We have a great guest writer for you today! He’s going to tell you about some clever camping ideas that help eliminate camping stress. I know you’re going to use often. But first, a bit about our guest:
Luke is a fitness, health and travel blogger. He is editor-in-chief at the blog Ripped.me and one of the contributors at blogs Traveltalk and Fitness Food & Travel. He follows the trends in fitness, gym and healthy living and loves to share his knowledge through useful and informative articles.
You can access Luke with these links:
7 Clever ideas that will make camping easier and more fun
Camping is awesome, you get in touch with nature, you gather together with your friends and nothing can spoil your quality time there! Of course, in order to make camping such a great experience, one has to really get into it and do quite a few things. Yes, it can get stressful. Especially if something goes wrong upon arrival. However, there are certain things you could do to eliminate camping stress and make this whole experience even more enjoyable and fun! Let’s see.
Sage against pests
Many campers haven’t heard of this little trick. It is highly recommended that when you go camping, you bring sage. Sage bundles are super effective when it comes to deterring pests. Probably the most annoying thing that can happen to you while camping is getting bitten by those persistent mosquitoes. Therefore, make a bundle and set it over hot coals. The smoke is going to deter mosquitoes and other pests so that you can have a nice, bite-free experience.
Make camping easier by using an equipment list
Making a list of camping essentials prior to your trip is really useful. Why? Imagine finally arriving at the campsite and it starts raining. You look into your bag and you can’t find your raincoat. Really dumb, right? Well, when you start planning it all out, make sure that you also take a look at the list of camping essentials just to be sure. Nowadays you don’t even have to leave your home in order to get the stuff you need, you can do that by visiting an online camping shop. There is really no excuse for lacking various camping essentials.
Extra toilet paper
When packing, make sure to include toilet paper. Put in an extra roll just to be safe. Pack some additional toilet paper and put it in the bag along with some cotton balls and matches. You never know who might forget something or get a stomach ache. And you can never be too safe yourself.
Camping lanterns are an absolute essential since they keep your campsite well lit. However, some of them are often too bright. Especially once you’re in your tent. A cool thing to do here is to strap the light around a one gallon water container. The light has to be pointed towards the water. And you get a more diffused, softer light source. Voila!
Duct tape tweak
Duct tape is useful in so many situations, camping included. However, no one really needs an entire roll of duct tape. So, wrap some duct tape around a water bottle or knife sheath. Make sure that it doesn’t stick to itself and that’s it. You’ll always know where to find it if the need arises.
Scavenger hunt game
This one is especially good for families. It is well known that children’s attention cannot be kept forever, no matter how good the view or how fun the activity is. Therefore, equip yourself with this game should the need arise. Play a scavenger hunt game with them, but make sure that it is a nature-themed scavenger hunt. Offer a small prize or a treat just to motivate them even more.
Bringing some additional water is always a good idea. Making this multi-functional is even better. Hear this! If you are bringing a cooler, freeze a couple of gallon jugs of water. Don’t bring ice blocks. This way, they will keep everything cold, but they will also provide back-up water when they melt. If you’re planning a trip where you need your ice to last longer, add 1/4 cup of salt into one or two jugs and label them! No one likes drinking salty water. Do know that salt water melts slowly. So there’s a camping hack for you.
Hopefully, you’ll find these ideas useful. Camping is an event where bonding happens, it is an experience that needs to be cherished. And as such, you need to do whatever you can to make it even better. The aim of these ideas is to help you do exactly that. Exploring everything Mother Nature has to offer with your loved ones is awesome, so do your best to make it even better!
Thanks to everyone who subscribed to Camping and Hiking Ideas, and who were then automatically entered into the free draw for a free Campnab app scan! Check out the Free Draw Winners listed below. If your name is there, you will be notified by email. Take a look and see if you won!
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- Michelle, Roaming Miles For Smiles
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There is nothing more frustrating than deciding to go on a camping trip for the long weekend, only to find that all the sites have been taken already. Everywhere. You then find yourself faced with two choices—forget camping at a proper campsite, or sit in front of your computer refreshing the page of your campsite’s reservation page over and over again in the hopes that there will be a cancellation you can jump on. It’s a good idea—many people have found a site at the last minute because of a cancellation. But what a colossal time-consuming effort that can be!
