Camping can be so much fun, especially when you go with your family or with a group of friends or colleagues. There are different levels of camping from survivalist/life off the land camping, where you primarily use what’s available from nature around you, to campground camping which has different levels of luxuries and activities available, and all the way through to “glamping”, which is like camping but with all the modern luxuries including a heated cabin, maybe a hot tub, plus several TV’s, and Wifi.
Our family and friends love to camp. We’ve often camped in a huge clearing belonging to a friend of the family. There is a pond for fishing. If you walk quite a ways back in the woods, there is a decent size creek with a small waterfall. No running water, no flush toilets, no shower, simply an old wooden outhouse off to one side of the clearing.
One thing you quickly learn to accept about camping is that sometimes Murphy’s Law comes into play and you just have to make the best of it. Over the years, we’ve forgotten to pack critical items or we’ve forgotten to plan for many different things and we’ve had to improvise and in some cases, new traditions have emerged. If your family loves nature and spending time outdoors together, try these tricks the next time you go camping.
Food & Cooking Tricks to Try Next Time You Go Camping
One of the things you quickly learn about camping is that being outdoors makes everybody HUNGRY! When you’re camping, even those people who don’t normally eat breakfast or who might normally be picky eaters, will be ready to eat several times throughout the day. Below are some tricks to try next time your group gets hungry.
Breakfast on a Stick
When your crew is hungry in the morning there are several ways to make them a quick breakfast on a stick. When you are packing for your camping trip, reach into the fridge and grab those prepackaged canisters of croissants. Pack the croissants into your cooler to keep them cold. When you’re ready to do breakfast the next morning, rake the coals of your fire to get them glowing again or start a new fire if you prefer.
Open the package of croissants and wrap each one around a stick to roast over the coals or the fire until golden brown. You can also use skewer sticks and roast them on the grill if you watch them carefully and rotate them frequently. Remove from sticks, slather with butter or honey and enjoy. Yum! If a sweet breakfast is more your style, you can also cook refrigerated cinnamon rolls in a dutch oven over the fire or wrapped in foil on the coals of a fire.
When you are packing for your next camping trip, throw 10 or 12 bottles of water into your freezer overnight. Just before you leave for your trip, take the frozen bottles of water out and put them into your empty cooler with whatever food you are taking that needs to stay cold. This eliminates the last minute stop at the gas station for bags of ice. Your food will stay cold in most cases for 12 to 18 hours or until the water in the bottles melts and cools down. In addition, you have ice cold water ready to drink for the next day.
If your camping trip involves swimming or fishing, you can cut and glue a styrofoam pool noodle onto the sides of an old cooler. Fill the cooler with ice, add your drinks or whatever you want to have while you are in the water. Your cooler will float on the water and be easily within reach any time you need a drink. This camping trick will keep you hydrated without constant trips to the cooler at your campsite.
When you’re camping, one of the challenges is keeping all your food organized and dry throughout your trip. It’s also critical to keep food put away to avoid attracting rodents and small game to your campsite at night while everyone is sleeping. To help with this issue, pack all your nonperishable foods into a 3 or 5 drawer plastic container. It can be transported on the backseat or laid flat in the back of an SUV or truck. Once you arrive at your campsite, take the entire container out and set it up on one end of your picnic table or inside a screened tent. At night, you can zip up the screen or for extra security, store the container in your vehicle until morning.
Next Time You Go Camping, Try These Personal Hygiene Tricks
If you are camping in an area without running water, you’d be amazed at how often things get dirty. Plus, you have to figure out how to take care of business without flush toilets unless there’s an outhouse nearby. Below are some personal hygiene tricks to try next time you go camping that can make staying clean a little bit easier.
DIY Porta Potty
When it’s time to take care of business, you can bring along your own DIY porta potty by taking a 5-gallon bucket and cutting a styrofoam pool noodle to fit around the rim of the bucket to make sitting a bit more comfortable. If your bucket still has it’s handle, unhook one end from the bucket, slide a roll or two of toilet paper onto it and reattach the handle.
Now you’re all set to carry the bucket into the woods and take care of business. Or you can use a large tarp off to the side of your campsite to make your own privacy tent. First put a rock in the center of the tarp as an anchor point and knot a rope around it, then tie in a tree and stake the corners down to the ground. Set the DIY porta potty inside.
Have a bucket of dirt or cold ashes from the firepit sitting close and throw a few handfuls into the bucket each time you use it to help eliminate odor. Before you leave, dig a cathole away from any water sources and bury contents.
