There are once-or-twice-a-year campers, and there are those who spend much of their time sleeping outdoors. It’s natural that the more avid campers would pick up a few tricks or “hacks” in all that time they spend outdoors, and I’ve collected a few of these to share, so even your occasional camping can be done like a pro. 

Safe Bug Repellent

Many people don’t realize that the smoke from dried sage is a great insect repellent. It’s less toxic than most sprays, and is cheaper than many other solutions. You can burn it in a metal bowl at your table, or by the campfire, wherever you’re hanging out.

Soften Up the Floor

A tent pitched on forest ground can be a bit hard to walk, sit, and sleep on, but there are simple and cheap ways to create a cushier experience. One is to purchase foam mats used in children’s playrooms, which are usually quite cheap and can be placed inside the tent. Another is to cater soft materials available near your campsite, such as leaves or pine needles, and create a padding beneath your actual tent. 

Pack a Tarp

Tarps are like, the swiss army knife of outdoor shelter? Something like that, the point is they’re extremely useful, you can use them as a rain fly over your tent, fixed over the roof of your canvas tent, can be placed at the entrance to keep shoes on, and can be wrapped around whatever items you don’t want to get wet. Come to think of it, you might want to pack a few tarps, and one more perk is they don’t take up too much space. 

Heat Your Feet

Cold feet are a common camper complaint, so fill up your liquid containers with hot water from the fire and toss it into the foot end of your sleeping bag. You can also pack dry clothes down there, for added insulation, and always keep a pair of socks in your sleeping bag, your special dry sleep socks. Problem solved!

Get Creative with Your Campfire Starters

Did you know most hand sanitizer is flammable? There are lots of items that are great for starting fires that most people don’t think of, including dryer lint, toilet paper and paper towel rolls. Another tip is to buy some cheap birthday candles, to use for hard-to-start fires that may need to be lit a few times. 

Camping Laundry

There are many ways to do your laundry at a campsite, but assuming that water is plentiful, a great option is simply a five gallon bucket or similar container. Simply add a natural detergent, use your hands to wash, empty (into the ground, not streams or rivers), rinse, and then hang up your clothes to dry, which means bring something to use as a clothesline, as well. Extra tip: save your bread tags and use them as clothespins. 

Lube Your Tent Zippers

Zippers are notorious for getting stuck and sometimes breaking when you get rough with them. To prevent this, you can actually rub a candle against your zipper, so that the wax gets down into the crevices, which has a lubricating effect. 

Make Your Own Camping Lantern

If you have clear water containers such as water jugs or clear water bottles, place whatever light you have, such as a headlamp, on top of them, with the light shining into the container. The water will diffuse the light spreading it evenly around, making it effectively a lantern. 

Freeze Water Before You Go

If you stick them in a well-insulated cooler, frozen water bottles will maintain their ice for a couple of days, assuming the temperature outside isn’t absurdly hot. When you’ve been out hiking, you’ll be very thankful for this, as there’s nothing more refreshing than a tall cold drink of water.