Backcountry Camping for better health

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How Backcountry Camping can decrease Stress, Pain, and Renew your Appreciation for Life.

By Amy Fahlman

Overworked, overstressed, not enough hours in a day, responsible for too many tasks, projects, or people? As a physiotherapist, I commonly encounter how a high demand, high distraction lifestyle manifests not only as mental anguish but physical pain. However, recent research has shown you can actually reverse these negative effects by spending time immersed in nature. This is why I love backcountry camping – to routinely unplug from devices and reconnect with oneself. Here are the top 5 ways backcountry camping improves your health.

 

  1. It improves mental capacity.  Attempting to stay focused and productive in an environment of emails, texts, push notifications, advertisements and noise pollution is mentally draining. David Strayer studies how we can reset these effects by what he refers to as ‘the 3-day effect.’  He has found people perform 50 per cent better on creative problem-solving activities after they have spent 3 days immersed in nature. The tranquil sights and sounds of nature don’t require the same level of mental focus as our typical day, giving our brains a chance to rest and recover. This actually restores our mental capacity so when we return to our usual tasks, we are actually more productive.

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  1. It improves physical health and training capacity. Paddling or hiking trips require daily, multi-hour, low-level aerobic exertion. More commonly referred to as zone one heart rate training, during these trips you are working your heart at a low level of your training capacity over a long period of time. Zone one training builds the base of your cardiovascular fitness, which improves your physical recovery time and teaches your body to burn fat as energy. Not to mention zone one heart rate training lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and decreases the risk of heart attacks. Though the intensity of paddling or hiking may not be up to your usual workout standards, you are allowing your body to recover while continuing to be active, so you are getting health and fitness benefits at the same time as you rest from exertion.

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  1. Less is more. It’s hard not to get caught up in our consumer-driven society. Keeping up with the proverbial Jones’ can leave us unfulfilled and constantly consuming more. However, one gruelling long portage through a boggy swamp is enough to reconsider the extra amenities. Pack simple and light. You don’t need much to meet your needs in the backcountry.

 

 

  1. The appreciation for an abundant fresh water supply. Living in Canada, I have grown accustomed to fresh drinkable water flowing endlessly from the tap. Though when backcountry canoeing, water is readily available in the lake and river systems, it is not so easily consumed. Here you must consider how to safely collect and purify drinking water. It’s a small extra step, but it brings the ease of first world water consumption to the front of our consciousness. We are extraordinarily lucky to have an abundance of fresh water in Canada, a privilege billions around the world will never experience. This serves as a reminder not only to be grateful for the world’s fresh water sources, but also to be conscious of consumption and preservation for future generations.

 

 

  1. Let go of what you can’t control. You can’t control the weather, neither literally nor figuratively. Sometimes the conditions won’t be all that pleasant, and you will have to push forward and tolerate the discomfort if you want to make your destination. Likewise, sometimes it’s going to storm heavily and you’ll need to stop moving. These things happen. Yes it will slow your progress, but in the end that’s ok. Eat, nap, meditate, rest, refuel, refocus, and then push on. Certain aspects of life are simply out of your control. It’s not good luck or bad luck, it just happens. My advice – avoid checking the weather forecast. If you approach each day in the backcountry without expectations, you will always be able to find gratitude in what you are given.

 

If you have never experienced backcountry camping, but are at all conscious about your health and fitness, I would certainly recommend you give it a try. You may be impressed by the wellness benefits you gain while exploring the world’s natural beauty.

 

I love to hike, snowboard, backcountry camp, canoe, scuba dive and explore, and I try to experience this in as many different countries as possible.

Though I truly believe that you need to explore your own back yard, and I continue to explore as much of Canada as possible, from the West Coast Trail to the banks of Cape Spears.

“YOU CAN TAKE THE GIRL OUT OF THE PRAIRIES, BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE THE PRAIRIES OUT OF THE GIRL.”

22 thoughts on “Backcountry Camping for better health

  • October 5, 2017 at 12:12 pm
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    I love this! I haven’t done backcountry camping, but for me hiking and skiing are really good stress relievers. It definitely is about engaging with nature. There’s something about it – maybe the unpredictability like you said – that eases all my worries. Because out in the wild worrying won’t do you any good! Nature’s going to run its course no matter what. Hopefully I’ll get to try backcountry camping soon!

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  • October 3, 2017 at 3:47 pm
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    I have never done back country camping but have completed many nature walks. Walking in forests among trees is my oxygen as I love to smell nature while getting absorbed in it. You are very much correct that it increases mental capacity. Just in small words it removes negative energy and fills again with positive vibes.

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  • October 3, 2017 at 2:43 pm
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    Love this and can definitely relate. So thankful that my parents had me join Girl Scouts as a kid and I was able to experience camping growing up. I haven’t done much backcountry camping, but would like to in the future.

