Want to know what we really think of long-term camping?
Camping is something I would recommend to everybody. It’s a wonderful experience that practically everyone can enjoy, whether they like the outdoors or not. Long-term camping, on the other hand, is a whole different experience than shorter camping vacations. Whether you’re in a tent, a bivvy or a hammock, sleeping in a campsite or nestled up in the wilderness, spending weeks or months in a tent truly is an acquired taste, like Marmite. And, like the mountains you’re camping in, there are extreme highs and lows.
After many long backpacking trips and our current England to India cycle tour we’ve spent more than our fair share of time in a tent. Certain features make you feel on top of the world, while others make you question why you ever left the comfort of four walls.
These are our honest pros and downsides of long-term camping; be sure to read our last opinions at the conclusion, and contribute your own pros and negatives in the comments section at the bottom!
Pro – Long-term camping makes you happier, calmer, and more relaxed.
Certainly, you’ll see furious parents in campgrounds, annoyed because they forgot the mallet on their family weekend camping vacation, but have you ever seen angry long-term campers? There’s something about living simply, surrounded by nature’s beauties and noises, that brings you tremendous satisfaction and contentment. It’s a sensation that inner-city livers would pay a huge price for, but it’s entirely free for us.
Con – You’re really at the mercy of the weather and conditions
It’s difficult to grin when you’re soaked through, the wind has shattered a tent pole, and you realize you’ve pitched your tent in a gully that’s steadily filling…
Poor weather ruins every camping vacation, but it may be especially inconvenient if you’re camping for an extended period of time. Getting soaked from long periods of rain when it’s not hot enough to dry means you’re going to be soggy for quite some time. Even if the rain stops, your tent and sleeping gear may not dry out for many days. Have you ever been at the top of an exposed mountain during a big thunderstorm? That’s also really terrifying.
Pro – Constant exposure to nature helps you appreciate and cherish our natural environment.
When you spend prolonged periods of time absorbed in nature it helps remind you how much we rely on our environment and how fragile it is. You learn to live in harmony with your environment, which motivates you to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Con – Stiff necks!
These prolonged periods of time in a tent can leave you pretty stiff and achy depending on the size of your tent and the conditions. After a long day of hiking or cycling if it’s crappy weather you’re unlikely to stretch outside in the rain. So you’re trapped in a tent, unable to sit up straight and preparing supper with your neck arched. Over time, you may begin to feel as if you’ve been struck by a vehicle.
Want to check out our camping packing list?
Pro – The sun becomes your alarm clock
Unless you’re camping in heavily wooded areas you learn to rise and fall with the sun – it’s incredible! You also discover that watching the sun gently rise in the forest is the most amazing experience.
As I write this, I realize that having an alarm clock that you can’t turn off may be a detriment to certain individuals…
Con – You can’t always find great spots, sometimes they’re pretty shitty
Whether you’re on an expedition or traveling, you can be changing locations every day. Unfortunately you can’t always find the perfect camping spot – with mountain views, birds singing and a gentle stream – sometimes it’s quite the opposite. We’ve ended ourselves sleeping in back yards, below bridges, and in parking lots far too frequently. You don’t sleep well in crowded parking lots.
All of the movement might leave you feeling restless and uneasy. Our advice is to go slow and if you feel like you need it find a nice spot to stay put for a few days.
Check out these advice on how to find a wild camping place to avoid getting trapped with a less-than-ideal setting.
Pro: You realize you just need the minimum necessities.
Living in a tent teaches you that you truly only need a few things in life to be happy and healthy. You don’t need a camping packing list as long as the sun, a luxury bed, a hot shower, a huge TV, or a well-paying work. We gather so much garbage in our lives that there isn’t enough place in a tent to store it all, so we simply collect experiences and memories!
Con – Man do we miss a kitchen
Although it’s awesome living a minimal lifestyle, and you’ll be surprised what you can do with a camping stove, it’s still nice to have a kitchen. This is a major concern for us. One-pot marvels, carb overloads, and dehydrated dishes eventually lose their allure. That’s when we want to spend a few hours in a nice kitchen preparing a big ol’ feast. We’ll then return to the tent.
