Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 Sep

Why Camping Is So Great: The Benefits of Spending Time in the Great Outdoors

I’ve always loved to camp. From my early days as a kid growing up in Maine (where it seemed like everyone camped), to my death-defying adventures with Outward Bound in the wilds of New England as a teen, to my current setup running a business in the Malibu hills, I’ve been a camper. Even when I’d dedicated my life to endurance training and had little time for anything else, I always made it a point to get away to the woods with the family for a few nights whenever I could. The reasoning was basic: it was relaxing, enjoyable, decompressing, and just plain fun. And that’s why most people camp. It just feels right, doesn’t it?

But as is always the case, there’s more to it. Things that feel right (or taste right) often have distinctly positive physiological effects. So, why is camping so great? Why, even today, do campsites at Lake Tahoe or Yosemite disappear upon release faster than Taylor Swift concert seats? If you’re a skeptic of camping, be sure to read on. I’m sure I’ll win over some of you by the end.

It’s a rapid departure from your regular life without costing a fortune.

It’d be great if everyone could travel the world every time they had a little PTO saved up. But for most folks, going abroad, or even to another city in their home country, is cost-prohibitive. There’s the plane ticket. There’s the passport. There’s the lodging, the meals, the attractions, the ever-presence of locals whose entire livelihood depends on getting you to spend money. If you can swing it (and with smart planning, most people actually can), world travel is awesome and helpful and invigorating. But it can be just as world-changing to drive a few hours out of the city to a place where you can lay your tent down, start a campfire, and gaze up at the universe. And a whole lot less expensive.

It’s complete immersion in green space.

Remember that big post I wrote on the many benefits of spending time in or near green spaces (forests, parks, nature in general)? Yeah. Go review that and then realize that camping is living in those green spaces. As such, the benefits will be magnified.

It can improve your sex life.

Sex is extremely Primal (more so than grass-fed beef, even), and if we’re in a position to have it with a willing partner for whom we care, we should get as much as we both want. It’s a healthy, enjoyable habit. Unfortunately, we’ve managed to muck it up with cultural constructs of shame and inhibition and confusion that leave most people frustrated and dissatisfied with their sex lives. Sex is sacred, but many of us don’t get enough. One potential way to improve is to go camping with your partner. In one study, 500 couples from the UK rated their sex life before and after a three night camping trip. Before the trip, 47% were having sex once a month, 28% once a week, 23% once a year, and 2% every day. During the trip, most of the couples improved their sex lives, with over half reporting having sex “a lot more often” and 37% doubling their sex intake. As to the causes, 45% reported fewer distractions, 37% reported fewer worries, 9% said it was the increased physical proximity, 7% the earlier bedtime, and for 2% of the couples, just “being in the outdoors” was enough to increase friskiness.

It interrupts hyperconnectivity.

We cycle through apps and sites on an endless loop, from Twitter to Facebook to Reddit to email to HuffPo to nutrition message boards to MDA and back to Twitter, switching to a new one after consuming the last one’s content until we arrive back where we started, teeming with fresh updates. It doesn’t end. The stream of information is always there, buzzing at your hip, promising respite from the boredom of your mind. Camping is a nice way to force that interruption because, well, Verizon/T-mobile/etc haven’t yet found it productive to beam their signals that far into the wilderness. If you insist on bringing the phone along (because let’s face it, you will), take a Bluetooth speaker too and use it to play music. Don’t fritter away time staring at the screen hoping for a 4G signal that never arrives. Don’t be the guy climbing trees just to get a bar (be the guy who climbs trees just to climb trees). Load up some tunes beforehand and maybe take a few pictures — nothing else. You can also track your step count on all those hikes you’ll be taking, since most phones these days can do that on airplane mode.

When you remove the possibility of connectivity, you realize that being with yourself in the moment isn’t so scary.

It can be particularly restorative for cancer survivors.

