How long has it been since you last went camping? With the daily grind wearing you down, perhaps it’s difficult to remember what it was like to step into nature, feel the sunshine, and hear the birds chirp. Honestly, we could all use a little more of that in our lives, but you might be surprised that the benefits of camping extend well beyond simple enjoyment.
From improved mental dexterity to better sleep patterns, camping may just be what you need to improve your overall quality of life. While the benefits of camping extend well beyond the scope of this article, here are 16 reasons why you should plan a getaway sometime soon.
1. Stress Reduction
One of mankind’s greatest enemies, stress is a leading cause of several major health disorders including heart disease, weight gain, early aging, a weakened immune system, and much more. Unfortunately, stress has become a close companion for many of us, even if it’s related to joyous occasions (like planning a wedding). Even if you think you don’t have too many major stressors in your life at the moment, the little things, like bill payments, will add up and affect your health.
When you’re camping, there are no deadlines to meet, appointments to make, or access to many of the things that create stress in our lives. Surrounding yourself with nature for a few days is a great way to reset and release that pent up anxiety that’s been building up inside of you.
2. Vitamin D
Every time I go to the doctor to get blood taken, my results always indicate the same problem – I have low vitamin D. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of living so far away from the equator, where sunlight is fairly scarce, especially during the winter months. Even as I write this at the end of November, I’m looking out the window and feeling a little depressed by how cold and dark it’s becoming!
Vitamin D deficiency is so common that it’s estimated that between 25-50 percent of the US population suffers from it. If it remains persistent, this deficiency can negatively affect your bone, heart, and intestinal health, as well as your immune system.
As I’m sure most of you know, the single best way to get vitamin D is by spending more time out in the sun. By necessity, camping puts you in a position where you have no choice but to soak up those rays, giving your body exactly what it’s been craving. Just don’t forget to apply sunscreen, if you expect to be in the sunlight for an extended period of time.
3. Escape from Pollution
If you live in a big city or close to a roadway, chances are the air isn’t as pure as you might have thought. Studies have shown an excess morbidity rate among drivers, commuters, and individuals who live close to busy roads, primarily because of the pollution created by car exhaust. However, this is only a small part of the picture – pollution caused by heating buildings and construction account for roughly 70 percent of particulate matter in the air. While you can’t always see it, these particles are one of the leading causes of asthma and other breathing related issues in the US today.
Needless to say, your respiratory system is craving a few nights at a campsite. Trees and other vegetation work to clean the air, removing pollutants and replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. It’s one of the more significant benefits of camping, and you’ll even feel happier as well, due to the serotonin released by the increase of oxygen in the fresh air around you.
Many of you may have probably heard of grounding before, but blew it off as some strange, almost mystical, hogwash. To put it simply, grounding is a way to connect yourself to the earth, either as a way to feel closer to nature, or to receive certain benefits from the ground – you can also use it as a strategy for mindfulness meditation.
The earth is like a giant battery, constantly emitting a negative charge from its surface. This is one of the main reasons why electrical systems also need to be “grounded” for safety purposes. But research has shown that these negatively charged ions can also improve your health, if you allow yourself to become grounded just like an electrical system. Various clinical trials have shown that the electrons you receive from grounding may help neutralize free radicals in your body, reducing your risk of cancer. Participants also reported pain reduction, less stress, and had improved cardiovascular health.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to bury yourself in the dirt in order to reap these benefits. Walking around barefoot is one of the best ways to get grounded, in addition to sleeping on the ground. If neither of these appeal to you, though, there are certain chairs, mattress pads, and blankets that were designed to create the same effect.
5. Develop New Skills
Camping is a great way to get us out of our comfort zones. After all, the things that we rely upon every day (climate control, running water, electricity, etc.) are essentially nonexistent in many campsites, especially if you decide to go for dispersed camping. As a result, you’ll have to pick up a few new skills in order to get by.
