Don’t feel comfortable vacationing in a densely populated area? Give camping a go!
During the pandemic, I know a lot of people have been stuck online with many video calls which can cause zoom fatigue. By camping, you can get off of the internet and get lost in the wilderness!
Mental benefits from camping
Camping is an affordable alternative to staying in a hotel or a rented home and even has health benefits associated with it.
It can improve your mental wellbeing, which is especially important to take care of during this pandemic. According to the Huffington Post, “Overusing technology is associated with low self-esteem, high stress and even poor sleep and weight gain.” Thus, an electronic detox is well deserved and has its benefits.
Camping can also help you sleep. Camp Voyager noted that,
“A week of summer camping, without electronics, reset people’s internal clocks to by in rhythm with nature’s. Melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone,’ kicked in around two hours earlier which meant that the campers ended up going to bed much earlier than at home.”
Even for a weekend, your body will begin to make natural changes.
Hiking and sightseeing are some fun things to do while camping. Look for maps around the campsites for trails that can take you to scenic views. Take some binoculars and look for wildlife that can only be found away from the bustling cities. Enjoy being around friends and family as you all walk toward a shared destination. Let conversation flow or just enjoy the ambience of nature.
Hiking is also great exercise and good for your mental health. According to Jill Suittie, a doctor of psychology and contributor to the Greater Good Magazine of the University of California, Berkeley, “Not only does it oxygenate your heart, it helps keep your mind sharper, your body calmer, your creativity more alive, and your relationships happier.”
Finding a place to camp
Some campgrounds can cost money, usually well-established campgrounds that people frequent. Using websites, including: Allstay or Hipcamp, can be helpful finding locations that don’t require a fee. Also, in the United States, you can camp on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas for free.
In regards to free camping, the term BLM signifies dispersed camping, which means camping anywhere in a national forest outside of the usual designated campground. Deciding to go dispersed camping can mean that there are little to no amenities available, such as: tables, fire pits, or restrooms. Don’t let this discourage you! There are ways to overcome this and it is always an option to camp in your backyard if that’s more your speed.
Leave No Trace
Camping without amenities, and even if they are available, means you have to understand the rules of Leave No Trace, which involve minimizing the impact that you have on the environment and ecosystem of the area.
Here are the 7 things to remember for Leave No Trace:
- You must plan ahead and prepare. This means doing research on the area you are about to visit, repackaging food, and being ready for weather extremes and emergencies.
- It is important that you travel and camp on flat surfaces, which can be signs of established trails and campsites.
- You must dispose of waste properly, including: food, trash, and even human waste.
- Leave what you find. As the saying goes, “leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos.”
- Minimize campfire impacts by using small, portable stoves to cook, and when using a fire in a fire ring, keep it small and make sure it is completely burned to ash before leaving it unattended.
- Respect all of the wildlife in the area by never feeding or approaching them. This can change the natural behavior or impact their health.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
For those of you who are wary of hiking to a campsite or even setting up a tent, there is always the alternative of car camping. This requires less gear than normal camping and allows for a lot of flexibility when traveling. I recommend a mattress to sleep on, along with a sleeping bag or heavy duty blanket because the temperature at night goes down significantly. Try to sleep with your head above your feet to avoid the blood rushing to your head. This usually means your head should be closer to the steering wheel. Also, to prevent your windows from fogging up, crack them open a bit to allow the air to circulate and put some mesh in the crack to keep the bugs out.
It’s also important to remember to turn off your car. Yes, this means no heat or AC, no radio, and no light from the car. All of that can drain the battery and could leave you stranded, which no one wants. To cook, bring a portable stove and move away from your car in order to prepare your food. When you’re done, simply put the stove back in the car or wrap it in a weather proof tarp and put it, along with any other items that you may want to move out of the car to clear space, under the car. Don’t forget about those items in the morning though. I would also recommend getting a Bear Canister, and it is required in some parks. Rather than throwing your food up into a tree, this item secures food and toiletries to prevent bears and other wildlife, from having access to the food around your campsite.
Next time you think about getting away from your daily life, go camping. Enjoy the camping experience as a time to get away from electronics, the stressors in your life, and immerse yourself in nature.