One of your friends suggested getting wild this weekend and trying out primitive camping. You're here to find out "What is primitive camping?" and we have your answers.
Pack your gear, it'll be fun.
Yeah, we know. You've heard that line before as you sit there with your eyebrow arched.
What is Primitive Camping?
Down and dirty, answering the question "What is primitive camping?" is pretty brass tacks simple.
Primitive camping is camping in a remote location with no amenities and only what you packed in with you. If you can carry it on your back, you can have it while primitive camping.
Are you having visions of bug- and critter-infested wilderness, hiding your food from the bears, and sleeping in a tree? You can probably stop right there. It isn't near that horrid.
Stay tuned if you're trying to figure out how an RV with all the perks can still be primitive camping.
Glamping, Camping, and Peeing in the Woods
You can go primitive camping in a fully-outfitted RV. It's true. Or you can go primitive camping and build a lean-to out of fallen branches. Or you can settle on a happy medium somewhere in between all the different options.
"What is primitive camping?" is a question with many answers.
Glamping has its place
Glamour camping, known as glamping, means camping with all the perks. Beds, electricity, indoor plumbing, and (gasp) hot showers. But how can you have all the perks when you're primitive camping?
There really is no textbook definition of primitive camping. The basic premise is that you camp in an area not generally designated as a campground.
Backcountry camping, dispersed camping, and boondocking are all terms used to describe this type of camping experience.
That means that if you can get your RV into the location, you are primitive camping. Glamping and primitive camping are totally doable as a mated pair, up to a point. You won't usually find a hot tub and champagne when primitive camping unless you have a hot spring available and packed in champagne, that is.
Camping is for families
What would happen if you unplugged your kids? Could they survive in the wilderness without video games and social media?
We're guessing they would not only survive but would thrive. In fact, there have been numerous scientific studies that prove it. So don't be afraid to pack up your kiddos and haul them off for a bit of communal time with Mother Nature.
Teach them about the birds, trees, and to have respect for the land that we call home. Primitive camping can be a very freedom-inspiring experience for the entire family.
Pack the tent and head for the hills, it's worth it.
Don't forget the flashlights
Unplugging from society and entering the wilderness can be an eye-opening experience. With that said, we would be remiss if we didn't remind you to pack the flashlights.
One of the most astonishing things about primitive camping is the lack of light pollution. There are no street lamps to guide you in the darkness. With a canopy of trees, even the light from a full moon can appear subdued.
Seriously, pack the flashlights. Walks in the night can be frightening and dangerous. Critters scamper on nocturnal missions and tree roots almost seem to reach out and twist unsuspecting ankles.
Seriously? You Want to Camp There?
Selecting the perfect location for a primitive camping adventure is going to depend on the type of camping you prefer.
If you are a backpacker, hiking to the tippy-top of a mountain range is not out of the question. But if you are a family just looking for some alone time, your options are a little less wide-open. If you have a fully decked-out RV, you can only park it on firm ground, which limits you further.
For a backpacker, there are many options. Your overall footprint is small, you have all your gear in one pack, and you don't mind hiking. So load up and go. Just make sure you are in areas that allow overnight camping. Private property squatting isn't cool.
For the family, you probably want somewhere close enough to parking that you aren't making 18 trips back and forth from the car with all your gear. If you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, your options increase over a sedan family.
Having an RV means you may have to settle for a campground that offers primitive camping. There are some opportunities on federal lands and other remote locations, though.
Ready to find out more about primitive camping locations?
Boondocking on federal land
The federal government calls it "dispersed camping." Simply stated, it is setting up camp on a chunk of federal land outside of their designated camping areas. It is legal and even encouraged.
While there are designated areas for dispersed camping, there are generally no facilities and no services. In some popular areas, there may be outhouses or porta-potties, but you won't find picnic tables or fire pits.
You need to know and follow the rules. There is no camping near recreation areas. You need to drive on designated roadways. Your camp can be set up anywhere that is 150 feet from any roadway.
Other general restrictions state that you must camp 100 feet from all streams and any designated campground areas.
The nearest Forest Service office will have information on dispersed camping. Some sites have required passes and fees, even for dispersed camping. Do your research before you go.
When you camp on federal land, follow all local rules and restrictions. The biggest take-away should be to leave no trace. If you pack it in, then pack it out. Re-cover fire pits and latrine holes. Take all trash and debris with you and leave the site as you found it.
The Walmart parking lot
Primitive RV camping in the Walmart parking lot? Are we crazy? No, actually, it is legal in many of the retailer's parking lots. But there are restrictions.
In the past, Walmart has been very welcoming for overnight RVers. You can't just pull up and pitch a tent, but if you have an RV you're golden.
Due to some local ordinances and other circumstances, some locations have had to discontinue overnight parking. A listing of those sites currently permitting overnight parking can be found at AllStays. If you have an Apple device, there's an app for that.
Don't forget the bear spray.
There are bears out there, you know
One of the biggest concerns when primitive camping is the critters. While everyone talks about the bears, they are probably (depending on your location) one of the least of your potential nocturnal visitors.
The most common campsite visitor is the nefarious trash panda (raccoon). These dexterous little fellows can open your coolers and totally destroy your campsite. Taking a few precautions can forestall them though.
To avoid trash panda attacks:
Hopefully, you won't need bear spray.
Packing the Right Gear
When discussing the question of "What is primitive camping?" you will undoubtedly get varied opinions. So far we have learned that it is more about the location than the gear.
So what gear should you pack for your primitive camping adventure?
All the basics (not a complete list):
Obviously, we can't pack for you. We don't know where you're going or what kind of gear you'll be using. So we have only provided a very basic list to get you started.
Make your own list and include everything you think you might need. Remember that you will be in a remote location without a store on every corner. What you need has to be packed in with you.
Your location and the type of camping (tent vs. RV) will determine what will need to be included on your list.
Don't forget the food
Everyone needs food and water to survive, so don't forget to include this on your list. If you are backpacking, you won't have a cooler full of lunchmeat so you won't have to worry about squishing the bread.
So, again, the question of what to bring depends on how you intend to camp.
For backpacking, beef jerky, trail mix, and fruit snacks can go a long way. You will need to pack a source of clean water, which can be as simple as a Lifestraw or a water filtration system.
For tent and RV camping weight isn't such an issue.
Getting Your Mountain Man On
We hope that you have a clearer understanding of "What is primitive camping?" now. While it would be easy to say it is specifically this or that, we would be doing you an injustice if we answered that way.
Primitive camping is simply camping in a remote location with no provided amenities. If you can take with you, you can live in the lap of luxury while also enjoying the freedom of Mother Nature's bounties.
The next time you think "What is primitive camping?" you can answer easily. Primitive camping is whatever you want it to be.
Go enjoy nature.