What is Minimalist Camping?

camping gear spread on the groundDo you like the concept of camping, but hate how much stuff you have to bring? Are you into backcountry camping, but can’t stand carrying a 30-pound bag for miles? If either of these sounds like you, you are the perfect candidate for minimalist camping.

Exactly what is minimalist camping? This was the question I found myself asking 2 years ago. I found myself in one of the above situations and I decided to research some answers.

What I discovered changed my relationship with the outdoors. Now I go camping without burden!

What is Considered Minimalist?

According to REI, a minimalist or ultralight camper carries between 12 and 20 pounds. Basically, the goals of minimalist camping are to pair down or lighten up the items you are bringing on your trip.

What Questions Should I Ask?

In order to determine what you do and don’t need, we have given you a list of questions to ask yourself.

  • Does this make life easier, or do I actually need it? If you are going for minimalism, you will want to eliminate any item that is not a necessity. Only the bare essentials are key to minimalist camping. Creature comforts are not.
  • Do I own a lighter alternative? Maybe you can bring a tarp instead of your heavier tent. Sleeping under the stars or in a hammock are other ways to cut down on the need for a tent or tarp. Could you replace your normal camp stove with a smaller jet boil?
  • Can I purchase lightweight gear? If you have some extra cash, think about buying lighter camping items. Alternatively, if you are buying gear think about the weight before you make a purchase. Light items work just as well, if not better, out in the wilderness.
  • Is the bag underweight? Congratulations! You are learning to become an essentials only camper. However, this is the perfect time to add back some of those comforts you took away earlier. The most important part of minimalist camping is staying lightweight.

Minimalist Camping Hacks

There are a few things everyone should know about to successfully minimalist camp. We have covered 14 of them in our comprehensive list.

1. Instead of purchasing expensive blister band-aids try duct tape. It may sound strange, but it does wonders to cushion your blister and keep you comfortable.

Since you are trying to bring only the essentials, don’t bring the whole role. Instead, wrap some around your water bottle or lighter.

2. Make an easy, inexpensive fire starter. Instead of purchasing and lugging along huge fire starter logs, make your own. All you need is an egg carton and pieces of charcoal.

3. Bring crayons. Need or want cheap candles in the woods? Bring a pack of Crayolas. They don’t weigh much, and burn for about half an hour each!

4. Bring Doritos. These delicious chips serve two purposes. You can eat them, for sure. However, they burn just as well as any kindling. If you pack a family sized bag, you can use them for both!

5. Make your own lantern. All you need is an empty jug of water and a headlamp. Push the headlamp inside, and the white plastic disperses the light! Alternatively, you can strap the headlamp to the jug.

6. Attach sandpaper to the top of your matchbox. Although we recommend bringing waterproof fire starting equipment, we know not everyone will. Therefore, Gorilla Gluing a strip of sandpaper to the top of the box will allow you to strike anywhere.

7. Make one-time-use soap. This is so easy, and it really reduces the amount of space and weight taken up by body care products.

Simply take a carrot peeler and peel off chunks of a soap bar. We recommend putting these in small brown paper bags. You can burn those later.

8. Use your belt to hang up cooking equipment. If you are already wearing a belt, bring along a few carabineers. Attach your belt to two trees, and attach the bineers to every other loop.

Now, hang your pots and pans. Not sure what to cook? Here are some lightweight, easy to make ideas.

9. Bring sage. Sage is a natural mosquito repellant. Throw these bundles in the fire for a natural, healthy way to keep away the bloodsuckers!

10. Use microfiber towels. This kind of towel is lightweight and compact. You can fit one of these in even the fullest bag. They come in a variety of sizes, so finding the length and width you need isn’t difficult.

11. Bring freezer bags. These are the perfect size to keep your clothing dry. If there is even a chance you will encounter water, go ahead and pack inside these bags. This even goes for water crossings. We recommend the freezer bags that zip.

12. Use your compression sacks for extra waterproofing. This works well for those clothing items that are too large to fit into freezer bags. Stuff these toward the bottom of your bag, or wherever you think they will stay the driest.

13. Need cheese? Cheese in wax packages takes longer to go bad. This includes individually wrapped cheeses. Hard cheeses are also great for longer trips.

14. Are you a smoker? Bring a prescription pill bottle. This is the best and most space-conscious way to store your butts on the trail.

One Last Word About Minimalist Camping

As you can probably tell, minimalist camping is something you get used to. Bringing only the essentials is somewhat of a learning curve. So if it’s hard, stick with it a few more times. Remember, purchasing lighter gear gives you more wiggle room to include your wants.

While it’s not always fun to deprive yourself of the non-necessities, it’s important to remember why you are in nature in the first place. What is your favorite lightweight gear? How do you cut down on unnecessary stuff? Do you have any tricks to stay minimalist?