14 Camping Tips and Tricks

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to setting up camp and surviving in the wilderness. Some skills and techniques can only be learned by years of careful experimentation and experience. However, you don’t have to spend a lifetime of tramping about to have a few life-enhancing tricks up your sleeve. No matter your experience level, a few simple tricks can be, at best, time saving and helpful and at the very least, novel or fun. Here are some tips and tricks that are easy and quick, but can make the wilderness a bit more manageable.

Tips for your Gear

• Removing sticky pine sap from your gear: Use warm water and mineral oil to remove stubborn pine sap from fabric.

• Minimize condensation in your tent: Keep your vents open and clear of large packs or piles of clothes. For better circulation, keep a top and bottom vent open so that cool dry air is sucked in as the hot moist air leaves.

• Save room: Use a clothes pillow. Instead of packing a big bulky pillow (or not sleeping with one!) Use your sleeping bag stuff sack and some clothes to rest your head on at night.

• Organize your pack to keep your balance. Make sure your heaviest equipment is packed in the lower middle of your pack. Pack medium-weight gear around or above the heaviest gear. This will keep the weight centered and natural feeling.

• Dry your boots quickly. At home, hang wet boots upside down and fill them with crumpled up newspaper to dry them overnight. In the field there are two really effective boot driers; the sun and your feet. If you have the time, put your boots out in the sun. If you need to travel, walk your boots dry.

• The temperature doesn’t matter to a sunburn. You can still get sunburned in cloudy or cool weather. Also remember that UV rays are stronger at higher elevations even though it may not feel like it, as the temperature drops. Always take lip balm and sunscreen to protect from sunburn.

• Always know where your bandana is: A bandana is one of the most versatile items you can take on the trail. You can use it for washing, wear it as sun protection, strain water, keep the sweat out of your eyes, and even use it as a makeshift, first aid tool. Of course, it can still be used for its original purpose of nose blowing – just be sure to give it a good wash before using it for any of the above listed uses!

Staying comfortable

Natural mosquito repellent: In a pinch some plants will provide repellency to mosquitoes. While it might give a bad tempered French knight something to taunt you about, the leaves of the elderberry bush make a great natural mosquito repellent. Crush the leaves and rub the liquid on exposed skin. There are also manufactured repellents that utilize active ingredients found in plants that will provide natural repellent.

• Prevent blisters: Some people advocate the use of foot lubricants like Hydropel or Bodyglide to avoid blisters. Powders such as Gold Bond or BlisterShield will also help keep sweaty feet dry.

• Use greasy snack food if kindling is wet: Oily chips like Fritos or Lays potato chips can be used as back-up fire starters if your wood is too wet.

• Don’t get caught in the dark: For a rough estimate of how much sunlight is left in the day, find a clear view of the horizon and the sun. Extend your arms in front of you, with your fingers parallel to the horizon. Count how many finger widths are between the sun and the horizon. Each finger width indicates approximately 15 minutes. So for example, four fingers between the sun and horizon indicate 1 hour of sunlight remaining.

• Don’t be a sucker. Remove ticks properly: Use tweezers to grasp the tick tightly, as close to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out in a slow, steady movement. Do not twist or jerk the tick as it comes out. Doing so will cause the tick’s head to break off in you skin and can become infected. (Gross!)

• Protecting a hot spot: If you start to feel a blister coming on, place a piece of moleskin or a bandage between the skin and your sock inside the shoe. If the skin has already begun to blister, use a blister treatment like GlacierGel to create a buffer and keep the wound stable, moist and clean.

• Use physics to warm your feet: You can use the force of inertia to get the blood flowing again to your cold feet. Simply swing your legs back and forth like a pendulum. This will force extra blood down into your feet and will keep them warmer.

Tell us some of YOUR best camping tips!

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  • Cakalaki

    Use sand, dried up leaves, to clean your cooking pots if you don’t have anything else.

  • Baba

    Bring one Handi Wipe to clean your cook ware. Use biodegradable soap.

  • James Bass

    On measuring time to sunset you said, ” Extend your arms in front of you, with your fingers parallel to the horizon.” Keeping your fingers ‘perpendicular’ would work better for the method you are proposing. Indeed, counting your fingers on the horizontal will hardly work at all.
    J. Bass

    • Vertical Horizon

      Actually, the given method works pretty well. You are confusing parallel and perpendicular.

    • Bob

      Each fist is an hour, each finger 15 minutes (bulk time & less).

    • KJ

      Your arm is perpendicular, your fingers are parallel.

