So maybe you’re thinking about going camping, but you’re not sure it’s for you.
What’s so great about camping, anyway?
Well, there are a lot of things that are great about it.
And there are a lot of not-so-great things about it too.
As a beginner, or as someone who’s never gone camping before, it’s smart to consider both the good and bad aspects.
Then you can weigh your options and decide if camping is something you’re willing to try.
The pros of camping
Camping has a lot to offer—even to complete beginners.
You can never be too old or too young to go on your first trip, and you can always tailor your trip to your needs and preferences.
Here are some of the biggest benefits you’ll get out of camping.
Completely immerse yourself in the outdoors
When you go camping, you’re not just going outside for an afternoon.
You’re living outdoors!
This allows you to really get in touch with the natural environment in ways that wouldn’t be possible with other types of outdoor activities.
Why is this good?
Well, it’s different, for one thing.
It’s new, it’s interesting, and it’s challenging—in a healthy kind of way that serves your wisdom and growth.
See and explore new places you’ve never been
Camping isn’t just a hobby—it’s an opportunity to travel.
Even if you decide to camp local, chances are you’ll find new areas and attractions that you’ve never visited before.
That’s the great thing about camping…you can do it almost anywhere!
Spend less and save more on vacations
It’s expensive to take the whole family on vacations that require airfare, hotels, event tickets, and other pricey extras.
If you already have some basic camping gear, then the majority of your costs will go to your campsite bookings, transportation costs (gas), and food.
And even if you don’t have all the gear you need, you can find affordable options that fit your budget or alternatively, you can consider renting gear from a local outfitter.
Spend time with family, friends, or just yourself
Camping is a great way to spend quality time with the people who mean the most to you.
Whether it’s your kids, your dog, your spouse, your friends, or anybody else, camping creates a unique opportunity to hang out together without as many distractions as there are at home.
Solo camping is also a great opportunity to get some much needed alone time if that’s more your style.
Get away from daily stress and routine life
We all know what it’s like to be tied to work all day, or to deal with the same old mundane daily tasks.
You know, like laundry, errands, paying bills, and all that other fun stuff.
Camping is a chance to get away from all that.
It’s an escape, a break, an opportunity to take a step back and relax in a way that’s entirely different from what you’re used to.
Focus on the basics of simple living
When you’re living outdoors, you only have to focus on a few basic necessities:
The rest of how you spend your time is up to you!
There’s no need to decide whether you’re going to paint the bathroom or work on your taxes.
Camping is a much more stripped down version of life that can feel strangely satisfying when you’re in the midst of it.
Be present and mindful of the moment
Camp helps you to see the world differently, and while that might sound cheesy, it’s true.
You’re forced to become aware of your surroundings in ways that you wouldn’t experience at home in your normal everyday life.
You need to be mindful of your footing, your food storage, the wildlife you share the area with, and more.
There are far fewer distractions and far more opportunities to be fully engaged in what you’re doing.
Spend less time sitting and more time moving
There will certainly be opportunities to sit back and relax in your camp chair or hammock, but it’ll be well earned after a day of activity.
Besides spending time doing camp chores, you’ll probably also find yourself doing more walking, running, swimming, fishing, kayaking, or whatever else you decide to do.
The combination of fresh air and exercise will do wonders for your body, mind, spirit, and overall well-being.
Find opportunities to learn new skills
Camping is educational in a hands-on kind of way.
You can learn how to tie knots, build a campfire, set up a tent, cook over a fire, and develop other outdoor skills that make camping easier and more enjoyable.
Or you can brush up on skills you might already know, like fishing, archery, or bird watching.
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll have the opportunity to hone your skills, gain confidence, and come away with a renewed appreciation for the outdoors.
Challenge yourself in ways that benefit you
Camping is a great way to test and challenge your limits, break out of your comfort zone, and do things that you probably wouldn’t do in everyday life.
You can challenge yourself mentally, physically, or emotionally, or all three.
For instance, you could plan your first solo camping trip, push yourself harder on the trail, try a new camp meal recipe, or write about your experiences in a camping journal.
Where there’s challenge, there’s also opportunity for personal growth.
Rediscover your connection with nature
One of the best things about camping is that it can help you realize that you are not separate from nature—you’re also a part of it.
That’s a powerful feeling, and one that can often lead to a deeper appreciation of the natural world, and of yourself.
When you connect with the natural world, you can learn more about yourself and gain a newfound respect for the extraordinary beauty of the planet.
Find peace and tranquility in just being outdoors
In our everyday lives, we often find ourselves having to always be productive—or at least distracted by something.
But when you’re outdoors, just existing is enough.
The sounds of nature, the fresh air, the smell of woodsmoke…it all combines to create an atmosphere of profound peace and relaxation.
You don’t need to do anything fancy to feel like you’ve accomplished something—just enjoy the beauty of the moment.
Learn about the local environment and wildlife
Take the time to explore the trails, waterways, and landscapes in which you’re camping.
