Camping is a fun way to step out of social media and get back in touch with the Great Outdoors. Unfortunately, some equate camping with incredibly heavy packs, hoards of bloodthirsty mosquitos, and dirt. While dirt is an essential part of camping, unrelenting mosquitos and heavy packs don’t have to be. Here are 13 clever tricks and hacks to make your camping experience more delightful for you and your family.
1. Sage bundles are great for keeping nagging mosquitos at bay. Make a bundle and set it over hot coals. The smoke is a deterrent to mosquitos and other annoying pests.
2. Emergency toilet paper is always a good thing to pack. A good idea is to stick a back-up wad in an Altoids container, along with some cotton balls and some extra matches — just in case.
3. Duct tape is extremely useful stuff when camping, but you never really need an entire roll. Instead, wrap duct tape around a water bottle or knife sheath. It shouldn’t stick to itself and you’ll know exactly where to find it when the time comes.
4. Cabbage leaves are great for wrapping meat. Stick your meat straight onto the coals and cook without worrying that your meal might crisp into charcoal. You can bring your own leaves or find food-safe wild alternatives. In the northeast, skunk cabbage or burdock leaves are great options.
5. Whistles are important to have, in case of an emergency. Did you know you can make one out of an acorn cap? Learn more here.
6. Drinking straws can function as single serve spice and ointment containers. Cut plastic straws into 1/2 inch pieces, seal one end closed with a lighter, and fill with anti-biotic ointment, toothpaste, salt, pepper, paprika, you name it! Just seal the remaining end with a lighter and you’re ready to trek!
7. Wax-dipped cotton balls are great emergency fire starters. Make them at home with candle drippings and toss them in your Altoids case until you need them.
8. Toothpaste always adds unnecessary bulk to a pack. Instead, dry out toothpaste dots and dust them with baking soda. Once they’ve dried, toss them in a bag and viola! — you have preportioned toothpaste dots that take up 1/4 of the space of a traditional tube of toothpaste.
9. Getting lost is no fun, which is way biodegradable trail marking tape is so important. If you are out camping with your kids, make sure they have a roll of this trail tape to mark their way while on hikes. It is super fun for kids to use and helps to prevent disorientation on longer treks for the young and old alike.
10. Matches are great to have, but the box striker is often worn out or faulty. Instead, glue sandpaper onto your matchbox — or on the bottom of that aforementioned Altoid tin. Matches will light more easily, and it can double as a knife sharpener in a pinch.
11. Tea tree oil has yet another brilliant use — tick deterrent! Just mix a couple of drops of the oil with a little water and spray yourself; especially your ankles and boots. If you dislike the smell of tea tree, consider this: Lyme disease is way worse than smelling a little pungent for a couple of hours.
12. Cooler too big and bulky? You don’t need it. Hard cheeses, like parmesan and aged cheddar, and waxed cheeses can go quite a while without refrigeration. You can get powdered milk/buttermilk to make pancakes. Eggs can go without refrigeration for a significant period, or you can buy powdered egg if you find that unsettling. If you are really ditching all refrigeration, cured hard sausages and jerky are great substitutes for fresh meats. There you go, your canoe will weigh 30 pounds less!
13. Extra water is always a good thing to bring, but why not make it multi-functional? If you are bringing a cooler, freeze a couple of gallon jugs of water in lieu of ice blocks. They will keep everything cold and provide back up water when they melt. If you need your ice to last for a while, add 1/4 cup of salt into one or two jugs (make sure to label them, since you don’t want to be drinking salt water). Salt water melts more slowly than fresh.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Stop wasting away these beautiful spring-summer days indoors on your computer. Get up off your couch and explore all Mother Nature has to offer! It’s easier than you think!