number one, what do we consider comfortable. Two, how do we adjust those items to fit in a single pack. Three, what compromises are we willing to make so we can achieve both one and two, but still be able to carry our pack on a one week hike without any support teams.
Let’t just consider some of the basic items that we think about as comfort. Everyone wants a bigger tent, a cot, lanterns, camping stoves, air mattresses, tons of food (both to cook and ready made), large fans, and portable toilets. I am sure that I am missing lots of comfort items, which I welcome you add them to the comments. But I really don’t think the specific comfort items are as important as the idea to reduce those items.
In stage one of the reduction, just start cutting out a few things. Start with the biggest, or maybe for you you cut just the least important to you.
From the list above, I would first cut out the porta-toilet. We can take up much less space to bring a camping shovel to dig latrine holes. Next, I would probably get rid of the cots, but keep the air mattress to reduce space and keep some comfort.
Lanterns are not something that I would recommend just getting rid of. I would however get a couple LED headlamps, and get a high-powered LED lantern. Get the smallest one you can find. You would be surprised the amount of light you could get from a lantern the size of a light bulb. Also, making a fire from local wood takes almost no space. This fire is also a great way to rid of the huge camp stove. If you MUST have some type of stove, you can find one that is nothing more than a burner tube that you stick on top of your little propane canisters with distribution holes. Keep this in the car so you don’t plan on using it.
That huge tent has to go. Anyone that is 5 years old and up should be able to carry anything they need. Obviously I am generalizing, but I am talking just about the tent, food, and clothing. Get a good quality one-person tent for each child, and for each adult, you can get a good two-person tent. Smaller tents are easier to keep warm in the colder months, and usually have a fly to remove for air circulation during warm months. If you cant hike with it, don’t take it remember?
Now, I touched on the food for a second. You should not be taking huge packages of steak and hamburger meat. That is ok for the occasional trip, but you learn more if you pack some bars or trail mix to fall back on. You could even splurge on some freeze dried meals that take up little space. You shouldn’t dig into these often though, because they are a backup just in the event that you are not able to procure your own food from the wild.
Clothing… You aren’t going to be staying at the Hilton, so don’t pack like it. You don’t need three suitcases of clothes for every type of weather. For rain, bring an emergency poncho/rain suit if you actually plan on being out in it, but you will probably stay in the tent. You only need a set or two for the current season. If in a season that has changing weather, only a warm set and a cold set.
The ultimate idea, like I said, is to get to a place that you could hike for a week without asisstance and be fairly comfortable. Eventually, you can start learning how to save more space with the airbed and with soaps and toilet paper. You can one-at-a-time start reducing the size of what you are using so you can at least reduce the weight of what you are bringing, even after you got it down into one hiking pack.
Are you really passionate about counting ounces or grams? Could you go without a tent? Could you just use a hammock or build a primitive shelter?
There are many things that you can reduce in your pack and many times, each time you cut something out, you enhance your ability to be self-sufficient in the wilderness. It is really up to you how or why you would do this. I also recommend taking this is smaller strides. No point in making yourself miserable out there, or you may lose the enjoyment or passion you started with.
Take it slow and reduce things at a rate that doesn’t steal your enjoyment. Multi-purposing tools and items is also a big helper.