Look around, observe, and really take them in.
You may also learn a lot more about the local flora and fauna as you explore, giving you an opportunity to improve your ecological knowledge.
And who knows, you may even spot some wildlife that you’ve never seen before!
Create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime
Camping creates moments of adventure, companionship, and learning that will stay with you for years to come.
Even when your trip is finished and you’re back to your regular day-to-day life, the memories you made while camping will stay with you and bring you joy each time you think back on them.
And if you were keen enough on taking some photos or videos while you were out on your trip, you’ll have those to remind you of just how much fun you had.
The cons of camping
We hate to say it, but camping isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (unless the weather is really great, of course).
Some people really hate camping, and to be honest, we can’t argue with them!
Camping isn’t for everybody, and that’s okay.
But before you dismiss it altogether, keep in mind that there are ways to minimize the disadvantages.
Risk of poor planning or forgetting to pack something
If you don’t take the time to carefully plan out your trip, you could be in for a less than ideal camping experience.
Even if you do, there’s always a risk of forgetting something.
A classic camping mistake is for a camper to forget that essential item—like sunscreen, lighter fluid, bug repellent, or a book.
Planning ahead by researching your gear and equipment needs, creating a list, and packing ahead of time will minimize the risk and help to ensure that everyone has what they need to stay safe and have fun.
Expensive gear and equipment
Camping gear can easily set you back hundreds to thousands of dollars.
We recommend to doing whatever you can to stay within your budget—even if your budget is quite low.
No, you won’t have all the latest and greatest models, but you’ll have the essentials.
You don’t have to break the bank just to have a great time on your trip.
Crowded parks and campgrounds
Depending on the time of year you decide to go camping, you could have trouble finding campsite availability.
And even if you do secure a campsite, be prepared to be surrounded by other campers and outdoor enthusiasts.
You can pretty much guarantee that there will be a lot less people, which means you’ll be able to enjoy more peace and quiet.
Lack of access to modern amenities
Camping involves embracing a simpler, more rugged lifestyle.
That typically means foregoing many of the modern amenities we’ve come to expect, including electricity and running water.
This can be difficult for those who are used to a more luxurious camping experience, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are plenty of ways you can make do without access to fancy amenities.
You can bring a battery charger to charge your phone.
You can bring a camp-friendly French press to make camp coffee in the morning.
You can even bring a portable heater to heat your tent!
It may not be just like at home, but the possibilities are endless for making your camping trip more luxurious and less of a hassle.
One factor that’s completely out of your control is unexpected weather events like heavy rain, high winds, thunder and lightning, and perhaps even snow.
If you’re not used to paying such close attention to the weather, this can really throw a wrench in your camping plans.
Besides checking the forecast as close to your trip as possible, the best you can do is prepare for unpredictable weather.
Hot days, cold nights
Speaking of unpredictable weather, one thing that you can predict (but may overlook) is the fact that you can have scorching hot daytime temperatures with much cooler nights.
If you forget to bring the right gear or clothing, you could be in for a rough trip—all the while putting yourself at risk of heat exhaustion and potentially hypothermia.
An easy solution is to think about your clothing in terms of layers, which allow you to layer up or down depending on how warm or cool you feel.
For your sleep system, you may want to consider adding a sleeping bag liner to your existing sleeping bag to boost the warmth or keep cool at night.
Nothing ruins camping quicker than pesky bugs!
Mosquitoes are especially annoying but there are many other flying pests out there too.
Without the right protection, you could be in for a very itchy and swollen trip.
Camping any time that isn’t bug season is always ideal, but if you just love summer camping, you can easily prepare for the bugs by dressing in thick layers, wearing bug nets or suits, and potentially using bug repellent sprays or creams that contain DEET.
Nuisance animals such as mice, raccoons, and bears
Seeing wildlife in its natural habitat can be exciting, but when wild animals become too close for comfort, their presence can make any outdoor adventure uncomfortable and hazardous.
Mice can bite through packs, raccoons can ravage your garbage, and bears can smell food from miles away.
The best way to avoid any wildlife run-ins is to be mindful of your storage and food preparation.
Double bag all your food in bear-proof containers, put it in your car or hang it in a tree as high up as possible, and never ever keep any food or scented products in your tent.
This will minimize any smells that may attract nuisance animals.
Familiarizing yourself with local wildlife and learning how protect your campsite from unwanted visitors prior arriving is key.
Basic to advanced-level outdoor skills required
Setting up camp takes some level of organization and skill.
You need to know how to set up a tent, store food properly, process firewood, start a campfire, cook over a campfire, and so much more.
If you’ve never done any of these tasks before, or you simply don’t know how to use the gear that you have, then that can be a problem—and a huge risk for injury.
Start with a simple trip if you’re a beginner, and practice using your gear at home first.
If you don’t know how to do something, make sure someone on your trip does, and get help from them before trying to do it yourself.
