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What is Minimalist Camping?

Michael aka Mac

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Michael aka Mac

You have probably heard people talk about Minimalist Camping and are right now wondering what does that entail.  Well the fact is the answer to that depends on who you ask. On my adventures both here across the USA and abroad in Europe & Mexico, I have spoken to a variety of minimalist campers.  The only thing that they all shared in common was the desire to carry less weight and gear, and to have the ability to pack up and bug out as fast as possible.

Minimalist Camping is by definition camping while carrying less weight/gear.  What one brings with them on the other hand will vary from person to person.  Bare minimalist camping is just bringing the bare necessities on your trip.  Again,  that is relative to the person you are asking. To me a Bare Minimalist Camper will have the following gear

The Ten Basic Essentials to Bare Minimalist Camping

  • Tarp or Rainfly
  • Sleeping bag or wool quilt
  • Canteen (metal) w/cup & lid and cooking frame
  • Knife and, and or multitool
  • Cordage 550 lb. or 750 lb. Mil Spec paracord
  • Clothing: base layer, insulating layer, outer shell, rainproof poncho, Hat, Sunglasses (nothing cotton, only material that wicks moisture)
  • Fire starting device 
  • Lawn Size Garbage bag or waterproof Bivy sac ( or both)
  • Headlamp
  • 1st aid kit

Now, as you may have noticed, the above list  has no mention of a tent, sleeping pad, stove, mess kit, utensils, etc.  But yet the above list for an experienced outdoorsman is more then enough to go on a camping trip. 

The tarp/rainfly with the addition of some cordage becomes your shelter.  The lawn sized garbage bag or Bivy Sac becomes your sleeping pad/mattress by adding dry leaves, pine needles, dry grass, etc.  into the bag.

Your metal Canteen setup is your water storage, water purification system (boil water in canteen and canteen cup), the Canteen cup is your soup pot, both of which can be cooked over the cooking frame. Or to boil water in canteen while cooking in canteen cup, the Canteen could be place over a fire pit to boil water.

The multitool, I prefer the Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champion model,  has your knives, pliers, tweezers, scissors, magnifying glass, nail file, bottle & can opener, cork screw, wood saw, and of course, toothpick.  With this single multipurpose tool, you have your food prep, fire making, self grooming/hygiene, wood procurement, and gear repair abilities all at your fingertips.

As  I just mentioned, the cordage will be used to build the foundation of your tarp shelter, but it can also be used for other purposes.  To make a hammock chair or bed,  for fishing line, for snare traps, as tinder, or as a wick. It can be used for first aid: an arm sling, tourniquet, & leg splint.

So Minimalist Camping means no tent nor stove nor mattress pad nor mess kit then? Well, no, the term minimalist simply refers to less. Many Minimalist campers do indeed use a tent, just a ultralightweight one. Some will use mattress pads, others stoves and mess kits. Realize the list above is for Bare Minimalist Camping, the bare minimum in short.  

Often those that have switched to a more minimalist camping approach have shed weight off their backpack by replacing gear with ultralight versions of them.  After some point and time one has cut as much weight off their backpack as humanly possible for them, usually Price is a factor. For many it is just not financially feasible to spend hundreds of dollars on a single gear piece just to shave a few more ounces, on an already ultralightweight gear piece...

So where do I begin? Start by grabbing your heaviest gear piece and look for an ultralight version.  This will usually be your tent, sleeping bag, or mess kit or stove. Slowly start replacing the heavy gear with more ultralightweight versions until you get your pack down to the weight you feel comfortable with.

For those that are going camping for the first time, and not wanting to do minimalist camping here is a Backpack Gear Checklist

If you are interested in topics like this one Click The Checkmark Box to " LIKE "  this post so that I know to post more content like this.

about the author

Michael aka Mac, (his Trail name, short for MacGyver), is a Survivalist and outdoor enthusiast with over 40 years of experience in the great outdoors. His background is in engineering & physics and he brings this knowledge into his gear inventions and outdoor experiences.  Now Michael aka Mac, when he is not in the wilderness, spends his free time as a Freelance gear reviewer of outdoor gear & gadgets, an outdoor Blogger,  and teacher of outdoor non combat survival skills.


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