camping hacks
June 24, 2008 2:24 AM   Subscribe

Give me your best camping hacks.

My wife and four kids love camping. We're always up for new ideas to make things easier and/or more fun. What tools, habits, etc. make your camping experience better?
posted by keith0718 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (44 answers total) 136 users marked this as a favorite
Don't set up camp in a depression or valley. Dig a small trench around your tent if it looks like rain. Bring those tinned chocolate puddings that only need to be boiled... they'd be vile elsewhere, but taste divine when you're out in the wilderness. Cook sausages over the fire, not in a pan. Bring more water than you need. Secretly carry some sort of luxury (chocolate, fresh fruit etc.) and spring it on people when they're halfway through a long hike.

Fun times.
posted by twirlypen at 3:16 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

You don't specify if you mean car camping (caravaning), randonneuring, or back country camping, but I will echo the water thing. Always bring more water than you need. Sterno stoves weigh less than most other camping stoves and can often be used in areas with burning bans. (This is not always true, though. Check with the rangers or fire dept.) You might want to get the hang of hand line fishing before relying on it for camp food. The foil pouches of tuna, spam, and other meats are really very handy. They're also a lot cheaper than most ready made camping foods. Here's a nifty I haven't tried. Last, but not least, remember that none of us are as hardcore as Andrew Skurka.
posted by crataegus at 4:07 AM on June 24, 2008

Dig a small trench around your tent if it looks like rain.

Not if you're following Leave No Trace principles (and you should be).

My camping tip is wet wipes. Great for everything. Means you have to carry/filter less water. You can also find one specially made for your face (Dove makes a nice one) which are nice for a sponge bath.

Also, the little ethanol burning stoves are lighter and burn a lot hotter than sterno. Or, if you're in a fire safe area, try a Sierra Zip
posted by hydropsyche at 4:45 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

An LED head-torch is essential. Being able to do things with TWO hands and adequate light is a must. LED's rock because they use so little power and throw a lovely diffuse light for general camping purposes.

When everyone else is busy setting up tents at night, set up a stove, coffee pot and a mug within reach of your tent. Nothing beats kicking back in your tent in the morning, sipping a cup of coffee as the sun comes up. Seriously - nothing. Your wife will love you even more.

If you're camping in summer, try and site your tent on the west side of a clump of trees or bushes. It mightn't seem like much, but if the sun's coming up at 4.30am, you might appreciate another half hour or so before it's bright enough to read by in your tent.

Depending on the length of your camping trip, pack baby wipes as well as toilet paper. TP is great for getting the bulk of the work done, but if you're away from running water for a week, you'll appreciate what a baby wipe can do. You'll love your wife even more, and she you.

If you're camping away from, er, conveniences, have only one 'shit shovel'. If there is only one shovel, then you know if someone is off taking a dump somewhere. Wait until the shovel returns and there's no chance of embarassing encounters. Less of an issue if you're all family, but even so.

Bring a lightweight 3m x 3m tarpaulin and a bunch of 3mm cord. The weather will crap out at some point and you'll need to rig a temporary shelter so you can cook and not get wet. Or alternatively, it'll be bakingly hot and you'll want some shade. Either way, it works.

Some climbing/camping stores sell thin nylon accessory cord that has a little reflective trace woven into it. It might seem like a gimmick, but if you've got lots of tents in a small space, then guy lines made out of this stuff are sensational. Bluewater and Sterling are both companies that make it.

Make sure everyone has an empty pillowcase. Each night as you get undressed, stuff the clothes you're taking off into the pillowcase. A few prods and pokes and you've got a pretty comfy pillow. A comfy pillow makes all the difference between a good and bad night's sleep.

