I love being close to nature as much as the next guy, and I find the opportunity of not using technology a big blessing. The fact is though that time passes slowly when you’re already done pitching your tent, especially when you’re solo. So in this post I will list ideas for things to do while camping, organized into categories.
This one is a category of its own and quite obvious so I’m putting it first: Read books, especially if they are about camping or adventure! Goodreads says that the 5 most popular books about camping and hiking are:
- A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
- Contemplative Hiking, by Margaret Emerson
- Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
- Three Hundred Zeroes, by Dennis Blanchard
- Becoming Odyssa, by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Apparently people choose books about the Appalachian Trail. If you’re not into literature though and you want something more technical, my personal favorite is The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Gonn Iggulden. As the back cover says, it’s “the perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty”. Knots, fishing, navigation and a lot of trivia about the United States. This book is actually a pretty good source of things to do while camping on its own!
Practice your outdoor skills
I am a computer geek and as such I’m stuck on a chair in front of a monitor most of the day. As a consequence, I don’t get to do the cool things I’ve always wanted to do since I was a kid. Thankfully, there’s no better moment to practice outdoor skills than when you are outdoors, so this is by far my favorite category of things to do while camping.
Build fires until you become a complete expert at building fires. Practice in various weather conditions. Practice when it’s wet and when it’s dry. If the weather is fine and you have enough tinder, kindling and fuel, do not hesitate to let your fire die and build another one. Practice makes perfect and being able to make a good fire in any condition is a great skill to have. At the least, you will become the king of your BBQ parties. Try many different fire types from the Dakota fire pit to the Swedish fire log.
Built your fire? Great. Now cook something on it! There’s a ton of campfire recipes on the Internet. Make bread, s’mores, energy bars, cookies, baked potatoes, eggs and so on.
Make cordage from different plants. When I’m making shelters in the wild, I always use natural cordage (twine) instead of paracord or other synthetic cords, as they decompose with time and are friendly to the environment. You can create cordage from many more plants than you thought, like yukkas, various grasses, brambles, hemp. My favorite is stinging nettles, but if you are new to handling them you need to wear gloves. Here’s a short guide to making natural cordage.
Another great skill to have is learning how to tie knots. Use that cordage you made and tie some knots! There are tons of knots that serve different purposes and the more you know, the better off you are! The best thing about knots is that they are extremely useful in the indoors world as wetland it’s something every man wants to know but not many actually do. Buy a knot book or cards and go nuts!
If you have a lake or river near your campsite, go fish! Now if you have never fished before buy some cheap fishing equipment and have fun, fishing line and hooks are extremely cheap and ultra-light in any case. If you have fished before, you can always try making your own fishing equipment with natural cordage, wood, antlers, bones and so on. Just make sure to throw pregnant and young fish back in the water. Don’t be a douche. Here’s how to make a primitive fishing hook out of wood. If you are near a river make a primitive spear instead!
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no reason to kill or hurt animals (unless I’m threatened by one). I am not a hunter and I consider hunting for sport, a pastime for people who are not content with the size of their penis. I am fine with mine so I don’t need to prove anything, especially to inferior creatures. I wrote this because I want to make clear that in the two following paragraphs, I am not actually suggesting hunting animals. Strangely enough, I do not have an issue with fish, but I don’t kill mammals, end of story. Plus if you see pictures of hunters, they are either old (erectile disfunction), fat (they can’t see their already small dicks) or look like they were a product of generations upon generations of incest (Southern US). Go buy a Hummer, you douche.
Damn I want to learn archery. I have promised myself I will do this one day and the people who actually do it say you build muscle memory and once you start hitting your target it feels great. I guess I will have to wait and see.
Practice making snares and traps
Now, I didn’t say leave them around or use them to catch animals (unless they’re the kind that doesn’t hurt them and you can release them afterwards). Enjoy making them, see them work with your hand inside, smile, then take them apart. If you want meat, go to the supermarket.
Build a shelter
A good wood / debris shelter may take a lot of time, but it could be a quite rewarding experience. You can choose between A-frame, lean-to or a billion other shelter shapes and types. I usually start mini-shelters in places I use more than once.
Bushcrafters (ugh) love carving spoons, cups, bowls, combs and other primitive tools. Or try and carve some wood spirits. Get yourself a small set of carving tools, get your hands on a nice piece of wood and have fun! You don’t even have to start big, just get a basic curved carving knife and a regular knife and start with simple spoons, which are always helpful when camping.
A few years ago, when DSLR cameras suddenly became a fashion, every idiot was walking around with one around the neck pretending to be a photographer just to justify their need to be part of a herd. So after a while, there were a ton of slightly used cameras on eBay at good prices. These days they cost next to nothing. Grab one and document nature before global warming turns the whole planet into a desert (I’m kidding, just have fun).
My parents have framed pages from old books in their living room, and I grew up to appreciate the art of botanical illustration. Here are some they cost next to nothing to get you started. I have found that drawing the plants you see is one of the best ways to learn the flora of your favorite forests and camping spots. Draw the leaves, flowers and fruit of each plant and when you come home do your research on them.
If drawing is not strong suit, you can always collect leaves and flowers, flatten them and frame them. People do that with pretty nice results. Plus they make an excellent gift for friends and people who you camp or hike with. At the least, you can sell that stuff on etsy, I’ve seen framed plants on Etsy for $50 or more.
Watch birds and animals
If you are lucky enough to go camping at a place rich with wildlife, get a nice pair of binoculars and just go full creep on some raccoons, squirrels, birds and other critters. You will soon find out that binoculars are a very good thing to take with you in the woods.
What do you like to do while camping?
I promised an ultimate guide for things to do while camping and I am going to deliver, with your help. Add your own ideas and tips in the comments section underneath and I will edit and improve the guide with your tips!