Fortunately, there is an app for that.
Campnab is an app that does the scanning of all your favorite campsites for you. When an opening pops up, Campnab notifies you so you can go to the campsite’s reservation page and make the reservation.
The app is the brainchild of two Erics—Eric Karjualoto and Eric Shelkie, Vancouverites who also happen to be partners in SmashLAB, a creative design agency that deals in digital services. ( http://www.smashlab.com/) They design and build web applications, platforms and communities for businesses.
Shelkie wanted to use a camper van he bought, to go camping with his family. That’s when he discovered just how hard it was to book a campsite unless it’s done months in advance. He decided to create an app to help ease the frustration. With help from partner Eric Karjualoto, they created an app and designed a website interface and presented Campnab to an eager public.
How it Works.
The public embraced the idea of being notified when a camping reservation opening showed up, instead of sitting at a computer on the Discover Camping website, hitting the refresh button over and over again and hoping a cancellation appeared. The app takes advantage of the fact that a large number of camp grounds usually have last-minute cancellations. Campnab then sends the would-be camper a notification that lets them know a site has opened up for where and when they have specified. The camper can then reserve online at the campsite’s website.
Depending on the type of search you want and the frequency you choose for the Campnab app to scan the chosen spots and dates, the search will cost you between $10 to $20 dollars. Campgrounds seem happy with the idea, too–no more campsites sitting empty due to last minute cancellations.
The Camping App is Growing Fast.
The popularity of the app can be seen in its growth. Campnab started in B.C., but can now also scan parks in Ontario, Canadian and U.S. National Parks, Washington State, Oregon, and California; as well as those managed by recreation.gov (America).
Campnab has a really great Q & A that answers any questions you may have about the app. You can access the site, and the Q & A, here.
And now for the really, really fabulous news:
Want to try the app for free? Camping and Hiking Ideas has a free giveaway! Click here for details.
Our last top camping blogs list, compiled about six months back in October of 2017, was so successful we decided to make it an annual event. Plus we pushed it to April, since for us that is the start of good weather camping season. It benefits you because it gives you time to check out the sites, maybe file some recommendations away for use on your upcoming camping trip, and if you’re in the market for some gear, you can read the reviews of whatever it is you’re thinking of getting.
Why do we do a top ten camping website list? Because we love all things camping–including websites! However, many blogs and websites start with the best of intentions and then don’t continue. Others are really just online stores, with no content you can learn from. And one or two are just…well, you have to give them credit for trying.
The criteria for making our top ten list is pretty simple. Some content fueled by personal experience, some articles with info the average camper will find helpful, and accurate and coherent writing.
Top 10 Camping Blogs 2018 looked for certain qualities in a website.
Our criteria is simple, really:
Personal Experience Content.
There has to be some content that is from the website owner’s, or writer’s, personal experience. We look for articles that tell the reader “This is what I did. It doesn’t have to be all that way, but we need to find at least one or two articles that speak directly from the writer to the reader.
Helpful to the Average Camper.
Some websites out there are gorgeous and full of information, but they are for the “professional” camper or hiker; that is, those who travel the world and get to the tops of mountains and cliff sides. That’s great; but when there is no information for the family that wants to go bush camping for the long weekend or the hiker that only has an overnight hike in mind near his town, it isn’t relevant for most of the campers out there. If there’s nothing for the average camper/hiker, it belongs on another type of list.
Accurate and Coherent Writing.
Every website and blog struggles with spelling errors and mistakes. We struggle with it, too (as I am sure some of you regulars have noticed from time to time). But there needs to be a reasonable effort at proof reading to keep the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors to a minimum.
Most importantly, the information has to be accurate. Campers rely on two things when preparing to camp–what they have learned through personal experience and what they have learned by doing research. If the information presented isn’t accurate or if it is obviously generic articles cobbled together from other online sources, it is doing a great disfavor to the reader. No real camper wants to read such stuff. No real camper writes it.
