When was the last time you threw a tent in the car and hit the road for a night under the stars?
Though it may sound daunting, camping isn’t nearly as difficult as you may think. The biggest misunderstanding seems to be the notion that unrolling a sleeping bag is reserved for us van-life-aspiring, outdoorsy folk; and the mere thought of camping implies hours of prep work, expensive gear, and an inevitable decline in Instagram-worthy hair and hygiene. Most of this is simply untrue (and a hairbrush won’t add much bulk to your bag if you fear the latter). What is true, however, is that the benefits of sleeping outside far outweigh any awkward, initial attempts to stake your tent into the ground. Trust me, just one night at a nearby campground will be enough to press the long-forgotten reset button and restore your inherent state of wonderment for this vast world.
To inspire you to hit the road, here are five tricks I’ve learned for accessible, overnight camping:
1| Location, Location, Location.
Chances are there is a campground quite close to your house… and most likely you’ve never even stayed there! For my last birthday, I camped at a site only twenty minutes away. It was a busy week, but I wanted to wake up and start my new year from the top of a mountain (albeit, a small one). More often than not, camping seems like the last thing to try and finagle into your hectic schedule. However, realizing you can leave your house at three in the afternoon and get home by ten the next morning blows any lame excuse right out of the water.
2| Organization is key: Keep all of your camping gear in the same spot.
When it comes to any escape, we all know packing and unpacking takes up the most amount of time. Simplify this step by keeping items such as your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, cooler, Jetboil, backpack, and headlamp (if you aren’t a super nerd like me and use it for casual reading on a regular basis) in one area. Packing the car suddenly becomes a quick sweep of the garage or closet, and then merely adding clothing and food.
3| When packing meals, aim for Sunday picnic versus Iron Chef.
Meal prepping can be as simple as picking up sandwiches on the drive, followed by a breakfast of overnight oats in a mason jar. The joy of having a vehicle nearby (versus a planning-intensive, sans-car, backpacking trip) is that food can be prepped beforehand. That way it is ready to eat, there is no cooking mess, and cleanup is as easy as putting your reusable containers back in your car.
Whether I am embarking on an overnight trip or a few-day excursion, my go-to meals include simple, high-protein snacks and nutrient dense foods. These morsels always make it into the car: pre-made smoothies packed individually in jars, hard-boiled eggs, almonds, and smoked salmon. From there, fruit/nut bars, leftovers, a bit of chocolate, and wine (don’t forget the opener!) get tossed in the cooler. This is not the time to starve yourself- treat yourself! It is your time to unwind, so make sure your snacks and meals reflect this.
4| Don’t forget to pack the F-U-N.
Whether it’s s’mores, magazines, or card games that make you smile, pack accordingly. Headlamps are an asset to read long after the campfire is out. A lantern and a deck of cards add nostalgia and cheer to the air out there. Maybe Mad Libs, a good book, or an empty journal seems appropriate to roam with you. Personally, a yoga mat always finds its way into my trunk. There is no better place to reconnect with my yoga and meditation practice than in nature. Somehow, it’s easier to find my source in the source. Whatever you are passionate about, bring it along for the ride. This is about you.
5| Mother [Nature] knows best.
At the end of the day, when the tent is pitched and the stars have begun to shine, take note of your surroundings. Whether you are “roughing it” on day three, or feeling pretty fly, recently showered with your local deli’s “sandwich of the day” in-hand, take a moment of gratitude for the outdoors. Our nine-to-five hamster wheel can disconnect us from our environment faster than we can say autopilot. Putting feet in wet soil, howling at the moon, or quietly sipping a hot beverage under the stars reminds us of the magic our lovely, blue planet holds. She spins to her own beat, in an infinite night sky, twirling around its magnificent campfire. Let us treasure her, learn from her, honor her, and protect her.