Top Ten Camping Tips

Packing for a camping trip doesn’t have to be a hassle. Lists, checked off and checked off again, and yet somehow something gets left behind. Packing ahead of time seems to work, but what if someone needs something during the interim and doesn’t put it back?

I’m an avid camper and have never failed to ask for tips from others, especially those older than myself. They began camping before all of our “modern” equipment, so they learned how to handle every detail of short and long- term camp stays.

During a recent internet search, I found I was again collecting tips. Some are exciting, others save money, time and frustration.

These ideas are perfect for a camping kit; it also works beautifully in a disaster kit.

Number One

If the camp toilet uses bags instead of a holding tank, you might notice the bags are a bit pricey- over $13 for six bags containing bio-gel. This substance absorbs liquid and turns it into a gelled substance that can be thrown away.

This tip is from, written by F. Skov. Instead of buying pricey bio gel-filled bags or buying the bio gel separately, make your own “doodie bag.”

  • For the outside bag, use a zip lock bag- size it for your particular toilet. Make the inner bag using a four-gallon trash bag- buy these at your nearest dollar store, cheap.
  • Buy the cheapest disposable baby diapers you can find and remove the plastic. Toss that in the recycle bin. Place the diaper in the inner bag, add baking soda (about 2-4 tablespoons) and push the air out, taking care not to burst the bag (the cheap ones are rather fragile), close with a twist-tie and store for your next trip. When used, twist tie the inner bag closed, place in a zip-loc bag and dispose in a proper trash container.

Cheap porta-potty deodorizer is something many campers keep their eyes open for. Used coffee grounds are famous for their deodorizing properties. After brewing and enjoying your morning beverage, pour the wet grounds into your porta-potty tank. The only downside is that at the dumpsite, you’ll need to use the hose to rinse out the tank before storage. The amount of grounds used depends on the amount in the tank- trial and error should tell you.

If you’re an RV park or camping resort with a restroom, try to do “heavier” business at the public facilities.

Number Two

Always pack and wear appropriate clothing. If you’re in Yellowstone or Yosemite National Parks, realize it does snow in July. If all you’ve packed are tank tops and shorts, you’ll be colder than the food in your ice chest.

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If you’re at the Mojave or Death Valley National Parks and all you’ve packed is tank tops and shorts, you’ll burn by day and freeze by night.

Packing the right clothing isn’t just a good idea- it’s essential. Lightweight rain gear, thermal underwear, light winter coats can travel in vacuum bags or compression bags for space efficiency. If they’re needed- you have them at hand.

Number Three

If you’ve ever put up a tent only to find the poles broke during storage or transit, don’t cancel the trip.

  • Take spare poles with you- the manufacturer of your tent should sell them. If they don’t, find another tent. The Coleman Company sells replacement poles for their tents at big box stores like Wal Mart.
  • Take a tarp with you and make an old-fashioned tent, like the pioneers. It’s not hard to do at all. Follow this link to learn how. You can certainly make smaller tents with tarps, too.
  • If you’ve arrived in a pickup truck, throw a tarp over the bed, weigh the sides down or stake them, place your sleeping bags in the bed and camp there. Same with an SUV.

Who says you have to buy a tent? Make a PVC tent or a Yurt and save a bundle.

Number Four

This next tip comes from “Ken’s Top Ten Camping Tips Video,” and is a simple way to level your stove, sink, table, etc.

  • Place a plate or dish of water, milk, etc. on top of the device you want to level. Notice where the water is pooling. Place a wood shim or stone under the leg of the table until the liquid is level across the dish. Move on to the next table or device in camp.

This tip is quick, easy, and free of charge.

Number Five

Earlier in the year, something that made the national news sent chills down my spine. People at camping grounds and outdoor parties were throwing what they called “grease-bombs” in the fire and laughing at the ensuing explosion. What made the news is the number of people injured by this stupidity.