I can hear you saying, “I thought your list was in October…….
Our Annual Top Ten Camping Blog List Is Now In April.
We love October, we really do. Fall and winter camping is among our favorite times of the year to camp. (See our article “Ten Reasons For Fall Camping” And 50 Campfires has a great article about winter hammock camping!) But the fact of the matter is, spring and summer are when most people camp, and that is when they need the information in our top ten list the most. So we’ve pushed it up to April, and it will be an annual April entry from now on.
We do, however, accept requests throughout the year if you have a camping website or blog and want us to check it out to see if you can be in our top ten. We’ll look at your site, and if you fulfill the above criteria, you might make it into our top ten! With the response we’ve been getting we’re seriously considering an honorable mention list, as well, so drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide us with a link to your website. We love blogs and sites about camping, we just love them! And newbies are more than welcome. In fact, we have a fairly new website in our top ten list for this year.
And Now, Without Further Ado:
…Aaaand the post has gone on way too long, as usual. Tell you what. Click here and it will take you to the list.
May the smoke stay out of your eyes, the weather be dry and sunny, and your campsite free of mosquitoes!
Campers have their favorite things to take with them, to make setup and break down of the camp site easier. These 10 unusual tools to take camping, and why, will give you some options for your campsite that you may have never considered before.
1. A pick mattock.
You would be surprised how often you use a pick mattock when you’re out camping–especially when you want to make your own outdoor toilet. A mattock breaks down through heavy root and rocks. You can use it to make a fire pit and to pry big rocks out of the way when you want to set up your tent on level ground.
2. a 2×4.
Several shorter pieces, in fact. You can use them side-by-side as walkways over mud puddles, lay them on ledges and rocks for use as narrow shelves, and in a pinch they make great firewood. But the very best use I ever saw was this one:
3. a pool noodle.
It seems that the world has looked at the pool noodle and seen something other than what it was intended for. You can slit them lengthwise and string them on your tent lines to keep yourself from tripping over them, place them around a laundry basket and stick them in the water as a kind of floating drink cooler, bend them into circles, fasten them with duct tape and make a giant ring toss; the ideas are endless.
4. toilet seat.
5. grocery bags.
Grocery bags make wonderful tools! You can stuff wet towels in them so the rest of your stuff stays dry, keep your clean and dirty clothes separated in your duffel bag, use them as emergency garbage bags, open them to make a temporary rain hat, gather foraged items, wear them over dry socks and inside wet shoes to keep your feet dry, stuff your pillow into them on rainy nights just in case your tent leaks–the list is truly endless. Just don’t leave any behind when you leave. That would be horrible.
6. fireplace logs.
For years I would take one fireplace log for every day I camped. It was just so nice to go and get one the next morning to start the fire–you could take you time laying wood on it and even if the wood was slightly damp it would dry out and begin to burn because fire logs last 1-3 hours depending on what kind you buy. Stupid-simple to start a fire with them.
7. a 6′ folding banquet table.
These are starting to get expensive, but as soon as you can afford one, or if you see them on sale get yourself a six-foot folding banquet table. Invest in at least one, depending on how many people you camp with (we have three). They are easy to fold and store away at home, easy to pack and take with you, and all that surface space to work on almost brings tears of gratitude to my eyes thinking about it. Plus, they last forever.
8. door mats.
A couple of door mats, one inside and one outside your tent, will go a long way to keeping the woodsy stuff outside where it belongs. Makes it so much easier when it comes time to pack up your tent and go home. I’m a huge fan of avoiding mess in the first place.
9. gardening gloves.
Heavy duty ones. They protect your hands when you’re adjusting the logs on the fire, grabbing the Dutch oven, clearing out the devil’s weed right beside your tent, etc.
10. duct tape.
Granted, this is becoming less and less of an oddity when it comes tocamping and hiking, but there are many people out there who don’t realize just how handy this stuff is when you’re camping. It fixes everything from a leak in that air mattress to an emergency bandage for a really, really bad cut. Don’t waste time with that itty bitty bit they say to wrap around a water bottle. Take the whole roll. It doesn’t take up that much room in the car, really. Stuff it in the glove compartment.
