Getting Started Minimalist Camping


Area of use: Anywhere camping is permitted.

Minimalist campers travel light and fast. They carry only what is absolutely necessary and often sacrifice comfort to have lighter backpacks. Minimalist camping is often done mid-summer in nice weather and appeals especially to those on long-distance cycling trips. Oftentimes a tent is replaced by a simple tarp or bivouac bag. 

If you’ve never gone minimalist camping before it can seem like an unapproachable activity. Thankfully we’ve put together a primer that should help get you started.


Ask yourself what equipment you can live without while you’re outdoors. Instead of adding items to improve your comfort, find ways to reduce the number of things you’ll pack and use. Going with less can improve your comfort, too. You’ll have fewer things to worry about and be able to better focus on more important tasks.


Will one t-shirt, pair of socks, underwear and an adjustable pair of pants get you through a week-long camp if there’s a stream for washing nearby? Did you pack that pillow out of necessity or comfort? 

Evaluate needs vs. wants. 

Buy higher quality items like moisture-wicking baselayers so you won’t need to pack multiple sweaters and extra clothing to keep warm. Items like t-shirts, tops, socks and underwear made from Merino Wool or other sweat-wicking designs are great for washing on the go because they dry quickly.


Take a hard look at your bag before heading out the door. And if anyone in your crew can’t carry their own bag for more than 5 minutes at a time, it’s time to repack. Aim for your pack to be between 10 and 15 kg (the bag itself will likely be around 2 kg).


Some minimalist backpackers like to go with a lightweight frameless style backpack because of the reduction in size and weight, making their total pack weight lower. Others will go with a larger bag that makes packing, unpacking and quick retrieval of items simpler.

Also, when a large bag is lightly packed it’s easier for the weight to be evenly distributed (balanced while strapped on your back). A small bag packed too tightly can feel off-balance if one compartment is overstuffed.

Of course, if you’re cycling you’ll have to make your pack decision based on how well it travels on your back while riding.

Packing Tip: Keep heavy items near the centre of the pack and as close to your back as possible. 


A minimalist-style or ultralight tent is specially engineered for use by people like yourself who are interested in carrying the lightest possible tent that still fulfills the important functions of keeping you dry, warm and protected from the elements. Some models come in at under 2 pounds, so we’re talking about a very small addition to your total pack weight. 

Shop Atmosphere’s minimalist/lightweight tents

If you’re anticipating extremely favourable conditions, you might consider bringing only a tarp or bivouac bag to create a shelter for the night. Or you might consider just bringing a sleeping bag or hammock set up wherever you plan on sleeping. 

Tarps can be arranged in a number of ways to create shelter for your night’s sleep:


The centre of the tarp is held up by running a guy line from one tree to another (or using stakes), the tarp is draped evenly over the line and the sides of the tent are held down by stakes in the ground. This is a very simple shelter to set up but both ends of the tent usually remain open and there will likely be gaps on either side of the tent near the ground. Pair this setup with a bug netting to keep out unwanted pests while you sleep.

Hanging shelter

Create a large shelter from the rain by connecting two tarpaulins to four nearby trees (or staking one end of the line in the ground) and draping the tarp over the lines. You’ll need to also run the lines through the grommets in the tarp to keep it secure and also ensure you angle one end of the tarp toward the ground to allow rain water to drain off. This shelter works well for those sleeping on a sleeping bag on the ground and also for hammock sleepers with their hammocks suspended from tree to tree under the tarp.


Camping equipment is an investment in what you most enjoy: time in the outdoors. Make sure you care for your campsite to keep it a home away from home.


Before you go check for working condition:

Make sure you have food for the entire trip and some back-up nutrition in case of emergency. Practice setting up your tent so you can do it quickly even if it is dark or raining when you arrive at your campground. 

After your trip:

  • Shake your tent out before packing it away. Never fold a tent; stuff it into its storage bag.
  • Hang sleeping bags, tents, tarps, and mattresses up to dry thoroughly to avoid mildew before storing at home.
  • Properly clean all dishes, stoves, BBQs, and coolers to make sure nothing gets put away dirty.
  • Share photographs and memories with friends and family to help spread the love of the great outdoors. 


  • Keep tents on tent pads or sites to preserve the surrounding landscape
  • Plan ahead, know what terrain and wildlife you’ll encounter
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Only have fires in designated pits and only when permitted. Minimize campfire impacts
  • Properly dispose of all garbage including food waste
  • Recycle all fuel canisters in proper hazardous waste facilities
  • Leave what you find. Don’t remove things from the natural environment
  • Respect wildlife as well as other visitors in the area

The more you camp, the more you will learn about yourself and what will allow you to best enjoy your outing. Start with the basics and add or subtract equipment to meet your expectations.   

Regardless of whether you’re a car camper or a minimalist, there are some things that all campers should know to ensure an enjoyable trip.

1.       Always have a way to collect and purify water. Even in front-country campgrounds there may not always be potable water available.

2.       Read campground/park rules before setting out. Not all camping areas allow pets or fires and some have special restrictions to keep wildlife safe.

3.       Make reservations. Popular campgrounds fill up quickly especially around long weekends.

4.       Have everything you need to be self-sufficient. Even if you are close to a town, you’ll appreciate not having to leave to grab supplies or take care of some first aid.


No matter what type of camping you do, there are a few pieces of equipment you should never forget: 
Personal Gear
Group Gear

Packing tips:

1.       Keep the heaviest items in the centre of your bag to make balancing the weight easier. Too top heavy or too bottom heavy and your bag won’t sit properly on your back while you walk.

2.       Pack frequently used items near the top and less frequently used items like your sleeping bag & pad near the bottom.

3.       Ensure you have fast access to a light source and bear spray

4.       Here’s an example of a well-packed backpack: sleeping bag and pad at bottom, water, food, and fuel at the core, clothes and extras up top.


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