Why Camping?

by Judd Watkins

Camping wasn’t part of my deal at all. I grew up as what my dad called an “air-conditioned baby”. I spent all summer glued to the idiot-box watching whatever awful junk was on at the time. Sure, I went out and played. Backyard football, full contact hide-and-seek, war, all that stuff. But I was not what anyone would call outdoorsy. I never camped. Not once.

It wasn’t until my late thirties, when I got into adventure motorcycling that I ever bought a tent. My first time actually camping was on a 10 day off-road motorcycling trip through the wilderness of Wyoming. It was also my first time riding a motorcycle off-road. (I don’t always make the best choices. I’m wired for action, not deliberation.) I was totally and utterly unprepared. It was hard, hot, dirty, wet, cold, scary, intimidating, grueling and undoubtedly one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life. I was hooked.

Yes, the backcountry of Wyoming was amazing. I mean, forget Europe, the American West is one of the most overlooked and amazing vacation destinations on Earth. But, even more inspiring and freeing was the camping. One of my pals wrote a great post on what camping does for us, and the why of it is super compelling to me too. There’s just something about being outside. Like REALLY out in it, with no option of inside. Camping in your backyard, knowing the house is a few yards away is nothing like camping with the knowledge that inside is not an option. Knowing that the water in your pack is all you’ll have until you can find more. Having to choose between thirst and boiling your dehydrated food to have dinner. The urgency that creates is a rare experience in our curated lives. Feeling the weather change. Smelling it. Knowing that you’ll be a part of it. That the only shelter you’ll have is a flimsy piece of nylon stretched over an aluminum pole, even if the skies turn violent. There is a freedom in the total abandonment of the illusion of safety. You move from fear to determination to freedom in the span of one thunderstorm. You get a chance to experience the reality of nature. To face it. To overcome it.

Overcoming challenges, like sleeping through a thunderstorm on top of a mountain, is a critical part of a healthy life. Our world is setup to remove challenges. Too tired to cook? Go to McDonalds. Don’t feel like leaving the house? OrderUp! There are toilet seats that wash your butt for you (now with a remote!). We can choose exactly what content we want to consume in a thousand different ways. From music, to entertainment, to education. We, possibly unwittingly, even choose the information we consume, all based on what will challenge us the least. All of that easy living is rotting us from the inside. We’re getting weaker. Emotionally, physically, even spiritually. Your challenge may be wrangling the kids, meeting the deadline at work, or maybe having a tough conversation. Whatever challenge looks like for you, lean into it. Camping is a natural challenge for most of us. We want to leverage that at MAN CAMP.

There is a saying in outdoor sports - ‘there’s no bad weather, just bad gear’ - and that is mostly true. Good gear can make all the difference. But when you’re sleeping inside what amounts to a fancy Ziploc bag in 15 degree weather I don’t care how great your sleeping bag is, it's gonna be cold. The best tent and bag combo can never match the comfort of a house. And that is awesome. Intentionally putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation is one of the most stretching, growing things you can do. If our world is good at removing challenges, it is amazing at keeping us comfortable. Most of us move from our air conditioned house to our air conditioned car to our air conditioned jobs, or schools, (or wherever) and back again. I once sat in a conference room with an IT professional waiting for a meeting to start. It was July in the midwest. Possibly 95 degrees and 95% humidity outside. The room was a balmy 73 degrees and this guy looks at me and says ‘jeez it's freaking hot in here, huh?’. I almost lost my mind. That guy was a good dude, he just fell victim to what our world has done to us. We all seek the most comfortable situation. Hell, I have a car with air conditioned seats (Which is awesome). But I also regularly seek situations that make me uncomfortable. I’m not a masochist, I just paid attention to what God showed me while camping. Growth is uncomfortable. Period. No way around it. We want you to get uncomfortable (and grow).

It all boils down to this; Life demands adventure and adventure demands adversity. Challenge and discomfort are primary components of adversity. Sure, there are times adversity and challenge suck worse than others. Losing a parent or getting your socks wet inside your boots are radically different levels of suck. But, fully experiencing both of them will most certainly grow you. A pal gave me a great book called Tribe by Sebastian Junger. It does a good job explaining some of the thoughts I laid out above, and some other very interesting stuff, in a military context. (If you’re a vet, please check it out.). In one portion of the book he recounts psychological findings from all sorts of war torn eras (London during the Blitz in WWII, Vietnam, Bosnia). Again and again the findings show that people in the face of horrendous circumstances bond in a way unseen in regular life. Suicides decrease. Anxiety disorders nearly disappear. Violent crimes like rape and murder almost cease entirely. In Bosnia they saw levels of anxiety and depression rise when the conflict ended and life moved back towards normal. They even found graffiti scribbled on a bridge abutment that simply read “It was better when it was worse.” I’m not suggesting we have a good old fashioned war, but I’m telling you, we were meant for more than La-Z-Boys and overseeing play dates.

Risk a little discomfort. Lean into a challenge. Get yourself some wet-sock level adversity and come to MAN CAMP. You’ll be better for it.

Also, that butt washing toilet seat sounds amazing, if I’m being honest.

See you out there,

Entrepreneurial Leader | Adventure Creator | a MAN CAMP Founding Father

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