Camping in comfort has its place, but for those who want an efficient and minimalistic camp set up, these tips are essential.
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The beauty and purpose of minimalistic camping is in lessening the separation between you and the place in which you’re camping, which happens by focusing on being in nature instead of imposing yourself upon it. It’s an important consideration for modern-day travellers, who are almost invariably living in societies and cultures that are increasingly attached to activities and materials that separate them from nature.
For many, taking a more simplistic approach to camping is reflexive, a counter-weight to a fast-paced life filled with distractions; extreme circumstances call for extreme solutions, and as life becomes busier, activities like camping become central outlets for relieving symptoms of living life at breakneck speed.
With this in mind, taking a hard-nosed approach to camping doesn’t simply reduce your storage needs, the amount of gear you need to purchase and maintain, your environmental impact and your set up and pack down times – it can also benefit your personal wellbeing and elevate your camping experience, making it a worthwhile endeavour for any camper.
Make camp, not a residence
A campsite is a temporary domicile, and as such misses many of the comforts and trappings of home. With more products seamlessly bridging the gap between camp and permanent accommodation than ever before, it’s tempting to upgrade your camp set up to align with what’s on offer.
However, with so much available to perceivably make camping ‘easier’, it can be difficult to actually decide which items are worthwhile and which are extraneous. A larger tent with an annexe is appealing for many - as is auxiliary power, portable toilets, vehicle awnings, a hot water system attached to an ensuite - but whether they will contribute to (or even detract from) your camping trip is a different prospect altogether. The question is, outside of a tent or swag, how many additional structures do you need in your campsite?
Use similar foods many ways
Proper meal planning before a camping trip can help minimise ingredients and cooking time without sacrificing nutrition or taste. Firstly, organise your meals around a handful of basic foods that travel and keep well to simplify your food preparation, storage and accessibility during multi-day trips. Examples of these are potatoes, chicken thighs, garlic, onion, beef mince, sausages and stock, which can be used and prepared in a number of ways.
Next, think about how using an alternative cooking method or simply adding a unique spice can give you different recipe options using fundamental ingredients, allowing you to cut down on unnecessary foods and keep mealtimes simple. Additionally, for daytime meals and snacks, consider keeping them the same day-to-day, and preferably with few foods that require refrigeration.
Simplify your kitchen
Adjacent to meals and food preparation is your kitchen, the definition of which varies from camper to camper – it’s also an area which many could afford to revise. For some this involves a buffet of pots, pans and appliances spread across multiple counters, while others may use their ute’s tailgate as a chopping board and a multi-tool as their primary cutting implement.
For the truly staunch camper, the real goal is to maximise space and organisation in camp, as well as minimise storage in transit. In a practical sense, this means only taking gear that will certainly be used, and hopefully for multiple purposes and many times. Items like barbeques and tables can generally be scaled back to simpler versions, while even the volume of utensils and other cooking implements can more often than not be downsized.
You can even simplify further by using a camp oven or cooking over a flame (when fires are allowed) when possible, taking advantage of a campfire’s unbridled energy while honing the time-honoured skill of proper camp cooking.
Cut down your need for power
Electronic devices of all kinds are a large part of everyday life, many of which can be used in a camping setting: fridges, laptops, phones, tablets and even coffee machines are all within reach thanks to auxiliary batteries, easy-to-use power management systems and solar power.
Electronics are becoming more efficient, and battery systems are growing in capacity, so a camper’s ability to stay powered in remote places is greater than ever. With the means to power two fridges, 10 lights and 16 mobile devices for a long weekend of vehicle-based camping, the idea of ‘going off the grid’ is more of an ethic than an unavoidable reality when camping nowadays.
For the camping minimalist, cutting down on lights at night (outside of a headlamp), the use and powering of mobile devices, single-purpose appliances or even power solutions altogether are key considerations - even if it means replacing a machine-made cappuccino with a mug of billy tea.
Use multi-faceted camping gear
Doing more with less is a touchstone of minimalistic camping and survival at large, meaning that camping gear with superior utility is highly valuable. Items that serve multiple purposes make you a more efficient camper, while lessening gear bloat on site and in transit – and they’re often the most underrated bits of camping gear. Simple items like rope, a shovel, cable ties or a humble tarpaulin are just blank canvases, waiting to be used for any number of tried or untested purposes that arise on a camping trip.
Despite the trend in the above recommendations, minimalistic camping is not actually about what gear you take – it’s about aligning yourself with a simpler approach to the activity. By learning to be resourceful and critically examining what’s essential for you when you go camping, the path towards becoming a hard-core camper is an easy one to navigate.