Time consuming camp chores
Camping takes more time and energy than you might think.
It isn’t like home where everything is done for you.
Setting up camp takes time.
Starting a campfire takes time.
Cooking camp meals takes time.
Cleaning up takes time.
It’s a lot, and if you don’t give yourself enough time to do it all, you can expect to be doing most of it after dark and going to bed quite late.
Give yourself plenty of time—as much as double or triple the time you think you need—to get your camp chores done.
You’ll probably come to realize that you really need it.
Inconvenient cooking conditions
To be frank, cooking is kind of a pain when you’re camping.
There’s limited space, it’s dirty, you’re at a high risk of burning your food, and it can take a long time to cook certain things.
Heck, even just boiling water to add to your cup o’ noodles can be a hassle.
And don’t plan on cooking three meals a day—bring lots of healthy snacks that you can easily swap for breakfast or lunch if needed.
Risk of injury or illness
Camping involves a lot of movement and a lot of manual labour, so you’re always at risk of potentially hurting yourself or coming into contact with something that could make you very sick.
From cuts and burns, to allergic reactions and food poisoning, you should always take precautions to stay safe while camping.
Bring a first aid kit with you, and if things start to look bad—head for the nearest hospital or doctor.
Make smart, informed decisions.
Go slow, even if you’re frustrated.
Take a break if you’re feeling tired or noticing that you’re being unsafe.
It isn’t worth risking your health just to get something done or hit some milestone.
Difficulty sleeping in a tent
Sleeping in a tent can be uncomfortable and disruptive if you don’t have the right gear.
If your tent is too small, your air mattress isn’t comfy, or your sleeping bag is of poor quality, you’ll be in for a rough night.
If you’re going to invest in any camping gear at all, make sure it’s your tent and sleep system.
And if you don’t like sleeping on the ground, consider a camping cot like the Helinox Cot One, which we’ve used and on a previous camping trip and absolutely loved.
Constant and widespread dirtiness
People who are used to showering every day, wearing clean clothes, and keeping their living spaces spotless are in for a rude awakening when they go camping.
Dirt gets everywhere—including in your tent, under your nails, and even in your food.
It won’t really hurt you, but it can definitely make you feel gross.
If you’re kind of a neat freak, you can manage the dirtiness with good camp hygiene habits—such as learning how to go to the bathroom outdoors, washing your dishes properly, and perhaps even bringing your own outdoor camp shower.
Ease of overexertion
Listen, camping is a lot of work.
When you’re constantly walking, climbing, lifting, pulling, pushing, stretching, and doing all sorts of other forms of physical activity all day long, you’re at risk of overdoing it.
Hot temperatures and lack of water and food can also make it worse.
You don’t want this, because this puts you at a higher risk of making bad decisions that can lead to injury.
This is why it’s so important to be aware of your body’s limits, take regular breaks to rest, drink water with some electrolytes, and fuel up to keep your blood sugar levels from plummeting.
Here’s a summary of what we just covered…
|Pros of camping
|Cons of camping
|You get to completely immerse yourself in the outdoors
|There’s a risk of poor planning or forgetting to pack something
|You’ll see and explore new places you’ve never been
|Gear and equipment is expensive
|You’ll spend less and save more on vacations
|Parks and campgrounds can be crowded
|You can spend more time with family, friends, or just yourself
|You won’t have access to modern amenities
|You’ll get away from daily stress and routine life
|The weather can be unpredictable
|It’s an opportunity to focus on the basics of simple living
|The days can be hot while the nights can be cold
|You’ll be more present and mindful of the moment
|Biting insects are a risk during peak season
|You’ll spend less time sitting and more time moving
|Animals like mice, raccoons, and bears can be a nuisance or a danger
|You’ll find opportunities to learn new skills
|You need basic to advanced outdoors skills
|You’ll challenge yourself in ways that benefit you
|Camp chores can be time consuming
|You might just rediscover your connection with nature
|Cooking can be inconvenient and a hassle
|You might find peace and tranquility in just being outdoors
|There’s a higher risk of injury or illness
|You’ll have the chance to learn about the local environment and wildlife
|You might experience difficulty sleeping in a tent
|You’ll create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime
|It’s dirty everywhere, all the time
|It’s easier than you think to overexert yourself
Now it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of camping for yourself to decide if it’s something you want to do.
Don’t take on more than you can handle—start small, have realistic expectations and give yourself plenty of time to get your camp chores done.
As long as you plan ahead, keep safety measures at the top of your mind, invest in good quality camping gear, manage your personal energy levels, and can accept a bit of dirtiness, you should be in for a great experience.
Elise is an experienced backcountry canoe tripper and winter camper from Ontario, Canada. She loves cooking up a storm over the campfire, taking in all the backcountry views, and enjoying a piña colada or two while relaxing at camp. She’s also certified in Whitewater Rescue (WWR) I & II and Wilderness First Aid (WFA).