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What Is Primitive Camping?

January 26 2021

What is primitive camping? If you’re thinking about potential outdoor vacation ideas, then you’ve come to the right place.

Primitive camping is a great budget-friendly vacation for those needing an escape into the outdoors.

We’ve put together a summary of what primitive camping is and how you make the most of an exciting trip into the wilderness.

The Essentials of Primitive Camping

Primitive camping, also known as backcountry camping, is a true camping experience in the wild. This involves camping out in the open with no access to modern luxuries like bathroom facilities. You’ll have to pack everything you need to camp for the night, or nights.

When it comes to primitive camping, being prepared is the name of the game. You’ll be camping independently in nature so you can’t rely on friendly neighbors to help you out if you forget any of the essentials.

Here are the most important things you need to know about primitive camping before you think about planning a trip.

You will need to set up your own campsite

camp site and landscape
Although primitive camping is free and avoids the hassles of overbooked campsites, it does come with the extra responsibilities of camping independently in nature.

Unlike normal campsites, where your site would have been prepared in advance, you’ll need to find your own ideal camping spot. Choosing the right area to set up camp is an essential part of primitive camping.

You’ll need to consider protection against the elements, availability of nearby water sources, surrounding wildlife, and potentially dangerous terrain.

The only thing you might need to purchase is a backcountry permit. Make sure are clued up on the camping regulations for the national park that you have decided to visit before you head out on your trip.

For tips on picking out a comfortable and safe camp spot, check out this video:


You’ll need the right camping equipment

random camping equipments

A key part of primitive camping is bringing all your own survival camping gear with you overnight.

We recommend bringing a suitable tent and sleeping bag, a headlamp, first aid kit, map, sunscreen, pocket knife, and anything you may need to light a fire. For extra comfort, you can check out our range of lightweight camping gear.

If you are planning on heading out for a few days, you will probably need to pack more essential items like sleeping pads, camping furniture, inflatable pillows, camping blankets, cooking equipment, and water purification tablets, as well as extra clothing.

If you’re going on foot, make sure you don’t overpack so that you can carry all of your camping gear.

For more tips on what to bring, check out our blog post on 10 backpacking essentials.

You won’t have access to drinking water

camp water


Definitely don’t plan on having access to any potable running water on a primitive camping trip.

You’ll either need your own drinking water or water purification tablets that can be used on nearby water sources.

You should aim to bring at least 2 liters of clean drinking water per day. Besides drinking water, you’ll need enough for cooking, brushing teeth, showering, etc.

If you’ll be camping near a good water source then water purification tablets are great if you’re worried about hiking with extra water weight on your back. However, we still recommend carrying a few liters of clean water just in case of an emergency.

You won’t have access to food refrigeration

cooking sausages on camping


Meal planning on a primitive camping trip involves mostly non-perishables where possible.

Even small coolers and iceboxes just add unnecessary weight, so if you are on foot then you want to think about packing food that travels well without refrigeration.

If you’re planning to hunt or fish, you’ll need to pack the necessary hunting gear. Even if you’ll be hunting or fishing as a source of food, we still recommend bringing food in case. Make sure you know the park rules on hunting and fishing.

For cooking, most campers opt for a small camping stove and a light-weight pot or pan. Alternatively, you could use a campfire. Don’t forget to bring basic utensils to eat with.

You most likely won’t have access to bathrooms

tissue rolls


This is where the real roughing-it-up comes in. The absolutely essential thing to remember on a primitive camping trip is toilet paper.

Some locations might require you to pick up your waste, in which case you’ll need a bag of some sort to store your waste. But in most areas, you’ll be able to just bury waste with a shovel or stick.

Make sure to pack a plastic bag to store your toilet paper or baby wipes. You also definitely want to pack enough sanitizer and biodegradable soap.

You’ll need to know how to start a fire

camping fire
A highlight of camping out in the wilderness is definitely sitting around the warmth of a campfire under a sky full of stars.

While most traditional campgrounds have fire pits at each site, primitive sites often require you to build your own. Building a successful fire really makes you feel like you’re being self-sufficient in the wild.

Before you depart for your trip, make sure your camping area allows fires and if you require a fire permit.

When picking your spot, always check for existing fire rings. If not, then it’s best to choose a flat and open location. Make sure it’s at least 15 feet away from your tent, trees, or anything flammable.

For firewood, you’d need to collect deadwood off the ground or alternatively bring your own if you can carry it all.

Here’s a great tutorial video on how to start a campfire:

To avoid any fire hazards, please make sure you’ve carefully read through the fire regulations of your area before setting off.

You should have a 4×4 vehicle

camping vehicle

Whether you’re driving to your campsite or going mainly on foot, primitive camping areas will probably require some off-roading.

That’s why it’s important to have a vehicle that can withstand the elements and get you through rough terrains.

The weather is often unpredictable and even deserts can be subject to flash floods, so having a 4x4 vehicle will certainly help to avoid unforeseen mishaps.


Primitive camping is a highly rewarding and inexpensive way to escape for a bit and explore the natural wonders of the outdoors.

Once you have your camping gear and basic survival supplies down, you’ll be ready to start your journey into the wilderness.

All you need is an adventurous spirit and preparation, and you can enjoy a beautiful trip through nature exactly how it was intended.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have any more questions!