A recent review of the evidence found that exposure to nature has many benefits for cancer survivors. It can enhance the quality of life for breast cancer survivors, increase the ability of survivors to concentrate their attention (attentional fatigue is common in this group), provide a source of self-esteem and belonging for children and adolescent cancer survivors, and reduce state-anxiety (with the “state” being “recent survivor of cancer”). Although the review wasn’t centered specifically on camping, camping is the most user-friendly way to immerse oneself in nature for an extended period of time and the results should apply here.

It’s a short-cut to mindfulness.

If you’re anything like me, formal meditation doesn’t work. I can sometimes do guided meditations, but even then sitting still gets tough. And quite often I’ll just fall asleep, which is fine but not the point. Many people find that “forced” meditation works far better than free meditation, where instead of sitting and paying attention to breath or a mantra or whatever, you do something that necessitates mindfulness. To me and millions of others, camping is one such thing. When you camp, you have to be there. I already mentioned the lack of connectivity to social media and the phone. That’s a big reason it helps center the awareness. But there’s also the stillness of the outdoors. You’re not contending with car horns or alarms and that couple fighting next door and cat fights at night and the din of traffic and general urbanity. You’re hearing the buzz of insects, the song of a bird, the crackle of the fire. These are qualitatively different sounds. Rather than interrupt, they raise awareness. They don’t intrude, they enrapture. They bring attention to the present moment. And when night falls and you all sit around that circle, the campfire becomes your entire world.

It enforces a healthy bed time.

How many of you stay up late despite reading all the studies and all the posts that stress the utter importance of a good night’s sleep? Heck, I write the things and I still stay up too late sometimes. Camping takes care of that for you by resetting your circadian rhythm.

It’s going back home.

Leaving concrete and cell phone towers and suburbs and traffic-choked roads and jobs behind to hang out in the woods for a few days isn’t just eliminating a source of stress; it’s returning to our ancestral ecosystem. And once you get over the bugs and the dust, and you get your tent set up and figure out a way to live with the mosquitoes, it really does feel like home.

How to do it right:

  • Cook good food. Don’t rely on freeze dried garbage or pop tarts (or the gluten-free equivalent, which I’m sure exists). Take the time to prep some great food, go shopping, and procure some solid cookware that you’re willing to get a little dirty and banged up. You can do some surprisingly gourmet cooking over a fire. Cast iron is your friend here.
  • Bring plenty of firewood. You gotta have that fire raging, or at least moderately so. Don’t run out. And you need enough firewood for breakfast.
  • Don’t bring LED lamps. You’re camping to escape all the artificial light we bathe ourselves in, so don’t ruin things by turning on the purest white LED once darkness falls. Stick to fire for your light.
  • Do at least two nights, but preferably three or more. One night of camping is a nice getaway, particularly if that’s all you can do. But to really get the camping effect, make it a two- or three-nighter. And if you really want to reset everything, make it a full week.

That’s about it. The rest of it boils down to gathering some friends, making the reservation (or finding a place that’s first come, first served), and just doing it. So go do it.

How do you like to camp? Where do you like to camp? If you haven’t already camped, are you going to? Thanks for reading.

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I love this in theory, I really do. But for me camping has become unenjoyable. I simply do not get good rest when I camp. The last camping I did was hellish because of having to get up from laying in a tent, unzip the tent, crawl out, find somewhere to pee, crawling back in, again annoying sound of zipping up. Then trying to get comfortable again, just starting to fall asleep after a long period of unfamiliar sounds, then having to pee again. I have a hard enough time sleeping in a house with my mid-forties constant pee need (common amongst women). I have come to the realization that I am probably not going to enjoy camping anymore. I’m looking into a small camper or just staying at a lodge from now on, and enjoying day hikes. The good sleep is too important.

    Julie wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • Julie, do I ever hear you on that one. I like your idea of the small camper … if we’re talking car camping, it’s not that different, except for transporting your own potty!

