Minimalist Camping: How to Master Backpacking

Minimalist camping may seem like a weird way to just say “pack less stuff.”  However, the minimalist approach has much more to offer.  It is not only about packing light but also about having the right mindset before you head out into nature.

Don’t be bogged down by expert advice on the best camping gear because society places enough emphasis on material goods.  Instead, just pack enough.

In my experience when packing for a trip I fall into the mindset that I must bring more, but on the contrary I need to lessen my load.  In the beginning of my camping days I always packed WAY too much and thought I needed to have the “right” gear.  I went back and forth within myself, thinking I needed these items when I never fully brought attention to what was necessary.  Then I would get home and have to unpack all the items I used and didn’t use, which sadly the “didn’t use” items were the majority.  This would create the feeling of being overwhelmed before and after my glorious and serene camping experience.

The best way to help you enjoy the camping experience all the more is to think, “I have enough.”

As you are picking out the items to bring, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What will I use this for?
    • If you can’t name anything, put it down and walk away. If you can only name one thing, opt for an item that can have dual purposes.
  • How many days will I be staying?
    • This will allow for you to prepare the items you need, like food and clothing, for the set amount of days you will be gone.
    • Keep in mind that clothes can be worn more than once, however, undergarments will need to be something you bring for each day.
  • What activities will I partake in?
    • If you are going hiking, cycling, or going into town, do you have shoes that would fit all of those criteria’s? You want to bring less shoes due to their bulky nature.
    • For clothing, you will need to make sure if you are swimming to bring one bathing suit. It won’t be necessary to bring more because you can dry it overnight.
    • If you plan to do strenuous activities, make sure to bring one outfit for sleepwear. Most likely you will not get these clothes dirty since you will just use them for sleeping.
  • Will I have access to a laundry facility or be bringing items to wash clothes?
    • If you do or are bringing items, then AWESOME, because this means you will have the capability to bring less. If you have access, bring two of everything and continue to wash clothes throughout the trip.
  • Am I going with anyone else?
    • Camping is usually activity that people do together, so if you are, make sure you are coordinating with the other person in regards to what items they are bringing.
    • One person could be responsible for bug spray, sun tan lotion, utility cord, and sleeping pad. While the other could bring the tent, sleeping bag, stove, and tarp.
    • The main point is to strategize together before you leave for the camping trip.
  • What clothing can I mix and match?
    • When considering what clothing to bring go with item that are made of moisture-wicking material then decide how you can mix and match.
    • Personally, I bring one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, two pair of socks, hiking boots, water shoes, one quick dry towel, two wick resistant shirts, one swimsuit, one sports bra, one bralette, rain jacket, sleepwear, and underwear for each day
      • This type of wardrobe lasts me for five days, which may disgust some people but the key is to mix and match so each item is utilized to the max.
    • For those that would like to even cut back on the amount of clothing and undergarments, you should bring a travel size shampoo bottle filled with biodegradable laundry detergent. This way you could wash them in a sink with cold water, then place them on your utility cord or tent to dry.
  • Do I care about my appearance?
    • When it comes to makeup and camping, some care about what they look like and some do not. This is all about preference.  I typically do not, for the sole reason of me wanting to be outdoors to get away from the constraints of society.  However, I still bring things like face wash. I like to have a fresh and, makeup-free face so when I sweat I am not causing impurities to enter my pores.
    • Also keep in mind that man or woman, everyone is beautiful as they are. We were born without products on us, so why not rejoice in our own skin.
    • If you would prefer to do your hair and makeup, just make sure to try to keep the beauty products to a minimum.
  • What will the weather be like?
    • If it is going to be cold while camping, make sure to bring only one coat. The trick is to layer.  Bring a long sleeve shirt and fleece to help add extra warmth.  It would also be a good idea to bring long johns as well.  And lastly wool socks, gloves, hat, and scarf.
  • How many hours will I be sitting at the campsite or in the car?
    • Depending on how much free time you will have on your trip, will help you identify the items you want to bring for down time.
    • My first couple of trips I brought two books because I LOVE to read and thought I was going to have the want and capability to read more often than I did. This took up valuable space and added clutter.
    • If you are like me and like to read, opt for one book. I also bring one notebook that I use as my gratitude journal or for any insight I may gain by being out in nature while camping or in meditation.
    • If you are camping with another person, bring cards but only one deck. I have recently learned how to play Rummy and this is a great way to occupy time with my companion.

After asking yourself these questions, you should be able to dwindle down your items so you only have what you need.  Keeping in mind that along with having the essential items, you must have the mindset that you have enough.

Otherwise, you will be stuck questioning yourself, which could lead into unnecessary stress before your big trip. Let the camping trip as a whole be a joyous occasion and practice minimalist camping.

Now that you have become mindful of what you will bring, it is time to pack.  Since, this is an article over minimalist camping, we will be identifying how to place all these items into one medium size backpack.  If you are car camping or backcountry camping it is best to have items confined to one area for easy access and for the capability to freely travel about.

Minimalist Camping: How to Master Backpack Packing

Packing a backpack seems like an easy task and it is.  However, when you have to try to find what you need quickly, packing strategically is the key.  I will be listing the most effective way to pack your necessities into a medium size backpack.  This will make your camping experience a breeze.  You will also have a light pack, which will increase your mobility.

