I'm a recent convert to camping. My husband had been nagging me for years to go camping as a family. I always used the kids as an excuse; they're too young, it would be too hard. It just wasn't my idea of fun. But alas, the time came where our youngest child was no longer too young, and the older two were itching to go; I was out-numbered. So I relented.
It was definitely my 'green eggs and ham' experience. Every day I was surprised by how much I was enjoying myself. So if you're on the fence, like I was, here are ten reasons to give it a try.
1. Reset your sleep cycle
Humans are pre-programmed to go to sleep when darkness descends, but according to a study published in Cell Symposia, our circadian rhythms have been disrupted with the invention of electric lighting. The good news about camping is that the extended exposure to natural light and seeing the sun go down can help recalibrate your sleep cycle, back to what it was meant to be. Perfect for wakeful toddlers, and parents alike.
2. Increase your problem solving skills
There will always be a decision to make or a hitch to overcome when camping. A sloping tent site, wet fire wood, forgotten tent poles! Include your children in the process of overcoming these issues. Honing these skills in children will set them up for more thoughtful decision making later in life; but beyond this it will give them the confidence to tackle the next problem they encounter - be it in the school yard, class room or sports field.
3. Improve your happiness levels by being out in nature
'Biophilia' is the name given to humans' natural inclination to be amongst nature. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health explains that living in an environment without nature (such as plants, trees and open spaces) can have 'a potentially undesirable impact on health or quality of life.' Spending time in nature brings perspective to our woes and is a welcome break from our hyper-connectivity. Which translates to less mind-numbing screen-time for kids and the chance to for everyone to reconnect at a grass-roots level.
4. Food tastes better!
In the fast-moving, convenience driven society that we live in, all to often our meals consist of something out of a box, heated up in a microwave and eaten whilst staring at the television. Camping easily breaks this unhealthy, antisocial cycle. Real food, cooked on the barbie, or over the open fire will authenticate your camping experience and satiate the fierce appetite that comes with all that fresh air! And it will taste better than anything our of a packet! Present it to the kids as 'bush-tucker' and you'll have no problem convincing them to eat their greens.
5. Lots of opportunities for exercise
I'm not talking about pounding-the-treadmill-type exercise. I'm talking about hiking though bushland, walking to the peak of a tall mountain, scaling down to the base of a breathtaking waterfall. Exhilarating scenery combined with naturally occurring endorphins that come when you move your body. You don't need to worry that you are missing your spin class, this kind of exercise is far more beneficial for you overall well-being than being boxed in on a stationary bike.
6. Strengthened family connections
Spending time together as a family without the distractions of the daily grind is incredibly life-affirming. Doing simple things together like collecting wood for a camp fire, then building the fire together can create connections that you would struggle to get at home, holed up in the bedroom with an iPad. It is the simplicity of these tasks that enables these connections. Just 'being' with our partners and children is a rarity in our modern times. Camping is one of the few activities that allows this.
7. Show your children how to appreciate the simple pleasures in life
When was the last time you lay down in the bare grass and looked for cloud pictures? Or stared into a black night sky, watching for shooting stars? There is so much in nature that will delight you and camping allows you the time to rediscover these small pleasures. Beyond nature, waking up on a crisp morning in your tent, you'll appreciate snuggling down in to your sleeping bag. Or toasting marshmallows over the fire of an evening will warm you inside and out. Enjoying life's simplicities will bring about a sense of calm that your city-based yoga can't compete with.
9. It's easy on the family budget
Camping would have to be the most cost-effective way of holidaying in our modern times. Prices for a powered campsite in popular holiday spots, at peak times, are not much more that $60 - 70/night. Unpowered sites are even cheaper, and wilderness camping cheaper still. Prices vary from place to place and season to season. The more modern the facilities, the more you will pay. Even then it doesn't compare to the price of a hotel room or the cost of hiring a holiday house.
10. Discovering new places
Once you've awakened your inner explorer, that intrepid traveller in you will be hard to tame. The realisation that the world is literally at your feet, is incredibly freeing. It is an amazing gift to give your children. To instil a sense of wonder in the world and in the environment, is something that will accompany them through life and nourish them long after you are gone.