Do’s and Don’ts of Primitive Camping

The term “primitive camping” may be a bit deceptive. It implies camping in an uncivilized wilderness, killing your food with your hands and reverting to cave man life, or what we think of as caveman life. But primitive camping, while much more of an adventure than camping in prepared camp grounds doesn’t have to be dangerous or harsh, and you can still take your grappling hook without worrying about your safety. Just like anything else, with good training and preparation, it can be great fun and an exciting adventure for your team.

Primitive camping is generally not a good family outing. A privative camping enthusiast is one who is in excellent physical condition and has conquered advanced camping skills. In addition, the camping gear of a primitive camper is much different than what is used by a camper who will primarily be camping in prepared camp sites.

By way of definition, primitive camping involves hiking or backpacking to an wilderness area that is in no way preconditioned for camping. The camping team then clears and settles a camp and conducts their camp out with minimal gear and very little disturbance to the natural environment. Often primitive camp outs are done in conjunction with a long hiking adventure so the camp site changes from night to night and the different camp sites that are used are separated by miles of unsettled wilderness.

By its very definition, there are no prepared camp grounds where you are going to participate in primitive camping. So you have to travel completely self contained and prepared to provide for your own food, water, medical and rest needs. This is the closest you can get to how the explorers camped in the early days of the country. But we do have some resources to make it possible to get through a primitive camping experience in good shape.


The level of experience you must have to set out on a primitive camping outing includes the ability to backpack, hike for long distances often at high elevations and inclines and to manage your needs along the way. So your stamina and the stamina of your camp mates is of utmost importance. Not only should you be able to participate in aggressive hiking for as many as 10-20 miles at a stretch, you must be able to do so while carrying everything you need on your back in a backpack.

Backpacking innovation has come a long way over the years so you can get a good backpack that can be used to carry your gear, food, water, supplies, even a backpack fishing rod and still be able to hike in relative comfort. Get some expert backpacking training and experience before you set out on an aggressive primitive camping expedition.

Obviously safety and preparation are vital to your survival and success on a long backpacking outing. The dos and don’t of primitive camping, then, are centered around things you must do to be successful on this kind of adventure.


  • Learn to backpack well and how to pack your backpack for maximum efficiency and comfort.
  • Buy equipment especially designed for primitive backpacking adventures including a one man tent, high adventure sleeping gear, a water filtration system and a portable Coleman cooking port so you can prepare your food on the trail.
  • Carefully plan your provisions both for nutrition and in light of the fact that you will have to split up the load for the food over all of the hikers and carry your food in and your garbage out.
  • Buy and learn to use a water purification device so you can generate water along the trail. There is no way you can carry in enough water to get you through a long backpacking hike and camp out so you will have to find and clean water as you go.
  • Pack your clothing carefully so you have sufficient clean things to get you through the outing but not so much clothing as to burden down your load.
  • Buy top of the line backpacking boots. You will need them on a rugged trail.
  • Leave no trace. If you have elimination needs on the trial, you will have to dig a trench to use and the bury the remains. This is both for ecological and safety reasons so you don’t attract animals to your camp site.


  • Ever go primitive camping alone. Always take qualified and experienced campers with you so everybody has someone they can depend on in an emergency.
  • Plan to leave anything along the way. You must pack out your garbage so you leave no trace on the primitive landscape.
  • Forget to take matches and materials for making a fire along the way.
  • Try to pack any firewood. You will have to use what you find in the wild for your campfires.
  • Miss any opportunity to train for the backpacking campout. The better your know the capabilities of your equipment and your own capabilities, the better you will do in the wild.
  • Forget to have a great time and take the time to let mother nature in her primitive state take your breath away with her beauty.

While primitive camping is the top skill set for campers, it is also the most rewarding form of camping. When you have conquered the skills of primitive camping, you can literally backpack into the most rugged terrain and experience the thrills of seeing natures beauty first hand as few ever get to see it. Add to that the self confidence and gratification you will get from knowing you can survive in a completely unsettled situation on the wilderness and you will find that learning the art of primitive camping can be a life changing experience.

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