      MacDeb wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • You don’t need to sleep in a tent to get almost all of the benefits. I sleep in the fully carpeted canopy (cap) on the back of my truck at least 40 nights a year – I’m warm, dry, and when my wife is with me she doesn’t have to think about bears.

      If female bathroom breaks are an issue then perhaps a small camper or travel trailer is in order. Good sleep, easy packing, you can still cook outdoors, have a fire, listen to and watch nature.

      It’s much easier for men. I just take an empty plastic 2L bottle into the back of the truck…just make sure it’s well marked!

      bcflyfisher wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • I don’t like to come out of my tent before I’m ready to leave it for the day, so I have a camping toilet (a 5-gallon bucket with a plastic toilet seat intended for a standard bucket). I fill it with Swheat Scoop biodegradable cat litter and use it at night. It is so nice and makes midnight bathroom breaks a non-issue.

      Chrystie wrote on September 19th, 2015
    • My husband and I purchased a bucket potty….that has been the best investment ever for the night time pee. :) :)

      D. Gibbs wrote on December 4th, 2015
    • I hear ya – after years of loving camping I got burned with two camping trips in a row that were just horrible. One where we went from 100 degree temps in August with a freak hail storm that dropped the temp 40 degrees and ripped the fly on our tent, and the 2nd, where we got soaked for 3 days straight.
      I have always loved camping but have not gone in 5 years, now. Sold all of my equipment.
      Now, I am absolutely craving it…so we are starting slow. Renting a yurt in two weeks for a couple of nights and am looking to start camping about once a month.
      I miss it.

      Jeanne wrote on June 18th, 2016
  2. I grew up camping nearly every weekend with my Dad and brother and have such amazing memories from it.

    Erica wrote on September 10th, 2015
  3. Just back from US vacation…had to visit REI…had to buy a new camping mat…had to get the extra thick (3.5″) super-sized version…now I want to go camping to try it out…read Mark’s post…re-read the 3rd benefit a few times…now I REALLY want to go camping.

    Muffin The Moose wrote on September 10th, 2015
  4. I learned a long time ago that a good night sleep was essential if I was going to have a good time camping. If I am taking a group of Scouts camping, I bring a lightweight thermarest cot….and earplugs…the frist night they are so excited that they chatter away….by the second night they crash to sleep. If i am camping in a wooded area, I like a Hennesey Hammock…a tent in the air that gently rocks me to sleep, and is gentle on my back

    Dawn from the Frozen North wrote on September 10th, 2015
  5. Mindfulness is a shortcut to mindfulness.

    Rick wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • :-)

      Tom B-D wrote on September 10th, 2015
  6. Timely post. We just came back from a backpacking trip with the kids (8 and 10) in Yosemite. It was amazing! It was a lot of hiking with packs for the kids but at the end they really enjoyed it. I really like the freedom that you get. No mirror, no make-up, no washing (!), who cares if you are just going to see the bears. I had made a chili for one night that I had dehydrated, it was so delicious, everything tastes good after a day of hiking. We had brought dried fruit, nuts, dehydrated veggies, cheese, salami and of course some oatmeal for the mornings. As for comfort situation, I just got this Thermarest from REI with 1.5′ thickness, I swear it was more comfortable than my bed. I loved the fact that I was going to bed at 8 when it was getting dark. Although we brought flashlights for middle of the night outings…The stars were also amazing. Try it!

    Isabelle N wrote on September 10th, 2015
  7. Is there a way to know in advance whether campgrounds (common in the Midwest, without the gigantic California parks) will be quiet? I dread the idea of going for a quiet commune with Nature, only to be disturbed by a next-door camper with a generator and television…

    Tom B-D wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • The best thing to do is to call ahead.

