Summer Camping For Beginners: 15 Tips By Seasoned Travelers

by Yolande D'Mello

Camping is usually referred to as roughing it, and with good reason, since you leave behind a world of comfort. But it really doesn’t have to be so rough. We spoke to a couple of pro travelers, who teach you how to get by in the woods, and camp with confidence.

1. Chalk Out A Detailed Plan
That’s the most important thing to keep in mind, says Kari Reidenbach of Mohican Adventures. “Have an idea of where you are going and what you want to do—ahead of time. This could include packing bug spray, camp chairs and extra clothes (in case you get wet, dirty or both). Hiking in flip-flops can be very uncomfortable and painful. Having an extra pair of shoes will come in handy.”

2. Use A Tarp Under Your Tent
“A tarp is a necessity; it provides a barrier between the tent and the ground, which can prevent dew from entering the tent. Roll up all the edges of the tarp and tuck them under the tent in case it rains. If you leave the tarp completely flat and it rains, the puddles might seep into the tent,” advises avid camper, Joia DaVida of Starseed Pictures.

3. Always Bring Extras
Extra ropes can be used for so many things. Bring extra tarps too, if possible. In the event of a rain storm, you can tie down an extra tarp over your tent. You can also make a comfy hammock with the extra tarp and ropes.

4. Make A DIY Lamp
Putting a small flashlight or headlamp against a gallon jug of water or a big bottle of clear liquid actually makes a pretty good camp light.

5. Use Old Phone Books As Fire Starters
DaVida says, “I pull out six pages at a time and keep them attached at the glue, and bunch them up separately into a flower. Then I light one or more pages and put the dry kindling on top, slowly building the fire.”

6. Dollar-Shop Roasting Pans & Cooling Racks Can Be Used As A Makeshift Barbecue Pit
Just dig a hole in the ground approximately the same size as the roasting pan, place the roasting pan in the ground and use a small bag of instant lighting charcoal (with the lighter fluid already). You can simply light the bag. Once the coals are evenly burned and have white ash, but are still red, you can place the rack on it, and grill your food.

7. No Grilling Rack? Use Heavy-Duty Aluminium Foil
Most hot meals can be cooked in foil that’s folded up into little pouches (plus, it’s so easy to carry). Be sure to cut your ingredients in a uniform manner for even cooking. Take a look at our easy grilling ideas.

8. Cook Eggs In A Zipped Baggie
Pour whisked eggs in a zipped baggie, with as much air squeezed out as possible. Make sure the bag is completely sealed. Then place it in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, or until it’s set. This will help you save and reuse the water, while also providing a healthy, oil-free snack.

9. Get Dry Ice For Your Food
If you plan to camp for more than a few days, you need to keep your food supplies fresh. “This year, we went camping for six days, so I got dry ice and it worked brilliantly to keep our food from spoiling. Also, it doesn’t melt into water—it evaporates, so less mess!” says Lisa Nordquist, self-care expert with a BA in Psychology and an ACE-certified personal trainer.

10. Freeze Beverages
Most of your non-carbonated beverages and water can be frozen to use as both—ice, and a cool drink (when it melts). Freezing whole gallons of water makes for easy, inexpensive ice blocks.

11. Always Bring Instant Coffee
Here’s an easy way to get your caffeine fix. Prepare an instant coffee mix ahead of time and carry it to camp. DaVida uses 1tbsp instant coffee, 2tbsp sugar and 2tbsp milk powder, to which you simply have to add boiling water and enjoy your cuppa.

12. Save Space With Small Packets Of Dips & Dressings
This is a good time to use up those leftover packets of soy sauce, mustard sauce and mayo that you get with takeout meals. They’re easy to carry (in a plastic canister or empty Tic Tac boxes), and add great flavor to your grills.

13. Get Rid Of Mosquitoes and No-See-Ums With A Smudge Fire
After you have cooked your meal, or if you have the space for multiple fires, put wet or moist leaves on top of the fire, almost smothering it. A lot of smoke should be produced. Try to build the smudge fire upwind of your camp, so the smoke permeates your entire camp and rids you of the biting insects. The fire should be smoldering, not raging and should produce a lot of smoke.

14. Leave No Trace
As part of conservation and responsible camping in the outdoors, make sure you leave no trace, which means you clean out the area. For example, if you are in the forest (and there is no fire ring), dig a small circle in the ground. Save the dirt. The hole helps to keep the fire contained. When you are done, put the fire out with water, and cover the hole with the dirt you saved.

15. Stay Warm
Being cold at night is unpleasant, so it’s important that you stay cozy and warm. “Heat water and put it into water bottles, then slide the bottles inside socks and place them at the foot of your sleeping bag. Warm through the night, and warm socks in the morning,” says Loreen Niewenhu, author and adventurer who has spent a big part of her life exploring the Great Lakes.

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