Primitive Camping 101: Benefits, Tips, Essentials
Ever feel like heading out and camping without any of your day-to-day amenities? It can be a refreshing feeling, to leave it all behind to live just for a night without the modern technology that makes life so easy every day.
To get a feel for life how it used to be, try out primitive camping. It’s camping at its absolute bare bones, where you only bring the essentials. That means no phones, no air conditioning, and yes, no toilets. All of these things are left behind as you head out for a night, or even longer.
There are a lot of tips that can help you get through a primitive camping trip, and a lot of benefits that come along with trying it out. This guide can help you understand how to try it out, and why everyone should get off the beaten path and camp in a less modern way.
What is Primitive Camping?
To start with, we need to have an understanding of what exactly primitive camping even is. There are so many different terms that we hear around camping, and when you aren’t a regular camper it can be incredibly confusing.
Primitive camping is spending the night in a remote area without any man-made structures or amenities. People will typically hike, boat, or ride to a campsite that is far away from civilization, set up a tent, and make use of natural items around them. There aren’t any picnic tables to sit at, no fire pits to utilize, and no outhouses that make bathroom trips easy.
The whole idea of primitive camping is to be fully reliant on your skills and be completely independent of the rest of the world. It can be a real test of your strengths, but will also highlight the things you need to work on.
Heading out on a primitive camping trip is more than packing up the car and driving out. You need to plan a route, a site, and make sure you have all of the right materials packed and ready to go.
But primitive camping isn’t for everyone. It can be difficult trying to be out without any help from modern buildings and amenities. It’s important to learn as much as possible about it before heading out. Even if it isn’t for you, there are plenty of different styles of camping to look into and understand the differences between.
Dispersed Camping vs. Primitive Camping vs. Wild Camping
Oftentimes, people will get dispersed camping, primitive camping, and wild camping all mixed up. That’s because they share a lot of aspects, but can be incredibly different at the same time.
We’ve already covered primitive camping, being out without any amenities at all - including running water, food, bathrooms, etc. Dispersed camping also falls into this category, but refers more generally to camping anywhere outside of an established campground. This is incredibly common on BLM land, but any time you go on a backpacking trip, that’s dispersed camping as well.
Wild camping is pretty similar to dispersed camping. It takes place out in the wild, rather than in a campground. The main difference here is that dispersed camping could be along a road, while wild camping is typically much further and harder to access.
What all of these share is the need to make sure you aren’t breaking any laws before just pitching a tent. Different laws will prohibit all camping or certain styles, so check the regulations before you go out each and every time.
The Pros and Cons of Primitive Camping
The benefits of primitive camping are often the same as the drawbacks: there are no amenities. You are fully relying on yourself and different wilderness skills that can be practiced and learned over time. Plus, it’s usually totally free.
The biggest benefits that people gain from primitive camping are a sense of confidence, freedom, and autonomy. Being completely separated from the world, including things like outhouses and campground hosts, can be challenging. Overcoming those challenges is what helps you to grow and will inspire confidence that is hard to find elsewhere.
The hardest part is when things get tough. There will be failure along the way. It’s totally natural. But that doesn’t mean that you’re ready for it. Many people will struggle through the difficulties and will actually hate the process, rather than grow throughout it.
The Guidelines for Primitive Camping
How to prepare for primitive camping
One of the things I like to do most when preparing for a primitive camping trip is to make a huge list of my gear. This is always the first step because it helps me make sure I have all of the gear I need as I go through and plan the entire trip.
Next, it’s a good idea to plan a route to get to the campsite you’ve chosen for the night. Maybe you’re riding your bike out there, maybe it’s just a short hike. Either way, the route and the form of travel will greatly influence the things you need to bring with you like food, clothes, and the necessary gear.
I always like to bring along a big portable power station in my car so that I can keep all of the electronics that are coming with me fully charged before I head out. That includes things like a headlamp, emergency devices, cell phones, and anything else that needs to be juiced up.
The Growatt VITA 550 works perfectly to keep everything charging right up to the moment you leave your car behind. Having it in the car waiting will mean you can get things charged up quickly after they’ve drained on your trip. With multiple plugs and sockets, it’s perfect for a group of people coming off a long trip as well.
Even though primitive camping is done mostly without modern technology, things like GPS devices, phones, and communication devices are important to have along for emergencies and every little bit of energy helps to make sure they’re ready if needed.
What to bring for your primitive camping
Primitive camping is just like other forms of camping, but your gear may change a bit. For example, a massive 6-person tent is great for car camping but will be devastating when you need to carry it out to a primitive campsite.
Primitive camping gear is lightweight, easy to use, and easy to repair. It’s important to pack along a repair kit that can be used when anything goes amiss because you’re going to be away from amenities that can help you out.
You may also want something more like a backpacking stove, rather than relying on cooking over the fire on a big metal grate. Think about all the things you’re bringing, and decide if you want to carry them on your back or not.
As I mentioned earlier, a portable power station like the VITA 550 or the INFINITY 1300 is great to have with you in the car so you’re ready to charge up when you get back from the trip.
How to find primitive campsites
Primitive campsites can be found rather easily with different phone apps, or even with a quick search online. Most of the time, I find primitive campsites through word of mouth. Head to a camping store and ask the employees for some recommendations on their favorite spots. You’ll likely get a lot of great ideas that may be less likely to have others at them.
More helpful tips for primitive camping
Primitive camping can be tough when you don’t know what you’re doing. Reading up and learning about the necessary skills can make all the difference on your first, second, or twentieth trip out. There’s always something more to learn that can make your trip more enjoyable and less challenging.
It’s also important to know the regulations for where you are camping. Following the Leave No Trace Principles and local laws are important if you don’t want to run into any trouble. Any rangers that come across your primitive campsite are more likely to examine how you’re doing than a campground host at a busy site.
Primitive camping is a beautiful, freeing experience that everyone should try out at least once. It can challenge you, but will help you grow to be a better outdoors person and can even help you learn some life lessons.
Overall, getting off the beaten path and into the wild is something that we should all try, and primitive camping is the perfect route to try it out!