There’s a common misconception held by many a camper, novice and old-timer alike, that goes something along the lines of the following: “I’ve got my tent, sleeping bag, fuel, stove, and snacks. I am, therefore, good to go.”
Alas, it ain’t quite so simple.
While gathering all the right gear for our camping adventures is certainly both advisable and necessary, such an attitude is akin to saying “I have the ingredients and implements, therefore dinner is served”—i.e. lacking in an understanding of what is truly entailed by the task at hand.
In addition to all those more material must-haves, a small handful of equally imperative personality traits are required to hold any backcountry adventurer in good stead throughout their trips.
Below, we identify and describe eight of the most important.
A sense of humor
More than almost any other pursuit or free time activity we can think of, camping is one in which if something can go wrong, it probably will go wrong.
No matter how much prep and planning we do, no matter how hard we try to make things go smoothly or how much experience we have, the number of variables involved the moment we cross that divide between our civilian world into that of Mother Nature means the opportunities for mishaps and misadventures are inordinately high.
As with all things in life, how we react to these eventualities is far more important than their actual occurrence.
As such, a good old “sh*t happens”-style mental approach is generally the best antidote to letting any calamity or adversity get you down or taking it all too seriously to the extent that your mood ruins your trip, and is best accompanied, more importantly, by an ability and willingness to laugh it off and soldier on with a smile.
A team player
Every tried to pitch a six-person tent singlehandedly while a tree-toppling wind blows through your campsite?
Or keep one eye on the kids while juggling those sausages and that pot of pasta on the grill over the firepit, all while fending off a horde of kamikaze mosquitoes and dashing into the scrub at two-minute intervals to replenish your supply of firewood?
The chances are that if you have, you’ve learned the hard way that teamwork is an essential part of the camping experience.
Many of the things we have to do to make our camping trips successful are not part of our everyday routine and, as such, require a helping hand in order to be done well—or, in many cases, at all.
While many a stubborn camper keen to prove their self-sufficiency has soldiered on on their lonesome in the wilds and lived to tell the tale, the tales of those who have gotten through the inevitable struggles collectively with their group are, for the most part, altogether more joyous, memorable, and likely to have a happy ending by far.
Ever so slightly stoic
Idealists and perfectionists are perhaps the two personality types most likely to have a hard time of things in the wild.
The great Scottish poet Robert Burns, himself no stranger to time in the backcountry, once wrote that “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
His words are never more true than when applied to the plans of us campers, which have a tendency to go far more awry than those of your average human spending weekends at the mall, gardening, or watching reruns of Game of Thrones.
When all that awryness inevitably kicks in, we are left with a small handful of options, the most obvious of which are to scream, shout, and bemoan the contrariness of life in general or to kick back, accept that there are forces outwith our control, and adopt a that’s-the-way-the-cookie-crumbles attitude to this and any further problematic situations that may arise and threaten to ruffle your feathers.
We’ll let you decide which of the two is most likely to be conducive to having a good time of things or simply staying reasonably sane on your trips with the tent…
Living in a tent with someone for days or weeks on end is one of the best ways to forge a tight, life-long relationship…or end it altogether.
Such are the dimensions of our backcountry residences that things are, generally speaking, very “cozy” at the best of times, and downright claustrophobic at the worst.
Even around the campsite, the chances of being able to indulge in any alone-time are sure to be fairly rare.
If you haven’t brought your A-game in terms of being open to sharing your space with fellow campers and a willingness to mingle and socialize, then things could get mightily awkward in a bit of a hurry.
We all have that camping friend who needs to carry half a dozen toilet rolls, a manicure kit, solid silver cutlery, a half rack of food seasoning, three pillows, two teddy bears, and who refuses to pee anywhere that hasn’t been exhaustively disinfected in the last 12 hours, right?
Oh yeah, that’s right, we don’t! And why not?
Because that friend, bless them, got relegated to spending weekends at home indulging their various creature comforts while the rest of us are out in the wild operating on beast mode!
Life, as many an Instagram post and inspirational Facebook quote has told us, begins at the end of our comfort zones.
This is never more true than when camping. If we head on our camping trips halfheartedly and not fully committed to the experience, then our chances of getting the most out of our trip and enjoying it to the full are very slim.
If, however, we open to the experience, be prepared to do and try out new things and push our limits a little, we’re sure to have a whole lot more fun than if staying on the defensive and holing ourselves up in our tents while awaiting our return back to civilization.
Just a bit badass
While it’s very easy to overdo this one—the world does not, we’re quite sure, need another chest-beating, macho, Chuck Norris wannabe with camping hatchets by the dozen hung from their backpack’s gear slings—being able to deal with odd bump or bruise and take on new challenges is what days in the wild are all about.
We leave our comfort zones and the polite, safe, deodorized, air-conditioned environments we’re used to back home—and the selves we are used to being within them—and, just for a day or two, have the chance to be our own heroes, doing things we will someday marvel at when safely returned to our desks and couches and everyday lives.
Patience, patience, patience
While most of us would prefer to be out fishing, tromping the trails, scrambling to the top of a long-sought-after peak, or just kicking back and enjoying the sun, one of the first and most valuable lessons to be learned from our time outdoors is that there are simply too many factors outwith our control for things to go exactly as we had imagined before setting off on our trip.
The most notable of these factors, of course, is the weather, which might conspire to keep us holed up in our tents for as little as an hour or two or, in the worst-case scenario, for the entire duration of our trip.
In either scenario, perhaps understandably, the natural tendency for most is to grow just a little bit antsy.
The best antidote to said antsiness is a dose of gratitude for whatever experience may arise.
Our everyday lives, after all, are so crammed full of activity, technology, and other obligations and hassles that we rarely get the chance to experience many of the things that go hand in hand with camping and, in particular, camping in inclement weather.
Try to enjoy and appreciate every moment for what it is and, instead of seeing downtime from trail-time as a disruption to your idea of the ideal trip, view it as simply an integral part of the camping experience.
And, of course, bring a good book…!