Not only will you need to learn how to pitch a tent, but you’ll also need to pick up a few knot tying skills and survivalist techniques. From building a campfire, to purifying water, and everything else in-between, camping is a great way to pick up different skillsets that you might not have learned otherwise.
6. Connect with Others
Working together to accomplish an objective is one of the best bonding exercises out there. How much more so when the objective is survival in the wilderness? Whether it’s with your spouse, a couple of close friends, or even a group of strangers, you’d be surprised by how effective camping can be at deepening your relationships. There’s not much to distract you, and you’ll be able to make a lot of new memories in a fun environment.
A few months ago, my best friend and I (seen in the picture above) went backpacking through a large stretch of desert in the US. We hiked most of the day and well after the sun set, before pitching our tent between two large sand dunes. The wind was so strong, it felt like our tent might collapse all night, but we got excited by the exposure and enjoyed the thrill. Come morning, we had to dig ourselves out a little bit, before watching the sun come up over the mountains in the distance.
My friend said it was the most incredible experience he’s ever had, and it was certainly in my top 5 – however, it wouldn’t have been the same if either of us were by ourselves. Being able to explore the world and adventure with my friends is definitely one of my favorite benefits of camping.
7. Connect with Nature
Lately, many scientific studies have been indicating that nature has a significant, positive impact on all of us. This is especially true for the almost 50 percent of the world’s population that lives in an urban setting.
Aside from feeling like you can finally breathe again, spending time in nature has been proven to increase your overall feelings of wellness. Any time you experience emotions like awe, serenity, inspiration, and gratitude, you’re building up a range of micro moments that contribute to a deep sense of happiness. If you’re with others, time in the wild is known to bring about feelings of compassion and empathy as well.
Though we don’t know why we have such a strong pull toward nature, it’s undeniable that it’s there. And camping is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a more pure form of this environment.
8. Disconnect from Technology
Can you go an hour without touching your phone, laptop, TV, or radio? How about half an hour?
We live in an environment of constant stimulation and erratic dopamine hits, making us feel overwhelmed and tired, despite the constant desire to receive even more. We’ve become slaves to push notifications and likes on social media, to the point where the majority of the population could safely be called “technology junkies.”
While it might be a little unpleasant at first, camping is a great way to free you from your phone and reset your mind and body. Depending on where you set up, it’s entirely possible that you won’t have any cell service or WiFi at all – at the very least, you’ll have to use your technology sparingly, if you don’t want to run out of battery on the first day.
Given the outdoor nature of camping, a little bit of exercise is unavoidable even for car campers. And honestly, if you went out of your way to find a remote place to set up, could you really resist the urge to explore your surroundings?
In addition to weight management, exercise is something everyone should strive to do more regularly because of all the related health benefits. In terms of mental health, exercise is known to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as help you to sleep better. For physical health, exercise has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Even beyond what goes on inside your body, increased muscle strength will improve the quality of your life and work to prevent accidents, like falling.
10. Confidence Building
One of the less thought of benefits of camping, there are plenty of opportunities to build your confidence in the great outdoors. Regardless of how extreme you’re trying to go, you’ll be thrust out of your comfort zone and put into a place of uncertainty. How do I cook without a real stove or oven? What can I do to make sure my water is safe to drink? How do I make a shelter that can withstand the elements?
These are only a few of the questions you’ll probably ask yourself, and if you’ve never camped before, you’ll feel like a baby deer trying to walk for the first time. It can be a little stressful at first, but you’ll eventually find yourself becoming more and more competent as time goes on. Having a few survivalist skills in your arsenal will grow your confidence, and give you courage to tackle more challenges in the future.
11. Educational Opportunities
Camping with your kids is one of the best field trips you give them. Not only will they learn skills like fire building, they’ll also be exposed to an enormous amount of wildlife as well. Between botany, ornithology, ecology and much more, you have the opportunity to make science fun for both you and your children.
