Wondering how to camp like a Pro? Most campers hit the woods for a long weekend of camping to experience the great outdoors and have a quick adventure.
But, it’s not always a fun experience and even a seasoned camper can have a few issues that turn your good time into a big downer.
When camping, it’s important to create a comfortable basecamp where you can grab some water and rest in between activities.
Here are a few tips on creating a safe haven at your campsite and some helpful suggestions for cooking, safety, hydration, and most importantly, your comfort level.
1. When selecting a campsite, make sure you are aware of dead trees that can fall on you at any time and ruin a perfectly good camping trip with a trip to the emergency room. When eyeballing your camping site, look for debris and downed limbs as a clue of what might come next.
2. Nothing ruins a fun camping trip like obnoxious fellow campers. So before you pitch your tent, scout out the area and choose a site away from possible loathsome neighbors and find a nice quiet spot away from the party. Also, remember not to be obnoxious yourself and be a good fellow camper as well.
3. A campsite that has some tree cover (remember, we are talking healthy trees, not ones that will fall on you – see point #1 above), can be helpful in the case of an afternoon rain shower. And if you can find a campsite with a firepit and/or picnic table, bonus!
4. If you can, figure out which way the wind will be blowing during your camping stay so you can find a campsite upwind. That way, you won’t be subjected to the smoke coming from your neighbor’s campfire all night long. Nothing is worse than waking up in the middle of the night with a coughing fit.
5. If you enjoy a sunset or sunrise view, figure out which way to set up your campsite so you can get the best view. Otherwise, use this knowledge to help you find some tree cover which can also block that early morning sun and help you get another hour of sleep.
6. When choosing a tent, get the right shelter for your needs. Basically, don’t go nuts with some huge tent that is way more than you need. This type of tent may look cool, but it can be a real pain in the you know what to set up and take down.
7. Make sure to choose a small enough tent where it still satisfies your needs but also gives you the flexibility you need if finding a good campsite. Small tents can fit in tighter spots than larger ones which gives you more options at the campground.
8. Tents with double doors are a nice added feature. If you use the fly, you’ll have a great area to store your gear which means less stuff in the tent and more room for you. Plus, with the additional storage you get from a vestibule, it could allow you to get that smaller tent (see above).
9. Some campers prefer for their shelter to just be a hammock. Great for campers out on their own, this is a real option that has the versatility to work in all different conditions and temperatures. You can also minimize your camping footprint with a hammock or just have an easier time finding a campsite if space is limited.
10. Getting a good sleeping bag with a pad system doesn’t really need to be said, but when you are considering a sleeping bag, find one that not only fits your body but the conditions you will be sleeping in. There are some great combo sets that also come with a lightweight backpacking system to save you some money.
11. Inflatable mattresses are also a great idea, especially if you are a camping family and want to keep the kids happy and sleeping. Although little campers are sometimes happier sleeping in between you and your spouse, you may want to consider a sleeping bag made just for children which may help you both get a good night’s sleep.
12. Many of us DO NOT like sleeping on the ground and do prefer the larger tent with a cot system. They need a lot of extra room and, when used with a pad or sleeping bag, it can actually give you a good night’s sleep. Don’t worry about the extra weight though, cots break down easily and can be stored in a small carrying case.
13. When preparing to leave your campsite, take a few moments to jot down some notes about the campsite and your experience there. This will help you to know which campsites you will want to revisit in the future and which campsites aren’t worth the time to come visit again.
14. When considering how to make your tent more comfortable, bring along an old area rug which is a simple and easy way to add just a little bit of comfort to your tent. Not only does it help to manage dirt inside the tent, it feels great on the bottom of your feet before you go to bed.
15. Rope lights are a great way to light up your tent. You can easily wrap them around the pole structure on the outside of your tent right under the fly. With a small power pack, rope lights are a great way to produce ambient light for putting the kids down for the night.
