I’ll be really honest with you: I like camping. But, when I say “camping” I mean… car camping. The kind where you have everything you could possibly need for your excursion (and then some) packed like Jenga blocks into your car- that you’ll be only feet away from during your entire stay.
I have friends on both sides of this camping thing; some of my friends have hiked the Appalachian Trail and are super-keen on the idea of living out of a backpack and not seeing another human for weeks on end. And then I have friends who would prefer to never even say the word camping, and just send their husbands and kids instead.
But no matter what your previously-held opinions were regarding the camping phenomenon, after COVID-19 destroyed any and all hopes for a vacation-filled summer, camping started looking preeeeettttyyyyy dang good, to a lot of people.
Camping, When All Other Travel is virtually Impossible
A new survey from Expedia found that about 85% of Americans plan on taking a road trip this summer. And according to Google Trends data, searches for ‘camping’ are the highest they’ve been in years.
At a time when you can’t fly to that all-inclusive beach vacation you were planning, the second-best thing (in my opinion) is a good old fashioned camping trip. If camping historically hasn’t been “your thing,” here’s a sign to maybe re-think your stance on it now.
I’m not going to lie to you: camping requires a bit of effort-especially if you’re camping with kids.
Don’t let it overwhelm you, though. There are tons of resources out there to help even the most amateur of campers get started.
Camping is actually great- if you come prepared. Here is my camping checklist that I use every time I camp, without fail:
Mental Health Benefits of Camping
In his essay Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson touts the healing powers of the wilderness: “In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows.”
It may seem like an antiquated adage, but this theory still holds true today- especially with everything that is going on in the world right now.
“Spending time outdoors can bolster our immune system, lessen symptoms of depression, invoke calm, and bolster wellbeing. When we step away from distractions, noise and the go-go-go busyness of daily life, the body’s nervous system calms down. When we’re no longer in a stressful state, we can focus our attention on the present moment, which can be very meditative.”
Additionally, researchers at the University of Michigan found that spending just a few minutes walking around in nature can reduce depressive symptoms- super common in people who live in urban spaces.
In a corroborating study, research out of Stanford University found that spending time outdoors can help reduce the obsessive, negative thinking that could lead to mental health issues.
Camping Tips & Tricks for Non-Campers
I get it- I really do.
The notion of sleeping on the ground, drinking your morning coffee with a little bit of dirt floating around in the mug, and swatting away bugs like it’s a full-time job doesn’t exactly sound appealing, up-front.
But (and this is what I tell all my friends who say they “hate” camping) If I can do it… so can you.
Allow me to offer some tips and tricks for the non-camper:
The Problem: Sleeping on the Ground
The Solution: Bring a Sleeping Pad or Air Mattress
I can’t stress this enough- a sleeping pad or air mattress will make all. the. difference. in your camping experience. Sleeping outdoors can be some of the best sleep you’ll ever get in your life- if you’re not tossing and turning all night.
Here is the pad that I’ve used for years now- and it hasn’t failed me yet! You can also buy them in double sizes for couples or for kids. You’ll thank me later…
The Problem: Bugs. ‘Nuff Said.
The Solution: Well, actually, there’s more than one solution…
If the thought of being swarmed by bugs while you’re trying to enjoy the outdoors is enough to make you want to stay home- you aren’t alone.
Bug-repellant for camping:
- Bounce Dryer Sheets: The official jury is still out on this one- but anecdotally; we used to rub these sheets all over our bodies before a hike or while camping- and I never once got a bug bite.
- Mosquito Coil: This might sound a little… woo-woo– but they work!! If you’ve ever used an incense stick, it’s the same concept but for mosquito repellant.
Citronella Candles: You’ve probably heard of these already, but citronella candles are a great, easy way to fend off bugs while you’re camping. They’re not super strong, so they won’t keep away ALL the bugs, but will minimize the bugs in your immediate surroundings.
Make Your Own Bug Spray: Wholefully, Wellness Mama, Almanac.com offer some pretty hefty recipes for homemade bug spray. Everyone’s body chemistry is different- so make them your own by experimenting with what works for you specifically.
Screen Tent: When all else fails, consider a screened-in tent. These tents are designed specifically to protect you from the bugs, while still allowing you to enjoy the outdoors. While it’s a hassle to set-up an extra tent, it might be worth it in the long-haul- especially while you’re cooking or eating.
The Problem: Feeling Dirty All Day and All Night
The Solution: Find a Campsite with Showers
Depending on your level of disgust with camping showers, there are a few options here. Do your research ahead of time, and find a campsite that offers showers- either for free or for a small fee. Also, make sure to bring rubber Birkenstocks or flip flops to wear in the shower.
If cement floors and quarter-showers still aren’t enough, look into camping at RV or holiday parks. Private camping facilities are often a little more expensive- but for good reason. The bathrooms and showers are usually have heating/cooling and are well maintained; making your camping experience a bit more fresh-feeling.
Camping (like Everything these days) might be complicated- so:
Do Your Homework
Check for any restrictions on camping or travel for your state, as well as any restrictions on national forest land/campground you intend to visit. Below are a few resources to help you figure out these restrictions:
- State by State Camping Info
- Bureau of Land Management
- State-Specific Response to Coronavirus Info
- CDC Info on Travel w/in the US
Keep in mind the situation changes daily, so please check with all applicable resources as close to your planned departure as possible.
Even before the current pandemic changed all the rules, interest in camping was booming.
The number of households in the United States that camp increased to 39 million in 2018 from 32 million in 2104, a bump of more than 20%, according to a KOA Kampgrounds’ North American Camping Report.
What does this mean for you? Well, simply put, be prepared for there to be lots of other people at the campsite- unless you’re headed somewhere extremely remote.
We’d love for you to comment with any other resources that you think are valuable down below!