Want to know what we really think of long-term camping?
Camping is something I would suggest to everyone. No matter whether you like the outdoors or not it’s a beautiful experience that almost anyone can enjoy. Long-term camping on the other hand, that’s another story, and a completely different experience to shorter camping trips. Whether you’re in a tent, a bivvy or a hammock, sleeping in a campsite or nestled up in the wilderness, spending weeks or months in a tent truly is an acquired taste, like Marmite. And, much like the mountains you may be camping on there are real highs and lows.
After many long backpacking trips and our current England to India cycle tour we’ve spent more than our fair share of time in a tent. There are some aspects which make you feel on top of the world and others which make you wonder why you ever left the comfort of 4 walls.
These are our honest pros and cons to long-term camping, make sure you read our final thoughts at the end, and if you’ve got any pros or cons of your own then share them in the comments at the bottom!
Pro – Long-term camping makes you calmer, more relaxed and generally happier
Sure you’ll come across angry dads in campsites, frustrated about forgetting the mallet on their family weekend camping trip, but ever come across angry long-term campers? There’s something about living minimally, surrounded by beauty and the sounds nature which gives you an untold happiness and a peaceful contentedness. It’s a feeling inner-city livers would pay a high price for but something completely free for us happy campers.
Con – You’re really at the mercy of the weather and conditions
It’s hard to keep a smile when you’re wet through, wind has snapped a tent pole and you realise you’ve placed your tent in a ravine which is slowly filling…
Bad weather sucks on any camping trip but if you’re long-term camping it really can be a pain in the arse. Getting soaked from long periods of rain when it’s not hot enough to dry means you’re going to be soggy for quite some time. Even if the rain does stop your tent and sleeping gear might not dry out for days. Ever experienced a heavy thunderstorm at the top of an exposed peak? That’s also pretty bloody scary.
Pro – Being constantly immersed in the outdoors helps you appreciate and respect our natural world
When you spend prolonged periods of time absorbed in nature it helps remind you how much we rely on our environment and how fragile it is. You learn to live in sync with your surroundings and it really encourages you to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
Con – Stiff necks!
These prolonged periods of time in a tent can leave you pretty stiff and achy depending on the size of your tent and the conditions. After a long day of hiking or cycling if it’s crappy weather you’re unlikely to stretch outside in the rain. Then you’re confined to a tent where you might not be able to sit up straight, cooking dinner with your neck arched. Over long periods of time you can end up feeling like you’ve been hit by a car.
Want to check out our camping packing list?
Pro – The sun becomes your alarm clock
Unless you’re camping in heavily wooded areas you learn to rise and fall with the sun – it’s incredible! You also learn that the most beautiful experience is watching the sun slowly rise when you’re in the wilderness.
On writing this I realise that having an alarm clock you can’t switch off may be a con to some people…
Con – You can’t always find great spots, sometimes they’re pretty shitty
If you’re on an expedition or moving around you might be changing location each day. Unfortunately you can’t always find the perfect camping spot – with mountain views, birds singing and a gentle stream – sometimes it’s quite the opposite. All too often we’ve ended up camping in back gardens, underneath bridges or in car parks. You don’t sleep great in busy car parks.
All the moving can also lead to you feeling pretty restless and unsettled. Our advice is to go slow and if you feel like you need it find a nice spot to stay put for a few days.
Pro – You realise you just need the bare essentials
Living out of a tent helps you realise you really need very little in life to be happy and healthy. You don’t need a camping packing list longer than the sun, you don’t need a fancy bed, a hot shower, a big TV or a high paying job. Through life we accumulate so much junk, in a tent there literally isn’t enough room so you just collect experiences and memories!
Con – Man do we miss a kitchen
Although it’s awesome living a minimal lifestyle, and you’ll be surprised what you can do with a camping stove, it’s still nice to have a kitchen. For us this is a big issue. There gets to a point when one-pot wonders, carb overloads and dehydrated foods loose their appeal. That’s when we want to spend a few hours in a good kitchen putting together a big ol’ feast. Then we’ll get back to the tent.
Pro – Time becomes irrelevant
Is it Monday or Tuesday? 1 pm, 4 pm, 1 am? Sure it matters when the sun rises and falls but time details make no difference if you’re long-term camping. Why does it matter if it’s 3.30 pm, 4.30 pm, weekend or weekday? Watches aren’t needed and there’s an incredibly liberating feeling of loosing track of the day. Every day is a Friday when you’re camping!
Con – Standards of cleanliness definitely slip
When you loose track of the days you’ll also probably loose track of the last time you washed. You’ll then likely have the debate with yourself and your camping buddies, how long is too long without a wash of some kind?
You also probably won’t realise if you stink or are covered in mud. You’ll then get a rude awakening when you use a toilet in a service station and realise all the other customers are holding their noses and looking at you like you’ve just swum through a sewer.
Pro – It’s time to unplug
Nowadays many people get so caught up in the digital world, living their lives through social media rather than face-to-face. Long-term camping is the perfect opportunity to unplug and focus on what’s right in front of you. It’s a very satisfying feeling just appreciating your surroundings without tweeting about it or taking pictures.
Con – Relying on solar chargers or roadside cafes for electricity can suck
At the same time electronics can be useful especially in the outdoors. You might need to charge your GPS, a mobile phone is good for safety and let’s face it, when you’re somewhere beautiful it’s likely you’ll want to take a picture or two. It can be a real pain in the arse relying on the sun for solar chargers or sitting outside petrol stations with a powerbank plugged into the wall. Damn they take a long time to charge.
Pro – Long-term camping teaches you many invaluable skills
If you spend a long time living in a tent you’ll very quickly learn the skills of patience, planning and team work. Trying to get camping, cooking and cleaning done in a small tent with more than one person requires communication and negotiating. There ain’t no I in team remember.
Life skills aside camping teaches you a whole host of skills which could save your life someday. Tying knots, making fires, finding shelter, reading the environment… all things you’ll do every day camping which are seriously useful survival skills.
Con – Setting up camp and packing it down becomes a real chore
If you’re regularly changing location then packing away and setting up can become really f$%^”!g tiring. If you’re planning a hard expedition, hiking mountains or cycling regions, half the effort comes in finding a camping spot, finding water, setting up camp, cooking a meal, and washing the cooking equipment. In the morning you have to do it all over again…
Pro – It’s cheap!
Who doesn’t like to save money, ey? Campsites are generally far cheaper than accommodation and wildcamping is free (unless you get caught and fined). You’re also going to be saving money on basic, quick cook ingredients you’ll likely buy. On top of that, unless you have internet signal and enjoy internet shopping in your tent, there’s very little to spend money on in the wilderness.
Con – Every now and again it’s nice to poo somewhere familiar
It might not be the same for you but from time to time I like to poo somewhere familiar, instead of looking like a vulnerable dog squatting in the woods. Occasionally it’s nice to have 4 walls around you, no rationing of the toilet roll and maybe even a sink to properly wash your hands.
Tent Life: the Honest Pros and Cons of Long-Term Camping
Some final thoughts…
There may be an equal amount of pros and cons in this article but the good points definitely outweigh bad. If you have the right camping essentials, properly prepare and pick the right locations then long-term camping can be a seriously life-changing experience. In a good way. But, if you’re reading this article then there’s a good chance you already know that.
If you’ve not had the chance then getting planning. Start with a small camping trip with friends and carefully build up the confidence and skills to plan a long-term trip, then you’ll see for yourself!