Household Items Campers Shouldn’t Do Without And Why

You don’t have to spend a fortune on camping toys. You have things in your house that should never be left at home.  The following items will make your camping trip so much easier, you’ll wonder why you ever left home without them in the first place.

Garbage bags

You would be amazed what you can do with a trash bag.

Garbage bags have dozens of applications in camping. Cut a hole about 6” down from a corner, add two more holes on either side, and you have rain guard for back-packing. It covers your backpack, neck, shoulders and head. If you open one up into a long rectangle you have a tarp for under your sleeping bag.

Garbage bags can be cut along the sealed end to make a tube. Tape it to the underside of a toilet seat to protect your legs against pee. (See our home-made toilet plans for a tremendously effective camping toilet) You can also use it to wrap wet things in if you are packing up to go home after or during a rain. Most important of all, you can use it to pack your trash out, to leave the site as clean as you found it. Trash in, trash out.

Plastic 2-liter pop bottles

If you are taking along pop, these are the ones to take. Once they are empty, fill them with water. Hang them by rope from overhead tarps to keep the wind from blowing the tarp to pieces. Empty bottles can be upended over tall sticks to hold up the droopy part of an overhead tarp. The bottle protects the tarp from the damage of a stick-end. Water bottles can be frozen at home and used as freezer packs for your coolers—as they melt the water is cold and drinkable. Cut the top off and use it as a funnel. Cut the bottom off and use it as a bowl. Like garbage bags, there is no end to its use. You are limited only by your imagination.

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Duct tape

Not just the handyman’s secret weapon.

Forget the handyman—this is the camper’s secret weapon! Duct tape sticks even when it’s wet. Repair a tear in a tent or a tarp, use it to bind things together, or twist it to make emergency rope. Take a strip and smear the unsticky side with a mixture of half-and-half honey and syrup, leaving 1 inch dry. “Tack” it up to any “ceiling” by that 1 inch strip.  Instant fly paper. You can make emergency shoes with duct tape. You can even use it as an emergency bandage. Just fold a piece of clean cloth or paper towel over the middle and stick it over the wound. It makes a great emergency handle. Or seal a bag of potato chips with it—in a camping situation dampness is a constant threat to potato-chip crispness. One word of warning, though—it will NOT repair a tent pole. Just saying.

Ziploc bags

Keep spills in and stuff dry.

A must for campers. These bags can keep extra pairs of socks and underwear dry, carry small amounts of food and cereals, hold water to make freezer packs, and even double as a bowl for mixing things in a pinch—the upside being that all you have to do is seal it and mush the ingredients together to mix them. A Ziploc bag holds the fish you catch and keeps your toilet paper roll dry. You can marinate meats in it. You can also pack snacks for the kids to put in their back packs.

It also makes a great emergency funnel if you don’t want to cut up your large soda bottles. Put your bottles of creams and detergents and other liquid cosmetics in it. That way, if a bottle leaks it won’t get all over your clothes. Pack a lot of your foods in it—they don’t always take up the space that boxes and bottles do. Once it’s empty it packs down into practically nothing, and is uber-easy to pack out.

Cup hooks and “S” hooks

I’m not kidding. When you’re camping, those little screw-in cup hooks and the “S” hooks of all sizes are super handy. You can screw them into trees to hang line, or place the first-aid kit in plain and accessible sight. You can also create a hitching point for various reasons, like setting up a little tarp over a small area, or creating a “roof” over the shower area.

We love them because when it comes time to pack up all you have to do is unscrew them from the tree. They take up very little space, too. We always stick a Ziploc bag of different sizes of them in with our kitchen gear. The “S” hooks can be strung along a rope to hang your gear on. Up off the ground is usually better than sitting on it, where dirt and damp can wreak havoc on things like jackets, first aid kits and various stuff bags.

Paper towel

Too handy to leave at home.

Two must-haves in anyone’s camping gear. I also take along a face cloth, a couple of cup towels and a dish cloth, but I won’t go without paper towel. It doubles as a quick substitute for all those things, and also can be used as an emergency coffee filter, wound dressing and fire-starter. If you take along cast-iron cookware, paper towel is essential for applying a thin coating of oil to the inside once the cookware is washed, to prevent rusting. If you take fresh herbs for your cooking, don’t forget to place them in a Ziploc bag with a dampened paper towel folded in with it—it prevents wilting and extends the “freshness” of the herb.

Aluminum foil

Aluminum foil is the camper’s happy tool—you can cook and bake anything in them. Wrap the food up and throw it in the fire to cook.

It also serves as an emergency lid if you forgot to bring any for your pots, and you can line the mouth of your cast iron cookware before placing the lid on, to keep dirt and ashes out; super important if you are burying your pot to cook in the ground or applying coals to the lid-top to increase cooking and baking temperature. You can also scrunch some up and use it as a scrubber. I always keep a pair of scissors in my kitchen bin, and cutting some foil up is a good way to sharpen them a little. And hey—if aliens land, a tuck here and a fold there and your anti-control hat is ready to go!

There are other things you can take to make your camping experience easier, but these are things anyone can take along without spending a lot of money, that makes a huge difference in your camping experience.  If you have a common house-hold item that you like to take camping for its many uses, let us know in the comments section below!

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