Since the quality of the camping trip depends so heavily on how well educated and prepared you are, you should always stay on the lookout for tips or tricks on how to better handle your trip. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been or how experienced you consider yourself, someone always has something you can learn. These are our favorite camping hacks and tips to keep you safe, supplied, and having fun in the wilderness.
This is one of those things we never would have thought of until someone pointed it out. When you’re zipping up your tent, if possible, pull the zipper up to the top, not down to the bottom. Closing it that way helps prevent things sneaking into your tent in the middle of the night by keeping that small zipper hole off ground level. Small determined varmints can wiggle their way through that tiny hole and into your sleeping area, so it’s best to not even give them the chance.
Freezing a few large water bottles in preparation for your trip solves two potentially dangerous problems. For one, it provides refrigeration for whatever you might need to keep cold. Then, as it melts, it becomes a reliable source of clean water, something you can never have too much of on your trip. Plus this also means you’re saving weight. Instead of carrying water and loose ice or cold packs, your water is your cold pack.
We swear we’re not making this pick because of the Spongebob thing. We’re making it because this is a great way to guarantee you can have yourself some sandwiches when out on the trail. Normal bread would get crushed in your bag, but having a case like a tin can stops all that. Plus cans are one of the most easily packed shapes. It’s a great idea all around. Recipe
Presumably, if your trip is more casual, you’ll stay in one location and can have a little more permanence to your campsite. Also presumably, you’ll have brought camping beer with you and you’ll want to drink it after the sun goes down. To help you see where you’re going or what you’re grabbing, drop a few glow sticks in the bottom of the cooler. The light will diffuse through the ice and give an almost otherworldly look to your beer cooler. Plus you’ll be able to see what beer you’re grabbing. We recommend chemlights instead of the glowsticks you’re probably thinking of. They’re much brighter, last longer, and are a standard piece of EDC for experienced campers, hikers, and military personnel. Try these from Cyalume.
We don’t know about you, but we’ve found modern herbal insect repellents work a lot better and are a lot healthier than the DEET alternatives. If that’s true, we’re willing to experiment with herbs to find other ways to keep the bugs off. Putting sage in your campfire is one of those experiments. Having that smoke and smell should help keep mosquitoes from ever coming near you in the first place.
It’s almost heresy to suggest that booze isn’t the most important thing on a camping trip, but the truth is, it isn’t. There have been too many trips where we’ve had to navigate a dark forest looking for more firewood, where our quest was made all the more difficult by the healthy buzz in our head. When you’re gathering your firewood for the night, get more than you think. Then look at your pile and triple it. Only then will you have enough fuel to keep you and your drinking buddies warm through your outdoor session.
Highly effective tools are often unfairly stigmatized and we can’t think of a better example than the lowly headlamp. Why is it that it’s cool to use one of only two hands to hold a flashlight, and the guys sticking them in their mouths aren’t the ones we’re making fun of? The whole point of the flashlight is to put light on what you’re looking at, which is exactly what a headlamp does. It’ll always point where you’re looking and you get to keep your hands free for doing things that usually require two hands. Pick one up for yourself, then mercilessly ridicule your friends who are continuously handicapping themselves with flashlights.
A bandana is similar to a headlamp in how stigmatized it is. And how it goes on your head, but let’s focus on that first thing for a minute. There’s a really specific stereotype that goes with the bandana, but the practicality of it should be enough to make people take it seriously. You can use it as a layer of insulation or hand protection when you’re cooking, for protection against the elements, as a hand protector for cooking, a filter for larger particles, or a simple sweatband. Here’s a huge list of uses that only scratches the surface of the bandana’s potential. It’s one of those things you won’t know how to use until you suddenly find yourself using it.
Even if you’re going on a casual camping trip with established shelters, an organized campsite, parking lot, and well-defined trails, you should avoid cotton. It’s not a fabric that stands up well to the demands of outdoor living, especially when it comes to water. It has virtually no insulating properties when it gets wet and it takes forever to dry, sapping you of all your precious body heat and adding a layer of danger to your trip. Go with wool or synthetic materials instead. You’ll be safer and much more comfortable.
Part of bringing a hammock is laziness, part of it is practicality, though some would say in camping, there isn’t much of a difference. There’s less to pack, less to carry, less to set up, and less to worry about it you make a hammock your camping shelter. Your head’s out of the dirt and mud, you don’t have to worry about water sneaking in through a tear in your floor, and most wildlife has to do a lot more work to harass you. The really good ones even come with some kind of mosquito netting, which means insects become far less of a problem. It’s an all around better experience, especially if you’re on a solo trip.