16. Fill water bottles with either hot or cold to increase your comfort level overnight. On a cold night, fill a water bottle with hot water about fifteen minutes before you go to bed and put it in the bag near your feet. This is a nice way to get into a sleeping bag that isn’t freezing.
17. If you are camping by yourself and plan to use a small backpacking tent to sleep in, take along your cot as a comfortable base for your tent. Many of these smaller tents will sit well on top of the cot making for a more comfortable night’s sleep.
18. Make sure you know your burn rate and plan for at least twelve to fourteen logs to cook dinner with cast iron and then to comfortably fuel the fire until you go to sleep. Also take into account the type of wood you use and that light, dry wood will burn faster than hardwoods.
19. Always remember to have extra wood in the event of any problems or in case you just plan on staying another day. Don’t worry, it won’t go to waste if you sell it off to your camping neighbors so you don’t have to worry about taking it home.
20. Also, the key to working with a fire is to count your logs and know how long that stack will last you. If it turns cold while you are camping, you could be up stoking the fire all night and most of the day while other climates will only require a fire for a few hours at night.
21. Carry a folding military designed shovel to remove coals, cover a smoldering fire, or for adjusting logs in the pit. A poker, or a convenient branch, can also be a handy tool to have to make an adjustment to your fire. Plus, rocks are not only a nice decorative touch around the fire but will keep nosy little ones safely away.
22. Many of you enjoy using a dutch oven to do your cooking and bringing along a steel grate with legs can be a handy addition to your dinner prep. Just place it right over the coals in the fire pit, and it will be able to support a coffee pot or dutch oven or even sear a few steaks for dinner.
23. Always make sure you can confidently start a fire, nothing is more annoying than not being able to get a fire started when you have some cold and hungry kids with you. Also remember to bring along a pair of fire resistant gloves to keep your hands safe when moving cast iron or grates.
24. Clever fire starters are always a good idea to bring along to the campsite. Consider trying toilet paper rolls filled with dryer lint or cotton balls that have a smear of petroleum jelly (carry them in a plastic bag to reduce mess). If all else fails, pick up a few fire starter sticks when you are at the grocery store.
25. When you are starting your fire, place wood piles in your fire pit graduated sizes. Tinder piles are a great way to get your fire started, especially if you are camping in windy conditions. Also remember that once you get a fire pit started, it is almost instantly hot to the touch.
26. Go over safety issues with your kids as you are building your fire so that they are aware of the risks and how the fire pit works. It’s also a great idea to get the kids feeling like they are a part of the activity by giving them chores like collecting firewood.
27. Other safety issues include the “one poker” rule. Have only one poker handy that is always in the hands of the adult since kids really like to poke the fire and mess with it. Also think about the clothes that your kids are wearing and whether the items might be dangerous when exposed to an open flame.
28. Have several different types of fire starting methods with you on each camping trip. Depending on the weather, there are some fire starting methods that will work better than other types depending on conditions.
29. Build up a wood pile right after you have set up your shelter. When you create wood piles by size and vary the wood from big logs to kindling, this makes it easy to build your first fire each day instead of spending the morning searching for the right type of wood to get it going.
30. A neat trick to help heat up your hands safely is to place smooth rocks as a ring around your fire pit. This method can also help heat up your feet when you preheat your sleeping bag or even a well-placed rock can help soothe your lower back when you are sitting in a lounge chair.
31. When planning out your camping menu, make sure to use shelf-stable options that can help you save valuable cooler space. Canned items not only keep well, but have several tasty options for meals at the campground, especially when you plan some one-pot meals that also clean up easily.
32. Prep time for each meal should be planned out ahead of time. It’s not uncommon to get back to your campsite later than expected, so if you only have to do a few quick steps each night with a preplanned out meal, you won’t sit around starving.
33. Make sure to use recipes for meals that have been successfully made in a camp setting. Sometimes you can get a little ambitious with your meal planning and think you can pull of a homemade meal that doesn’t work as well with campsite limitations.