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  • October 2, 2017 at 11:07 am
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    Thank-you everyone for your kind words. I am excited to see the international community of outdoors enthusiasts Camping for Women has created. I’m happy my post inspired some to try living outside for a few days. Embrace the adventure!

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  • October 2, 2017 at 10:02 am
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    I used to go on family camping trips when I was a child but I stopped in my teen years. Your reasons for why it can be rejuvenating are true as I have friends who are dedicated campers… I love travel and hiking but I’m not a huge fan of camping.

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  • October 2, 2017 at 9:00 am
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    That’s quite interesting. I’ve done backcountry camping before because I love the outdoors but I never thought of the positives it might have on my life. This is great!

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  • October 2, 2017 at 1:02 am
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    I would love to travel with camping stays there. It was fun, I went camping with relatives and friends. Your article is awesome!

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  • October 1, 2017 at 8:34 pm
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    Oh I loved camping as a kid. We should do it again!

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  • October 1, 2017 at 8:14 pm
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    Being outdoors and away from everything always makes me feel so much better so I can see how a few days camping can do all this.

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  • October 1, 2017 at 4:42 pm
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    You make a lot of interesting points about the benefits of camping. It inspires me to consider planning a camping trip sometime, although honestly, my kids would never let me leave them home, and I’m not sure it would be stress reducing to take them along, haha.

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  • October 1, 2017 at 1:06 am
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    I couldn’t agree more with this, we all need to unwind ourselves and what better way than camping. I prefer camping with my kid since he too enjoys the changes and loves to be in the lap of pure nature.

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  • September 30, 2017 at 6:26 pm
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    Love these tips! Nature is one of the best medicines we have, it’s so important to get out and soak it up as much as possible. LOVE that second photo, it’s gorgeous!

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  • September 30, 2017 at 4:42 pm
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    Really great post, I have been doing more camping on my road trips, taking an extra day or two and just unplugging for a bit. Hope more people follow your advice.

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  • September 30, 2017 at 3:35 pm
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    I couldn’t agree more. It not only helps in extending our physical capacity, but also helps in improving mental capacity. BEsides, camping this way gives a new perspective to life at large. 🙂 Cheers!!

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  • September 30, 2017 at 10:00 am
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    These are so true! And love your photos. Living in Scotland means the weather isn’t always that great but I get out as much as I can. I agree being in the outdoors really can improve your mental and physical wellbeing.

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  • September 30, 2017 at 9:27 am
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    Even if I have been hiking plenty of times, I have actually never been camping before. I would love to though, especially that I live in a really beautiful area, by the coast, with the majestic Jurassic Coast literally at my door step and plenty of camping along it. I would love to wake up one morning hearing only the sounds of nature instead of the cars passing by my window. I’d love to hear the waves crushing on the cliffs and the birds chirping in the trees next to my tent.

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  • September 30, 2017 at 8:45 am
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    I’ve never thought about how backcountry camping can help with your physical and mental wellbeing so thank you for this. I totally agree with the pressures of trying to keep up with the Jones syndrome, and all your photos made me just want to pack up and try this! A profound post, thank you!

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  • September 30, 2017 at 2:37 am
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    It’s amazing to see the benefits to getting outside. We don’t go camping often but we do like to hike. Thanks for sharing.

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  • September 30, 2017 at 1:34 am
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    I love this. Being an Oregon girl camping has always been a big part of my life and it is sooo nice to escape technology and expectations for awhile. Just listen to birds and bugs. Breath fresh air and embrace nature. I didn’t get to go this year because I have an infant but next year will definitely be taking on a trip to enjoy what the world has to give. Beautiful pictures btw. Canada is so pretty!

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    • September 30, 2017 at 11:10 am
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      MissJess, thank you for your comment. I’m glad my post resinated with you so I wanted to share bit more about the experience that inspired it. We only saw 2 other groups in the 8 days we were out on this trip, but one of them was a small party of 5 adults and 2 children. The ages of the children were 6 years and 2 months! 2 MONTHS!!!! We don’t have children of our own, so we couldn’t fathom the logistics and challenges this would entail (safety in the canoe, weather, slower travel, sleeping, napping, changing….) but we were excited and inspired to see them out there. We didn’t have too much time to chat (I had so many questions but the bugs were horrible at that particular portage) but we did learn when their oldest (the 6 year old) was around 1 year they paddled from Edmonton, Canada to Montreal, Canada (check out this distance on a map). They were hopping to do it in 4 months but it ended up taking them 5 months. Though I can appreciate that every person, child, and parent child combination is different so this would not be a good fit for all people, if you have any desire, are well prepared, and flexible you may be able to make it work 🙂

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  • September 29, 2017 at 9:15 pm
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    I have never tried but can only imagine how good must be just embracing the nature and the fresh air. I will definitely try it out, there are great areas here in Denmark and around Norway, X

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  • September 29, 2017 at 8:25 pm
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    Great piece! Reminds that I need to get out again.

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