When it comes to camping hacks, not all tips are created equal! A realization we all make moments after we hit enter in the search bar, instantly overwhelmed by the vast results. The truth is once you start sorting through the endless tips and tricks, you notice something. They are mostly repeating the same information! There is valuable information out there, you just need to look a little deeper than the surface. Campers are always willing to share what they have learned.
Common sense is a good start. If it doesn't make sense for your camping trip why even try it? Use your own judgement when deciding what hacks you want to try. Like us, you might find with a little tweaking some of the tips and tricks are as good as gold when it comes to making the most out of your camping trip. Although we never write off a good camping hack, keep in mind nothing is a substitute for your own experience. Even experts were beginners once, you have to start somewhere.
Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks. Hacks we adapted and use just about every time we go camping.
For Your Tent:
Foam Floor Tiles. They actually save your air mattress from wear and tear! Not to mention the bit of added comfort depending on the terrain and a homey feeling. An inexpensive addition to our tent camping gear. They are balky and we have yet to figure out a fantastic way to store or transport them though.
Tarp under the tent. Unless your on a wood deck. This helps keep your tent dry, even if it doesn't rain. It prevents some ground moisture, which helps lessen time needed to dry your tent out before packing it away. You know that weird smell? Yep, that's more than likely what its from.
Extra tarp to go over the tent incase it rains. This has become more of a precaution for us but trust me, if it rains hard you will be glad you have it. It is really easy to keep an extra tarp folded up and tucked away for that extra rainy day. We have had to use it, more than once!
Welcome mat. This one deserves a little more credit then it gets. Some tents even come with a mat now! This is perfect for kicking off your shoes before you go inside the tent and makes for a nice place to sit your spare shoes.
Spray tent with barrier bug spray, tick spray and water proof spray prior to taking it camping each year. Okay, so I am sure there are some all natural ways to get this job done, to repel insects and to water proof. How you do it isn't the important part, just be sure you do something extra to keep your tent dry and the insects at bay. Some insects carry diseases and no one wants a wet tent. We recommend starting every season testing and prepping your gear at home, prior to use.
Collapsible table for inside the tent. Sure every tent has a few of those mesh pockets but are they really meant to hold all of that stuff? Nope, they rip. We found a collapsible table that holds all of our personal items in the tent, even the midnight drink. A little organization goes along way, not to mention no more stepping on sun glasses!
Hang a lantern or flash light in your tent. Most tents have a spot to hang something from the very center of the ceiling, even if they don't it's easy to add a clip. Keeping a light solely for the tent is nice, especially when you have kids at camp losing the flashlights.
Never, ever let anything touch the inside of your tent walls. This is an important one. You ever wake up and your sleeping bag is wet? It was laying against the inside of your tent walls. Another trick to keeping your tent dry is avoiding touching the walls both yourself and your gear. The moisture from the temperature changes or rain droplets transfer through the tent more when there is something against them.
Pack a separate bag for your dirty clothes. Some days at camp are dirtier than others. An extra pillow case or bag for your dirty or wet clothes isn't a bad idea to contain the mess until you get home.
Keep baby wipes handy for a quick clean up. Just like a shower but not. I don't mind getting dirty but I like to get clean! You'll catch me wiping off my dirty feet before bed. It's just one of those things.
Reusable 5 gallon collapsible water containers. We find it easier to use these, its less to pack and carry. It also allows us to bring more water then we would other wise. There are many inexpensive variations of collapsible containers on the market, any will do the trick.
Freeze water bottles to replace ice. It helps us avoid getting ice initially, we can just get to camp and get settled in. It also allows us to cool down our coolers before we pack them with ice. We place the froze bottles in the night before we leave for camping. Then we pack the frozen food and head out for our trip. I suppose it cuts down on some of the water in the cooler, that's debatable.
Two coolers, one for food and one for drinks. The drink cooler gets opened up so much more often then the food cooler. If you keep the drinks is their own cooler you can ensure your food stays the coldest and save a bit on ice. This is especially true when you camp with a larger group.
Pie cookers for quick cooking. If you don't want to spend a lot of time or fuss around cooking on your trip, pack some pie irons. You can make some pretty gourmet meals out of those little things! They cook right over the fire and clean up pretty easy, especially if you oil or grease them!
Always burn the extra gooey marsh mellow off of your roasting fork, or just use a stick. You know just how important this little tip is if you were the one who had to clean the roasting sticks off. If you don't burn it or wipe them off while they are still piping hot, they are a big pain to try and clean, especially so while camping.
Keep everything you need for your boat in its own plastic tote, easy to grab and go. You know you have everything required by law for safe boating. We have been doing this forever. All life jackets, lights, rope, anchors and other boat necessities are always stored in their own tote. It makes winterizing your boat easy and you always know where everything is. Work smarter not harder!
We always use a dry bag on the water. I didn't think I'd fall into the water either, but stuff happens. There are a variety of options, we just suggest you use one of them. A dry bag is easy, we treat it like a regular backpack, it just saves all the stuff from getting wet too.
