Vimy Outdoor Pursuits: Why Do You Camp?

I was directed to a blog this summer that asked some self-reflecting questions on the outdoors. It was an interesting read and then I started to think about a question I get often: Why do you camp? It’s a fair question. Why do you hike great distances with a heavy backpack through rain, snow or extreme heat just to set up a tent and sleep on the ground? I used to simply reply “for the experience”. But what really is “the experience” all about?

When I go on solo trips, which seem to be fewer these days, camping in the backcountry is about self-reliance. Being able to navigate your way to a specific area, set up a camp and cook a nice meal for yourself. Or, if things don’t go as planned: get yourself out of a lost situation, defend yourself from spooked wildlife or find your way to a water source. Every decision falls on you whether it is right or wrong. You either ultimately reach your destination and achieve your goal on your own, or end up turning back to try again another day. Regardless of what happens, it is the experience that leads to a great self-satisfaction, a feeling which is sometimes difficult to achieve in our complex society today.

When I go into the backcountry with a group of people the experience is much different. This summer I hiked into the Skoki Valley with my two brothers, my nephew and my son. As much as this trip was about the camaraderie and getting together to have some fun, it was also about teamwork. Working together to get to our destination, sharing the decision making, the workload and making sure that we all were able to arrive safely. On these kind of trips, every person in the group has a certain responsibility, whether it is spoken about or not, and it is the understanding and undertaking of this responsibility that leads to the success of the group.

Each camp trip will have its ups and downs. There will be times of excitement and positive energy as you travel along and see and experience amazing scenery and wildlife. And there will also be times of apprehension and dread as you climb steep slopes with a heavy pack for hours on end or spend days dealing with unpleasant weather. When it is all said and done, it is the combination of these feelings that ultimately add to “the experience”. And it is “the experience” that rejuvenates us, clears our minds and makes us better people.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson..

“In the woods, we return to reason and faith.”

Rob Schmidt
Vimy Outdoor Pursuits Program Director