11. bonus item: large cup hooks.
Large cup hooks can be screwed directly into a tree trunk to hang your first aid kit on, string a clothes line between two trees, and generally act as useful hangy things. Plus, they’re easy to remove from the trunk and take back home with you, with minimal damage to the tree. And nothing left behind.
When you go camping you quickly discover that when it comes to preparing meals, you need an organized area. If you’re trying to fry eggs and bacon and the pans, prep space and stove are far apart from one another, the food is going to get cold and you are going to keep bumping into people who follow you in to the tent to grab a glass of juice, steal a piece of bacon, or just see “what you are doing”.
We have a 10′ X 10′ instant-up gazebo that has removable walls and mosquito netting. This keeps the bugs out and also lets the heat out on hot days. When it rains, everything food-related stays dry and you can make meals in comfort. You can see how we set up our kitchen tent and what you need in order to do the same. Just click here for full instructions.
Whether you use our set-up, or just want an area where you can cook, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Keep the camp stove(s), propane tank, and propane tree all together.
A propane distribution tree is a long pole that attaches to the tank, with a propane lamp at the top. If you have one of these setups you can have a nice bright cooking area if it falls dark quickly. Your stove can also stay attached to the tank. Any time you need to cook or heat something on the camp stove, it just becomes a matter of turning the stove on. So much easier!
Have a separate stand for the stove, and a prep table beside it.
The propane tank and tree should be on one side of the camp stove, and the prep table on the other. Have a stand for the camp stove to sit on. You save your back because you can stand and cook instead of being bent over all the time. A stand also keeps the stove from taking up all the space on the table. It’s light and easy to fold and pack away, too.
We usually have a large group with us, so we have invested in three of those folding banquet tables. They last forever and are great for food prep. We stick all the cooking gear bins underneath and lay out one end for washing up. The corner is for drinks and snacks. Because they fold away, we just stick them up against a wall in the garage when we go home.
Your tent cooking area should be close to the camp fire.
We set up our kitchen tent so it’s just a few feet from the camp fire. That way, if we decide we want to do some Dutch oven cooking or set up a BBQ grill, everything is in the same general area. You can also put grill racks across hot coals at the camp fire to act as a food warming area. Just wrap it in tin foil and lay it on the rack.
Invest in some “S” hooks and hang your pots and pans and cooking utensils from the frame of your tent inside; then you just have to reach up and grab instead of digging around in the bins. It’s amazing how much easier cooking becomes at camp when you can see where everything is! Some people suggest getting a belt and adjusting it around a nearby tree; that works, I suppose. But then you have to go get the cooking utensils. If you hang it from the tent frame it’s right there. We like to use the trees for makeshift clotheslines and for hanging the first aid kit in plain sight.
You can also use a bungee cord, thread it through the center of your roll of paper towel, and hang that from the tent frame too. It’s always at hand and won’t get knocked off the table.
The nice thing about setting up your cooking area like this is that it’s so easy to set up and break down. There’s no wondering where what goes. All the stuff you need to cook with is in one area and it’s good for two or three people, or a crowd. (If you do want to set up a camp kitchen for a crowd, we have how to’s and more hints here.) You can adapt it to your circumstances, whether it’s a camping trip for a few weeks, a long weekend, or even an ambitious tail-gate party. No matter what, you’re prepared. Happy cooking!
Rekindling your campfire the next day will never be a huge problem for some people. They have the skills/supplies/money to get the job done. For the rest of us, though, starting up the campfire the next day can be like rolling the dice. Sometimes it works like a dream, sometimes it doesn’t. It rained overnight, or all the wood was used up, or the wind keeps blowing the little bit of flame we create, out!
So here are a few hints, tips, ideas, and gear you can think about for starting up your campfire again.
Many times you want to get that campfire going in the very early morning. It’s kind of dark out still–okay, it’s day two, you’re all excited to be camping, probably it’s still full dark but you’re raring to go–but everyone else is asleep. If you’re in an area that has several camp sites, the last think you’re going to want to do is alienate everyone and maybe cause a lynch mob because you’ve fired up the chainsaw or started chopping wood with an axe.
