Our family has always enjoyed off-grid camping, but with recent research showing that camping away from artificial light may even help remedy insomnia, it seems that more people are getting on board with getting back to nature.
The Many Benefits of Camping
Camping is more than just a great family bonding experience! (Though it certainly is a bonding experience to be stuck in a thunderstorm while camping or encounter a bear!) Camping has a variety of health and mental benefits that many of us miss these days (and glamping doesn’t count!).
- Reset the Circadian Clock– Spending time outside in natural light (and away from artificial light) helps reset and balance the circadian clock. Camping is an inexpensive and natural way to help remedy the rampant sleep issues in modern society.
- Improve Mood– Research also found that camping and spending time in nature can help improve mood. The Japanese call this Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” and many cultures see the value in spending time in nature.
- Learn New Skills– Many of us can’t build a fire without matches, make a basic shelter or purify water these days, yet these are all important skills to have. Camping gives you a chance to learn and practice these skills.
- Unplug– You won’t be able to spend the whole time on your phone, tablet or computer… at least after the first day or so when batteries die. Camping gives you a chance to spend quality time away from electronics.
Survival Camping with Kids
The idea of primitive (without electrical, running water and bathrooms) may not seem like the most appealing idea, especially with small children. I don’t recommend it with babies (though I’ve done it), but for older toddlers and small children up, this can be a fun and educational family activity.
Our kids most fondly remember the camping trips where they built their own shelter, boiled their own water and even skinned their own rabbits for dinner. Since this type of camping typically takes you at least a little bit away from modern conveniences, it is important to be prepared and have the gear you need on hand.
How to Create a Kids Camping & Survival Pack
Each of our kids gets a camping pack with necessary survival gear for primitive camping. This bag contains everything they need for at least a few days of camping, even without water or a tent. We pack this gear in an appropriate size backpacking pack for them and either adults carry the tent or we build shelter.
This is the gear we bring:
- A good quality backpack– This is the one a few of our kids have. It has plenty of room and works great for camping (or extended travel).
- Water filter– Water is a top priority when camping. In primitive camping, there isn’t a water spigot to get water and you don’t want to carry in gallons of water. We carry primary and backup water filters for each family member with primitive camping. The two we usually bring are the Sawyer and the Life Straw. Both of these let you drink directly from a river or other natural water source without the need for boiling or other purification. They are compact and light and we carry these for international travel where the water supply is questionable too.
- Knives– Plural. Yes, you need more than one. Each family member (over age 2/3) carries at least two knives: a high-quality multi-purpose knife and a swiss army knife. The adults usually carry other knives as well.
- Light Sources: We also each carry multiple light sources when camping. Being stuck after dark without the ability to see to make a fire isn’t a fun experience. We each carry a headlamp and a regular LED flashlight.
- Fire Starter– Waterproof matches and a magnesium fire starter are really helpful, unless you are great at rubbing sticks together.
- Paracord– Paracord is great for helping make shelters and dozens of other things. We always keep 100 feet of 550 paracord on hand.
- Compass: If you learn how to use it, a compass can be an invaluable tool when primitive camping.
- Microfiber pack towel- A pack towel isn’t a regular bath towel, but is great for drying off in the woods if you get caught in a rainstorm and it dries quickly.
- Gorilla tape- Like duct tape but stronger… because if duct tape can’t fix it… We always keep gorilla tape on hand for camping.
- Carabiners– These lightweight carabiners have endless uses while camping. Rated to over 2000 pounds and great for hanging hammocks, making shelters and more.
Gear for Cooking and Eating:
- First Aid Kit– Minor injuries are common when camping and a high quality first aid kit can save a camping trip and avoid a trip to the doctor.
- Emergency blanket– Useful for camping in cold, but also helpful as a lightweight tarp to keep rain off in bad weather.
- Backpackers Trowel– A lightweight trowel is helpful for burying waste, digging out a fire pit and many other things.
- Beeswax Candles– Candles are helpful for night time light and also for making fire starters.
- Stuff Sack– A stuff sack or compression sack is great for storing clothes and personal items away from gear and helps keep the backpack organized.
- Heavy Duty Plastic Bags– Useful for more than just collecting trash. Heavy duty plastic is great for rainproofing shelters, storing water and more!
- Super Glue– Useful for fixing equipment and repairing small cuts.
- Hand Sanitizer– I’m not normally a fan of hand sanitizer but when in the woods without running water, it has its uses.
- Natural Disinfectant– See above!
I’d love to hear from you- does your family camp? What do you bring?