If you're camping in summer, it's a lot better not to get sunburnt than it is to get sunburnt and have to deal with it. (I should note that I'm coming from a drought-ridden, ozone depleted country perspective, so YMMV.) Make sure you have plenty of sunscreen, and that it gets put on first thing in the morning, buy everyone who needs it. On long climbing trips, I would go to thrift stores and buy a couple of long sleeved white cotton business shirts. Over the course of the trip, I would wear them to death, and they always ended up in the bin on the way home, but I avoided getting burnt.

If you're going away on a long trip... You're sleeping on a Thermarest or a closed-cell foam mat, right? Take a Sharpie and draw a chess-board and a backgammon board on your sleeping mat. I've known people who've even drawn a scrabble board. Then all you need to do is being some checkers , or some chess pieces or backgammon pieces and you never need fear bad weather again.

Having said all that, the single best camping hack I've ever used was this: a small cooler filled with dry ice, keeping a bag of water ice VERY frozen. In another box, a bottle of gin, a bottle of vermouth and a martini glass. After 4 days of climbing in 100F+ temperatures, my climbing partners came back to find be kicked back in a hammock with a frosty dry martini. Was I the cleverest man in the world right then? Yessir.

For a slightly less James Bond experience, you could keep ice cream frozen and surprise the whole family. You'd still be pretty clever.
posted by tim_in_oz at 4:46 AM on June 24, 2008 [29 favorites]

You've probably seen this thread on impressing your camping friends and neighbors, already, but it was fun.
posted by theredpen at 5:32 AM on June 24, 2008

If you are car camping, board games are even more fun when played on a picnic table or in the tent.

Along with setting up a covered area with a tent for cooking, etc. I also like to string up a tarp over the tent. It adds another layer of dryness if you get some rain.

A welcome mat or old piece of carpet outside the tent door helps keep the inside of the tent cleaner.

We also eat very simple when we camp - grilled burgers, hotdogs, etc. After a day of hiking or sightseeing or whatever I really don't want to slave over the grill for 90 minutes. Keep it simple and have more time for fun stuff.

Lightsticks make great nightlights in the tent if you have younger kids that need or want a nightlight.
posted by COD at 5:40 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Place a tarp under the tent as well, but make sure it's generally slightly smaller than the tent and arranged so that water will not pool.

Ditch the wimpy stakes that came with the tent and buy some real ones (also a hammer).

Propane lanterns are pretty cool.

Depending on the weather, neighbors, and bugs you don't necessarily need to sleep in the tent.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:16 AM on June 24, 2008

For getting a campfire started, bring one of those fake logs from the supermarket. Slice off an inch of so of it and use that to start your fire. Then pile your wood on. Makes a difference in a damp area.

Camp shoes - If you are regualrly wearing hiking boots or tennis shoes, consider having a pair of easy slip on camp shoes/slippers to wear if you need to get up at night and first thing in the morning.

If you drink coffee, consider Java Juice. No mess, little trash.

Have fun!
posted by Argyle at 6:21 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're backpacking, and you use a thermarest, REI sells a device that turns your thermarest into a comfy chair, but folds up and takes up virtually no space at all.

Break some eggs into a nalgene bottle, and after a day of hiking, they'll be nice and scrambled for the next day's breakfast. Keep the bottle submerged in water or sand, and you can make the eggs keep for two or three days.

a backpacking hammock is worth every penny.

a rugged plastic french press is also nice.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:22 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you need dry wood for your fire base, find some downed wood, and hatchet (or knife) roughly and inch or so in. Most of the interior wood will be dry.

If you really want a firestarter, make your own. Save a toilet paper tube, and then stuff it full of lint collected from the drier. For the first minute or so, it'll seem like it's not doing much but smoking, then it'll flare up so big that you'll never look at drier lint in the same fashion.
posted by drezdn at 6:47 AM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

Arno straps. Accept no substitutes. You can do damn near anything with them - from tying stuff down, compressing crap to add to your pack, hanging stuff from trees, tent and pack repair, or even splint or ankle lashings for emergency first aid. They've apparently redesigned them since I last purchased them. My dad has had these for years, they're one of the first things I bought to throw in my own camping gear. Half the time they aren't even in my camping box though, because I use them for so many other things around the house. I almost always keep a few in the back of the car. (On one occasion an Arno strap saved my wife's bike from slipping off of the car rack while traveling at highway speeds: when the strap that came with the rack failed, the Arno strap I had added as an afterthought held up like a champ.)

