Camping is hard. Compared to going to a hotel, or staying at home and taking a nap, camping rates pretty high on the effort meter. There’s the gear to pack and unpack, and whole different way of cooking, plus the challenge of surviving without modern conveniences. Camping is definitely a labor of love. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like to work a little for a whole lot of fun, walk away now. I got nothing for you. However, if you are a camping novice who wonders why people will put so much effort into a weekend getaway, stick around. I’m about to tell you why camping is totally worth it.
- You don’t have to go far and you don’t have to spend much. Unless you are a proper urban dweller, there is a good chance there is a state park or city park that allows camping within an hour of your house. Our favorite camping retreats are about 10 miles away from our house. That’s easy, but it also allows to us squeeze in a camping weekend when we have other obligations. Camping is also a fairly cheap getaway and serves a good family activity when money is tight.
~Kayaking is just one of the many activities that go along with camping~
- There’s not lot to do. Or, there’s so much to do, you can’t get it all done. Activity choices can vary widely on a camping trip and can be tailored to your family and their desires. Either way, there is much more freedom to pursue natural interests or time to sit without the typical busy pace.
~Making fun (or mischief) out of nothing but some sticks~
- You get a little bit bored. Boredom can drive to do all kinds of things you wouldn’t normally, like take a hike or build a lean-to out of sticks. Boredom breeds all kinds of good things, like creativity and exploration. It also lends itself to sitting for long spells to talk or languishing over a meal. Boredom is good!
- Meals are an event. Camp cooking is one thing that scares people away from camping altogether. There is a learning curve to camping over a fire or camp stove, but once you get the basics, it’s no harder than cooking in a kitchen. That’s where the similarities stop. Cooking over a campfire is a slow, deliberate process that fits right in with the rhythm of camping. People gather round and there is tingle of excitement like that of having a picnic pizza in the middle of your living room. Food takes on a whole communal vibe, as you share plates. Pieces of steak are eaten with two hands instead of the socially acceptable knife and fork, and drips are just carelessly allowed to fall to the ground. The food even tastes better. Even the one that fell in the charcoal.
~Dutch Oven Birthday Cake~
- There is such a thing as being too comfortable. One of the reasons why the Amish eschew electricity is because they believe that it leads to laziness. Don’t believe that? When was the last time you sat down for five minutes and wasted four hours playing Flappy Bird or Candy Crush? A highly digital world with plenty of convenience gadgets makes it easy to check out and get sluggish. Camping removes all of those pesky modern distractions and lets you plug into nature and family.
- Campfires are the best conversation starters. The deepest and most meaningful conversations I have had with my spouse and children have happened around a campfire. The flames have a sort of meditative effect that elicits deep thoughts and soul searching. The warmth draws everyone into a circle of intimacy, but the relative darkness creates a safe place for sharing. If you have a teenager who doesn’t want to open up and talk, get thee to a campfire forthwith.
- You learn important life skills. So, you don’t think you’ll ever need to know how to build a fire or forage in the forest? What kind of boring life do you plan to lead, anyway? Seriously, even if the skills learned at a campsite aren’t something you use on a regular basis, they teach valuable lessons besides just the obvious. Camping skills require out-of-the box thinking, ingenuity, and problem solving. They also require perseverance. I think we can all agree that we could use more of those skills in the world.
- You experience time deprivation. It’s nigh unto impossible to lose track of time in the modern world. There is always a meeting, or practice, or school bell to keep us as a slave to time. Camping ignores all of those demands and flow from moment to moment naturally. The sun and your body clock tell you when it is time to sleep and time eat. The rest is unhurried, unscheduled bliss.
- It is a restful rhythm. The first day of camping, when you are setting up your tent and trying to start your fire, you’ll think I am lying, but give it a day. Instead of waking artificially and rudely to an alarm clock, the gradual rising of the sun offers a natural wake-up call. Likewise, bedtime is dictated by the setting sun. The body seems to be much more suited to this sunrise/sunset circadian rhythm and falls into a more restful sleep and wake patterns.
- It encourages togetherness. With nothing to do and a whole lot of space to do it in, it’s amazing to watch families shake off the busy that keeps them apart and gravitate towards each other. There is time and space to play a game of catch or chase after a stream of bubbles. With nothing else to do, there is time and inclination to take a long walk and talk. And at the end of the day, there’s a great big communal bed inside the tangle of sleeping bags waiting for the whole family to climb inside. It’s all warm and squishy, like the makings of a P & G commercial.
~Hiking the Trail~
- Freedom is calling. If you are lucky enough to be a child of 70s you remember growing with up with plenty of freedom to roam and free time to burn. Camping is the closest thing you can get to a time warp back to when kids weren’t overscheduled and over protected. Be free, little one.
- It’s a little bit scary. There are risks that go along with camping. Not huge, scary risks (most of the time), but things like fire safety and animal safety are a reality when camping. It’s not always good to dwell in a world with safety locks and warning labels. It drives complacency and shirks responsibility. Kids and adults alike need opportunities to get comfortable with a certain amount of risk.
- You gotta move. Nobody’s going to set up that tent for you; you’re gonna have to do some work if you want a place to sleep. That’s just the beginning of the tasks that require that you get up and get moving. Studies show that excessive sitting decreases overall lifespan, despite fitness level. Camping is a natural way to get upright and gain health.
~Fording the River~
- It’s natural, baby. Here we go with the studies again. Studies show that people who live within one kilometer of a green area are less likely to be depressed. Other studies show that being in nature triggers the centers of the brain where we feel security, empathy, and calm. Plus, there is all that Vitamin D soaking into your skin and the endorphins from working hard and staying alive in the wild world. A weekend in nature is just one big good stuff for your body fest, in terms of the health benefits. There are also the intangibles, like falling asleep to the sound of crickets and waking to the sound of tweeting birds. It’s a welcome change to waking to a blaring alarm and going to sleep to sound of the to-do list in my head.
- Survival of the fittest. Even if you are just camping out at a local park, there is enough of conquering the elements to make you feel like the king or queen of the jungle. The first time you make fire will be just like that scene with Tom Hanks in Castaway. I dare you not to dance around and proclaim your prowess over all of nature. It’s a primal need that is often ignored in our pampered suburban lifestyle. We need to feel like we have power by overcoming obstacles and providing for our basic needs.
~View from the tent couldn't be better~
- It’s Cheaper than Therapy. So by these calculations camping will afford you a longer life, plenty of Vitamin D, and the opportunity to share your feelings and bare your soul. You’ll get better sleep, clear your schedule, and challenge yourself with risks that make you feel potent. You get to reconnect with the people you love and clear your head enough to have some time to be blissfully bored. All that for $25 bucks and the guts to throw a couple of sleeping bags in the back of the car and go.