      LindaG wrote on September 11th, 2015
  8. I find most walk-in sites the quiet ones. My biggest issue has become sleeping. I have several spinal challenges: arthritis of the spine, flattened discs, straight cervical, bone spurs, scoliosis. . . . I love sitting on the ground and even laying on it. But even with a pad after a few hours my back muscles seize up and it can take weeks before they fully recover. Any ideas would be much appreciated.

    Kris K wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • Portable air matress. Not exactly primal, but coleman makes one with a battery operated air pump specifically designed for camping. (We all ordered them for our cots when were deployed).

      Myles wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • Several foam pads. The older I get the more I want under me. Plus, if it’s a cold time (here in Northwest Oregon that’s most year) I take along an (shhh, don’t tell anyone) electric blanket to warm up the sleeping bag. We get a tent site with electrical hook ups. I get hypothermia easily so I have to watch out I don’t slip into it by accident as I sleep.

      So bottom line, more padding under you is my idea, along wtih enough covers to keep your muscles warm (and a warm body to sleep with of course).

      2Rae wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • Try a foldable cot. It costs about $40.00 and folds up like a chair. Awesome to set up around the campfire to view the stars or share with others like a couch. Easy to move into a tent later to sleep. It’s my favorite camping investment.

      Amy wrote on September 11th, 2015
      • Thanks for the great ideas! I might try some of these in the back yard and is they work figure out a way to carry extra supplies while camping. Thanks again :-)

        Kris K wrote on September 13th, 2015
    • Try a hammock for sleeping. The natural curvature may be more comfortable than sleeping on the hard ground. I’ve been hammock camping for 7 years and only sleep on the ground when I must. I have quite a bit of arthritis in my spine as well and find a hammock more comfortable than my expensive bed at home.
      Buy a cheap one or borrow a hammock until you find out if it works for you. This might be a good start:

      Kurt Papke wrote on September 16th, 2015
      • Great idea! I’ll look into covers for rain and mosquitoes with a hammock. This could actually work. Thanks again.

        Kris K wrote on September 17th, 2015
  9. Mark: You left something out in the “How to do it right” segment. Never go camping without ample supply of TP. I would hate for someone to end up having to use a pine cone or poison ivy to wipe with.

    Myles wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • TP – AKA: Mountain Money!!!!

      When you need it, it’s as good as “gold”…… and more useful out there in the sticks.

      2Rae wrote on September 10th, 2015
  10. I’m fortunate enough to spend several weeks per year camping. As a coach/teacher working in a highly stressful environment takes its toll. The sounds of the kids, the stress of winning and losing, the confinement to the school all gradually sap open mindedness and the ability to daydream, and fully relax. When the school year is over and my summer break comes I go to the mountains for 3 weeks. Over the course of those 3 weeks its a total rebuilding process. Sanity returns, I always lose weight, I reconnect with plants, animals and nature. I usually don’t even take the time to see the stars at night during the school year because my schedule is so full. When i hit Colorado its like a tremendous weight has been lifted and my body returns to a happy state. I highly recommend feeling the morning air, seeing the sunset, smelling a fire burn, and smelling food being cooked outside. To me its the total package of life! Lastly, it doesn’t have to be strictly done in a tent. Buy a camper and get away.

    John wrote on September 10th, 2015
  11. I’m a lifelong backpacker in our national parks and forests, but at age 57 I prefer having a bed. Recently I stayed in a lakeside cabin that was accessed by a 3 mile hiking trail off a dirt road. Very quiet and peaceful!

    Peter wrote on September 10th, 2015
  12. I’m fortunate enough to have a National Forest just a few miles from my home, and even better, there’s a small wilderness area that’s part of the park. The wilderness area is free to camp, but the catch is that you park at the edge and have to hike all your gear in to a designated camp site. I’ve spent many a weekend getaway out there, usually by myself because most people are too lazy to carry their gear more than 20 feet from their car. Other than the very occasional airplane going over or a particularly obnoxious motorcyclist screaming down the nearest road, it’s nothing but natural sounds. Heaven.