In a pinch, the elastic waistband from a pair of men's underwear plus a few safety pins makes a fairly decent substitute for an Ace bandage.

A box of various sized Ziploc bags is a lifesaver. Put your stuff in the bags, press all the air out, seal them up. Keeps your clothes dry, compresses things to fit into the pack, and makes it easy to dig through the pack to find what you need - also keeps the really rank stuff from stinking up your semi-clean clothes. The bags themselves can be used for water storage or trash containers (always pack out what you pack in!) when emptied of clothing. Be darn sure to keep your toilet paper in a Ziploc - wet wipes are fine, but damp tissue is nobody's friend!

On a long backpacking trip, Ziploc bags can also be used for meals: Measure out and pre-mix any dry ingredients (hot or cold drink mixes, pancake mix, flour + powdered milk for biscuits, etc.). Throw a 3"x5" index card into the bag, with a label explaining what it contains and how much water to add. At mealtime, dump the powder into the pan, add the required water, stir and cook. Empty bag becomes a trash or leftovers container, index card becomes tinder for the next fire.

Inch-long bundles of rolled newspaper, tied with a cotton string and then dipped in paraffin wax make excellent waterproof firestarters. Sure you can buy pre-made ones, but making them yourself is easy (be careful when melting the wax - double boiler is a must!)

Kodiak flapjack mix (if you can find it) is damn good for any time, but next time I go camping it's going with me on the trail: All you add is water, so no need to pack eggs, oil or milk (or any powdered eggs or milk). They're really filling, whole grain, and nothing beats hot pancakes cooked over a fire for fast morning food on the trail. Easy to make, easy to clean up, and leftover pancakes smeared with peanut butter can be used for a snack later on while you're hiking.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:29 AM on June 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

Freezer Bag Cooking
There are lots of recipes available here and there. Everyone can customize their meal if you have picky eaters. No mess, lightweight, and very quick so you can go have fun.
posted by piedmont at 7:47 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wet wipes and/or baby powder.
posted by salvia at 7:54 AM on June 24, 2008

My roommate got a sweet camping flashlight recently- it's an all-weather LED flashlight with a large primary and smaller secondary light (which can be set to blink in an emergency pattern), it charges cell phones, has a built-in weather radio, and can be powered by a crank. I highly recommend grabbing one- as long as you have it along you'll never run out of light or power for your phone, and the weather radio provides critical information if you get stuck in a tricky spot.
posted by baphomet at 8:06 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, on the phone thing, you may not want to bring your everyday use phone (esp if you have a Blackberry or iPhone or something) but keep in mind that any cell phone can dial 911 regardless of whether or not a provider is currently servicing the phone. In conjunction with the flashlight I mentioned above, picking up a used phone for $10 just for camping emergencies isn't a bad idea- make sure the phone can be charged by the flashlight. You may never have to use it (and I hope you never do), but in a bad situation it could prove invaluable.
posted by baphomet at 8:10 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you are backpacking in wet weather then there is always the risk of running out of dry clothes. If you have ever had to put on a pair of wet socks in the morning you will appreciate how much you don't want that to happen. So remember that it is possible to dry out some clothes in your sleeping bag at night - your body heat will do the job.
posted by rongorongo at 8:41 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I keep a very small whisk-broom/dustpan combo in with my camping gear. It's great for brushing down dusty picnic tables when we set up, and for sweeping up any accumulated crap before breaking down the tent and folding it back up.