34. Having the right cookware is also key to a successful campsite meal. Make sure to have cookware that works well in a camp setting like cast iron and know how to take care of it and use it. It should be versatile, durable, and give you a good camping cooking surface.
35. Cooking utensils that have a variety of uses are an important part of cooking at a campsite. Multi-tools aren’t just for backpackers and survivalists, they can be very handy when preparing meals and doing other chores around your campsite.
36. Don’t overpack things like spices. It’s not uncommon to think you will use a lot of seasonings that you can use to flavor basic meals, but then you never get around to using them. Also, don’t bring non-stick pans, they can give off toxic chemicals when used over a fire and that will definitely ruin the flavor of your meal.
37. Dutch ovens are a great way to manage one-pot meals, however, having a great camp stove can give you more flexibility and control of the heat and flames. Not only will you be able to use that dutch oven, but you can use a griddle and different types of pots.
38. Do a lot of the prep work at home including measuring, dicing, chopping, and mixing as you won’t have a lot of room out at the campsite. This also allows you to bring exactly what you need for each meal and no more. Make sure to keep notes on what works and what doesn’t for your next trip.
39. Create a meal plan that uses some of the same ingredients among all the meals. You can also split meals up into a couple of servings so you can either cook all of the servings together or just cook the couple of servings you need for the number of people you have.
40. Cooking with coals can also make cooking easier. If you start a fire on one side of the fire pit and then add wood to the open side, this will allow you to gradually move your fire from the one side and reveal a perfect bed of coals to cook dinner on.
41. It’s hard to know what temperature you are cooking at, so you will have to gauge the temperature on your own. If you put the dutch oven in the coals and hold your hand near it, you can make sure that the temperature is level on each side. If you count backwards by 50 starting at 550 until you need to remove your hand because of the heat, you can gauge the approximate temperature that your coals are producing.
42. To keep your cooler cold all weekend long, make your ice into blocks instead of cubes. Blocks of ice melt slower so fill your cooler with one large block ice along with your drinks and food and then fill in the remaining space with cubed ice.
43. Keep the melted water in your cooler until it is no longer keeping your food cold. Don’t bother to drain it just because some of the ice has melted because the water will stay cool for a while keeping the cooler temperature lower.
44. Bring an extra storage bin for all your washable utensils, plates, and cups. This way you keep the dirty dishes separated and can just do the cleaning when you get home and then repack them afterward. Also, plan on using storage containers for all your gear and separate them for specific items to keep storage simple and easy.
45. Bring along extra garbage bags to hold your garbage, so you’re not scrambling around looking for a spare plastic bag to put your trash in. And then at the end of your trip, you can easily toss out all your garbage bags into the onsite dumpster on your way out.
46. After a long day of hiking, you want to make sure you have enough water to keep your hydrated so you can survive the entire weekend. Make sure you are effectively storing your water so that you can get to it when you get back to camp. Keeping water in gallon jugs is an easy and simple way for campers to grab some when they need it.
47. Remember to have some extra tent rope so you can make a clothesline between two trees for drying wet clothes or coats. If you have a tarp and some poles, you can also use it as a shelter or over a picnic table to save your food and gear from a quick rain shower.
48. Use compression bags for storage and save valuable space in your vehicle or in your backpack. Compression bags are the perfect solution for storing pillows, sleeping bags, and clothing by compressing them down into a small package, plus you can use a stuffed compression bag with clothing as an extra pillow.
49. During quiet time at the campground, a pair of small speakers that are battery powered can be a great way to enjoy some music around the campfire. Plus an extra headlamp is a cool nightlight and you can loop it around a colored bottle to create different colored lights.
50. The most important thing to plan for is keeping your kids happy and occupied. Engage the kids by letting them carry their own gear, help cook dinner, and even have a say which campsite to pick. Don’t forget to let them help set up the tent and use those colorful foam interlocking floor tiles for a comfortable tent floor.