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How to have a device-free camping trip

Today we’re more interconnected as a society than ever, and can carry portable digital devices virtually everywhere. However, as smartphones and tablets have become more ubiquitous, so has the idea of a ‘digital detox’: weaning ourselves off our dependency on screens to get back to nature and experience some simpler pleasures. Camping is a great time to try a digital detox; with the world’s wonders around you, you can disconnect with ease and find other things to do that don’t involve a Wi-Fi connection or phone signal.

In case of emergency

Phone-free camping can seem risky; what if you get into trouble? Some contact with the outside world is necessary to make sure you can reach help if something goes wrong, but it’s easy to tune your phone to essential communication only. Turn off data and Wi-Fi, and keep only a single charger or spare battery to hand to make sure you ration your battery life for essentials. Take an analogue camera rather than using your phone; a waterproof disposable option is great for protection against the elements, particularly if you plan on being around lakes or beaches, while a hefty professional number will help you take the shots of a lifetime and show the kids how to do it, too.

 

Mapping the route

Navigation has been done offline for centuries, so you don’t need a GPS to know where you are at all times. Make sure your physical maps are up-to-date, waterproof and detailed, and do your research on your routes and expected weather before you leave. Now can be the time to teach interested kids how to navigate with a compass or using the stars.

Mark the locations of hospitals, toilets and all other necessary places on the maps you bring, and pack laminated sheets with all the things you would normally look up online: contact details for doctors, nearby attractions with costs and opening times, campfire recipes, the rules for boules, you name it. Think back to previous camping trips: what did you use your devices for, and how can you get the same information before you go or while you’re there?

Keeping kids busy

Digital detox camping can be particularly tough for kids who’ve been raised on easily accessible TV and video everywhere they go. It’s important to make sure evenings and days are filled with exciting activities that will mean they forget their phones and Netflix entirely. Use your location to its fullest advantage: many towns have orienteering or treasure maps for kids and teens to keep them focused throughout the day. Cater to the attention spans of your kids: if a full day at a museum will bore them, have a range of entertainment options or just a good long walk in your plans.

A long-term project across the holiday — who can collect the most fossils on the coast, for instance — will give them goals beyond just the day-to-day. Pack travel cricket sets, laminated playing cards that won’t dissolve when they get wet (Uno is a good addition to your game set), kites, a ball…there are lots of options that will help to tire them out so they sleep well.

If you’re willing to put in the work, campsite games can be an amazing way to bond as a family without the need for screens. Camping Olympics can pit the family against each other, individually or in teams, to do athletic challenges or solve puzzles and problems. Scary stories after dark are a favourite pastime (remember to bring marshmallows and hot chocolate for the perfect ambience), as are games involving glow-in-the-dark pieces so that they can be played at night. Use the natural environment around you, too. Lakes are great for learning how to skim stones, while trees and wooded areas are made for hide-and-seek.

Some campsites – including some of our Experience Freedom sites – offer activities and challenges for children, taking the pressure to provide entertainment off you. The kids can meet others of their age and before you know it, they’re off with their new friends having a whale of a time.

 

Feasting and fun

Camping with a group of teens or adults? Get into serious campsite cooking, like baking jacket potatoes and fish in ashes of your barbecue. Check the cooking regulations of your campsites before you go, then break out the ingredients and make an all-hands-on-deck feast (with washing-up duties fairly delegated). The end results will be so delicious nobody will even think of slumping down in front of the TV. Got a resident ukulele player? Get them to bring it along and, provided you’re not disturbing anybody else, have a singing session together under the stars.

Digital detox camping may sound cheesy, but it’s part of a more general societal need to detach from our devices. Camping has been shown in studies to adjust human body clocks by introducing natural light, which wakes us at dawn. Blue light from devices, meanwhile, tends to disrupt our natural circadian rhythms and keep us awake when we should be sleeping. To do a full reset when you camp, a digital detox is a great way to go. Just make sure that you have all the information you need before you get going, so nobody throws a tantrum about leaving the iPads at home.

 

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