When making s'mores: arrange graham crackers on the grill of your firepit, place chocolate pieces on top, and let the chocolate melt a bit while you roast your marshmallow. Then when you smoosh it all together, your chocolate will be especially gooey and delicious (if you like s'mores, I'm indifferent).
posted by padraigin at 9:00 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Parachute cord is a must that I take with no matter what. light weight and really strong. perfect for many applications. nthing the head lamp. 2 hands are awesome. I hate bug dope, but there are time a person has to use it to stay sane. a deck of cards. there will always be some down time. I never leave home with out my travel cribbage set and cards.
posted by Amby72 at 9:05 AM on June 24, 2008

I agree with the advice for a headlamp, but with one caution: They're great for cooking and performing tasks around camp, but have one major disadvantage when you're using them to walk around. Since the headlamp is at roughly the same location as your eyes, you won't see any shadows if you wear it while walking, which can make it difficult to pick up tripping hazards or abrupt changes in elevation. If you're able to, take off the headlamp and use it like a regular flashlight while walking around.

Nighttime is also a good time to try to see animals, since many of them are nocturnal. They'll be alerted to your presence by your light, but you need your light to see where you're going. How do you get around that? Take some red celophane and wrap it over your light--you'll still be able to see, but animals can't pick up the red. I've even seen a headlamp with a flip-down red filter for this very purpose.

I'm also going to second the reflective tent guylines. Some tents come with them now, or have reflective tags on the body of the tent itself. This also helps a lot if you go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and need to find your campsite after you're done. My tent lacks the reflective thing, but I usually bring two flashlights anyway, and I just leave one turned on in my tent while I go out.
posted by LionIndex at 9:39 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

A hammock for lounging above ground.
posted by hortense at 9:39 AM on June 24, 2008

Tips for backpacking: Wrap duct tape around your nalgene bottle or something similar, and you'll always have duct tape for those duct tape emergencies. Learn how to read a topo map - GPS isn't always going to work for you and it's a valuable skill to have from pre-planning the trip through the end. Learn how to tie knots. Some of my fondest memories growing up involve my dad teaching my brother and I how to do both of these while camping, and you'll be surprised how cool life is enhanced by knowing just a few knots.

Also the arno straps and something similar like those plastic cable ties is a great suggestion. Sometimes I bring spring clamps if I'm going to be in one spot for more than a few days.

Recipe planning - teach the kids how to cook outdoors. Buy titanium sporks - easy to clean, easy to use, cuts down on waste and weight from a whole bunch of utensils.

Personally, I've found that backpacking and camping is much more fun when you learn to get by on a minimum number of items. I can only imagine what it would be like with 4 kids. Packing, unpacking, and hauling around a bunch of stuff can rapidly use up time I'd rather be enjoying the great outdoors. You're so worried about using all the things you brought you don't get to do what you are there to do. My husband and I used to take 2 big boxes on our first camping trips together. Stuff we actually used went into one box when we were done with it, and at the end of the trip we had a box with all this crap we brought but didn't use. With the exception of weather and emergency gear, we were able to pare down our crap hauling immensely.

A little knowledge can replace a lot of tools, or the right tool can replace a lot of tools. A good example is the thermarest chess board idea in this thread. That's brilliant - you cut down on hauling a chess board and if you're creative (using salt and pepper packs for checkers, for example) you won't even have to bring the pieces!
posted by barchan at 9:54 AM on June 24, 2008

  1. your own (homemade) alcohol stove
  2. A liter of Everclear (in a plastic bottle), for the stove - and the adults.
  3. Tang, or other powdered drink mix - for the adults and Everclear
  4. Project Ideas! A book on edible roots and leaves for your area can make an afternoon snack hunt a lot of fun - if there are kids, make sure they know not to eat anything until someone has checked it out. The more projects, the better. Magnifying glasses are good for kid camping.
  5. Bring as little as possible. Bring a minimum of water, filter/boil the rest. Of course, this depends on the area.
  6. Give all the kids very loud whistles, and instruction on appropriate use.
  7. Learn songs and stories for use at an evening campfire. For those that are as tone-challenged as I am, a few cheap kazoos allow for easy music making.
  8. Let the children play with the fire. Man has poked fire with sticks since the dawn of time. Your children probably have an innate desire to do so. Let them.

