The first rule of minimalist camping is: leave most of the stuff you were planning to pack at home. Camping luxuries are for the campers who want to be extra comfortable, those who have space, and those who don’t mind spending a few extra dollars on these unnecessary luxury items.
The truth is, even the most dedicated campers—even minimalists—like to have camping luxuries, but what is important to one camper may be insignificant to another. This list includes some of the top modern camping luxuries that you can (or maybe can’t) do without. Some of these items didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago, and people were able to camp just fine without them. Of course, if you can’t camp without a luxury item or two, by all means, pack it or maybe go glamping.
1. The Marshmallow Skewer
Sure, when camping, everyone loves a roasted marshmallow, smothered in chocolate, smooshed between graham crackers. Sitting by the campfire and making s’mores at night is about as American as it gets, but you don’t need skewers to do this. Yes, they are nice. But again, this is one luxury you may want to leave at home. The s’mores are going to be delicious no matter how you roast them, skewer not necessary.
2. Portable Speakers
It seems that almost everyone is making a new portable speaker system. From top electronic companies to independent Kickstarter campaigns, there are many small, yet loud, and great sounding portable speakers systems out there for your purchase. Just plug in your iPod or iPhone and you can have Justin Bieber leading the family in Kumbaya fireside. Or maybe you’ll invite the Grateful Dead for a campfire jam.
Either way, do you really need to bring that luxury sound system? What about the bubbling creek and the chirping birds? Point is, most of us go camping to experience nature, and the natural sounds in the wild are something not to be missed. If you are too busy selecting the next playlist, you might miss out on nature's soundtrack. But we all have a soft spot for at least one camping luxury and if you must bring your portable speakers and iPod, just remember to be considerate of your neighbors and the campground’s quiet hours.
3. The Solar Shower
Let’s face it, solar showers don’t work that well. Sure, the water heats up if you have enough sunshine, but a solar shower is a desperate attempt to stay clean. Maybe the solar shower is great for a quick rinse, but if you have any amount of hair to wash, forget it. Solar showers just don’t have water pressure for a real cleaning. And where are you going to get that much water to fill your solar shower anyway? If there is plenty of water available in a creek or lake, why not just jump in and scrub down au naturel? Of course, don’t put any soap (even biodegradable) directly into the water. A good rinse in a natural water source does wonders for cleaning up when you are camping.
If water is scarce, the solar shower is a big waste of needed water. A quick splash of the face may be all you need to feel refreshed. Then again, some people have-to-have a shower when camping. A shower is, after all, one of the most prized camping luxuries. But remember, no one ever said camping is clean.
4. Hanging Cupboard or Pantry
There are a lot of knick-knacky kitchen gadgets for camping these days. Outdoors companies love to market gourmet cooking essentials for the campground chef, but the truth is you don’t need any of it. In fact, you need very few cooking utensils to make a good meal at the campground.
Sure, you want to bring all your favorite spices, and it’s nice to have them organized in a pantry. And it’s even better to have them hanging in a nearby tree so you can see everything you want, but whatever happened to the good old chuck box? Throw everything into a small plastic storage bin, and dig in when you need something. Better yet, leave most of the spices at home. Food tastes better in the great outdoors than it does at home, and olive oil, salt, and pepper can season anything.
5. Screen Room Tent
Most people hate bugs, especially ones that bite. And there are a lot of bugs in the great outdoors. You simply can’t escape them when camping. That's where the screen room comes in. It’s a large mesh tent designed to keep the bugs out when cooking or hanging out at the campground.
If the mosquitos are biting and you still want to be outdoors, screen rooms are nice, but realistically, they are a hassle to put up and can be expensive. Not to mention the extra space you’ll need at the campground and the room needed to pack it in your car. If the bugs aren’t too bad, try citronella candles or mosquito coils. Most other bugs are attracted to the irresistible smell of your cooking, so keep your kitchen clean and always wipe down the camp table upon arrival.
But if that doesn’t do the trick and you’d rather stay home than deal with bugs, you might consider a screen room as your one luxury. If you buy a good one, you are also protected from rain, which will allow you to hang out outdoors and be comfortable with rain and bugs.
6. French Press or Portable Espresso Machine
They call it camp coffee or cowboy coffee for a reason. All you really need to make a good cuppa at the campground is coffee grounds, a pot, and water. Add the grinds to the boiling water, stir, and steep. Add cool water and the grinds should sink to the bottom. Keep your teeth closed when sipping your camp coffee to help filter any grinds that made it in your cup.
Sounds simple, right? Some people can’t stand the thought of roughing it when it comes to coffee, so there are a number of French or java presses, one cup filters, and even portable espresso makers on the market today. But the truth is that you don’t need any of these coffee gadgets to enjoy a cuppa outdoors.