Camping season is just around the corner everyone! For some of you every season is camping season. Camping outdoors is also a great way to save money on lodging almost anywhere in the world you choose to travel.
Here’s some great camping hacks I’ve picked up over the years which will be useful to casual and seasoned campers, as well as world-traveling backpackers who like to rough it outdoors whenever possible.
1. Doritos make for an excellent firestarter. They’ll take a flame like fuel soaked charcoal briquettes any day! Corn chips work just as well. Use potato chips in a pinch. All have varying levels of flammable vegetable oil.
2. Cotton makeup remover pads or cotton balls dipped in wax are also a great firestarter. Dipping them in wax won’t hurt their ability to take flame, but will actually make them last a bit longer while your kindling catches. This is an especially great hack when the wood around you is damp too.
3. Take an empty egg carton and fill the individual sections with some matchlight charcoal. This is another great way to start a flame without making things too complicated.
4. Burn sage at your campsite to repel mosquitos. This natural and effective method is far better than burning a toxic “Off” Candle or slathering yourself with the chemical-smelling and unhealthy store bought stuff.
5. You can clean muddy water for cooking using just a cloth. Stick one end of the cloth in a dirty container of water, the other in an empty one. The water will eventually “drain” from the first container and “strain” itself into the second one. Great for cooking water, or drinking water after boiled. Don’t consider the water potable without bringing it to a boil for at least 5 minutes!
6. Learn to identify plants at the campsite. Use plants.USDA or download an app like Leafsnap to steer clear of annoying and dangerous plants like Poison Ivy and Oak. Learning about the plants in your campsite area can mean the difference between life and death!
7. Use an apple peeler to peel single use “soap leaves” from a bar of soap. This makes it easy to take a few “leaves” with you wherever you go, without worrying about losing the whole bar. It’s also much more sanitary to use soap this way while camping, fishing, hunting, etc., as hands get more grimy this way.
8. Another use for soap is to put your small valuables into a bar of soap. Say you want to leave your wedding ring, necklace, house keys, etc., behind while you’re out: nobody thinks (or wants) to steal a bar of soap, do they?
9. Use large plastic straws to make single-use tubes to store hand creams, lotions, potions, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc. Seal the ends by heating them with a lighter and then twist the straw closed after dipping your fingers in cold water (don’t do this with the lighter still on the straw!)
10. Freeze your water bottles before you go and use them to keep items in your cooler warm. This hack saves space that would be taken up by ice or freezer packs, while also eliminating the possibility of a water spill if/when ice cubes melt and the cooler gets tipped over while traveling to the campsite.
11. Use any sealable plastic bucket (ice cream buckets are great for this) as a portable washing machine. Simply put your clothes inside with some water and soap, stir the pot for a while and then seal the bucket and shake-shake-shake! Great group activity if you have kids. Do the same steps when rinsing the soap. Note: use biodegradable soap to help protect the environment please!
12. Always change your clothes before you go to bed if there’s any possibility the weather will get chilly while you sleep (even in the summer nights will get cold when you’re closer to the elements. You stand a much better chance at staying warm, instead of laying away shivering all night. This is especially important with socks. Learned this one when I was a boy scout and learned how important it is (the hard way) a time or two.
13. Bonus clothing hack: Put your next days clothes in a your sleeping bag with you so they’re primed and toasty for the next morning!
14. Wrap all your meats and items you plan to cook in tinfoil before you leave for your camping adventure. Pre-portion everything and you can put the meal straight on the fire — no muss, no fuss. No grill needed with many foods, so long as the tinfoil is sealed up well. This way you can spend your time having fun with family and friends instead of messing around with food prep.
15. Use herbs like thyme, rosemary, margoram, etc., in the fire when cooking to give your meats a natural smoked flavor instead of lugging along sauces and marinades.
16. Take an old leaf rake with you to your campsite. They make a quick and easy grill for hamburgs, hot dogs, meat — whatever. Use rocks or wood to angle the rake into the fire and weigh the end down with something heavy so it doesn’t move.
17. Roasted Starburst Candies are delish when roasted over an open fire. They also don’t and turn all black and brown like marshmallows do (Great for kids who don’t like them!)
18. If you’re out away from the campsite without a watch and you know it’s going to get dark soon you can tell approximately how much time you have left by holding your hand or hands out in front of you and placing them in your line of sight between the sun and the horizon (depending on how close it is to dark, you might not need both hands!) The general rule is that the number of fingers between the sun and the horizon represents approximately 15 minutes of sunrise left.