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Minimalist Camping: Embrace Simplicity in the Great Outdoors

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Have you ever noticed that camping becomes more of a hassle as time passes?

That’s because you’ve got more gear, more belongings, and a more labor-intensive maintenance method to upkeep those items.

It gets exhausting, and by the time you leave at the end of the weekend, you sit back and wonder if you ever actually relaxed. Minimalist campers know what’s going on.

Not only are you saving a ton of time with preparation and setting up your campsite, but you also save money, enjoy your outdoor time more, and endure far less stress than the way you’ve been carrying on.

You can share these ideals with your family and friends, and you can even teach your children about minimalist camping.

Let’s talk about the ideals that define minimalist camping and then proceed to imbue them into our own lives.

The Ideals of Minimalist Camping

1. It’s About the Essentials

essentials for camping

This falls under the category of minimalism, but it’s easy to hear a single fact about something and assume we know what it is.

When minimalist campers only pack the essentials, we mean that they have everything they need in a 22-liter backpack, and they’re not just staying for one night.

Even if you think you know what minimalist camping is, they actually take it to a whole new level.

If you’ve checked out our guide on packing your external frame backpack, then you know that you have to organize your belongings before you pack them.

A minimalist will look at each individual item and say, “Will I die without this?” If the answer is no, then it’s not going to work with you.

This applies to all the other ideals we’ve listed, so it’s crucial to understand it as a foundation. A true minimalist enjoys the feeling of being lightweight and fancy-free far more than having a minor convenience.

When you become a minimalist camper, you’re doing more than just taking less gear with you; you’re taking less stress with you.

2. Being Prepared for Worst-Case Scenarios

The main misconception is that minimalism means you’re not prepared for worst-case scenarios, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Minimalists know how to get more done with less and spend a lot of time weighing the different benefits of various multitools.

Minimalist campers are usually more knowledgeable about brand-specific gear, knives, and other tools because they want to have the highest quality items in their small kit.

Quality trumps quantity for a minimalist. That being said, they carry higher-quality headlamps with a bigger lumen output, sharper knives with better finishes, and more durable, multifaceted camping watches that serve a variety of purposes.

It involves dressing in a manner that minimizes the number of garments. Not often discussed, your clothing and its storage compartments also contribute to minimalism.

They use jackets with multiple pockets, concealed zipper slots on the inside, and knife sheaths in their boots to reduce the quantity of external bags they require.

The more you can comfortably keep on going without weighing yourself down, the more prepared you are for everything ahead of you.

3. Opting for Tarps Over Tents

tarp for camping

Some people may find it crucial, but minimalists prefer to stargaze under the light cover of a tarp over a tent.

The obvious benefits of this include lighter packing, but until you actually throw a tarp in your backpack instead of a tent, you have no idea how much lighter everything is.

Even when you go with an ultralight tent (which we’ll be talking about in just a minute), a tarp is still a lighter option.

The goal is rain protection and a bit of shade in the hotter months. You don’t want to go camping without some form of shelter, and most tarps only run between 1.5 lbs and 3.0 lbs, whereas a tent can easily triple those numbers and still feel snug.

This is one of the biggest and often most difficult adaptations to the minimalist mindset of camping, but it comes with major benefits when you actually throw the bag over your shoulders.

4. Ultralight is the Ultimate Buzzword

We recently discussed ultralight tents, but the term “ultralight” also refers to a wide range of minimalist camping gear.

Although it’s the one word they want to hear more than anything else, don’t let clever marketing tactics fool you.

There’s tons of inconsistent information available online, sometimes even on product listings, so it’s important to look at user reviews and get some first-hand information before siding with an ultralight version of anything.

The trick with these items is that brands don’t want to lose money, but they’re technically giving you thinner, lighter products, which takes some engineering to figure out.

Reasonably, you should assume a high-quality product that will stand the test of time, but it will require a bit of extra deep-diving on different products (or you can use the buying guides we’ve developed).

Ultralight items usually come in higher-grade materials than their heavier counterparts. For instance, nylon is one of the strongest materials you can get for an ultralight tent. It’s stronger than poly materials, even if they are the same grade.

You’ll commonly see grades of 60D–600D ripstop on different materials. The “D” stands for denier, and the higher the rating, the more durable the ultralight item will be. This applies to tents, jackets, sleeping bags, backpacks, and more.