posted by terpia at 9:55 AM on June 24, 2008

My firestarter recipe:

Get one jar. Fill it with sawdust. Add diesel fuel. Put lid on jar.
posted by chugg at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2008


bungee cords are useful in many ways, come with their own built-in hooks, and maintain their tension easily in a variety of conditions - truly excellent for constructing tarp shelters

a small roll of duct tape is worth its weight in gold for making repairs on just about anything


my dad used to put together "treasure hunts" for me & my sister - he'd secretly go out & hide stuff in the woods & along trails & then would give us a map or leave clues for us to find - there'd usually be some weird/amazing tall tale to go along with it all too

also, we'd do a kind of scavenger hunt thing where we would get a list of items we had to see (animals, the sunset, the full moon), smell (flowers, pine trees), taste (pine sap, wild edibles), hear (bird calls, crickets, wind in the trees), or feel (moss, bark, etc.) - wicked fun
posted by jammy at 10:28 AM on June 24, 2008

You can also make firestarters by stuffing dryer lint and/or sawdust into egg cartons, then pouring melted parrafin over them. Tear them apart between compartments, and they work great.

If you're car camping, it can be nice to get a big bladder of water and hang it from a low-ish tree branch where it meets the trunk. It should be just high enough that you can all rinse your hands comfortably while standing there, since the spout end will be on the bottom and gravity will create a nice stream of water. You can also tie a bar of biodegradable soap into the foot of a pair of pantyhose, and tie this to a loop on the bladder. Then you can suds your hands up through the pantyhose, so you never lose your soap.

S'mores = good. S'mores with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups instead of plain chocolate = amazing.

For backpacking I usually only bring a mug and spoon to eat from, and I keep the spoon tied to the handle of the mug so I've always got them both when I need them. Lots of lexan or titanium flatware have a hole in the handle end to facilitate this kind of thing.

I'm seconding a secret stash of treats, whether it's food for anyone or alcohol for the adults. Even after many trips, when your fellow campers start to expect that you'll have something hidden away, the excitement of wondering what it might be can really do wonders for morale when the day's been a bit long.

Also good for morale: costumes. If you emerge from your tent in a graduation gown or a giant foam mad-hatter hat that was crushed in your bag, everyone will get a good giggle. More so if you spend the whole day wearing it.

These games that I learned here have both served me well while hiking on the trail. Those threads actually have a lot of other great ideas, too. If you're playing 1-2-3 (second link), have one person do the 1-2-3 counting, and two other people call the words - that way keeps more people involved.
posted by vytae at 10:56 AM on June 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

2nding Freezer Bag Cooking. Just used this system for the first time whilst out backpacking this weekend, and it's wonderful! The recipes were delicious, and the only clean-up was licking the spoon!!
posted by spinturtle at 11:09 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cotton retains moisture (i.e., stays damp) better than almost any other fabric on earth. Thus, while it wicks perspiration away from your skin, making you feel more comfortable as you cross the street to get a latte, that same moisture will still be in your clothes 3 days later, when camping.

The new microfiber fabrics are great, and you don't have to sell your firstborn to UnderArmor(TM), either. I just camped out in a thunderstorm, and left my underwear on the line to air out. In the morning, they were slightly damp, but very wearable - and fresh-smelling! These were $5 from Walmart bike short style.