  • Martin Heesacker

    Leave all your cotton clothing at home when camping/backpacking. I have come to favor trail running shoes and mesh boots over traditional leather boots, but maybe that’s because we live in Florida! Wet is a bigger issue than cold for us.

  • msp8

    Walking with wet boots is a really bad idea, especially if it is warm out. Fungus loves that condition and you will become very miserable. Always keep your feet dry!

    • KJ

      Walking with wet boots actually works well and will aid in breaking in new ones. Just change socks to a dry pair every so often. Rotating two pairs of socks with one on your feet and another air drying while clipped to the outside if your pack has worked well for me.

  • D. Shriver

    The best way to remove ticks is to put a couple of drops of oil or liquis soap on them and they will back out, THEN use your tweezers to carefully remove them. I have used this method dozens of times with my boy scouts.

  • Dallas

    Bring zip ties to tie branches away from your tent.
    Zip ties are very handy for camping needs.

  • Donald Scott

    Here one that every is sure to like. Toilet paper a great item and very useful for all type of situations.I know some peopl store it a plastic bag to keep it dry,but,they tend to rip and become moist and of no. What I do is take an empty 2 liter soda bottle , cut in half be sure they are clan and dry. Put toilet roll in bottom half of bottle trim to top of roll then cut slit on side partway down the side. Remove center paper tube and discard. Pull small amount out of center of the roll. Then take top part of the bottle, remove lid and insert small portion toilet paper , sqease bottom so slit overlap a little. Finish sliding top portion over lower bottle.tuck small amount toilet paper back into bottle replace lid . And trim the excess. When is use paper unravels from inside and is dry for whennature calls.

  • Brooklyncowgirl

    As the late, great Billy Mays used to say, Shamwow is sham wonderful! Bring one to use as a personal towel and to dry gear & tents. Another use for a bandanna: coffee filter. It makes a good cup of coffee and you can just rinse it out when you’re done.

    • Kyle M

      Sham-Wows are a must have! They’re a life saver for wiping down condensation in your tent on cold nights, drying cookware, etc. A 2′ by 2′ towel is plenty enough to dry off after a dip in the river.

  • Girlz That Luv Camping

    I cut a magic eraser in a smaller rectangle and store in my cook pot for scrubbing… works like… well, magic! It’s light and works with or without soap. Takes the black marks off the outside your pots if you are using wood for fuel.

  • Kenny B

    when cooking on a wood fire spread dishwashing liquid on the OUTSIDE of the pot the pot will turn black but when you wash the outside the soot will come right off

  • Kevin

    To minimize chafing I wear a Mountain Hardware kilt while hiking. It reduces the amount of clothing you need to pack, dries very quickly when wet, and it speeds up bathroom breaks too. Just be careful in mixed company.

  • derek141

    FIRE- To save time for family camping, use petroleum jelly-saturated cotton balls (pulled apart before use) for firestarters… I always have a few Rx bottles stuffed with about a dozen of them each ready to go.

  • greyhiker

    Damp feet are miserable when hiking in cold weather. People whose feet perspire heavily should start antiperspirant on their feet 2-3 weeks in advance of the intended hike. Wash feet, dry and apply antiperspirant at bedtime. Sweating on the palms and soles is primarily stress induced so outside temp is irrelevant. Same process for summer reduces blistering.

  • SA 211

    Alcohol based hand sanitizer gel, also, is excellent for removing sticky pine resin from gear, clothing, hands, etc.. In addition to being an essential hygiene item (in my opinion) for after bathroom breaks, it can come in handy for starting fires.

  • Kyle M

    I save the little bags of Silica Gel that come in packages of beef jerky. When packing up camp I store these in my cookset, which also holds my stove, to keep from moisture building up and causing rust or mold. For long term storage, I put them in any container I use to hold anything metal.
    I also use little craft bags (2″ by 4″ and 4″ by 6″) to consolidate small items (batteries, headlamp, items with lanyards, firestarter, trail mix, etc) into larger compartments, without them getting tangled up in each other. I can get a pack of 100 for a dollar or two at Wal-Mart.

  • Lou the Camper

    First Thing when you wake up in the morning, when it is Cool & Daylight: Fill *ALL* of your Liquid Fuel gear. Do *NOT* wait till Later (dark) Or Worse, when the tank runs Empty, and the equipment is **HOT**!!
    (don’t Laugh, I’ve seen many a Genius try to fill a Red Hot Lantern/Stove in the Dark)?!?!? YIKES!?!?!

  • Random person.

    If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, rub your spit and some dirt on them to mask an unwanted smell such as a fish you caught earlier.