7 Essential Summer Camping Tips

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Whether this summer will be your first camping trip or your 10-thousandth, there’s always something you can do to up your camping game. These are some of my favorite camping tips and tricks I’ve found that are clever, cheap, and easy. These camping ideas will definitely improve your time in the Great Outdoors!

1. Light your tent stakes.

Having to use the bathroom in the night when you’re camping is a bummer any way you slice it – you’ve got to get out of your nice cozy sleeping bag, unzip the tent, and then venture into the wild. Tripping over the stakes of your tent on the way back just takes the situation from bad to way worse.

You can solve this problem by first ditching your old tent with the terrifying, rusty metal stakes and swapping it for a newer lightweight tent with lightweight stakes (they’ll do less damage if you still do manage to trip over them). You can get a good deal on a new tent at REI or GoLite.com. Then you can either attach glow sticks or glow tape to your tent stakes, or you can get fancy and use Sugru rubber to make them glow, like this.

2. Make your own lantern.

As a kid, I never could get the hang of the Coleman lantern my father always brought camping. You had to pump it, then light it, and then I don’t know, say some magic words or something. I could never manage to do it.

That’s why I think this idea is so cool – just take a regular headlamp like you would use for night hiking (you can get one at GoLite, REI, or any other outdoor supply store) and face it inwards towards a gallon water jug, like this. Voila! Instant lantern.


3. Don’t forget camping-friendly coffee.

If you’re anything like me, you need coffee in morning regardless of whether you’re in a city highrise or somewhere in the middle of the woods. No, don’t go toting along your fancy French press on your camping trip – you’ll probably break it anyway.

For more camping-friendly coffee, try bringing Starbucks VIA packets (which have surprisingly good flavor) or create individual coffee packets. All you have to do is put a scoop of coffee in a coffee filter, then tie it with dental floss. When you want coffee, place the packet in a mug of hot water and let it steep, like a tea bag. Check out the full instructions here.

4. Keep bugs at bay.

Ugh, bugs! It’s not Mother Nature without a few flies and mosquitoes. You can keep the buzzing and stinging critters away from your campsite by burning sage bundles in your campfire (bonus – it smells nice, too!) and keeping citronella candles around (these don’t smell as nice, in my opinion).

When you go out on a hike, you can keep ticks from biting by spraying a diluted solution of tea tree oil and water on your legs and ankles. Just make sure that there is more water than tea tree oil, because it can be very harsh to skin if not diluted. Here is some more information on natural ways to keep ticks away.

5. Make foil packet yummies.

When I was a kid, my mother used to help us make s’mores in foil packets on the campfire, and I thought it was genius. I was sure only my mother was clever enough to come up with that idea. Turns out, lots of other people have come up with the same idea, only they use it to cook a lot more than just s’more. You can make foil packet eggs and ham, BBQ chicken and potatoes, tilapia (fancy!), grilled veggies, and tons of other meals. Here’s a great list of them with recipes and instructions.

6. Same with orange peel yummies.

When you’re camping, you want to carry around as little as possible, so it’s great when items can work for more than one purpose. 

When it comes to cooking and eating, your oranges can serve double duty. First they’ll be a fresh and healthy snack, and then the peels are perfect for cooking sweet treats like cinnamon rolls, muffins, and even brownies. A quick search for “camping orange peel recipes” will bring up all the recipes you could ever want.


7. Keep clean (ish).

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Camping is always a little gritty, but it’s good to keep up at least a minimum level of hygiene. For mealtime, you can create a handwashing station out of an old laundry detergent container turned on its side. When it’s time to shower, make sure you have microfiber towels – they’re very effective at drying, and then become dry again within an hour of being hung up.

Don’t forget to keep your teeth clean after all those snacks, too. You can avoid the mess of tubes of toothpaste by making dry “toothpaste dots” and carrying them in a plastic baggy.

Wherever your camping adventures take you this summer, remember the most important thing is to take a break from all your screens and stress and just enjoy the outdoors. Have fun!

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