16 Benefits of Camping
A lot of people love the concept of camping but never actually put the time aside to go and relax. Whether it’s financial reasons, responsibilities, or even other hobbies that are holding you back, you may be seriously missing out. This article goes over why you should consider camping a practical investment in your happiness and health with great payoff, and not just another thing to cross off your bucket list or even a cheap vacation. We could write a whole book on just the benefits of camping, so for brevity we’ve narrowed it down to our top 16. We hope this article encourages you to try out or get back into loving the outdoors soon!
1. Stress Reduction
Being stuck in the same situation and having to deal with the same problems day after day can be incredibly stressful. It's important to get away now and then. Camping gives you the opportunity to clear your mind and focus on exciting new tasks and adventures, forcing you to drift away into the moment and temporarily immerse yourself in a more biologically intuitive and carefree day to day lifestyle. This has strong health benefits because it fools your brain into feeling safe and secure, rather than fighting to compete and survive in the “normal” 21st century work grind, allowing you to approach the world in a calmer, happier, and more optimistic way. Once charged, you can then take this positivity of the wild back with you to your everyday life routine, to both benefit yourself and others around you.
2. Fresh Air
If you have never gone camping, or haven’t gone in a long time, you will be amazed at how much more clear the air is away from the town or city, at your local campsite. With fresh air, natural scents are not diluted by pollution, so everything smells much better, stronger, and more distinguished. This creates a new depth of sensory immersion that is extremely stimulating, meditative, and therapeutic. Your lungs will also feel the difference, as less air pollution means they don’t have to work as hard to absorb oxygen. This in turn alleviates excess strain on your heart. You will not only smell, but feel the difference tremendously.
3. Relationship Building
Camping with friends, family, or romantic partners quickly becomes a team endeavor. Each person has to pull their own weight and combine their talents and effort together to complete each new task faced optimally. The task could be setting up your campsite, planning the trip, preparing for a hike, preparing a meal, navigating, rationing supplies, managing group safety, etc. In any case it is a naturally a people oriented activity requiring compassion, attention, and consideration towards others’ mental and physical states and endurance. This is crucial because if one person suffers, the whole team suffers, botching the whole trip. It is this attentiveness and team mindset that can develop extraordinary intimacy, caring, sensitivity and learning between partners, family members, and friends.
Camping is a fun and exciting way to get in some dynamic exercise. This probably has to do with the fact that it is also mentally stimulating, instead of being repetitive and one-dimensional like modern conventional exercise. Between hauling supplies from your vehicle to the campsite or back, to setting up camp, to hiking, to moving around supplies, there is a lot physically involved in camping. Each activity is also compound and fluid, meaning it helps program your neuro-muscular system for balance, coordination and efficiency. This is important in translating raw strength into athletic ability. But all these activities have an analytical component as well, because there is an immediate, practical intention that one must adapt to each new situation to execute. Elements include geometry, economy of motion, energy conservation, distribution of labor, time management, etc. Basically, strategic and creative problem solving towards practical situations. Applying both your mind and body to conquering new challenges is a holistic form of exercise. It is a pure and essential form of self-improvement that is simultaneously fun, exciting, and immediately rewarding.
5. Dopamine Fasting
Dopamine is one of many neurotransmitters that send signals between the brain and nervous system. It plays a vital role in how we experience pleasure, and is partly responsible for reinforcing beneficial behaviors. This is good in theory, but the way it interacts with its environment, dopamine has an unfortunate tendency to motivate us towards unproductive instant-gratification habits such as gaming, social media, movies, and TV, that can quickly become compulsive and interfere with our ability to focus on more important matters that require effort, discipline, commitment and patience. This is because such behaviors are more accessible and chemically stimulating. Getting away from high dopamine activities such as digital pastimes or other harmful habits can enrich our lives by reducing our reliance on them for happiness and as maladapted coping mechanisms to escape more difficult but constructive projects. Camping, while still short-term, is more physical and goal oriented and gives us plenty of satisfying and rewarding tasks to undergo that help regulate our neurotransmitters and reinforce positive habits by reducing dependence on irrelevant high dopamine stimuli.
