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Ditch the rent, buy a tent

by Ben Taylor

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Like many people, I feel that paying rent is comparable to shooting money cows -- I never have anything to show for paying rent when the year comes to a close -- and my camping gear assortment is always in dire need of expansion. To remedy my financial dilemma, I decided to convert my current rent budget into a backpacking budget. Instead of spending money on rent while attending Utah State University (USU) I have spent it on equipment I would need to campout for the school year. Going on a $1,500 gear shopping spree and setting me up for the year was awesome -- I have no guilt whatsoever buying new camping toys because I wasn't "binging," I was just paying my living expenses. At the end of the year I will have used gear to show for my living expenses, instead of the usual zilch.

The first two weeks in the outdoors were almost unbearable -- wrought with sleep deprivation and camping mishaps. I was almost ready to give up, but at the end of the second week I started to adjust to my homelessness and began to love it. Everything I owned or needed was on my back and I felt free.

Back-to-School supplies

Sleeping Bag & Pillow
For winter camping in Logan I use a -5 degree Western Mountaineering Dakota MF bag (3 lbs. 2 oz.). My pillow is a 50-degree down sleeping bag liner, which I use in my bag when the temperature takes an unexpected dive.

Sleeping pad and Ground sheet
I use an older 3/4 Thermarest pad, but now I wish I had invested in a closed-cell foam pad. My pad leaks constantly. Warmth-wise the 3/4 size isn't bad if I use my empty pack under my feet for insulation. For a backup ground sheet/rainfly I use a 5' by 8' Integral Designs Sil Tarp that only weighs 4 oz.

I wanted to decrease my pack weight and size as much as possible, but I also wanted to have the endurance and protection from the heavy winters Logan tends to get. I couldn't decide between an Outdoor Research Advanced 3-layer Gortex bivy sack (1 lbs. 15 oz), or a Bibler Tripod bivy (3 lb). In hindsight I wish I had chosen the lighter Outdoor research bivy because while going to school I never face conditions that could justify using a bivy with three aluminum poles and ToddTex. I would recommend the Bibler Tripod if you are going to an artic hell, but if you are going to school I would settle for a lighter bivy sack.

I pack no more than two weeks worth of clothes in two compression sacks, and to save even more weight I only wear my Chaco sandals to eliminate the need for socks.

I pack approximately two weeks worth of freeze dried powdered food that I microwave at various locations on campus during the day. To save space I make sure all of my powdered foods are packed in large 1-gallon freezer plastic baggies and double bagged in case of leakage.

I choose a large pack with high endurance and compressibility. I am using a Vortex 5800 cubic inch backpack, which has been more than adequate for all of my school belongings. The Vortex 5800 expands to 6310 cubic inches and weighs in at 5 lb. 14 oz. It might seem a little heavy, but it is worth the weight since the pack is covered with Kevlar tacks and 14 points of self-compression. The Vortex pack also has one of the best warranties on the market, which is very attractive because of the wear and tear I am currently putting on it. Hindsight, I believe you could manage fulltime camping with a pack as small as 3500 cubic inches if you are really trying to lighten up. I just like big packs because I can fill the rest of the cargo area with food and go for longer periods of time without refilling.

Routines & personal hygiene
I shower when I feel like it at the University gyms on campus. Showers are free and I can gain daily access to clean dry towels. Having access to a hot shower anytime of the day, never waiting in line for roommates, and not having to pay utilities feels great.

At first I stored most basic personal hygiene items in a plastic bag in my pack. The wet tooth brush and soap bar remained wet all day, which was gross, so I replaced the plastic bag with a small nylon baggie to allow the moisture to escape during the day. Since then I haven't had a problem.


Is camping like this legal?
Yes, and no. Camping on private land without permission is trespassing, which is illegal. If you happen to be close enough to drive or walk to federal or state land you need to make sure that you don't camp in the same spot for more than 16 days. If you camp for more than 16 days it is called "squatting" which is a ticketed offense. To loophole this law you need to make sure you either move your camp nomadically at least every 16 days, or take a break from the outdoors at least once every 16 days. You also need to make sure that your camp is at least two hundred feet away from water, road, and/or hiking trail. Most importantly remember to leave as little impact on the land as possible.

I continue to love every minute of my experience living outside while attending USU. The wind on my face and the sound of the forest soothe my soul on a nightly basis amid the stress and turmoil of school and life. I would highly recommend replacing rent with gear to anyone who enjoys camping.

-Ben Taylor Email: campingstudents@hotmail.com
Homeless website 2002: http://cc.usu.edu/~benjtay/oldindex.html

About the Author

My name is Ben Taylor, I am a 20 year old college student at USU who has been camping out for two years instead of paying rent. Not only do I camp out, but I keep everything I own on my person at all times. I'm the ultimate minimalist and I love it.


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