By: Kalli Hawkins
Unexpected cold weather, a forgotten item, or time-consuming meal prep can put a damper on your camping trip. Use these helpful tips to make your camping experience easier and more enjoyable. Plus, a bonus s’mores camping hack at the end!
Sleeping Bag Essentials
Whether you are camping in colder temperatures or accidentally forgot to pack your pillow, here are some valuable sleeping bag tips you can use.
Inflatable pillow & handmade knitted socks
These are my two sleeping bag essentials. My inflatable pillow and my Great Aunt's handmade knitted socks maintain a treasured spot in the bottom of my sleeping bag. I never have to worry if I packed my pillow, and I always know that my feet will be happy during the night. If you have a talented knitter in your family like my Great Aunt, ask them to stitch you up a pair of camping socks to keep in your sleeping bag.
Warm clothes for a cold night
When I am settling into the tent for the night, no matter the temperatures, I always stash an extra beanie, gloves, or pullover sweater in the bottom of my sleeping bag. On multiple occasions, I have woken up to an unexpected dusting of snow on the ground and was thankful for my warm clothes stash. Keeping extra clothes inside your sleeping bag during the night also helps reduce trying to find that one piece of clothing in the dark that has mischievously found its way to the other side of the tent.
Makeshift pillow using a stuff sack
Forgot your pillow? No worries. Stuff your spare clothes into the empty drawstring sleeping bag or tent stuff sack.
Quick & Easy Camping Pancakes
A few minutes of preparation will go a long way. Pre-make your pancake mix before heading out on your camping trip, and store it in a handy reusable condiment squeeze bottle. Not only can you skip the extra dirty dishes while camping, but you can also have quick and easy pancakes at your fingertips, giving you more time to soak up that beautiful sunrise.
DIY Fire Starters
These are super handy to keep in your camping supplies and can be helpful when the terrain is damp or you're camping in an area with minimal kindling opportunities. Re-use and repurpose household items by stuffing lint into an empty toilet paper or a paper towel roll. If you enjoy wine, save those corks in a mason jar, and soak them for a few days in rubbing alcohol.
Nalgene Sleeping Bag Trick
A tried-and-true camping hack. On those cold evenings, boil a pot of water and fill your Nalgene bottle before you snuggle in for the night. Then, tuck the Nalgene into your sleeping bag for a little extra needed comfort and warmth on a chilly night. Keep it at your feet or move it around for desired targeted heat. For an additional heat source tip, I like to make an extra cup of hot tea to keep in my thermos before bed. I enjoy having something warm to sip on while I stare up at the stars, thumb through a captivating book, or play an evening game of cards.
Keep Things Organized to Grab & Go
Packing cubes don't have to be just for suitcases! After years of frustratingly rummaging through my camping gear, trying to find that rogue spork or headlamp, I made the switch to an organized camping gear system. I keep a large storage tote in my vehicle with essential gear that I can have on hand at any given moment. I use packing cubes of various sizes to break down my gear into four categories:
- Cooking - spork, lighters, fire starters, knife sharpener.
- Extra Warm Clothes - yes, more handmade knitted socks, beanies, neck gaiter, gloves.
- Lights - solar lights, headlamps, external solar chargers, extra batteries, charging cords
- Miscellaneous - invertor, playing cards, bug spray, sunscreen
I've spent years narrowing down my camping techniques and what works best for me. I'm happy to share my favorite camping hacks in hopes that they bring as much joy and comfort to your outdoor adventures as well.
Want to up your s’more game? Try warming up your chocolate or, in my case, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, on a warm rock surrounding the fire while you roast your marshmallow. It makes for a perfectly soft, gooey end-of-the-night smore.
About the Author: Kalli Hawkins
Kalli Hawkins is an outdoor, gear, and adventure writer based in Colorado. An avid explorer and backcountry enthusiast, Kalli can often be found on a backroad exploring the outdoors with her pup, Riley. When she's not writing or adventuring outdoors, she enjoys woodworking, homebrewing beer, and trying her hand at gardening. If you would like to connect or follow along, you can find her at @kallihawkins.