As much as I love getting into the great outdoors and exploring, I find it hard to get on board with camping. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my fair share of it, including sleeping under a canoe and heading into the wilderness for three days with my husband and his four buddies with NO bathroom facilities. But would I rather be glamping or staying in a bug-free, bear-free hotel with a mattress that doesn’t deflate halfway through the night? Absolutely!
However, some of the best spots are best explored from the convenience of a campground, and despite my initial protests those summer getaways always seem to make for a memorable weekend that keeps me coming back for more. With that in mind, here are 10 camping tricks that will make your life easier.
Pack devices that do double-duty
After you’ve stuffed your tent, air mattress, sleeping bags, coolers and first-born child into the car, it can be tough to find room for important extras like….wine. Bringing items that do double-duty can be a real space saver, such as the Spork, a fork/spoon combo that cuts down on dishes (OK so it may have also made my list of most ridiculous travel accessories, but that’s another story).
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One of the best space savers I’ve seen is the Coolest cooler, AKA a party on wheels. This cooler-size contraption includes a blender (hello margaritas!), a bluetooth speaker, USB charger, bottle opener, storage space for plates and a cutting board, and even a light so you can find your drink after dark. How brilliant is that?
Side note: Don’t bring ANY of these on your camping trip (unless you want to go through life forever being known as the one who used something called a Whiz Freely).
Bring a pop-up tent
To this day, our friends still make fun of the time it took my husband and I about two hours to set up our tent. Granted, it’s mostly because I was more concerned with drinking my wine than holding up the tent poles, but that doesn’t change that fact that it can be bloody annoying to get the site all set up. Enter the pop up tent.
These guys are hitting the market in all shapes and sizes (I recommend a minimum six-person size even if there are just two of you, to allow extra room for storage and moving around), and are very affordable at about $200 or less. One of the best rated is the Coleman Instant Tent, which is entirely self-contained thanks to a click-lock system, meaning one person could set the whole thing up by themselves in less than two minutes. Easy-peasy!
Prep your food ahead of time
Meal planning is a biggie when it comes to camping, as chances are there won’t be a Whole Foods around the corner where you can pick up a missing ingredient. Before you head out, make a list of every meal you plan on eating, and cross-check it with the contents of your cooler. Java junkies may want to throw in something like the Starbucks VIA packs, which are a lot more convenient than hauling a French Press around.
If time permits, try and prepare some meals ahead of time to ensure you spend less time crouched over the tiny camp stove, and more time enjoying the outdoors.
Is there anything worse than a campground shower? Oh wait, I know what’s worse…not having access to any sort of shower at all. Anyway, it’s no secret that the bathroom facilities at campsites can leave something to be desired, and the last thing you’ll want to do is throw your stuff on the ground. That’s where my favourite toiletry kit comes in. This Eagle Creek toiletry kit not only has loads of space for such a small bag, but also has a built-in mirror and retractable hook which is perfect for keeping it off the dirty floor.
Once you’ve finished said-shower, dry off with a microfibre towel instead of your big fluffy one from home. Not only is it more compact, but it will dry much faster—perfect if you’ll need it for the lake later.
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Unless you’re lucky enough to be camping out one some amazing beach in Australia, chances are it will get a bit nippy at night. Since a space heater is out of the question, bring along a lot of extra socks to keep your feet toasty, or throw a hot water bottle into your sleeping bag.
If you’re lucky enough to be shacking up with a partner, invest in a two-person sleeping bag so your body heat can keep each other warm. Finally if you want to get crazy, consider this hack from one of my friends who wraps an old towel around a rock heated by the fire pit, and cuddles that for warmth.
Keep your four-legged friends happy
One of the main reasons I go camping is because it’s one of the only times I get to go travelling with my two little bulldogs, who would otherwise cost a fortune to put on a plane.
While they love getting into the wilderness, there are some extras to consider when bringing them into that sort of environment, mainly concerning their safety and comfort. Make sure your pooch has ample food and water, and shade if it’s a hot day. Bringing along their bed is always a good idea so they have something familiar, and maybe a life jacket if your plans include a boat ride. Finally, no one wants a random dog wandering up to their campsite and eating their S’mores, so be sure to bring along a retractable leash so your dog still has some room to move but won’t wander away.
Light up the night
While bringing a flashlight is a no-brainer, you may want to get creative about which kind makes the cut. Traditionally the hand-held flashlight has been the crowd favourite, but now that just about everyone has the Flashlight App on their smartphone, save the space and just use that. Now you’ll have room for a headlamp, which is key for those late-night bathroom runs. You may also want to consider a standalone flood light or lantern, to ease the fears of those who are afraid the dark.
Fun fact: You can also strap your headlamp onto a gallon jug of water which will turn the whole thing into a lantern.
While I don’t advocate spending the entire weekend on Instagram, chances are you’ll want to check in with the real world at some point on your phone. But what if there’s no electricity and your phone dies? Enter the solar panel charger, which keeps smartphones all juiced up using only the power of the sun. At only about $20 they’re a good value considering they’ll keep your phone, GPS and GoPro going all weekend.
Use disposable dishes
No one likes doing dishes, much less on vacation, so save yourself the trouble of trying to wipe down a burger grease-covered plate and use the disposable variety instead. As a disclaimer I don’t actually do this myself and prefer to bring plastic dishes (you know, that whole saving the environment thing) but hey, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least mention this hack! If you do go this route, spend a couple extra bucks and buy the biodegradable version to cut down on waste.
Do you have any great camping tricks to add to this list? Please share them in the comments below!
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