For some, camping is about exploration or testing the human limits of endurance. For others, it’s about leisure and quality time spent with family and friends. It can also be jumping into camper van to get away for a weekend. The common thread behind the myriad reasons for camping is usually the desire to connect with nature. Away from population-dense city centers, a starlit night sky is no longer obscured by light pollution. The stars shine with more definition, and in the most remote places on a clear night you can observe the sparkling expanse of the Milky Way. A chorus of birdsong accompanies each sunrise. Water filtered from a cold stream is the most refreshing reward at the end of a day spent in the wilderness, and when you’re camping, food simply tastes better. As the sun sets, frogs begin to croak in chorus, marking the time to gather around a campfire and share stories. When the moon is full, it casts so much light across the landscape that you can see your shadow. This time spent in nature can realign your sense of self. Even an overnight camping trip can feel restorative.
Camping in the traditional sense means finding the right balance between comforts and basic human needs for shelter, food, and water in the wilderness. However, it doesn’t need to feel like roughing it. Precautions can be taken and gear can be packed that will limit your exposure to uncomfortable or harmful situations. However, traditional camping isn’t typically luxurious. Luxuries like electronics, lavish living quarters, or modern amenities such as refrigeration, air-conditioning, or central heating aren’t considered part of the classic camping experience, so they won’t be covered in this book.
A number of situations have the potential to reduce your enjoyment of the great outdoors. A swarm of mosquitoes can convince even the most seasoned camper to retreat into the confines of a tent. Relentless rain can dampen high spirits. A poorly insulated jacket or sleeping bag, an unstable tent flapping in the wind, or a stiff sleeping pad positioned over a tree root can make sleep impossible. Yet with the right tools and know-how detailed in this book, you can take measures to minimize discomfort by packing and preparing for all possible variables. When you’re wearing the appropriate layers, and your tent is holding steady in the wind, and you’re cozy inside a warm sleeping bag and lying on a comfortable sleeping pad, you can then relax and listen to the breeze rustling through the trees.
Once any discomfort or safety issues have been addressed, the joy of engaging with nature can commence. There are many ways to interact with and enjoy the outdoors while camping. Many people relish the relief from the distractions and stress of work, technology, and household chores. Some look forward to the social aspect of gathering around a campfire and singing songs. Children delight in the opportunity to roast marshmallows and explore all the wonders of a forest. Intrepid campers like to test their outdoor skills and endurance by carrying minimal gear along a trail for days on end. Regardless of your motivation, the experience of spending time in the outdoors creates memories that bond people to each other and to the natural world in ways that can last a lifetime.