  • Never dump your cooking grease on the ground. It takes time to break down, and will attract every bug, opossum, raccoon, bear, etc. in the neighborhood. Take a “grease can” — an empty metal coffee can will do- pour the grease into that and when it’s cool, place the lid on it. When leaving the campsite, place it in the trashcans provided.
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Putting it in the campfire is just stupid. Flames shooting up could ignite the trees above your camp, and you would be held responsible for the ensuing fire. Not to mention the liability if someone were hurt.

Number Six

A sense of humor is needed for all camping trips. If packing for the trip, deciding where to go, what everyone’s going to eat, etc., is causing a fuss; gather everyone together to watch something special on UTube.

Check out the videos for the “Redneck Camping Guide” — they’re hysterically funny. Tongue-in-cheek about camping, they lighten up some of the more frustrating things about spending a few nights in the woods. As for trying out some of their more “interesting” tips- well, I’ll leave that up to you.

Number Seven

Not just for “newbies,” but for those camping in new areas or new states, this next tip can save you time, money and great discomfort.

“Avoid the Itch” gives advice on products to use if you’ve been exposed to poison ivy.

My advice is simple: learn the poisonous plants of any area you wish to camp in first. Booklets and pamphlets are sometimes available from US Park Services, or go on the internet and do a search. If you camp a lot in your state, buy a book and educate yourself/family on the plants.

Not just the plants, but also the poisonous insects, mosquitoes, snakes of the area that you should avoid. Learn ahead of time what to do in case of a bite, sting or contact.

Add the appropriate items to your first aid kit so you’re prepared ahead of time.

Number Eight

Learn the rules of local privately owned, state or federal campgrounds before you go. If there’s no fishing/hunting/campfires, don’t.

Being thrown out of a campground is embarrassing. If it’s the only campground around, you’ll have to travel for the next one. Don’t try to “stealth camp,” that is, camping on private property illegally. Trespassers can be shot in many states. Landowners, particularly in Texas, have cattle on the property- bulls are territorial and have no sense of humor to strangers.

If you’re expelled from one state park, the expulsion goes for all the parks in that state. The same goes for federal parks- banned from one is banned from all.

If you’re allowed to use a friend’s property, be a friend and don’t leave the place trashed. You want to be invited back.

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Be smart- know the rules ahead of time and follow them.

Number Nine

Learn from experienced campers. Friends and relatives who camp often are the best, if sometimes irritating, teachers.

If you’ve only camped at RV parks during a weekend and now you’re in the true wilderness, everything is vastly different.

If you’ve only camped during the summer, and now you’re asked to go on a winter camping trip- that, I assure you from personal experience, is entirely different. It’s fun, too.

Learn about the area, conditions, what you might need.

Books, websites, DVD’s and more abound, but taking an experienced friend/relative with you (perhaps you pay their way) to learn first hand has no comparison. Make certain the teacher you’ve chosen follows all the safety and campground rules.

Number Ten

If having a campfire is banned, you won’t starve. You don’t have to eat cold sandwiches or canned soups every day, either. Here are three ways to cook without fire.

  • Take a camp stove with you. Many companies make them, and some are “dual-fuel,” meaning they work with canned camp fuel or gasoline. (Trust me, a can of camp stove fuel is far cheaper.)
  • Use an electric stove or oven that you can plug into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter. Build a solar power pack and use 12-volt products- electric skillet, oven, crockpot, etc. Add an inverter and use your regular electronics. You’ll have to add the wattage of the electronics to select the correct inverter.
  • Solar ovens work all over the world. No electricity, no liquid or solid fuel, no fumes. Learn to build the right one for you by following this link. I use one; they’re a ton of fun.

With these ten tips have a blast camping anywhere- even in your own backyard. If you live in an apartment, pitch a tent (or build one from chairs and blankets) that fits inside the living room.

Source: The author of this article has over 40 years of experience in diverse forms of DIY, home improvement and repair, crafting, designing, and building furniture, outdoor projects and more.