Nylon pants, and a microfiber shirt, accompany me on hikes. Fairly thorn-resistant, poison ivy-proof, and they dry amazingly fast after getting caught in a burst.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:14 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Make a camping list that you can print out and check off. Include everything from those deelyboppers that go on the ends of your sunglasses (so you don't lose them in the lake) to things you must do around the house before leaving (like having someone water your plants). Forgetting the binoculars is one thing, but you don't want to be up the creek without a paddle.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, you're even getting tips from MonkeyFilter. Posting this tidbit from a MoFi member who doesn't have a MeFi account:

"The BESTBESTBEST car camp shower is a clean, unused 1 gallon sprayer for pesticide/herbicide. It's usually about ten bucks, has a wand with an on/off regulator that sprays conservatively, but enough, is usually dark green and will absorb solar heat, and the best thing of all, if it's not warm enough, you can boil a little water and get a warm shower."

(If you think it's a best answer, you can mark it, but BlueHorse @ MoFi deserves the credit, not me!)
posted by caution live frogs at 2:52 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you are somewhere hot then a hammock can be a great place to sleep. It is possible to get special tubular mosquito nets to keep the bugs away - and with a fly sheet and some paracord you can rig a rain cover too. The mistake that most beginners seem to make is to lie with their spine on a line between the two anchor points; if is far better to lie diagonally to these points as your spine will be straighter when you sleep. Mexican hammocks offer a great combination of looks and durability while still being light.

With both hammocks and tents - unless you are really pushed for weight - count how many people you want to sleep in it and then add at least one to the total before looking for a matching specification.
posted by rongorongo at 3:21 PM on June 24, 2008

I have this petzl headlamp. It's so small and lightweight, I just love it! It has a re-positionable head so you can angle it towards the ground while you are walking at night. The best part is that because its so light and small, I just push it down around my neck while I sleep, and then I don't have to find it when I get up in the middle of the night.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:10 PM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Haven't read all the answers, but here's a few suggestions based on experience (keeping in mind the rain gods like to follow me around whist camping):
- Have a ground sheet under the tent, unless like me you have a bombproof tent
- Have some cord and basic knot skills to keep food suspended from a tree away from bears, raccoons, and other critters
- Take a tarp and enough rope to rig it, it's not safe to cook in a tent if it's raining
- Designate a latrine area, with TP in a ziploc, and ideally a suspended water bag and some biodegradable soap for hygiene. Arrange a system so that others in the group know when the latrine is in use.
- Grey water (dish water) can be liberally spread around fairly safely as long as it's a distance from a waterway
- Pack-out any solid food waste
- If at at a car campground, keep the noise level low, guitars at 11pm get annoying
- Above all, just enjoy the trip, that's what you're doing it for after all
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:34 PM on June 24, 2008

- Have a ground sheet under the tent, unless like me you have a bombproof tent

One reason for a groundcloth is to keep your tent bombproof--it's a bit of added protection from stuff on the ground compromising the integrity of your tent. You can get away without using one quite often, but if you're car camping and aren't concerned about weight, you might as well use one.

- Have some cord and basic knot skills to keep food suspended from a tree away from bears, raccoons, and other critters

Or use a bear canister. Bear-bagging doesn't work so well in some areas any more, since the bears have figured out how to defeat it. In Yosemite, bears have even figured out how to get into your trunk through the back seat of your car, so that's not a safe place either.
posted by LionIndex at 7:58 AM on June 25, 2008

Check out the aeropress for making coffee.
posted by jquinby at 8:37 AM on June 25, 2008

A small bottle of hand sanitizer (I usually find purse-sized Purell on the display at the Target cash register) fits perfectly inside the tube of a roll of toilet paper. Throw the whole thing into a ziplock bag to keep the paper dry.

If you've got a free-standing tent (so the poles keep the tent shape without any guy lines necessary), get all your gear out of it in the morning when you're going to leave your campsite, and flip it upside down while you eat breakfast. This will help the bottom of the tent dry out before you pack it. Sticking it in a sunbeam will help it dry faster, but purists will argue that the UV rays break down the fabric more quickly, so I'll leave that decision up to you.

If you forget silverware, or are feeling especially down-to-earth, it's exceedingly easy to whittle your own chopsticks from sticks found in the woods. Of course that assumes you know how to eat with chopsticks...