6. Connect with Nature
Nothing parallels the beauty of nature. It’s the inspiration of all the great art in the world, and truly awesome to behold. But the magnificent trees, mountains, rocks, creeks and rivers, wildlife, are not just majestic to observe. It’s complete sensory immersion into the astonishing with stimulating scents, sounds, and textures. Furthermore, we often identify ourselves and society as being outside of or even at odds with nature, when this is inherently not the case. Spending time in the wild will bring a sense of closeness and oneness with nature that is invigorating and soothing. The outdoors has a rugged charm and harmoniousness to it that just can’t be replicated by artificial art. Perhaps it is the deep sense of community and continuity that is lacking in our society. Whatever the case is, it’s incredibly reassuring and humbling at the same time.
Life today is fast-paced. We may be struggling to pay bills, to make time for our families, to compete for a promotion, to get through school, to pay off debt, to save up for something we want or need, etc. With so much always to do and so little time to handle everything before problems get worse, an atmosphere of chaos and urgency inevitably ensues. This has become normal for most of us. But pausing to live at a more relaxed pace for a while brings a unique form of clarity. You can see situations more clearly when you transition from the role of doer to observer. It may be that a situation is causing you a lot more stress and attention than is warranted, or you have been averse to the obvious solution to a problem, or your priorities need adjusting, or maybe even that things are just not as bad as you thought they were, and everything is fine, afterall. Also,roughing it builds mental resilience, which further enhances our ability to see things clearly.
8. Teach Your Kids
Camping is a good way to teach your kids important life skills. Things like pitching a tent, tying knots, starting a fire, catching fish, navigating, and cooking are all important survival techniques everyone should know. Children are no exception. The sooner in life you learn survival skills, the better, as it sets the tone for how you relate to and address problems in general. Many people over the last few generations never had a self-sufficiency mindset instilled in them, and it shows in the way they can expect others to adjust to their personal needs, instead of doing so themselves. Each challenge we face cumulatively affects us on a macro level, leading to many traits that are crucial to success. This is even more true in developmental years.
One important lesson camping teaches kids is responsibility and community oriented thinking. Typically kids have all their needs met in a highly structured and automated way for them. With them finally away from their consoles and tablets, and looking to participate in the camping experience for an alternate means of stimulation, they will quickly become exposed to and begin to involve themselves in the tedious intricacies that go into looking after a group and ensuring everything runs smoothly.
Another lesson they will take home is courage. The unknown is scary because it always possesses the possibility of danger, so children naturally cling to their parents for protection in uncertain circumstances. Allowing them to take on new hurdles independently while being there to reassure them they can do it can help them build self-confidence and self-reliance, by letting them discover their own internal strength.
Finally, roughing it out helps kids build appreciation for what they have, and resilience towards unpleasant circumstances. Camping is extremely fun and exciting, but it's certainly not luxurious. Children who are raised on modern amenities can easily take them for granted and mistake them for necessities. Learning to accept not always having what you’re used to allows you to cope with discomfort much more rationally.
Being in the outdoors increases our exposure to sunlight, which has many benefits to
both mood and health. First of all sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, an important hormone that elevates your mood as well as regulating the digestive system and increasing bone density. In fact, a lack of sun exposure can lead to low serotonin levels which is linked to depression, low self-esteem, poor memory, anxiety, aggression, difficulty sleeping, and aggression, and fatigue. So getting enough sunshine is definitely important.
Sunlight is also a natural source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is one of the most powerful antioxidants in supporting the immune system. It also supports the brain and nervous system, lungs, heart, hair and skin, regulation of insulin levels, and promotes healthy bones and teeth. Lack of vitamin D can lead to regular sickness and infection, as well as fatigue, low mood, muscle or joint pain, and hair loss. So while regular sunlight exposure is very important and obviously regular outdoor activity apart from camping is recommended, camping can definitely result in a huge boon to your mood and immune system. Especially if you normally don’t spend a lot of time outdoors during the day.
10. Regulate Your Sleep Cycle
Humans possess a natural internal sleep-wake cycle known as the circadian rhythm. Things like indoor lighting, work, social events, etc can disrupt our 24-hour sleep pattern which can cause fatigue, irritability, weakened mental function, and over time metabolic problems as well. While camping and being exposed to the sun’s rays, and even the sounds of birds chirping in the morning, your body should naturally tune itself to the earth’s daylight cycle. This will help you get better quality sleep which improves overall health, mood, and mental clarity.
