If you’ve ever found yourself in a really busy campground, you’ll know that desperate need to get away from people and step deeper into nature.
That’s where primitive camping comes in as a great way to get out of the city and into nature, away from all the creature comforts we’ve come to expect and take for granted.
It’s also a fantastic way to enjoy a mini-break during the Covid-19 pandemic because it ensures you can socially distance while getting your vacation vibes. Speaking of covid-19, we have a guide about going camping during this pandemic that’s worth checking.
What, exactly, is primitive camping?
Primitive camping is the complete opposite of an established campground. It’s remote and pristine, but that also means that it won’t have as many facilities. However, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be completely off the grid.
While it can be seen as a simpler way of camping because you don’t have any resources that are provided to you, this does have a drawback: it means that primitive camping can be much more difficult, especially if you’ve never done it before.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about primitive camping and where to do it.
Primitive Camping Gear And Supplies You Need
Ready to hit the pristine campgrounds? Here’s a rundown of everything you need to make your experience comfortable and reduce stress.
You should always ensure you have the proper shelter when you’re roughing it in a primitive campground.
It should offer you enough protection against the elements. If you’re in really harsh conditions, consider a 4-season tent as these are built to withstand extreme weather, such as strong winds and snow.
This should be large enough for you to pack all your supplies. Backpacks come with their capacity listed in liter measurements. A backpack with a 40-liter (1352 oz) capacity will be enough for you to carry your tent, sleeping pad, and extra clothing.
You should ensure you have a sleeping bag that will offer enough protection, depending on the season in which you’re camping. A summer season tent will accommodate temperatures of 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degrees Celsius) and higher, a three-season tent will be perfect for temperatures that are between 15 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and a winter tent will be great for temperatures lower than 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius). Choose a sleeping bag accordingly to what season you are in. If you need some guidance on the best winter sleeping bag in the market, you can check out the article.
This will ensure you can be more comfortable than if you have to rest your head on a backpack or pile of clothing. The Trekology Ultralight Inflatable Camping Travel Pillow is worth considering because it’s ergonomic, therefore improving the quality of your sleep. Getting a camp pillow is one way you can sleep comfortably inside a tent shelter.
This will help you with a variety of activities you might need to do, such as cutting cord or wire, or patching up a hole in your tent, so it’s a vital tool to have when you’re roughing it and there’s no campground staff to help you with a problem you encounter during your trip.
This should have the basics, such as painkillers and any prescription medication, bandages, band-aids, tweezers, gauze, scissors, and tape. You never know what could happen when you’re in a remote location so you should be able to deal with small medical issues and emergencies that come up.
This should include headlamps or lanterns to give you more light, bearing in mind you’re going to be in a remote location where there aren’t facilities or other campers nearby. You can also invest in some camping lightings or solar lights as these are a portable way to have enough light when doing activities around your camp, such as cooking, and you can leave them to charge in the sun.
Many primitive sites will have a water source but make sure you check ahead with them to see what’s available. If there’s no water, you’ll have to provide your own as well as a water filter.
This is important because no matter how clean water from a creek or spring might seem, it’s never safe to consume. A good portable water filter is the LifeStraw personal water filter that’s been designed for hiking and other outdoor activities. It can filter up to 1,000 gallons (3785 L) of water without the use of chemicals.
This item is essential because you never know if you’ll be able to find dry wood to make a fire, and if the wood can even be used. Bear in mind some camping areas won’t allow you to make a fire, so always check before you go there.
Sometimes there are fire bans in place, such as if there’s been a recent drought in the region. If they do allow it, you want to bring your own pit so that you can contain the flames, as well as bring your own firewood.
This will usually take the form of a pot, cooking stove, and food, but you might want to stock up on dehydrated meals that can be a good backup food supply. A good one to try is Mountain House Classic Bucket that comes with 24 servings in one pack, like chicken fried rice, spaghetti, and granola.
You just need to add water to the food packs and then they’re ready to be consumed. These are also perfect for hiking because they give you much-needed calories on the go. If you are fond of cooking, you can invest in some solar cookers which only needs the sun. If it’s the other way around, there are non-refrigerated or non-cooking camping meals available too.
- Freeze-dried meal
- Lightweight and easy to store
- 24 servings per bucket
Beyond the basic hygiene items you’d need, such as hand sanitizer and wet wipes, your hygiene kit should include items that you’d need to use when nature calls and when you need to stay clean.
- Going to the bathroom: Bear in mind that your primitive camping site will not have any bathroom facilities, so you’ll have to make a plan, such as by bringing your own portable toilet, making your own (read our guide, “How To Make A Camping Toilet”), or digging a latrine if you’re going to be burying your waste in the ground.
- Cleaning your body: When it comes to showering, you might not be able to shower daily so you should pack items such as biodegradable soap if you’re going to be showering in a lake or river, and wet wipes for days when you won’t have access to any water supply. Sierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor Soap is a good example of biodegradable soap as it’s made with natural ingredients that will keep you clean but not harm the environment or water supply.
The clothing you need will obviously vary depending on the season in which you’re primitive camping, but generally, you will need the following items of clothing: a rain jacket, any warm parka jacket, warm socks, a fleece hat, and sleepwear.
It’s always a good idea to stock up on extra socks and underwear. Here are some other tips:
- If you want to avoid having to wash your clothes, you should invest in light, breathable clothing for camping. Natural materials are always better because they don’t hold onto odor in the way that synthetic materials do.