    Ted wrote on September 10th, 2015
  13. totally agree.
    Just spent 8 days camping in Glacier Nat’l park. Slept better there than at home.
    Back to basics. Get up, enjoy the day, go to sleep. Repeat.
    Said Hi to a bear!
    I try to get a little of that from hiking a local trail as much as possible.

    Larry wrote on September 10th, 2015
  14. Timely article… I’m leaving for a 5-day backpacking trip next week and I can’t wait. It’s definitely a great way to unplug and recharge. Any thoughts on tick prevention? Has anyone had success with natural treatments, essential oils, etc… Seems like DEET isn’t exactly “primal”.

    bodhiC wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • Just be vigilant about doing tick checks. I spend a lot of time in the woods for work and for personal recreation. I’ve had many deer tick on me over the years and have never had Lyme’s Disease. It’s helpful if you have someone with you to check the spots you can’t see. I never use bug spray or deet products and have never had a problem.

      Justin wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • Garlic pills. Or lots of garlic

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • I’ve heard through the grapevine that bugs will be less voracious of your blood if you’ve been eating primal for a while. Combined with the usual recommendations about perfume and clothes, you should be good to go!

      Coco wrote on September 11th, 2015
    • Try using some tea tree oil. I use the pure stuff. I run some through my hair & dab some around on uncovered areas.
      I would still do a tick check at the end of the day. I wouldn’t put a guarantee on any sprays even the toxic chemical ones. You could probably take a fine comb too & brush your hair just in case you get one tangled in your hair that wasn’t repelled.
      And shake your clothes out.

      Ben wrote on September 12th, 2015
    • Try using Tea Tree Oil. I use the pure stuff. I run some through my hair & dab some around on uncovered areas.
      Not my face though as the fumes make your eyes water.
      Just around your neck, arms, legs..
      I don’t think any sprays are a guarantee either not even DEET so I would always do a tick check.
      Other than that I would suggest a fine comb in case you get the odd tick that wasn’t repelled caught up in your hair & shake out the clothes you wore that day.
      Happy camping!

      Ben wrote on September 12th, 2015
    • Sorry for the double post! I put my email in wrong & didn’t think my message would show.

      Ben wrote on September 12th, 2015
  15. A few years back several long time friends and I flew to Vancouver British Columbia to canoe the Bowron Lakes Provincial Park. The trip requires canoing for ~seven days including portaging canoes between lakes. It was an amazing experience, with sightings of moose, black bear and bald eagle. Best of all it was a workout every day paddling 8-10 hours, breaking camp and setting camp at a new location every night. We would bbq, play cribbage, laugh and nip the whiskey bottle then do it all over again the next day after a jump in the lake for a morning shower. Best of all with no connectivity I had no idea what day or time it was. Talk about a trip – living off the grid was quite enlightening!

    Link attached for those interested.

    Whitney wrote on September 10th, 2015
  16. I remember the very first week of vacation Hubby and I ever took–a camping trip to Vancouver, BC. When I went back to work the following week, I noticed that carpet under my feet felt weird after spending a week in the greenest grass I’d ever seen in my life.

    Wenchypoo wrote on September 10th, 2015
  17. So very true; it’s also nice to see that you (Mark) aren’t shy to mention the word sex. And what a nicer place for love making then in the wilderness :-)

    In spit of heading into a big holiday, it’s way too hot and actually unhealthy (the result of a big sand storm) to go camping right now; but a month or so from now would be just right….so long

    Time Traveler wrote on September 10th, 2015
  18. My husband and I did exactly this a month ago, to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We spent two nights. We took NO electronics with us. We camped by a river with very few other campers nearby. There were no facilities except an outhouse nearby, which was maintained every 24 hours. We were fortunate to have a small camper van. Like you, I have a hard time meditating so I took verses from the Tao Te Ching to read, just to get me going. OMG, I had life changing aha moments! My spiritual awareness has risen—I will never be the same! I would like to make this a yearly event! As for food, we went very simply. I didn’t want to be a cooking slave, so it was almost a fast. We brought hot dogs to roast, cheese, almond butter, apples, trail mix. paleo bread, Mark’s mayo, of course. We ate when we were hungry.