Aluminum foil. My favorite. From keeping the cooking gear clean to packing up left overs in the cooler, aluminum foil is the gift that keeps on giving to the person taxed with camp kitchen duties! Although I'm sure you could use something else too, the point is to think ahead a little bit! I didn't the first few times.
Fishing rod holders. Again this isn't on here for the obvious reason. They are also a safe way to store your rods when not in use around camp!
Utilize solar power for changers, lanterns, shower bags, power banks. Batteries not included! Solar powered lighting for camping is actually pretty fantastic. You just have to remember to sit them in the sun during the day! Although most will run via a battery if you forget. We also take warm showers using a solar shower bag, it's fool proof! You fill it with water and sit it in the sun, imagine that. Now there seem to be a fair amount of really good solar powered power banks or panels for power. We just use a small power bank to keep the phone charged for emergencies and pictures!
Bring a large empty bowl, cutting board, sharp knife and spatula. Having these items in with your camp kitchen supplies will prove to be helpful when it comes to food preparation while camping. A clean place to sit something down or let it marinate is easy to leave behind. I won't even talk about the time we forgot a sharp knife and a spatula, disposable cookware just can't handle all that. Now we just keep these few items with our camping gear and we never forget them! You live and you learn.
Use a tripod grate over a flat grate when cooking over the campfire. In our trial and error, exploring what camping methods and styles were best for us, we stumbled across this one. We just so happen to prefer the control of raising and lowering the food to adjust temperate and flip that the tripod offered over burning off our eyebrows being right over the flat gate while cooking over the open fire. However when using a pot or pan to cook you better just stick to the stability of the flat grate, just make sure to level it off first!
Bring a grilling glove or oven mitt along to save your hand when cooking over the open fire. If you cook over the open fire, no matter what method you use, bring something to help with the high temps. There are times when you cook over the open fire where you just have to get up close and personal, those are the times that having a grilling glove or oven mitt come in handy. No one wants to mess up dinner or get a severe burn.
Put a bar of soap in a cloth bag. Clean up in the camp shower or wash your hands. If you use a cloth bag the soap stays nice and clean. It also dries in the bag nicely to be packed away from the next trip. I started this because the kids would drop the soap and then be upset it was covered in dirt, even though they were covered in dirt. Some battles you just can't win.
Around the Campsite:
A piece of rope or cord for a wash line. Dry your clothes, towels, and life jackets! This is a pretty useful way to use a spare piece of rope or cord.
Hammocks trump chairs. Some campsites have chairs on site. We prefer to use our hammocks to hang out around camp. They are handy to take on hikes too, if you find a sweet view, you stay and admire it a while.
Shade canopy. This is hit or miss. We bring a shade canopy for longer camping trips. Weather plays a big role too, if it's hot or might rain we tend to bring it along. It serves as another shady spot to hang out or you can throw it up over the picnic table in a pinch to stay dry for passing showers.
Hang a decoy lantern! Hang it high and away from you to draw bugs. This is a life saver. Those famous mayfly hatches or a particularly bad night for mosquitos? The propane or other fuel lanterns seem to work the best, the insects are drawn to the heat of the actual flame as well as the light but this ensures that lantern is more enticing then the other solar type lights around camp.
Towels. I recommend at least one per person or pet, for the obvious reasons. It's very easy to over look the obvious.
Glow sticks! This is a fun one. They are great to play with at night, ring toss is a fun game to play with them. If you have kids around camp, keep an eye on them in the dark too! They also do not draw bugs, incase you were wondering.
Wear socks with your sandals. It feels weird to even ask you to do that. In the morning or at night, keeps the morning dew/moisture from getting your feet muddy. Peel them off once it dries up or you head to the tent for bed. This is also helpful in the rain, sure the socks get wet but your feet don't get muddy. Who cares if you look silly, it's worth it.
Use food packaging to start the camp fire. Odds are you are already bringing plenty of paper and cardboard with you, you don't have to bring a special fire starter.
A bucket. Again for obvious reasons. Not so obvious reason, to drop a critter for a closer look! This stops eager hands that could get hurt or injure the animal but totally allows for eager eyes to soak up all the awesome nature has to offer.
A small kiddie pool. For pets, more to clean them up then to keep them cool! This one is optional for us, but on long, hot camping trips we bring it along! Pets are family too.
Set up a hand washing station. This is a real winner. It's pretty simple. You need a large sports drink dispenser, a smaller container and a hand towel. Fill the drink dispenser with clean water, place the smaller container under the nozzle to catch the water and lay the hand towel over the top. Wash your hands in the container with soap and rinse with fresh water, refilling the smaller container.
We have tried and tested tons of camping hacks over the years. Many have their purpose, some just don't work for our style of camping and others don't make sense at all. There are quite a few we occasionally fall back to that didn't make this list. Once you start camping, you will find there is an evolution of sorts that takes place as learn from your experiences.