If you want to take it to the next level, you can even throw in some survivalist skills into the mix. Learn how to forage for food, how to build a temporary shelter, and how to locate (and purify) a water source. Unless you already consider yourself something of a bushcraft expert, it’ll be a great educational experience for you and those who are with you.
12. Improved Mood
Getting out into nature is a sure way to feel better and improve your mood, no matter who you are. The reasons go back to some of the points I’ve already made – increased levels of vitamin D and higher levels of oxygen in the fresh air work to elevate feelings of well being. However, there’s a bit more to it than this as well.
When you unplug from your daily routines, it gives you the opportunity to let your mind wander and daydream. Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t actually a bad thing, according to a study published in the Creativity Research Journal. Daydreaming about various things, including your goals and passions, is a proven way to increase productivity toward these things, while helping you create novel solutions to different problems.
You might also be surprised to discover that the ground itself can also improve your mood. Or more specifically, the bacteria in the ground.
Mycobacterium vaccae is a harmless bacteria found in the dirt that’s been associated with increased levels of serotonin in certain parts of the brain. Combine that with a little exercise to release endorphins, and it’s no wonder why people feel better when they’re out in nature!
13. Tackling New Challenges
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a daily routine that you follow. Wake up, take a shower, go to work, come home, go for a walk, make dinner, watch a bit of TV, go to bed, repeat… If it wasn’t for the calendar in the bottom corner of my computer screen, I would forget what day it is, since they all start to feel the same!
Your brain needs new experiences and challenges in order to stay healthy and stimulated, and sometimes it’s hard to find those in the daily pattern of our lives. Because camping is so different from what we normally encounter, it can be a great way to refresh our minds with a new set of tasks and problems that need to be solved.
14. Reset Your Circadian Rhythm
The most well known circadian rhythm is the sleep-wake cycle, which governs how sleepy or awake you feel at given points during the day. Light is one of the primary signals that tells your body whether it’s time to go to sleep or get out of bed, but there are various factors that can throw this cycle off.
Melatonin is a key hormone that facilitates the transition from wakefulness to sleep. Its production in the body begins when you’re surrounded by darkness, but that product is stopped when you’re exposed to light, helping to regulate your circadian rhythm. However, blue light works to suppress the production of melatonin, effectively throwing your sleep-wake cycle out of whack. If you have trouble sleeping, your phone, tablet, TV, or computer could be a big part of the problem.
Camping removes these blue light emitters, allowing your body to get back on track with a proper circadian rhythm. Just make sure you invest in a good sleeping bag and camping cot, so you’re not up all night for a different reason!
15. “You Time” is Essential
We may be social creatures, but that doesn’t mean we should constantly be spending time with other people! Solitude is important too, and camping is one of the best ways to step away and take a breather.
When you don’t have other people to interact with, you have more time for introspection. Frankly, many of us like to keep ourselves busy and surrounded by others just so we don’t have think about our lives, our struggles, or our insecurities. However, if you want to grow as an individual, it’s important to take a step back from time to time to think about where you are and where you want to be.
Additionally, solitude can stimulate creativity. When you allow your mind to wander, thoughts and images will pop in your head that likely would have stayed hidden if you hadn’t taken a break from people. It’s one of the main reasons why writers and artists enjoy privacy, especially since working with people around is a known productivity killer.
16. Cheaper than Therapy
Camping is one of the most therapeutic breaks from daily life that you’ll find. All of us find ourselves in a funk from time to time, in need of a place to escape from the stress, responsibilities, social, political, family (fill in the blank) troubles that try to consume us. Maybe you feel overwhelmed, like there’s this mounting pressure inside of you that’s waiting to burst. Or perhaps you’ve fallen so deep into your routine that you feel depressed and bored.
If that’s the case, treat yourself to one of purest forms of natural therapy by packing your tent and sleeping bag and skipping town. Every part of your being will thank you for it.