Minimalist camping: a guide for low stress family adventures

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Do you love or loathe family camping? We love it but it always takes SO MUCH preparation and packing up! So I asked Tadej, the founder of Camping Valley, how to camp with less stuff and less stress, and he responded with this excellent guide to minimalist camping for us.

From Tadej:

Family camping can be frustrating since you have to pack and think about a thousand things. Do you have a hard time to pack everything to please your loved ones? Is stress killing you during the process? How about a trip that won’t take too much of your time and nerves?

I recommend you opt for a minimalist camping that will spare your nerves and make your family as happy as going nature glamping. In this minimalist camping guide I’ll show you how camping can be a pleasurable way of spending free time with the ones you love without extra preparation, all the camping gear, or unnecessary effort.

Become a minimalist camper

First, you should know what minimalistic camping is and how it looks like. It is a type of camping that doesn’t require much stuff to pack. In some way, it is the opposite of having too much comfort as you can take just necessities. Minimalist campers pack light and only use the essentials that they will really need for survival and to have their basic needs met.

So, if you want to try this type of camping, here are the tips and tricks that will help you to have a wonderful time with your family, without taking half of the house with you.

Taking essential camping equipment

Minimalistic camping with a family might seem tricky, but with my tips you can pack light and still have a great time together. Here is a checklist of the gear that you will need to stay safe and protected.

A minimalist camping essential: a simple tent, pitched near a lake.

Bring a camping tent

An outdoor tent is one of the essentials that will protect you from the elements and provide you a dry place to sleep. Get a simple shelter that will pitch quickly and without extra effort. You can get a tent without vestibule, for example, as I presume that you will travel to the camping destination by car. You intention is to pack as little weight as possible, so have this in mind when buying a tent. (Extra bonus: this means less for you to carry, too).

Also bring a hammer if your tent has pegs, and a multi tool that includes a screwdriver, pilers and a knife, just in case you need them. Or find them all-in-one: a hammer multi-tool actually exists!

Sleeping warm

A tent will keep your interior dry while you still have to think about staying warm. Nights can be cold outdoors so go ahead and pack a blanket for each member or a sleeping bag that will insulate the body temperature.

I also recommend bringing a sleeping mattress or sleeping pads along so you won’t lay on the hard and cold ground. They can also be used to sit on if needed.

Forget about sleeping cots, heaters, and heating pillows: you won’t need them for a minimalist camping trip.

Cooking gear for minimalist camping

Take a camping stove to cook the meals for your family. Invest in a good stove that runs on gas since you will be able to prepare your meals quickly this way. These stoves are usually foldable so one won’t take too much of your space in the car or a backpack. Bring an extra gas tank container so you won’t stay without the fuel.

Man and woman cooking on a small gas stove while camping.

Utensils

Forget about taking all the utensils with you. Minimalist camping gear doesn’t extend to forks, big spoons, little spoons and other utensils that you have on a table at home. Consider taking one plate for each member and utensils that are needed to cut the meat and to eat the soup.

I recommend getting a spork: a utensil that has a spoon on one side and a fork on the other side. This way you will spare some packing space and have fewer possibilities to forget to take all the pieces for each member. Once again, you don’t need that big fork that you use to turn steaks at your barbeque party at home; you can do it by using an ordinary fork.

Also bring a sturdy reusable water bottle per person, which you can refill as needed and won’t spill in your tent like a cup can. And if you can’t live without a hot drink, bring a reusable cup with a lid also, to prevent spills maximise portability.

What about food?

On glamping, you would take a cooler with you and all the fresh food items in it. However, this time you will have to focus on the type of food that won’t spoil fast. Forget about fresh meat and dairy products.

Pack some dry foods, cereals and powdered milk. Also, cook your meals at home before you leave so you won’t need to take all the herbs and spices with you. Pack some pepper and salt, in a small combined grinder if you can. These are two of the basic spices that will improve the taste if you need to add some power to the meal.

If you need some inspiration, here are 75 camping food ideas that don’t require refrigeration to get you started. And of course, bring several large containers of water!

Essential clothes for minimalist camping

Consider packing the essentials as warm underwear, a few pair of socks, T-shirts, and one or two short and long pants. Wear waterproof shoes or boots and a waterproof jacket while traveling towards your destination, and a hat and rashie or other sun protection if you’ll be camping somewhere hot.

You must have basic clean clothes to change each day but don’t bring any items that you don’t need urgently.

Medicines and hygiene products

If you’re a regular medicine taker then bring enough for each day. Also bring a family medical kit and consider adding some pain killers to it. Women should pack feminine hygiene products, or simply use your period-proof underwear everyday and be covered for any surprises while being a minimalist!

Take a toothbrush for each member and one toothpaste that all of you can use. Hair cleanser can also be used for soap. Shampoo bars and toothbrush tablets are less messy than bottles and tubes, and also won’t leak in your bag! Also remember a few rolls of toilet paper and a hand spade in case you need to dig.

Bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste tablets: an easy option for minimalist camping.

You should also bring some sunscreen, but don’t worry about bringing all bathroom products and cosmetics along. I do recommend that you pack a wound healing cream as Bepanthen, Bacitracin, Neosporin, or Polysporin though.

Extra tips for a stress-free camping experience

We all love to have comfort no matter where we are but camping on a minimalistic way can also be a pleasant adventure.

Plan fun outdoor activities!

Make plans for a true family time excursion. As kids won’t bring any of their favorite gadgets along, think about fun and educational games and activities that will help them bond with nature. Consider activities like:

  • Hide and seek
  • Birdwatching
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Hiking and exploring
  • Learning how to start a fire
  • Geocaching
  • Fairy house game
  • Making a herbal diary
  • Playing your family’s favourite outdoor game

Using your imagination can help make camping days fun for everyone, but also let your kids suggest activities and just relax together often, too. This way they will bond with you and nature, and forget about the gadgets that they regularly use at home.

A young boy playing in the dirt. Simple games in nature are a great outcome of minimalist camping.

Minimalism is the key to bonding

Minimalist camping is the best way to bond with your family and to have a stress-free outdoor trip. Pack only the essentials and think about the activities that you will do with your loved ones to spend a memorable outdoor journey.

Leave unnecessary things at home that won’t protect you out there. If your kids are nagging about the trip that’s ok: it may seem weird or scary to them at first, but once they’re camping and don’t have their usual distractions they will find things to do.

I am sure that you will have one of your most memorable family adventures and hope you’ve learnt something from this minimalist camping guide!

Thanks Tadej! I know I’ll enjoy packing a lot less next time we go camping!

Read more about some of our family camping adventures:

About the author:

Tadej Kožar is the founder of Camping Valley:

“My site is an extension of my lifestyle and passion for outdoors. Everything that I learn, experience and find valuable is on the site for you. We live in a technological era but nature is reminding us more and more that we should go to the places where our heart and soul feel like home.”

You can also find Camping Valley on Pinterest.

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