Nothing is quite as soothing as stepping away from it all and getting back to nature in today's technology-infused society. Whether you're in the mountains, forest, or plains, camping is a great way to get back to basics. It can be challenging to prepare for those nights under the stars, but it doesn't have to be. These hacks will help you prepare, enjoy yourself, and make your next camping trip smooth sailing.
When you pack your ice chest for the trip, skip on bags of ice that will instantly melt away. Instead, freeze several water bottles and use them to insulate your perishables. Not only will they stay frozen much longer, as they do melt, instead of having a mess, you'll have a fresh supply of cold, refreshing water to drink.
Once the sun goes down, you still need to be able to see. Bring along some inexpensive solar pathway lights to plant near the bathroom or your tent entrance. They charge up during the day and will keep important spots illuminated for you at night. If you need to light a larger space, such as the interior of your tent, try placing a flashlight or headlamp against a jug of water, facing in. The water disperses the light and creates a gentle, hands-free glow.
If it's cold where you are, heat up a few rocks near the evening fire. These can be placed in the bottom of your sleeping bag to make it nice and toasty before you climb in. If you expect a cold morning, place your clothes for the next day in the bottom of your sleeping bag before you go to sleep. They will take advantage of all that body heat from overnight, and changing clothes the next day will be a much warmer experience.
Duct tape can solve hundreds of different camping dilemmas. It can patch holes in sleeping bags, tents, and tarps. You can use it to shield blisters or even make a temporary sling or cast in case of injuries. Tightly seal packages of food before bed to keep smells from tempting nearby wildlife. Twist it into a makeshift rope. Hang a couple of pieces sticky side out near your food to trap flying insects. Use them to mark a trail when you're out hiking so you don't get lost, but please be sure to collect them on your way back. That roll of sticky gray goodness will be one of the most useful things you pack.
Those meals cooked over the campfire are some of the best you'll ever eat. However, preparation can take a lot of time, so it's a good idea to do as much of your prep at home before you leave. This includes simple things like chopping vegetables or even making campfire meal packages that can be tossed into the coals. If you plan on making eggs for breakfast, crack and mix them at home before you leave and store them for travel in an old condiment bottle. You can squeeze them right into the pan and avoid the mess of potentially broken eggs spilled in your cooler.
While established campgrounds often have restrooms for use, there are plenty of places to camp where such luxuries are not available. Get an old folding chair with fabric seats and cut out a circle in the seat to make things easier. Then, you can tie a toilet seat on with zip ties and place a plastic bag under it: instant porta-potty! If you don't have access to an old chair like that, try a 5-gallon bucket lined with a bag and a pool noodle placed around the rim for cushioning.
We all know it's not really a camping trip until you have the perfect campfire. What do you do, though, if you can't get it started, or your kindling is wet? Reach for your snack bag! Doritos and Fritos both make excellent fire starters and won't cause any harm to the environment. Plus, you get to eat the rest of the bag, so it's really a win-win situation.
While you're enjoying that fire, you definitely don't want to be plagued by mosquitos or other bugs. Adding a bundle of dried sage not only provides a beautiful smell but also acts as an excellent bug repellent. You can also try mint, rosemary, or eucalyptus for similar results. Outside of campfire time, be sure you're wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants to keep less skin exposed to biting and stinging insects.
Being out in nature, someone in your group is likely to succumb to injury. Skinned knees, cuts, and bruises are all common. You should definitely have a good first aid kit available at camp, but sending a small individual kit along with those exploring away from the campsite is a great idea. You can reuse old prescription bottles or Altoids tins and put just the essentials inside. By squeezing antibiotic ointment into a straw and sealing the ends with a lighter or heated knife, you can create individual use packages to go in these kits and save space.
Even though we're roughing it, no one benefits from a rough night of sleep. Sleeping directly in your sleeping bag on the ground can cause some definite soreness in the morning, but camping mattresses are expensive, and air mattresses are bulky. However, pool floats are relatively inexpensive, and you might already have a few lying around. As an added bonus, most of them even have a built-in pillow!