Every time I receive an outdoor gear catalog in the mail I admire the photos of daring outdoorsy folks performing amazing athletic feats on the rocks or water, and part of me wishes I was tough enough to sleep on the sheer face of a rock cliff thousands of feet above ground, tethered to life only by metal and rope. But the truth is I wouldn’t sleep a wink. I like comfort (a good sleeping pad!) and solid ground beneath my feet. But I also like wide open spaces – nothing but nature as far as the eye can see. I like solitude and the quiet of the woods that is broken only by the wind whipping through the trees.
I’ve been camping since I can remember. Growing up in Iowa we’d head to our woods every summer at least once, in a car loaded with camping gear and some pretty gourmet foodstuffs. It was a good time – all six of us stuffed into one tent where giggles lasted well into the night and nobody slept much.
After our son was born, we wanted to instill in him the importance of the Great Outdoors (it’s his generation’s future after all) so at just over a year old, he began his camping adventures and we’ve been camping each summer ever since.
Now in Colorado, we dispersed camp, which means picking a place to camp in an allowable area (often near an off-road trail) away from the crowds, not at a designated campground. Often (but not always) these camping spots have a fire pit from previous campers and that’s it as far as “amenities” go. Getting to these camping areas often requires a high clearance off-road vehicle because, when camping, we want to be as far away from cities, electricity, running water, and phone service as possible.
But why camp? What’s so great about the Great Outdoors? Here are seven reasons to consider.
Camping is good for family bonding.
How often are we on our phones checking Facebook or G+ or Twitter? If not our phones, we’re on our computers or tablets or we’re playing video games or watching reality TV. How much face-to-face family time do we experience on average? In my opinion, not enough -- and here’s some data to prove it. Camping is a way for our family to slow down and reconnect. Sure, we could power our electronics with solar or other battery charging options, and our tent even has a built-in “electronic port” opening. But we choose to instead turn off the phones, and leave the tablets and e-Readers and laptops at home. In place of digital zone-out, we spend quality time in camp talking, joking, laughing, exploring, and playing games like Exploding Kittens -- now that’s some real FaceTime!
Forests are good for our health and psyche!
When we are surrounded by nature, our senses are able to decompress from the stresses of daily life. Sights are softer. Sounds are finer. Smells are richer. The next time you’re in the woods take a deep breath and savor the rich scent of leaves, pine, and moss that no air freshener can replicate. With every breath you are calming and centering every cell in your body. But don’t take my word for it! “Forest bathing,” or forest therapy, is a real thing! In Japan it’s been deemed so positive that official medical programs have been created to include time in the woods. Then there’s the science: time spent in the forest can help alleviate ADHD symptoms; has a positive effect on pulse rate, blood pressure, and sympathetic nerve activity; and can boost the immune system. All this is a big score for the trees in my book, and it validates what I’ve observed all my life – that I feel better, body and mind, after spending time immersed in nature.
Camping is a good time to practice survival skills.
We spend a good amount of time away from civilization doing potentially dangerous things like off-roading, so knowing basic survival skills is a must. Camping is a good, and safe, time to practice some of these skills and pass them along to our son – building a responsible fire (and knowing when not to build a fire), fishing/hunting/trapping/foraging for food, filtering water, using a compass, reading animal signs, and so much more. Turn it into a game or have a fun challenge and then learning these skills becomes fun for kids – and for adults too!
The Great Outdoors is the next generation’s future.
Our generation's kids, and future generations, need this planet. The Great Outdoors (natural habitats, green spaces, meadows, woodlands) is shrinking under the weight of our human population and I can’t find any science that says that’s a good thing. All data points to the need to preserve nature so this planet can continue to support us. What better way to teach our kids about the value of rocks, trees, water, air, and other resources than by getting out in it and surviving with it for a few days! We camp and spend time in the mountains and woods to teach our son how to tread lightly in the outdoors, where food really comes from, where our water comes from, where all the stuff that weighs us down every day comes from, and what we can and cannot live without.
Camping is budget-friendly!
Once you’ve got your basic gear, camping is pretty inexpensive outside of a small cost for food and the cost of gas to wheel to your camping spot. If you watch Craig’s List or hit outdoor store sales you can pick up camping gear for a decent price. Then all you have to do is pack up and go! In my experience, a three day camping trip is way cheaper than one night on the town. And you feel better after!
Food tastes better in the Great Outdoors!
I can’t find any scientific data that proves food tastes better when you’re outdoors, but I swear it does! And I don’t mean just stepping out of your house to eat lunch on the deck (which it totally great, don’t get me wrong). I’m talking about a campfire dinner after a whole day spent in the woods – when you’re so ravenous you could eat a horse and whatever’s for dinner tastes completely awesome! Maybe it’s just an extra strong appetite, but I think everything actually tastes better too, and amazing food is another good reason to camp!
Camping is pet-friendly!
I did not forget our four-legged friends! Dogs are key players in our dispersed camping trips in the mountains of Colorado. They’re good alarms (sometimes too good?!) if anything unusual is happening within earshot, or if any critters are heading toward camp, especially at night. However, remember that you’re visiting the woods, not the other way around – pick up poo and leash pets who may chase wildlife.
Do you camp? How do you enjoy the Great Outdoors? Leave your Comments below!