I will break it down into different levels of the pack.  This will give you a better idea of where items will need to be placed

Bottom of Your Pack:

Since the bottom of the pack is the most likely place on your pack to hit the ground or be placed not so gracefully wherever you inhabit, you will want the heavy duty, non-damageable items here.   These items will not need to be taken out until you are already at your campsite, so you will have the capability to unpack items with ease.

  • Camping Tent
  • Trash bags
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleepwear
  • Camp Shoes (these will be shoes that are able to get wet and easy to slip on and off)

Middle of the Pack:

The items that you will want to place in the middle of the pack, will be items that you need to keep protected by your clothing.  Since these items can be easily damaged, you will want to have them wrapped in clothing or placed in the center with clothing surrounding the items.

  • Clothing
  • Food
    • This will include your entrees that are not perishable. This is not a place for snacks due to wanting you to be able to access those swiftly.
    • Some items that I bring, which require no refrigeration are: dehydrated fruits, nut butter, instant oatmeal, freeze dried food, and two cans of tuna.
      • I keep the canned foods to a minimum because if you are backpacking it will sometimes require you to place those cans back in your pack, since there is not always access to a beer proof dumpster. It also tends to weigh your pack down.
  • Camp Stove
  • Quick Dry Towels
  • Utensils, Plate, Bowl, and Pot
    • Bring one of each and then prepare to wash the dishes after each meal. The way to do this is to bring biodegradable liquid soap.  My personal preference is Campsuds because it is compact and effective.
    • When washing dishes, you will have to boil water in your pot, add a little soap, then wash the dishes by using a quick dry wash cloth. To dry the dishes, you can either allow the air to do the trick or use your larger quick dry towel to help speed up the process.
  • Water Reservoir
    • Most packs will have a place holder for your water reservoir in the back of the pack, this way it stays protected and less likely to be punctured.
  • Beer Canister
    • This is a portable, hard-sided food locker perfect for backpacking. If you do not plan to do backcountry camping or hiking with your pack, you will not need this due to parks have beer proof dumpsters on site.
    • If you bring this, place it close to the back and near the shoulders so you maintain balance while hiking.
    • Typically, these will hold 3-5 days’ worth of food for one person.
    • Make sure to check with the area you will be camping at to see if they require you to have an approved canister. If the parks mandate it, it is in your best interest to bring one because this means bear incidents have occurred before in the area.
    • To have peace of mind bring a bear canister if you plan to go hiking with your backpack or do backcountry camping.

Top of Your Pack:

Since the top of the pack is easily accessible, you will need to place the items you will need instantly here.

  • Rain Jacket
    • When you are either hiking, or sitting around the camp fire you will want to have easy access to your rain jacket. While hiking through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, I found the weather to change in a second.  This meant I needed to be prepared to be able to reach in my pack to withdraw my jacket in a split second.  Otherwise, it would have left me stuck in soaking wet clothes for the rest of the hike.
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Camera
  • Toilet Paper
    • If backpacking and you have the urgency to go to the bathroom, make sure to dig a hole and place the toilet paper in it. You will then want to place dirt on top.
    • If you are at your campsite and have a fire pit, I recommend burning the toilet paper.

Side Pockets on Your Pack:

These are going to be items that are easily accessible and items that are likely to be damaged if other items are placed on top of them.

  • GPS
  • Sunglasses
  • Snacks
    • I typically place beef jerky, almonds, trail mix, and granola bars in this area.
    • Make sure when you are setting aside snacks for your camping trip, you bring food that is filling and nutritional. If you are hiking with a pack on you will be exerting a lot of energy and will need food with substance.  This means stay far away from junk food.
  • Bug Spray
  • Sun Tan Lotion/Spray
  • Cash
  • Keys

Loops on the Front or Side of Your Pack:

Most packs have placed loops on the side or front to allow for optimal use of your backpack.  These allotted loops allow you to place items that are too bulky or don’t fit in your pack on the outside.  The items you place here need to be secured tightly so once you have placed the items within the loops, tighten the strap with gusto.

  • Sleeping bag
  • Camping Tent
  • Tent Poles
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Camp Shoes

As you read this list, you may notice these are also items I listed to put at the bottom of the pack.  The reason the loops are ideal for these items is due to the compactable nature of them, since most are already in bags or can roll up to be compactible.

The only downfall with putting items within the loops is that branches or placement of your pack on the ground could lead to the items falling out.  So be mindful of this while hiking and camping.

Now Get Out and Go Camp the Minimalist Way!

Minimalism and camping go hand in hand because it allows you to leave the constraints of society behind and feel the freedom of having enough.  Then as you pack for your trip you don’t feel overwhelmed because while you are packing you will feel empowered by understanding what you need.  This will allow for a stress free camping getaway from start to finish, which in turn will allow you to reconnect more fully with nature.  So hopefully after reading this minimalist camping is something that sounds ideal to you.  The questions and lists above will help provide the optimal camping experience.  And remember it is not only about the items you bring but also the mindset that you have enough.

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