5. Water Filters Trump Bottled Drinks

water filters for camping

If you have a highly rated portable water filtration system, then you don’t have to worry about bringing heavyweight water bottles with you.

If you’re intaking the daily recommended amount of 64 oz (half-gallon) of water every single day, you’ll likely have to double that when you factor in the efforts of hiking, lugging your backpack, setting up your tent, and everything else associated with your campsite.

To put it in perspective, if you take two separate one-gallon water jugs with you for a two-day trip, assuming that you have one per day, you’re carrying an extra 16 lbs of weight.

Compare that to a 5 oz LifeStraw system or even a 4 lb gravity-fed filter system, and the difference is staggering. Not only that, but minimalists, by nature, don’t like to be wasteful.

They will take every approach possible to prevent wasting materials, so the thought of all those plastic bottles and jugs is a real turn-off for them.

Water filters last for thousands of gallons of water and produce a microscopic amount of landfill waste compared to disposable containers.

6. Multi Tools Are a Minimalist’s Best Friend

This is a brief explanation, but the concept of minimalist camping involves fitting as many functions into as few high-quality tools as possible.

The more function your Swiss Army knife has, the better, but don’t be jaded: quality matters here more than anything else.

Opting for a low-end multitool means that if it breaks on you during use, you’re not just down one tool; you’re down half a dozen or more.

They’re the ultimate accessory; just be careful what you’re buying.

7. Natural Light Over Manufactured Light

sunlight while camping

Propane lanterns are old-school, but not necessarily a good thing.

Then you move on to LED lanterns with solar panels on top, but even then, there’s still an additional weight.

Apart from the tactical flashlight or headlamp they keep in their survival EDC kit, most minimalists prefer to live by moonlight and the glow of the campfire instead of lugging around bulky, heavy lamps.

8. Live Off the Land When Possible

Camping becomes less and less authentic when you only bring canned or dried food, bottled water, and Duraflame logs from the convenience store on the campground’s outskirts.

Living off the land is a minimalist ideal for multiple reasons, but primarily, you’re not going to lug a bunch of extra supplies with you into the woods.

Less carry weight coming in means a faster campsite setup time and relatively zero fatigue when you drop your bag down. Campsites that charge a daily fee will impose certain restrictions.

It depends on the national park or private campground, but dispersed camping offers fewer restrictions when it comes to gathering food and kindles, among other outdoor resources. For example, the Fallen Leaf Lake campground has fire restrictions.

Minimalists let go of everything they can, everything that doesn’t immediately benefit them or aid them in the long-term game, and with those ideals in mind, they prefer dispersed camping over the restrictions of campgrounds.

9. Function And Survivability

multi tool for camping

Campgrounds provide amenities and activities, taking the fun out of camping for minimalists.

Living off the land, catching your own fish, gathering your own firewood, and setting up a true camp—all of the above—is what they live for.

However, when it comes to gear, minimalism is all about being picky and doing your homework. A minimalist camper will choose function over comfort every single time.

We should prioritize tarps over tents and sleeping pads over sleeping bags, just as we’ve previously discussed in this guide.

When packing up, ask yourself these questions to determine if you’re meeting the criteria for minimalism or if you need to eliminate even more unnecessary items.

Can You be a Minimalist on a Campground?

Campgrounds present some issues. Minimalists, as we mentioned before, prefer to live off the land as much as possible.

They prefer not to rely on nearby supermarkets and convenience shops, and, as you might imagine, they don’t particularly care for daily amenity charges.

One major driving force of being a minimalist in anything you do is saving money while simultaneously having everything you need.

Minimalism is about being nomadic, and without putting a label on them, you’ll find that the majority of minimalists leave their campground in pristine condition when they depart, leaving no trace at all.

Campgrounds are characterized by RV exhaust, noise pollution during the summer months, and generally, people who disregard littering rules, leaving the place looking chaotic.

You can be a minimalist at a campground, but it’s not the ideal circumstance.


Picking the right gear is hard, but we make it a little bit easier.

It depends on what you need, but we’re willing to bet that we’ve already compiled what you’re looking for into one of our many guides.

Find excellent gear to accompany you on your next trek into the woods, and remember to pack light.