So prepare ahead of time–set some wood aside for the next morning. Some kindling, small pieces, and a few larger pieces. Doesn’t have to be a lot–just enough to get you through the first few very cold hours. By that time you’ve had breakfast and toasted your feet and you actually might feel like going to gather some wood. And if the campfire is dying again and everyone else is just getting up, so be it. They should have woken up early like you did. Now they have to wait.
(for the millionth time on this website) Tarp.
Make sure any wood that has been gathered for your fire, both for that day and for when you go to rekindle it, is tarped over. It rains without warning when you camp. If you try and rekindle your fire with wet wood–well; do I even need to finish the sentence. One tip: Set tomorrow morning’s wood aside or behind the main pile, separate and further away from the fire than the wood you are using that day. People are less likely to feed the fire with the stuff you are saving.
bank your fire.
When you make your fire pit, dig a small depression in the ground, and then circle the top of it with rocks. The bigger, the better. Banking your fire in this way will keep the embers out of the wind, and they are more likely to still be hot the next morning. Caution: Make certain you are allowed to do this in the area in which you are camping. Many areas and camp grounds want the fire put completely out each night. If you are allowed to let the embers remain, be sure your fire is in an area that won’t carry embers to nearby trees. If you are at a paying campsite, you probably have one of those fire pit rings to build your fire in. That works on the same principle as the rocks; it acts as a protective bank for your fire.
Cover those coals.
When the fire has burnt out and there is nothing left but coals and embers, you can save them by shovelling some ash over them and then using additional cover to protect them. If the fire is small (and most state and province regulations demand this), then place some heavy-duty tinfoil over the ashes covering the embers, and weight them down with some stones. This needs to be done with a little caution. If the embers and coals are too hot, the tinfoil can catch fire. The next morning there should be enough warmth and ember left to make rekindling easy.
An awesome solution is an item called the Campfire Defender. It’s a kind of pricey “blanket” for your fire. At the end of the evening, you throw this over your coals and embers, and it keeps them hot for up to eight hours. It protects them against wind, rain and snow and also contains the embers so they don’t fly around and possibly cause a forest fire. The cover is 68″ X 60″–plenty big enough for even a good-sized fire. They have a smaller, lighter version for hikers who camp, as well.
Get this toy.
A propane fire starter is a long wand you can screw on to the top of a small propane tank. It gives you a continuously burning flame as long as you keep the trigger depressed. If you have this handy little item, you can start a campfire up again with little trouble. Even if the wood is slightly damp you can keep the flame on it until it catches. Just make sure your kindling isn’t. I have an article about it, and how handy I find it when I’m camping. You can find the article here.
final thoughts and suggestions.
If you have the room in your vehicle to pack it, invest in some fireplace logs. Those burn for three hours. You can take your time placing kindling and wood on top of it to get the fire started with ease. When I have to room to pack them, I always take one for each morning.
Start your fire with softwood, such as pine, fir or spruce. Then keep it hot and sustained with hardwood, such as hickory, oak, beech or alder, if you can. Softwoods burn easy and fast; hardwoods burn slow and hot.
A campfire at night is a wonderful thing. It is rivaled only by a campfire first thing on a cold morning, as you sit in front of it with a coffee mug in your hands, listening to the world wake up.
One of the greatest comfort foods of all time, fried chicken is a meal that many home cooks–and most campers–shy away from. They feel it’s too complicated to make, takes too much time, and is a dish best obtained by bringing it home in a big red-and-white cardboard container.
While this may indeed be the most convenient, fried chicken can be made at home and at the campsite without too much trouble. Just follow the directions, step-by-step. All of the steps are easy, and you won’t believe what a hit it is at the campsite! The recipe and instructions below are for 10-12 pieces of chicken, enough for three or four people. (If you’re looking for our other Camping Comfort Food Recipes, click here.)
at home prep for camping.
Cut your chicken into ten pieces or buy 10-12 pieces from the store. Budget-friendly legs and thighs with just a couple of breast pieces are great if you are doubling the recipe or want to save time and money. You can also purchase a whole chicken pre-cut in larger grocery stores.
