Camping Tips, Gifts
Help Campers Celebrate The Season
December 1, 2020
I've been camping for a very long time. When I was a kid, camping was usually in conjunction with hunting or scouting, and my dad had so much camping gear the truck was really loaded down. The only part I didn't like about camping back then was putting things away.
Nowadays, since there are so many great light-weight options for camping gear, we camp even more often. Here are some tips and gear that will make your next camping trip easier. These also make great gifts for the campers on your list.
The tent is probably the first thing you think of when you think of camping, unless you have a trailer or an RV. We don't have either of those, so we tent camp. We wanted to be able to put our camping gear in an off-road vehicle, so we bought a pop-up tent on Amazon. That tent is no longer available, but they have a Coleman 2-Person Pop-Up Tent for less than $60.
These pop-ups are fantastic – you take them out of the bag, pull the elastic keeper off, and boom! The tent magically pops up -- poles and all and is instantly ready for use. Putting the tent away takes some learning, though. We practiced at home in the back yard until we were good at it, because I didn't think we'd have internet service out there so that I could watch the video.
Watch A Video
Watching a video is absolutely the way to go – the instructions that come with the tent are rarely enough to let you figure it out. But seriously, once you learn how to fold them back up, those pop-up tents are the way to go. They are so small and light they hardly take up any room at all! Don't worry if you can't find a video for your exact tent – they all fold up pretty much the same way.
People who hate to camp usually just hate being uncomfortable at night. I get that. When you camp on a hunt it is usually cold, and it's hard to get a good night's sleep when you're cold and sleeping on cold ground. Sleeping pads and a good sleeping bag are imperative.
Once again, I hit up Amazon for some self-inflating Sleeping Pads. And again, they are no longer available but just search for self-inflating sleeping pads. These don't actually self-inflate, but they do start to take on air as soon as you get them out of the bag, and you can finish them off by blowing them up with lung power.
Easy To Transport
They make a huge difference in comfort level, because you can rarely get the ground under your tent totally smooth. Ours fold in half lengthwise then roll up into a very compact cylinder, making them very easy to transport. Amazon has an Osage River self inflating pad that even has a pillow attached for just under $50.
For Your Dog
If your dog sleeps in the tent with you, she's going to get cold and uncomfortable too. I bring a blanket along that is waterproof on one side, and I throw it down in the bottom of the tent with the fleece side up. I also bring a couple of fleece throws that we can use to cover our heads or fold up for a dog bed.
Pillows are a huge deal for comfort, and I have yet to find an inflatable pillow that is actually comfortable. What I do is use regular bed pillows, but I put them in Space Bags and squeeze all the air out so they pack easily. Amazon has Space Saver Bags that hand-pump for travel and a 6-pack of large ones is just under $35.
Easy To Pack
Seriously, being comfortable at night is key to enjoying camping, so I don't mind if soft warm bedding takes up a bit of room. Since we have a padded cushion for Mochi (our French Brittany) to use in the back seat, we take it out and use it in the tent for her as well. The Oceas Outdoor Waterproof Blanket is fantastic and on Amazon it is just under $42. They fold and roll into a very compact little bag so they are easy to pack.
Coffee And Cooking
When we are hunting or camping, gourmet eating is not high on our list. We are usually out all day and only at a campsite for a short period of time before it's time to go to bed, so I usually just use a JetBoil to boil water for coffee and for our Backpacker's Pantry meals.
The JetBoil boils water in about 100 seconds. You can get them at Sportsman's Warehouse, and the fuel too. They also have several models on Amazon. The JetBoil Flash is around $110 on Amazon, and it is worth every cent. What I do is boil the water for the food pouch, and pour it in first, because it has to stand for about 20 minutes. Once that's taken care of, I boil water for coffee.
I found some Stanley metal cups at the grocery store, and they have foam sleeves that keep your hands from getting burnt. I also found Primula Brew Buddy Portable Pour Over. These are fine mesh filters on a disk that sits on top of the cup. Spoon the coffee into the hanging mesh basket, then pour the boiling water over it. You can also pour the water into the cup and then set the basket over it. Wiggle it up and down a bit to get all the grounds wet, and in just a few minutes you've got freshly-brewed coffee.
I have four mugs and four baskets so I can brew us a second cup while we drink the first one. I have also discovered that it takes exactly five of those cups to fill our Thermos bottle. The Brew Buddy is $8.95 on Amazon. You can use any insulated cups you like, but I like my Stanleys because they nest together and take up less room.
Backpacker's Pantry Foods
Backpacker's Pantry foods are fantastic – they taste great and they have lot of vegan options. Our favorites are the Pad Thai (9.99), the Kathmandu Curry (6.99), and the Cuban Coconut Rice and Black Beans (7.99). You can get them at Sportsman's Warehouse, but you can get them cheaper at http://www.backpackerspantry.com. Each pouch feeds two people, even people who are hungry after hunting or hiking all day.
I used to use an old Army field desk as a camping box, but now I use a couple of medium-sized Columbia duffel bags. The reason I use two is that half the time you're not allowed to make a fire, so I have no need to drag along the BioLite Stove, pots and pans, grill, etc. So I have one bag for non-fire camping and one for fire camping. We usually only use one paper plate each for dinner, so when we can have a fire, I bring paper plates (sturdy ones) and bowls and stuff.
Otherwise, I bring Flexware and just wash up really quick after dinner. Flexware is amazing stuff because it accordians down flat for easy packing but it's nice and sturdy. If you go on Amazona and type in "Flexware" you'll find everything from a coffee drip to a collapsible sink. The Mess Kit is fabulous – it has a two-compartment dish and an eating utensil that is a spoon on one side and a fork on the other. They are easy to clean. The Mess Kit is $12.19 on Amazon and would make a great gift for any camper or backpacker.
We had a side-by-side for quite a while, but we got tired of having to always go back to the trailer. It's more fun for us to be able to just keep going and not have to make a big circle. So we recently bought a Jeep Wranger JL, which is the 4-door model. We can pack all of our hunting and camping gear into the back with no problem, so we don't have to worry about leaving our camp set up or having someone steal all our stuff while we're parked for a hike.
We are absolutely loving our new little pop-up tent and with the extra blankets, pads, and pillows, we are super comfortable at night, and so is Mochi. We put her mat between our sleeping bags and she just snuggles in and sleeps like a dog all night long.
This List Is For Campers
I hope these tips will make your next camping trip less work and more fun, and if you know some campers, think about getting them a thing or two from this list. They'll love it.