When you're at home, store your sleeping bags hanging up, or gently inside a very loose sack (like a laundry bag). Storing them all squished up in their little compression sacks kills the insulation, which will make them much less warm, much faster.

A dryer sheet at the foot of your sleeping bag can make things smell much more pleasant when you shift in the night and send a puff of bag-air up into your face. Don't do this if you're in bear country, or expecting to go there.

Keep things that are used together, packed together. For instance, my spoon and my sharp knife and my pot grabber go into my mug, which gets wrapped in my bandanna/napkin and then put inside my cooking pot. It packs smaller, and when it's meal time I don't have to unload all my gear to find what I need.

If you want to impress the kids with your eco-friendliness, eat every part of the apple but the stem. The secret is to take relatively shallow bites around the outside of the fruit first, then eat upwards from the bottom of the core to the stem. Shallow bites in step 1 ensure that there will be sweet and tasty fruit left to add flavor when you're eating the core section. (If you're not eating the whole apple, please don't throw the core in the woods. Pack it out.)

Don't lay out your sleeping bag until bedtime. If you lay it out as soon as you reach camp, condensation will settle on it as night falls, which makes for chillier and/or clammier nights.

I've never tried this, but friends recommend throwing a dark-colored sheet over your tent at night for winter camping. It helps hold in more heat, and the dark color helps the frost melt/dry more quickly in the sun the next day.
posted by vytae at 9:21 AM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

A checklist is incredibly handy and will save you much grief.
posted by March Hare at 9:37 AM on June 25, 2008

I'm surprised no one has said Dutch Oven cooking. You should be able to pick one up and a Dutch oven cookbook at any camping/outdoors store. It will take longer to cook, but it will taste much better. They are also great for making deserts. Cobblers and cakes on a camping trip are amazing!
posted by Deflagro at 11:29 AM on June 25, 2008

Also with Dutch Oven cooking. It's cast-iron so if you are backpacking NEVER bring it. And with the dutch oven you can make the treats that everyone else has been saying you should bring.
posted by Deflagro at 11:32 AM on June 25, 2008

When buying ice for your cooler, put it into 2-gallon ziploc bags instead of just dumping it into the cooler. As the ice melts, you have clean drinkable cold water.
posted by ktpupp at 12:43 PM on June 25, 2008

One reason for a groundcloth is to keep your tent bombproof

I have a good quality Moss tent that is quite waterproof, and due to backpacking, a ground sheet is just added weight. Car camping, sure, saves some wear and tear on the tent, but choosing a good location to setup the tent can also remove the need for the ground sheet.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 6:52 AM on June 26, 2008

No trenches, please.

Do look at Leave No Trace

Tent floors get holes in them from the inside out, not the outside in. Ground sheets do little to protect the tent floor from wear.

Ground sheets also tend to collect water rather than keep it out. Put a ground cloth inside the tent and several inches up the wall to form a shallow tub, this will both protect the floor and keep the contents of the tent dry.
posted by Clarke at 1:36 PM on June 26, 2008

The applicability of Leave No Trace sort of depends on where you're camping, unless you've really reached maximum Hippie. But wherever you are, clean up after yourself.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:20 PM on June 26, 2008

If you are Camping rather than RVing or Backpacking you might want a good chair. having a comfy chair to relax by the fire makes all the difference. you can get a cheapie almost anywhere but I recommend getting a quality one. I love my MaxxDaddy I use it all the time because it works just as well in non camping portable seating settings. Smaller people might not need such a throne, but you will probably be spending hours by the fire and sitting on a log is not very nice.
posted by Megafly at 10:24 AM on June 29, 2008

The best camping hack I've seen so far is using Dupont's Tyvek homewrap as a rain fly or ground cloth. It weighs a lot less than tarps and is just as waterproof.
posted by metacort at 1:02 PM on July 28, 2008

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