Camping in Colorado
Lose the City Lights © Zach Dischner

3 Reasons You Absolutely Need to Go Camping (… and 3 Reasons You Shouldn’t)

Pretty much the first thing we look at when we wake up is the screen on our cell phones, no? After that, we read the paper or watch the news, make our coffee, shower and get ready to face the day. Our daily lives revolve around making a living, finding enough time to do the things we want to do in between the things we have to do, and squeezing in a little time for ourselves and our loved ones.

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We spend more time reading about our hobbies than actually doing them, and looking at other people’s lives on Pinterest. We track our weight loss, our bad habits, our body clocks and our daily lives on apps on our phones. Our lives are carried out in the white light from our multiple gadgets, devices, charging cables, and cases that express our individuality.

And then comes camping, or as I like to call it: life detox.

Camping at Monument Valley, Utah
Camping at Monument Valley, Utah © Bhanu Tadinada

It’s a whole different game when you’re out camping. You go way, way back to your roots, to when we all walked the earth without electricity or mobile networks. It’s a time to connect to nature again, and to sit back and look at our lives, without the distraction of Candy Crush.

First, here are the biggest reasons NOT to go camping:

#1: You Don’t Have Your Own Bathroom

Most of us make our bathrooms into personal havens. We read in there, we practise our best rockstar moves, we fill it with pretty things, and we perform a whole bunch of embarrassing, almost-surgical experiments upon ourselves. When you’re camping, the bathroom is a common area, and it’s not always pristine.

When we camped in Yellowstone National Park, this queen on her throne was checking under the cubicle for a bear sauntering in at any minute. Not the most conducive atmosphere to what is otherwise a peaceful morning ritual.

Timed showers, spiders hanging from the shower head, sharing a drain with ten other showers, and plenty of other unappetising moments await.

Helpful tip: Keep your slippers on at all times and don’t put your toothbrush down on the sink. There’s all sorts of creepy crawlies out there.

#2: You Never Really Get a Full Night’s Sleep

Spend all you want on the most expensive air mattress and sleeping bag. You can spend the whole day out hiking and come back just waiting to fall onto your pillow. But you’ll never really sleep as well as you do back at home. There are strange noises in the night, mysterious bumps under your air mattress, and it’s always too cold or too hot.

Helpful tip: Every night, take the essentials into your tent: a flashlight, wet wipes, a hat and gloves if it’s cold, and bottle of water. If you’re clean, hydrated and warm, you’re more likely to sleep well. And the flashlight is just for peace of mind.

#3: You Can’t Just “Pop Down to the Store”

Camping is all about planning. You think you’re going to live simply, but it takes a surprising amount of equipment to go back to the basics. And you’re likely to be stuck in the middle of a massive national forest when you realize you’re out of toilet paper.

Living at home, you can just order it or drop by the grocery store on the way home from work. At a campsite, you’ll have to rely on the goodwill of other campers, or simply make do.

Helpful tip: Download a checklist before you go, and spend some time adding to it. Take a mental tour of your day and write down all the stuff you use, then stock up. There are lists for camping equipment, kitchen requirements and personal stuff you need, and they’re all available online.

Camping in Arches National Park
Camping in Arches National Park © Srikanth Jandhyala

But it’s not all bad. Not at all. If you have a little bit of a can-do attitude, and a hankering for the outdoors, this is why camping will be the best thing you’ve done in ages.

#1: You’ll Remember What is Important

You’ll discover that you absolutely cannot do without 6-ply toilet paper, but that you’re okay if you have to go without your fully loaded cappuccino with almond milk, chocolate curls and cream on top. But that’s just the small stuff.

When you’re stripped of all entertainment, you’ll miss your weekly dose of Netflix, but you rediscover how you loved to write, read, paint or play music. Those three people you can’t wait to tell your camping stories to? Those are the most important to you and you’ll find yourself missing them the most.

#2: You’ll Discover Unknown Facets Within

We live in a society where we all specialize in one or two skills. We generally employ those skills the most in our jobs and regular lives. But you’ll realize you’re also great at motivating yourself or a group of friends to finish the hike that seems neverending. You find that you actually like making up a meal from a random assortment of ingredients.

Camping kinda wipes the slate clean and it doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or an intern. In the campsite, the true king is the one who can get a fire going.

#3: Your Body Will Remember

Even if you do yoga or go for a morning run, you’ve fallen into a routine, and your body doesn’t have to think to perform these physical tasks. But remember back when you were a small, unimportant kid, how you could climb trees like a boss? Those physical memories start to twitch somewhere deep inside, and you’ll find yourself looking speculatively at a gnarled old tree one day while you wait for the campfire to brew your coffee, wondering which branch will give you the best foothold.

Maybe you’ll climb the tree, maybe you won’t. But the monster has been created, and you’ll tell yourself, this time you won’t forget.

  1. Wet wipes and batteries are smellables (especially the wet wipes). Keeping such items in your tent invites animals to chew through and visit, putting you at risk of disease. In bear country, this can prove extremely dangerous. Such items should be kept in a bear bag.

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