    Love, Anita from Coeur d’Alene

    Anita Warren wrote on September 10th, 2015
  19. Just got back from a 3 day backpacking trip. It was so nice to have no cell service and to unplug for a few days. Wish I could have stayed out there longer! I think you or a guest should do a primal backpacking food blog post. You can get by with some veggies/meats for a 2 or 3 day back country trip but any longer your list of options shrink unless you want to live off of beef jerky or canned tuna & salmon.

    Justin wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • Checkout Paleo Meals to Go. I’m taking a few of these with me in addition to home made jerky, trail mix, tuna, etc…

      bodhiC wrote on September 10th, 2015
      • Thanks for the suggestion, but dang those aren’t cheap.

        Myles wrote on September 11th, 2015
  20. I love this! I am leaving with my husband and dog this weekend for a 5 night camping trip to Michigan’s upper peninsula. We have a small folding camper (Aliner) that has most of the comforts of home, including a toilet. We average about 30 nights a year in our camper. It holds most of the supplies we need for a trip, so we only have to pack food and clothes and go. It might not exactly be “roughing it”, but as soon as we set that little camper up, no matter where we are, I can immediately feel any stress and tension melting away. Whether it’s backpacking or going down the road in a giant 5th wheel, you just have to find what works best for you to get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

    Amy F. wrote on September 10th, 2015
    • What a great post and response! I enjoy the less chaotic times of camping such as our upcoming weekend. It’s also a great way to have a cost-effective way to see more places around the country. For instance, we made our way to the Grand Canyon over the course of 4 relaxing days, stayed there for a few nights, then made our way back. It really helps to remove a lot of the stress from a day of driving to end up at a campsite! :)

      Gregg F. wrote on September 10th, 2015
  21. Great article but I’m not so keen on the Bluetooth suggestion. Though I’d love to get back into backpacking at some point, currently I have to car camp and almost nothing is more annoying than the “neighbors” blasting their preferred tunes – or even worse, their TV. If I am lucky enough to find a less crowded campground or get to go off season, I want to hear rushing water, birds, wind in the trees and other natural sounds. Not music that I can play at home or in the car anytime. That’s just my personal preference though. Based on my experience a lot of people like to play music while camping.

    Keri B wrote on September 10th, 2015
  22. I find campgrounds here in California to be crowded noisy and stressful. Some times there are squatters or people who seem to be full time campers. If I can’t find a place off the beaten track, I prefer to sleep in a tent in my own backyard. I can still ditch the electronics, have a fire, cook outside and leave on the pool pump for the sound of cascading water if necessary. One other alternative is boat camping. My most memorable experiences are tent camping on a island or a beach that is only accessible by water. All you need is a canoe and a sense of adventure. If you have access to a larger boat, spending the night on the open sea or on the hook at a remote anchorage is a true escape from modern life. Harvest your meals from the sea and make it a truly primal experience.

    Jack Lea Mason wrote on September 10th, 2015
  23. Oh Mark, this is just cruel. The leaves are falling off the trees in Manitoba and the forecast for tonight is…FROST! Save the camping posts for May, ok? 😉 (DARN CALIFORNIANS!)

    Jennifer wrote on September 10th, 2015
  24. Better yet, why not a post about winter camping? -13F, anyone? I’m sort of joking but I will leave it to you to find a way!!!

    Jennifer wrote on September 10th, 2015
  25. Just emailed this to my daughter, who is going on a camping trip with her school next month. (I took out the paragraph about the sex!)

