Watercolors Over Desert, Utah © Zach Dischner

Skip the Hotel: 7 Reasons to Camp Out Under the Stars

Once upon a time, we all lived in caves. We slept on makeshift beds under temporary shelters. We cooked meals over fires and let the embers burn through the night to keep us warm. We awoke stiff-limbed at dawn and ambled down to the river to freshen up.

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It took us centuries to evolve. Centuries to invent wonderful things like central heating, electricity, sliced bread and hot showers. Centuries to dream up blissful things like fuzzy socks and furry blankets and fluffy pillows. Centuries to create rubber boots to keep our feet dry and sweatshirts to keep our bodies warm. It took us centuries, but we got there.

So why, after all that, do we throw it all aside and go camping?

Why do we put ourselves back in the exact same tricky spot that our ancestors were placed in — crouching over a pan of frying sausages, trying to bat away the gnats hovering around our faces with one hand, and fending off circling raccoons with the other? Why do we leave behind our heated homes to shiver inside a nylon tent all night?

Man Watching the Sunset in Moab, Utah
Watching the Sunset in Moab, Utah © Zach Dischner

I went camping with my boyfriend in the fall of 2013, crossing from New York to San Francisco in three months. For weeks, we lived at campsites and in national parks, hiking all day and coming back to our tent at night. When we received warnings of a snowstorm coming, we decided we’d move to a motel for a couple of nights. I looked forward to having a hot shower that wasn’t timed, and he looked forward to a mattress that didn’t have to be inflated every night. But two days later, both of us were itching to get back to our spot under the night sky.

As soon as the weather cleared, we raced to our next campsite. Every evening we’d pitch our tent in a new place, unroll our sleeping bags and blow up our air mattresses. We’d cobble together a meal over a sputtering stove and eat on chipped tin plates. We’d light a small fire and huddle around it as the moon rose higher, and then retire to our sleeping bags for the night. It was pure bliss.

Here’s why we love camping under the stars and you should too:

#1: You’ll Spend Precious Time With Each Other

There’s no artifice or small talk. It’s straight down to the stuff good conversations are made of.

When you camp, you make a commitment to bonding time with your camping partner. You have long hours with no distractions and often, no cell phone reception. It’s great for spending time focusing on each other, talking about life and catching up on each other’s thoughts. In a hotel, you’re likely to just switch on the television and tune out at the end of a long day.

#2: You Meet Amazing People

You’re also more likely to talk to other campers when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. Some of the most interesting travelers are out there and you’d never hear their stories if you were living in a hotel with anonymous neighbors. And when everyone is dressed in baggy track pants and layered up in all their clothes, there’s no artifice or small talk. It’s just straight down to the stuff good conversations are made of.

Solo camping at night in Colorado
Losing the City Lights in Colorado © Zach Dischner

#3: Your Food Tastes Better

Food cooked on an open fire tastes better than food at a buffet table or heated in a microwave. Period. When you camp, you experiment with recipes and sometimes they don’t turn out so well. But a basic hot dog with fried onions and mustard suddenly seems almost gourmet when you make it on a wooden table next to your tent.

#4: You Feel Better About Yourself

When you can rustle up a meal from a box of supplies, when you can put a (tent) roof over your head in minutes, when you just know where the best spot at the campsite is going to be, it does wonders for your ego. There is no greater feeling of achievement than getting a fire burning on a cold night.

#5: Your Creative Juices Start Flowing

Did you know you can make an amazing burger by wrapping a patty in foil and chucking it into a bonfire? We added some BBQ sauce and some chopped onions, and they turned out to be the best burgers of our lives. You’ll face problems you’ve never faced before and find fixes you’d never have thought of otherwise.

#6: You Save Piles of Money

Camping is really cheap. Most campsites allow you in for about $20-$35 (USD), whereas hotels cost more than double. You should invest in good camping gear, though, which isn’t cheap, but you can get an awful lot of use out of a sturdy tent and a warm sleeping bag.

#7: You’ll Live Close to Nature

We tend to forget just how beautiful it is out in the open. There is really nothing that beats hearing the world wake up around you every morning. From star-studded skies to soft grass and the smell of pine needles in the cool air, you’ll rediscover how the best things in life really are free.

There is something primitively thrilling about camping. They say camping is like working out: while you’re doing it, it’s uncomfortable, but after it’s over, you feel great that you did it. But that’s only partly true. Camping most certainly has its uncomfortable moments, but there are moments during a camping trip that one wouldn’t exchange for all the hot showers in the world.

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