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The Merits of Backyard Camping

by Daniel Lawton

Last year, I returned to the U.S. after six months of traveling abroad. I had been in a number of developing countries throughout Africa and Asia. In Ghana, where I had an internship as a reporter for a newspaper, I had traveled to remote areas where electricity, running water and other elements of everyday Western life were sparse.

When I returned to the hustle and bustle of America, I developed an extremely severe case of culture shock. The onslaught of reality television, round-the-clock news, partisan politics and overly bright supermarket lights overwhelmed me. In addition, I was unemployed.

Lost, confused, and looking for answers in a world that suddenly seemed completely foreign to me, I did the only natural thing for a broke writer in the midst of an existential crisis: I moved into a tent in my parent’s backyard.

I didn’t live strictly in the tent. In fact, I came inside during the day to pilfer food and occasionally watch NFL football. But, every evening after dinner, I would retreat to my tent to read books by flashlight and breathe in the natural world.

It was a supremely meditative lifestyle. I awoke early every day feeling refreshed and in touch with nature. I went for long walks around my neighborhood. I spent a lot of time staring at the glassy waves of Lake Pontchartrian and slowly, but surely, I re-entered America.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be in the midst of full-blown culture shock to get value from camping in your backyard. In fact, backyard camping has a number of benefits for the casual outdoorsman. Here are a few.

Get Your Gear Straight

I’ve never been great at preparation when it comes to camping and my biggest mistake is usually packing too little. If you have similar issues or are a novice camper, backyard camping is a great way to figure out what gear you’ll need and to test it out.

If you have a new tent, sleeping bag or camping stove, give it a try in your backyard, so you don’t trek out in the wilderness only to find out that it doesn’t work.

Camp with Your Kids

If you have kids and want to introduce them to camping, a backyard campout is a great idea. Camping in your backyard means you can cut out the hassle of packing up the car with gear and dealing with the logistics of finding a camping spot. If your kids get uncomfortable or can’t sleep, you always have the option of heading back inside. Plus, there are clean bathrooms in close proximity.

Feel Nature and Toughen Up

When he departed from Concord to his cabin on Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau said the following:

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…

Will you achieve this by camping in your backyard? Probably not, but you’ll definitely reduce your dependency on modern comforts and may find a deeper sense of peace.

Save Money

Lastly, backyard camping can be a great way to save on rent. A trio of post-collegiate students recently rented a small parcel of land in Brooklyn where they camped out to avoid bills. With the rough economy prospects for entry-level jobs are poor, so if you’re graduating soon you might want to think about buying a tent.

Regardless of your motivations, consider giving backyard camping a whirl. It’s cheap, easy and therapeutic for the soul