    Monikat wrote on September 10th, 2015
  26. Growing up in Australia, wilderness camping was part of our education. We’d be sent out in small groups of four or five with a map and a compass and provisions, and have to fend for ourselves for a couple of nights. The Camp Leader was very clear about the TP issue mentioned in the comments above. ‘If my dog rolls in any of your s..t, you will know about it.’ So we learnt the lesson of digging a hole and burying it. To this day, I find unburied human waste with dots of toilet paper held by a stone to be abhorent. Especially when my dog rolls in it.

    Angie wrote on September 10th, 2015
  27. “camping is living in those green spaces.”. Exactly. I went camping in a tree house for a week this summer. Best experience ever.

    Steven wrote on September 11th, 2015
  28. I left the corporate world 10 years ago to save my life, and now spend most of my time living in the mountains of Patagonia, at the end of the world. For the exact reasons you mention. It’s become something of a “Lifetime Camping” adventure. Now that I have my health and my life back, I’m happy to share the word.

    Thanks for keeping it real, Mark!

    Memo Stephens

    Memo Stephens wrote on September 11th, 2015
  29. I’m a lifelong camper. My parents camped all over the country before we were born and continued to camp my entire childhood. We camped around 60 days a year starting in March and ending in October. I try very hard to get out regularly and camp and during the winter months I get itchy to go back out camping. My kids enjoy camping as well. I always lose weight during camping season too, mainly because I’m so busy all the time. Camping and hiking help me keep my mental equilibrium and recharges my batteries. I had a period of high stress in my life for several years and my weekend camping trips helped keep me on an even keel and get through those times.

    Ingvildr wrote on September 11th, 2015
  30. Oh, I love this! I have lived in six different countries and travelled around the world, but I tell everyone that nothing pleases my soul like our Ontario lakes and woods. Canoeing into the wilderness , setting up a tent on our own little island, cooking over a fire, swinging in a hammock with a view of the sunrise over the lake, hearing the loons….it’s HEAVEN! Camping takes a lot of planning, and canoe trips can be hard work, but it’s so mentally restorative.
    Mark, and anyone else interested, have you heard of Bill Mason? Please Google his films, particularly ‘Song of the Paddle’…a master canoer and artist doing wilderness camping and canoeing long before it was trendy. You can find all his films on

    I see seniors hiking, canoeing and camping in tents, and sleeping only on thin thermarests; I ask my husband to help me make sure we don’t give in to cushier sleeping pads or mattresses while camping. I desperately want to be one of those seniors in a few decades.

    Camping – for me, it’s the ultimate.

    Grace wrote on September 11th, 2015
  31. Glad to know it doesn’t have to be tent camping to reap the behefits! My husband and I are avid pickup campers. We downsized from a large bus and I’m HOOKED! It’s the only place I can really relax. I don’t think I would rest easy in a tent with all the PA bears lol!

    Happy camper wrote on September 14th, 2015
  32. My husband and I used to backpack throughout New England. It was wonderful! Not only the challenges and thrills of proving your capability in the wild, but also the increased appreciation of the gifts of civilization when you returned!

    Marge wrote on September 15th, 2015
  33. Great article. There are two other angles that make camping (or even better, backcountry travel on foot) so rewarding for me.

    1. Many years ago I noticed I came back from camping/backpacking trips so much happier, and so many of my happiest days were in the wilderness. Then recently I happened upon studies linking cold showers to battling depression…and recalled all those dips in icy mountain lakes and streams after long hikes. The outdoors force us out of comfort zones. Now I only take cold showers, (almost) 365 days a year.

    2. Forced frugality – washing all the dishes from dinner with 1 cup of water you had to filter yourself and haul from the lake/creek really teaches you how to pay attention. Starting a fire with limited resources, same thing. I find the scarcity and at times, danger of screwing up, to really help quiet and focus the mind.

    Keep up the great work.

    Karl Etzel wrote on September 23rd, 2015

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