Pro – Time becomes irrelevant
Is it Tuesday or Monday? 1 p.m., 4 p.m., or 1 a.m.? Although it is important to know when the sun rises and sets, time specifics are irrelevant if you are camping for an extended period of time. What difference does it make if it’s 3.30 p.m., 4.30 p.m., a weekend or a weekday? Watches aren’t required, and the sensation of losing track of the day is extremely freeing. While you’re camping, every day is a Friday!
Con – Standards of cleanliness definitely slip
When you loose track of the days you’ll also probably loose track of the last time you washed. You and your camping companions will then likely dispute how long is too long without a wash of some type.
You’re also unlikely to notice if you stink or are coated in muck. You’ll then get a rude awakening when you use a toilet in a service station and realise all the other customers are holding their noses and looking at you like you’ve just swum through a sewer.
Pro – It’s time to unplug
Many individuals nowadays are so engrossed in the digital world that they choose to live their lives via social media rather than face-to-face. Long-term camping allows you to disconnect and concentrate on what’s directly in front of you. It’s a tremendously rewarding sensation to just enjoy your surroundings without tweeting or photographing them.
Cons: Depending on solar chargers or roadside cafés for power might be inconvenient.
Simultaneously, electronics may be beneficial, particularly in the outdoors. You might need to charge your GPS, a mobile phone is good for safety and let’s face it, when you’re somewhere beautiful it’s likely you’ll want to take a picture or two. It can be a real pain in the arse relying on the sun for solar chargers or sitting outside petrol stations with a powerbank plugged into the wall. They take an eternity to charge.
Long-term camping teaches you a variety of essential skills.
If you spend a long period living in a tent, you will soon learn patience, preparation, and teamwork. Attempting to camp, cook, and clean in a tiny tent with more than one person requires discussion and negotiation. There ain’t no I in team remember.
Apart from life skills, Camping teaches you a variety of skills that may one day save your life. Tying knots, making fires, finding shelter, reading the environment… all things you’ll do everyday camping which are seriously useful survival skills.
Con: Putting up and breaking down camp becomes a major effort.
If you are often shifting locations, packing and setting up might get quite f$%”!g exhausting. If you’re planning a hard expedition, hiking mountains or cycling regions, half the effort comes in finding a camping spot, finding water, setting up camp, cooking a meal, and washing the cooking equipment. You have to do it all over again in the morning…
Pro – It’s cheap!
Who doesn’t want to save money? Campgrounds are often less expensive than hotels, and wild camping is free (unless you get caught and fined). You’re also going to be saving money on basic, quick-cook ingredients you’ll likely buy. On top of that, unless you have internet signal and enjoy internet shopping in your tent, there’s very little to spend money on in the wilderness.
Con: It’s great to poop someplace familiar every now and again.
It might not be the same for you but from time to time I like to poo somewhere familiar, instead of looking like a vulnerable dog squatting in the woods. It’s good to having four walls surrounding you, no toilet paper rationing, and perhaps even a basin to properly wash your hands.
Some final thoughts…
There may be an equal amount of pros and cons in this article but the good points definitely outweigh bad. If you have the right camping essentials, properly prepare and pick the right locations then long-term camping can be a seriously life-changing experience. In a positive manner, of course. Nevertheless, if you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of that.
If you haven’t already done so, start planning. Start with a small camping trip with friends and carefully build up the confidence and skills to plan a long-term trip, then you’ll see for yourself!
Is camping bad for your health?
Simply said, camping is healthy for you, both physically and mentally. Relationship building, opportunity to learn and develop new skills, unplugging and disconnecting from devices, connecting with nature, stress reduction, and increased physical fitness are all advantages. The fitness benefits of camping are well documented.
How many days should you camp?
Two or three days is excellent – enough time to enjoy hands-on camping without feeling burdened by the prospect of having to stay another week or fortnight if there isn’t much to do or others in your company are eager to return home.
What are the disadvantages of camping?
Some disadvantages of camping are:
- Bugs (bug bites).
- Bad weather (too cold, hot, or rainy).
- Expensive equipment.
- No internet.
- Share a bathroom with everyone at the campsite.
- Loud bugs and animals at night.
- Getting sun burnt.
- Limited food.
Does camping have health benefits?
When you go camping and are surrounded by trees and fresh air, your body produces more serotonin, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that helps regulate your mood, appetite, and sleep. Serotonin also improves cognitive functions such as memory and learning.