- Since you might not have daily access to water for showering, make sure you have separate sleepwear that you only wear inside your sleeping bag. This will ensure you can keep your sleeping bag clean and it makes it much more pleasant if you’re going to be camping for a long amount of time.
You won’t have access to electricity when you’re in a primitive camping spot, so you’ll have to provide for your own electrical needs. This could take the form of solar panels or generators to charge your devices. You can find out more about this by reading, “How To Charge Your Phone While Camping.”
A paper map
Yes, you rely on your cell phone GPS to know where to go and help you find your way when you’re lost, but you can’t depend on technology when you’re in a remote area. You might lose signal or battery life, which could leave you stranded.
So, it’s worth investing in a quality paper map that won’t let you down wherever you are. It will also provide you with detailed views of the beautiful land around you.
Primitive Camping Tips
Once you’re sorted with your gear and supplies, there are some important primitive camping tips to know about.
Choose The Right Camping Spot
Make sure the land where you set up camp is flat and even with no sharp rocks or branches that could damage your tent. Positioning your tent underneath a tree can be good if it’s hot because you’ll want to have a shaded area in which to rest and stay cool.
Finally, make sure that the soil where you choose to pitch your tent is firm – sandy or loose soil won’t give your tent stakes the stability that they need.
If you’re primitive camping with your RV, it’s a good idea to park in a shaded area when it’s really hot as this will be more comfortable while parking in a sunny spot during the winter will ensure your RV’s components don’t freeze.
Learn Some New Outdoor Skills
You’ll be amazed at how many survival items you can make yourself. It, therefore, helps to learn some skills before your next primitive camping experience. Check out the Primitive Technology YouTube channel for some interesting tips, such as how to make fire sticks from scratch.
While you might not need all the tutorials, increasing your DIY and survival knowledge can help you when you’re heading out to a remote location. It will boost your confidence should you find yourself without a certain resource because you’ll be motivated to find a solution to get it.
Remember To Leave No Trace
While you’re making use of natural resources, you need to remember to leave no trace in the area in which you’re camping. How you find your primitive camping spot is how you should leave it when you pack up your tent and other camping gear to head back home.
This means following some camping rules such as avoiding cutting branches of trees, picking flowers, or contaminating the water sources (such as by using regular soap when washing in lakes or rivers). It also means that you should always spare a thought for the environment during your daily tasks.
For example, when you cook with a camping stove, make sure it doesn’t rest on the ground and burn the grass or leave a mark, and when you walk around the area make sure you don’t always stick to the same trail as this will form footpaths in the ground. It’s little things like this that will go a long way to preserving the environment.
Start With A Shorter Trip
You might feel confident about trying primitive camping for the first time but avoid going for a very long trip if it’s your first time. A shorter trip will be more manageable and it can be like a test run to help you see how many resources you really need, such as when it comes to how much water you consume and use per day. This will help you become better equipped for future trips – and those longer adventures that you crave.
Where To Go Primitive Camping
Primitive camping spots are usually available in most of the national parks and forests. You can also make use of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas.
Most public lands are available for dispersed or primitive camping as long as it doesn’t get in the way of other authorized users, natural resources, or wildlife in the area.
It’s not always easy to tell what sites you can use when making use of BLM land in the country. These sites are usually found along secondary roads and are not marked.
You’ll have to keep an eye out for flat, disturbed areas in the land as these point to the land having been previously used. It’s good to use an existing site so that you don’t disturb the land in new ways, therefore staying committed to the idea of not leaving any trace.
Popular Primitive Camping Spots In The U.S.
If you’re looking for some highly-rated primitive camping spots around the country, here are some top picks to consider for your next trip.
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Here you’ll find the Andrew’s Creek and Glacier Trail, both of which are close to a convenient water source. The views of the mountains and pristine lake are photo-worthy.
- Badlands National Park, South Dakota. The rocky terrain is rugged and harsh, so it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking to really dig your heels into uncharted terrain. Just make sure you wear boots to make your way to the camping spot because you could easily twist an ankle on the way there and equip yourself with at least a gallon of water per day because there are hardly any water sources.
- Olympic National Park, Washington. Here, you’ll be able to enjoy beach camping. Best of all, the Olympic coast is available for you to enjoy all year round. You can learn more about wilderness camping at this national park by checking out the NPS site.
- Great Smoky National Park, Tennessee. You’ll love this park that offers many secluded areas where you can enjoy nature without being disturbed. The Great Smoky Mountains also offer horse camps with primitive camping facilities.
For how long can you camp on BLM land?
When camping on BLM land, you have to avoid exceeding 14 days within a 28 consecutive day period. This means that after 14 days you’ll have to move outside of a 25-mile radius of the previous camping spot.
Where can you find land on which to go primitive camping?
A useful resource to help you plan your primitive camping trip is OnXMaps. It will help you to locate public land while ensuring you avoid trespassing into private land.
Getting away from it all and sinking into nature sounds like the perfect idea for a holiday, which is why you might be pulled by the idea of primitive camping.
But just make sure you prepare for it so that you have all the resources and gear you’ll need for the duration of your stay, better have a camping checklist. It might also help you to have useful products at hand to increase your comfort, such as biodegradable soap, an inflatable pillow, and a water filter.
These will ensure that you have everything you need right in your backpack so you can stress less and enjoy your camping experience.