Toilet Paper Holder
One of life’s little inconveniences when you’re primitive camping is how to keep the toilet paper clean and dry so it’s ready when you need it. Sometimes, even inside an outhouse or porta potty, the toilet paper can get knocked to the ground or get damp from moisture that seeps in from outside. To keep your roll clean and dry, bring along an old coffee can or even an empty baby wipes container. Instead of carrying the toilet paper back and forth to your tent to keep it dry, put the roll of toilet paper inside the container whenever it’s not in use and leave the container in the outhouse.
Bring along a 5-gallon water jug, preferably with a spigot at the bottom. Paint the outside solid black, fill with water and when you get to camp, find a solid tree branch to hang it from where it will get direct sunlight. During the day while you go about your activities, the sun will warm the water. Just before dark, set up a privacy tent or hang a tarp, step inside and open the spigot for a warm shower to rinse off dirt and grime from the day.
Whether you have babies or are on an adult only camping trip, baby wipes are a trick to try next time you go camping. You can clean up just about anything with a baby wipe or two. They are great for removing sticky marshmallow from hands or clothes, great for wiping up spills from the table or tent floor, wiping out cups, or even as a toilet paper substitute if you do run out. They can even be used for a quick all over body wash up when running water isn’t an option. Baby wipes are one the camping tricks that can help you conserve water and stay clean at the same time.
Another trick for handwashing when running water isn’t available is to clean out an empty laundry detergent bottle, one of the large ones with a spigot on it. Fill it with clean water before you leave for camp. Once you arrive at camp, take the lid off and add a couple squirts of dish soap to the bottle, replace the lid tightly and shake several times. Now you can open the spigot at the bottom, wash your hands, and close the spigot again. Hang a towel or paper towel nearby to dry hands. Shake again each time you wash your hands to re-agitate the soap that has settled.
So many times when camping without running water, you have a need to clean your hands off. Whether it’s sticky from roasting marshmallows or slimey from cleaning fish. If you use water every time you need to wash your hands, you will quickly dwindle the supply you brought with you. Did you know you can actually wash your hands with dirt? This is an old hunter’s trick you can try next time you go camping. Simply scoop up a handful of dirt, rub it all over your hands until they are no longer sticky or slimy. If you do have access to water, you can then rinse off the dirt quickly and use very little water. Or you can simply dust off your hands on your jeans and move on to your next task.
To help conserve water when washing up dishes, pots, and pans, etc. you can use a bit of salt first to scrub off bits of food and break up grease. This conserves water too because rinsing off the salt uses a lot less water than if you simply tried to wash them like you would at home. Also it helps to bring along a plastic dish pan or tub to use for washing dishes.
Nighttime Tricks Next Time You Go Camping
When darkness falls at the campsite, and especially if you have kids along for the adventure, things can get a little tricky. Even the most independent kids will have a bit of trouble when the light fades. We all know kids and flashlights can be dicey because they play with them when they don’t need to and then the batteries end up dead when a need arises in the middle of the night.
One of the best tricks to try the next time you go camping is to give all the kids a hand crank flashlight, write their name on it in permanent marker and attach to their belt loop. These little lights are durable, safe and easy to use even for toddlers. For nighttime trips to the outhouse, try headlamps to light your way and provide hands free light in the outhouse. This company also make a great lantern.
I also found some handy little solar powered hanging light bulbs online. Charge it during the day and hang in your tent, over your food table, or even in your porta potty or outhouse. When darkness falls and you need some light, simply push the button to turn it on. Turn it off when not in use. Lights with an on/off switch should hold a charge for months.
One thing that always worries me to no end when camping is that someone will trip over the fire ring at night and fall into hot coals. To help prevent this mishap, take along a few solar powered landscape lights. Stick them in the ground around the fire ring or grill when you set it up during the day. As it gets dark, the lights will come on which will not only give you extra light around your campfire but will prevent anyone from tripping over the fire ring in the dark once the fire goes out.
One Final Trick Next Time You Go Camping
When you’re camping with a tent, one issue that can get tricky is when the zipper on the tent doors or windows get stuck. This can happen often if you camp in an area where your tent gets muddy or dirty during setup or tear down. Bring a bar of soap or a wax candle to slide up and down the zippers to help clean off dirt and keep them from snagging.
Will you use any of these tricks next time you go camping? Let us know in the comments below. We’d also love to hear any tricks or hacks you have used when camping to make chores just a little bit easier.