Minimalist Camping For Beginners (And Pros)

Last Updated: October 14, 2019
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For many people, the joy of camping is spending time experiencing the outdoors.

But it’s difficult to truly appreciate nature if you bring all the comforts of home along with you.

This is where minimalist camping comes in.

Minimalist camping means different things to different people. Everything from completely living off the trail to a backpack with only the essentials can fall under the minimalist camping umbrella.

What it truly comes down to is bringing less.

Less stuff, less weight, less unnecessary luxuries.

Bringing only what you need for a safe and enjoyable camping trip.

If this sounds like fun, here are TWO checklists to help you plan your minimalist campout.

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Minimalist Camping Checklist #1

1. Skip the fancy stuff.

Minimalist camping is all about roughing it—and making substitutions for (or going without) your usual creature comforts.

For example, you don’t need an enormous, fancy tent.

You can make do with a simple tarp or a hammock. For campfires, skip the lighters and boxes of matches, and pack a simple flint instead.

What about that portable coffee maker?

Well, there’s something beautifully nostalgic—and tasty—about perfecting the art of coffee cooked over an open flame.

2. Follow the one-bag rule.

Minimalist camping means no more than one bag per person, and children under 10 years old should share a bag.

The bag should hold clothes, bathing needs, and entertainment.

Smart campers use packing organizers to make things very easy to locate: Toiletries go in one bag, underwear and accessories in another, and so on.

If you can’t carry your own bag for at least five straight minutes, that's a sign that it’s too heavy and you need to remove some stuff.

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3. Stick to the essentials.

While putting items into your single bag, whittle your packing list down to the essentials.

You don’t need to bring multiple outfits for a weekend in the woods. Rather, each person will need a sleeping bag, a small amount of clothing, and the most basic hygiene necessities.

If you're going for only a weekend, consider bringing just what’s on your body, one extra shirt, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant.

Camping is, after all, about becoming one with nature, and a little sweat and dirt is part of that experience.

4. Cook like a caveman.

Okay, you don’t need to go that far back in time, but when it comes to cooking gear, keep things basic: a camp stove and fuel, one or two pots and pans, some tongs, a mess-kit for each member of your party, and aluminum foil for foil-wrapped dinners.

As an alternative to the camp stove, you can always cook over an open fire.

5. Don’t neglect self-care.

Going minimalist doesn’t mean that you should skimp on the important basics.​

Be sure to pack biodegradable toilet paper and soap, insect repellent, essential medications, sunscreen, a small sewing kit, rope, and a first-aid kit.

You should be able to fit almost all of those things within one small toiletry kit.  

6. Resist the urge for luxuries.

Leave behind anything that functions only as a comfort item.

Bringing things like large lamps and heaters defeat the purpose of going camping. If you don't want to deal with a chilly night, perhaps you should consider renting an RV or a cabin instead of sleeping in a tent.  

Remember: A little planning goes a long way. If you throw everything that you own into several bags without thinking, you're going to regret it the moment that you have to carry that huge load through the hilly woods.

Plus, once you arrive at your destination, you're going to get a headache trying to find everything. 

Packing lightly and using organizers is the way to go for a weekend camping trip.

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Now Pack These Camping Essentials And You Can Rest Easy Knowing You’ll Have A Good Time

Minimalist Camping Checklist #2

1. Backpack

Even the most minimalist of camping trips will require a means to transport your supplies. For most minimalist campers, this is usually a backpack. Especially if you are hiking to your desired camping spot.

Choose a backpack you can carry comfortably for the length of your anticipated hike. And one big enough to carry all of your essential gear.

Take a practice hike around your neighborhood before your camping trip. Few things motivate you to bring less than experiencing how difficult a full pack can be to carry.

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2. Backpacking Tarp or Tent

Some minimalist campers plan to sleep under the stars and that can be a wonderful experience.

But if you prefer to have some shelter from potential weather a backpacking tarp or tent is a great option. There are a number of ultralight tents and tarps available that are specifically designed for carrying in a pack.

3. Sleeping Bag

Like the backpacking tarps and tents, a sleeping bag specifically designed for a backpack is going to be small and lightweight.

Perfect if you’re carrying your gear. And it is equally important to find a sleeping bag rated for the weather you expect to encounter.

4. Water

You will need water to drink and possibly to cook with on any camping trip. Water is heavy to pack so for a minimalist camping trip, it is best to bring a water filtration device or water purification tablets.

5. Food

As a minimalist camper, you may want to try living off the trail in as many ways as possible.

Fishing, for instance, is a fun way to have fresh food on a campout. But even the luckiest fisherman strikes out once in awhile and you may crave more than you can catch.

There are plenty of healthy, calorie dense food options for your trip. Consider protein bars, instant hot cereals, dehydrated food, dried fruit, or nuts as some easily packable options.

6. Multi-tool

A multi-tool with a can opener and a knife is an essential minimalist camping item. And it’s handy because most tools can be worn on your belt instead of taking up room in your pack.

7. Cooking Supplies

Check out your local outdoor supply store for a dinnerware set with a bowl or plate, cup, and utensils that can fit inside a cook pot or pan.

Plan ahead how and what you will be cooking so you bring only the cooking supplies you really need.

These items can be cumbersome, so you don’t want to bring anything extra.

8. First Aid Kit

Stock your first-aid kit with bandages, antiseptic, fever reducing medicines, sunscreen, and your Bug Bite Thing to ensure minor injuries or illness don’t ruin your trip.

9. Flashlight

A flashlight might be your only light in a remote area. If your flashlight takes batteries, make sure you bring an extra set. LED flashlights are typically a lighter and more energy efficient option.

10. Lighter or Matches

If you’re planning on a campfire for heat, light, or cooking, make sure you bring at least two lighters and matches in a waterproof case.

A homemade firestarter will also come in handy to make sure your match or lighter produce a usable flame.  

With something this essential, you want to have a backup plan.

What else would you recommend? Share your own minimalist packing tips in the comments!

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