What are the best camping hacks?

Some are hacks, some are just things you need to know. Some are for car camping and some aren’t. Here goes:

  • Always bring a 20×20 tarp, extra tent stakes, and 100ft of P-Cord. You have no idea if/when you’re going to need to make another shelter or for what reason. If you’re camping somewhere awesome, chances are that it is a relatively volatile weather environment. The one time you don’t bring this, it will rain. But if it rains when you do have it, you can make a shelter over your campfire and kitchen area and still hang out and enjoy yourself without having to hole up in your tent the whole time.
  • Car camping is great, especially at the famous places, but dig a little deeper. For every popular car camping site, there are dozens of campgrounds and designated forests/wilderness reserves that have free/cheap/first come first serve/awesome camping. You’ll find better places to camp for cheaper with less people and less hassle. Try a Moon guide for good advice on this.
  • If car camping or mild hike in camping, three words: cast iron skillet. Camp stoves are cool and all, but putting a cast iron skillet on top of a fire is way cooler. Plus nothing cooks more evenly, cleans easier, and risks insane burn wounds better than cast iron. Protip: Make bacon in skillet. Leave all bacon grease in skillet. Fry pancakes in skillet full of bacon grease. Smother in maple syrup. Thank me later.
  • Take the five minutes to clear your tent pitch area of rocks. You’re not going to be happy when you step on one, roll over onto one, have one tear through your tent floor, etc.
  • Don’t forget firewood. Scavenging wood from around your campsite is NOT a hack. You’re harming fragile environments by removing deadfall, which shelters and builds colonies/specimens of important animals/plants/stuff. Most campsites in pretty areas only allow you to collect firewood that is already fallen, and of that, you’re only allowed to take what already fits into the fire ring. Guess what, all that is taken, and you’re not allowed to cut deadfall. If you’re car camping, you’re going to need to bring firewood. And more than you think, too. That 20-30 lb. box you bought will probably last you one night and maybe one morning, not 4 days. Unless you like small stupid fires that don’t do much, in which case why go camping? If you’re hiking in and allowed to collect firewood, make sure you have a heavy duty knife or small saw to cut pieces of wood. If you don’t have a saw, use a rock and your burly knife to cute a notch in the branch, then flip it over and lean one end on something and stomp on the opposite side above the notch. Also, don’t forget matches/lighter/fire making utilities.
  • Baby wipes. Yeah, I said it. If you don’t know why this is correct, just take them. You’ll want them.
  • You need 1/4 the clothes you think you need. You’re camping, it’s not only okay to wear the same pants for three days, it’s practically encouraged. You need one of every item, including the ability to build a very warm outfit out of layers. The only things you need multiple of are clean socks and clean underoos. Everything else is going to smell like campfire smoke and hot dog grease five minutes after you put it on anyways.
  • Don’t forget hot chocolate mix. Seriously.
  • Don’t forget about your poop. If you’re car camping, there are bathrooms. Guess what? 100 people (maybe more!) are going to use the same toilet before the Ranger restocks the toilet paper the next morning. About half the time I go car camping the toilet paper is gone by 10 am the next morning. Bring your own roll. Plus, the stuff they put out in campsite toilets is that one ply stuff that wasn’t even strong enough to be Christmas present decorative tissue paper. If you’re hiking in somewhere with no outhouse, you need to remember a hand trowel for digging your hole. It is NOT COOL to not dig a hole. In some places, you’re expected to pack out your poop/paper. Do it. Just get a poop tube, like big wall rock climbers (http://www.davidlnelson.md/ElCapitan/DefinitionPoopTube.htm).
  • Don’t forget about your water. Car camping campsites probably have water. Hike in places don’t. You need a filter or a UV pen. You can use iodine tablets if you really like roughing it and the taste of chemicals (protip: Crystal Light Pink Lemonade covers the taste of Iodine really well). Even if you have easy access to water, you need an easy way to carry it. Bring a couple Klean Kanteens or Nalgenes per person (protip: stainless steel is INFINITELY easier to sanitize, spend the extra 8 bucks for stainless), or a big Gatorade style cooler with a spout.
  • Small First Aid kit. It shocks me how few people remember this.
  • Think about the wind. You want to be sheltered from it, if possible. You don’t want your tent downwind of the campfire. You catch my drift.
  • Are you a total softy? I am. I can’t sleep without a pillow. either get a compressable camping pillow from Thermarest (delightful), or stuff a bunch of clothes in your sweatshirt in a somewhat organized fashion.
  • You can make tea out of pine needles. It tastes kind of like pine needles.
  • Packing light, but want good food? Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated. Cured bacon doesn’t really, either. And you’ll be shocked at how good Rice A Roni tastes outdoors.
  • PACK IN/PACK OUT. Not a hack so much as a freaking RULE. Leave the campsite cleanER than how you found it.