In a large Ziploc bag, place the chicken pieces along with 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, rosemary, and one teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Seal the bag, mush it all around until the rub coats the chicken pieces evenly, and stick the chicken in the freezer until you go camping.
at the campsite.
Remove the frozen meat from the cooler and allow to thaw. In bowl, mix 1 cup yogurt and 2 eggs. Once well blended pour the mixture into the large Ziploc bag that contains your thawed chicken pieces. Mush around a bit to make sure all the chicken is coated in the yogurt-egg mix. Set aside. If chicken is thawed, place in cooler to prevent spoilage. You can do this 15 minutes to several hours before getting ready to fry it. The yogurt helps the chicken absorb the flavors of the rub and makes it more tender and juicy.
When you are ready to fry your chicken, heat an inch of vegetable oil in a cast-iron frying pan over a camp stove burner over high or medium-high heat. Two frying pans are recommended here, because you don’t want to crowd the chicken pieces, and this will help get it all cooked faster. Of course, it goes without saying that you need a 2-burner camps stove! This Coleman stove is the one we have and use; the electric starter makes things so much easier. Get a wire rack ready over a tray to lay the cooked chicken on. (A camping grill rack over aluminum foil simplifies things for camping.) While the oil heats up, do the following:
Get ready to coat and fry
On a flat surface near the camp stove (and if you have set up your camp kitchen the way we do, you’ll have a great table to work from) mix in a medium bowl 2 cups flour mixed with 1/4 cup cornstarch and 2 tablespoons each salt and pepper. You can mix this up at home or at the site. If at home, place in a lidded plastic container. Make it large enough to place a piece or two of chicken in. That way, all you have to do at the camp site is take off the lid and you’re good to go!
Check the oil in the frying pan. It should be hot enough to brown a small piece of bread (about 1″ square) in about 60 seconds. If it is ready, put your chicken in:
Take pieces of chicken from the yogurt-egg mix in the bag and shake off the excess, then place into the bowl of flour, covering each piece of chicken thoroughly. Then place the chicken in the hot fat carefully. Only do 3 or 4 pieces at a time; crowding the pan makes for soggy chicken. Fry for about 6-10 minutes or until golden brown, turn with tongs and repeat on the other side. If you have an instant-read thermometer (and I always have one in the camping gear now and I love it), insert it in the meatiest part of the chicken to make sure it reads 165° F (to insure meat is cooked through) If it isn’t, lower heat and continue to cook until it does. Under-cooked chicken is something you don’t want to mess with! Remove to the wire rack and repeat until all the chicken is cooked.
Serve with our fabulous Grand Potato Salad and you’re good to go!
Things you don’t need to pack in your cooler is something I wish I’d had when I started camping in earnest. I had started doing most, if not all, of the cooking for our family and friends. The number of people I cooked for on a long weekend camping trip ranged from five to fifteen people on a regular basis. We had three coolers, and no matter how I tried I could never get everything packed in!
I knew canned goods were fine outside the coolers, and stuff like sugar, teabags and flour. But it took a good many camping trips before I had all the unnecessaries out, and just the stuff that really needs to be in the cooler, in. For a long weekend, not very much needs to go into a cooler:
- Other salty condiments, such as soy sauce and fish sauce
- Other vegetables such as tomatoes, avocados, eggplants, bell peppers, squash, pumpkins and green beans
- Honey, maple syrup, molasses (maple syrup should be refridgerated for long-term storage, but a long weekend is fine)
- Other fruits such as bananas, pineapple, melons and quinces
- Vinegars, steak sauce, hot sauce
- Olive oil and other vegetable oils
- Peanut butter, jams and jellies
- Relishes and pickles
what to pack in your cooler:
- Fresh milk
- Other dairies such as sour cream, yogurt and cheeses
- Sliced tomatoes
- Leafy greens (to keep them crisp)
Even in summer, you will find that the majority of items you take don’t need a cooler for the long weekend. And in fall and winter, that time extends to a week, or indefinitely if it’s freezing out!