The purpose of camping is to get a break from normal routines to sample the outdoors, and what makes outside outside, is nature. Indoors is a safe-haven, a sanctuary where we have removed the dirt and “chaos” of the outside to make a safe, clinical living space for the sake of survival. Many yearn for the outside and more and more health professionals and individuals are becoming aware of the importance of fresh air and open space where we can just “be”.
Nature is wild
Some might not have the complete luxury of the “great” outdoors – vast open landscapes to roam to find peace and connect with our inner selves, but any outdoor space, even a garden or local park lends itself to being a place where one can find mental freedom and gain great mental health benefits.
What makes an outdoor space a place of mental freedom is that it has an element of wild, even in a garden. The plants and paths may be arranged nicely, but the growth, insects, birds, weather, clouds, temperature and so on are largely out of our control, and it’s this that our primal but evolved beings still yearn for and wants to connect with. Maybe being around something largely not-understood (in terms of cosmic purpose) provides exactly the correct place where we CANNOT think straight and so are able to let go and find peace.
I find whenever I go to the outside world for peace and pleasure, even if I’m quite happy and unstressed, it takes about an hour of doing nothing (sit or walking), with just my own thoughts, to be able to reset my thinking and find a quite place inside myself.
I’m into wild camping more than anything when outside. All my gear is tailored for light walking and overnight wild camps. It’s tough to break away from family life and work, even if you love them, to get some much needed (if not always immediately wanted!) rest.
Many who wild camp turn to bushcraft skills to focus on something still relaxing and productive while they are out. Building a fire or shelter is a great way to keep active, but chilled and not bored while out. Wood carving can easily be tried out with little equipment and can spark the imagination. Others may simply sit and read.
You can start to explore bushcrafting today. Grab yourself a fire-starter and a knife. Go out to a place to practise gathering materials to shave down and try striking some sparks to get a fire going. It’s not rocket science and is surprisingly fun and satisfying.
Another big outdoor interest with the huge popularity of social media, especially Instagram, is photography. Many travellers find they can supplement their income by uploading travel photos to stock photography websites. A special shot of life in the wild is a thrilling achievement, even if it’s shots of common birds and being able to cash in on your achievement is a bonus.
Personally, I never get bored of chasing the perfect bird of prey photo. For me, it’s not about the quality of the image, but the pursuit and capture of that image.
Capturing wild animals on the trail
More recently, I began to take inspiration from certain YouTubers who started to use trail cameras to capture even more elusive wildlife on photo and video. It’s quite common to see a Go Pro put to use as a great way to capture a time lapse of the stars when camping. Some time ago I discovered the beauty of the Go-pro for myself, picking up a Go Pro Hero 5 for both documenting my camping and walking but also for motorbike adventures. The Go Pro is great with it’s wide angle lens to make viewers feel immersed in your video, but to film something all night, you need to protect it from the cold as it’s small form factor and battery is drains fast and keeping it charged with an external battery pack is an added chore. Also without night vision, it’s understandably poor in low light levels. Trail cams might be much less widespread but are purpose made with motion detectors to specifically video wildlife, usually at night too, where they use their inbuilt night vision.
Trail cams can be bought fairly cheap as they are simple in design and dedicated for trail use. I opted for something more random – a 3g wireless security camera rather than a trail camera. This sort of camera seems like an odd choice, but the Reolink Go I use is wireless, can be solar powered and uses a mobile sim. The mobile connection means that data can be streamed live to your phone and you can be notified whenever the camera is triggered and starts recording. This is great for wildlife watching, even in the daytime as you can set up and watch animals from afar without a zoom lens. You can even camp nearby and be awoken to watch any wildlife live as the camera is triggered! Recording in HD is essential so you have image room to play with in editing since animals are unpredictable and don’t pose for the best shot.
For wildlife camping, I go for a local woodland area where I know deer can be found along with badgers, foxes, rabbits, buzzards, squirrels and so on. It’s a place I like to hang out and chill so I know it’s a great place for setting things up to film while wild camping or for leaving the camera hidden and coming back for it in the morning.
Being mindful of wildlife gives me an added interest in the outside when camping or just walking. Great side-hobbies to have are wood carving, medicinal plants, edible wild food, animal identification, shelter building, fire lighting. Books and apps are available on all these things but the key thing is that they are to ADD to your peace of mind when outside, not clutter it with obsession and achievement.