11. Good Food
It may be the clear air, though we’re not really sure why, but a meal cooked on a portable stove at the campsite is just somehow better. If you’ve ever been camping, you know I’m talking about. The food is simply amazing. So instead of planning a night out at an expensive restaurant next time you want a special treat, consider a quick camping trip instead. It has an incredible ambiance.
12. Peace of Mind
Socrates once said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Modern life is so fast-paced, we are constantly rushing to do something else, caught up in the future and planning our next move instead of living in the moment. Putting all that on hold just to enjoy your surroundings can give incredible peace of mind. You may just come to the revelation that things are okay, that the world won’t crumble apart when you pause for a while to soak it in and enjoy it. Constantly rushing can lead to a sense of urgency and impulsive decision making, because we are not used to taking the time necessary to process information and think through the consequences of various ideas. Oftentimes we even act out of habit instead of taking charge of our lives with intention and option-weighing, unable to step out of our comfort zone even if it means the best course of action. Having a sober mind is very important in today’s world of constant opportunities and choices potentially leading us down various roads.
In a world built around commodity and convenience, it’s no wonder people often take the path of least resistance. This tendency affects all of us in different ways, especially in stressful times. But a lot of stress is nothing more than our heads getting the best of us. And it boils down to experiencing less comfort or ease than we are used to. I’ve both worked and spent a lot of spare time outdoors, roughing the elements, and I recognized at some point that exposing myself to challenging conditions is a very good form of mental strengthening. So much so that I will often go out of my way to make conditions extra difficult to deal with in such instances, provided it doesn’t inhibit the task I’m performing. And my self-development as well as overall happiness has improved tremendously as a result. Camping is an excellent way to achieve this effect. It provides a unique circumstance enabling us to really shift into the mentality of making the best of what we have and still deriving joy, rather than fixating on what should or could be different. We are often surrounded by frustrated people complaining, and a culture of consumerism that attempts to augment and capitalize on every negative emotion we might have. It’s a very artificial way of thinking. Humans are naturally resourceful problem solvers that are able to find ways to thrive even in hardship, and being out in the wilderness reconnects us to that internal strength that exists in all of us. Strip away the inessentials, and you’ll be reminded how little you actually need and how little you can go just fine without.
Einstein once said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” There is a natural intuitive quality to problem solving, because it requires us to picture something abstract, in that it is not yet part of the equation. Getting a change of atmosphere, especially one as beautiful as nature can powerfully stimulate our imagination and lead us to creative new ways of looking at information and generating possibilities. Whether you have a creative job or hobby or not, there are always ways to utilize our imaginations in practical, constructive ways. Without it, we just don’t see the opportunities, again, because they are not yet part of the equation. So immersing yourself in the majesty of the wild can lead to seeing past old ways of doing things, or focusing on things that aren’t fruitful, by sparking our creative thought processes.
Although we touched briefly on serotonin in the section on sunlight, it really deserves its own section on this list. In addition to increased sunlight exposure, increased oxygen levels as well as physical activity all contribute to higher serotonin levels. So camping may actually be one of the best natural ways to increase serotonin. Serotonin is the key hormone responsible for happiness and mood regulation. It also plays a significant role in boosting our energy. Serotonin is how our brains gauges our level of safety and stability so more serotonin leads us to search for ways to increase success, status and dominance rather than shy away from risks and focus on maintaining what we currently have in order to merely survive. Essentially, it triggers our brains to switch from survival mode, to thrive mode. So if you are struggling to motivate yourself to succeed, feel tired, down, or anxious, it’s probably time to plan a camping trip!
16. Self-reliance and Self-efficacy
Every task that’s involved in your camping trip from planning and preparing everything you’ll need, to setting up your campsite and so forth starts from scratch. Each new adventure along the way comes with a new set of hurdles to adapt to. Camping teaches us to both rely on ourselves and stay in motion. The routine problems associated with camping such as maintaining your campsite, cooking, regulating sleep, etc, are less complex than the everyday problems we typically deal with that can leave us paralyzed with stress and indecision. Small victories reinforce initiative, confidence, and positive habits. And camping provides a consistent stream of minor tasks to complete and program our brain to take charge of our lives.