Camping is a great way to spend time with the family, and you can make it even easier and more fun by using some of these camping hacks we’ve picked up over the years!
Every year I think I’m going to get organized and write this camping tips post before the camping season begins.
And every year I recall that goal as I’m sitting around a campfire or using one of my camping tricks, and I realize that it’s already the middle of camping season and I spent all my time and energy getting packed to go camping, rather than writing about it. (Priorities, people!)
So this year, I’m writing this post in between camping trips, in the hopes that it will help someone out later this summer or starting next year.
We love camping as a family. It’s a great way to unplug and get away from the demands of everyday life. We try to camp out in the mountains, where there’s no wi-fi (gasp!) or electricity of any kind. That way, no one feels compelled to check their phone every few minutes.
Instead, we check in with each other. We take walks, spend time talking, and (my kids’ favorite) shoot bows and arrows and BB guns.
We also slap mosquitoes, spend way more time than necessary cooking elaborate grilled meals, and get covered from our chins to our elbows in roasted marshmallows.
Over the years, I’ve developed several coping mechanisms for the differences between city life and camping life. These are camping hacks I’ve gleaned from friends that have helped us out along the way, and a few I’ve discovered myself.
For this post, I’m only including great tips that are helpful to anyone camping out, whether you use a trailer with a bed or a tent with a sleeping bag. In the future I might do a post for how we organize our trailer, but for now I’m focusing on universal camping hacks that anyone can use.
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13 Easy Camping Hacks
These are my favorite camping hacks that we use anytime we head out into the great outdoors. They help us stay protected, organized, and most of all they help us have fun together! Basically these are things we always bring along, and use almost every single camping trip (except for the last one, which we try never to need).
1. Two Folding Tables
Why two folding tables? Because each one has a specific purpose! We use a small folding table for organizing all our food and storing stuff that we want to keep off the ground. We set it up right outside the door of our camper, and it ends up being a catch-all for sunscreen, snacks, and walkie-talkies, and helps each kid keeps a water bottle handy.
Then when it’s time for S’mores, we simply move it over to the campfire area and use it as a s’mores staging table. That way we don’t end up with marshmallows rolling all over the ground.
The larger folding table is still only about 4 feet long, and we use it as a picnic table for eating on, or sitting around playing cards or games. That way we don’t have to move stuff around when it’s time for dinner. Each table folds up quite compactly when it’s time to head home and doesn’t take up much space when it’s not being used.
2. Clothes Hamper
Cheap mesh clothes hampers from the Dollar Store are useful for all kinds of organizing tasks. We keep one in the camper to corral all the dirty stinky clothes, so they don’t get mixed in with the clean ones. In between trips, it’s a great way to store extra blankets.
And we keep another hamper outside to hold our trash bag for easy access during meals. You can get a dedicated pop-up trash bag holder, but this was much cheaper and just as effective.
3. Shoe Organizer
Over-the-door shoe organizers are also one of the best ways to maximize space for multiple storage purposes. We put a few shoes in ours, but it’s also filled with important things like supplies and tools, a stray roll of emergency duct tape, and always an extra roll of toilet paper.
I’m a fan of keeping clutter off the floor and beds, since we’re already living in such a small space. If you aren’t camping in a trailer, you can hang your organizer from a nearby tree or the side of your car or truck.
4. Outdoor Rug
My mom bequeathed me her slightly chewed up outdoor rug after her lawn guy accidentally ran the lawnmower over it. It didn’t quite suit her patio decor with a chunk missing out of the corner, but it’s been invaluable to us as an entryway dirt catcher.
Whether you’re in a tent or camper, you know that it’s hard to keep dirt, leaves, and other trash out of your living space. Having a rug of any kind in front of your entryway will catch a lot of that debris before it ends up in your bed!
Outdoor rugs are great because you can just shake out the dirt, or hose them off at home if they get really muddy.
5. Paper Plates
This is a small thing, but it serves two purposes. When you’re dry camping (not at a campground with running water), it’s a lot easier to use disposable plates and utensils. But you can make your life easier (and probably help the planet) by using paper plates instead of foam or plastic.
They make great fire-starters when you’re done eating on them and you need small kindling to start your campfire for s’mores. Plus you can just burn them, rather than bagging them up with your trash. Win-win!
6. Multiple Lighters
One thing we’ve learned over several camping seasons is you never want to rely on just one lighter to get your campfire or grill started. (Unless you’re married to a Macgyver like my husband, who can take apart a lighter and put it back together with pieces of another lighter and some twist-ties.)
I buy these Bic two-packs, so we’re never without a lighter that works, even if one runs out of fuel or breaks.
This one is my secret weapon, and something I never would have guessed how important it would be.
On a whim a couple of years ago for Father’s Day, I bought my husband a Chillax hammock. Sadly, he almost never gets to use it.
After bringing it camping with us once, I had to go back and buy another one because the kids had so much fun playing in it that they fought over it the whole weekend.
So now we have two, which is perfect because one kid loves to lay in hers quietly and read, and the other kid uses hers like a jungle gym. Now when we’re planning where to camp, the big question is always, “do they have trees to hang the hammocks?”
These hammocks are super strong and lightweight, and I wouldn’t trust my little monkey to anything else. Now I just need to buy a third one for my hubby…
8. Lawn Games
This is a great idea to pass some time when everyone is just sitting around the campsite. There’s always a point in any camping weekend when everyone is tired and has run out of activities. They’re usually hungry too, and Mom and Dad are working on dinner but it’s going to be a while.
That’s when I pull out a camping game to banish the boredom and bring everyone together again. I love this lawn games set because it’s lightweight, has three different games, and packs up compactly.
9. Craft Box
OK, I realize this might only apply to my family, but we never go anywhere without a box of craft supplies. They’re a good idea for a rainy day, or if everyone just needs a little down-time activity. Simply grab a large plastic bag or one of those cheap plastic containers from the dollar store and fill it with whatever extra supplies you have around the house.
I stock mine with:
You’d be amazed at what kids can make with a few supplies and some empty water bottles and paper plates!
10. Dog Rope
I guess this one doesn’t apply if you don’t camp with your dog. But if you do, check this out.
My husband (Macgyver) figured out that we can string a heavy rope up high between two trees with a large carabiner on it. Then when we’re sitting around the campsite, we can hook the dog’s retractable leash on the carabiner.
This way, he has free reign around a large area, without getting his leash tied up on chair legs and people legs. He loves the freedom, and we love knowing he’s safe and secure.
Just be sure the rope is up high enough that people walking through the campsite don’t clothesline themselves on it! (Learn from our experiences.)
11. Wet Wipes
This one really goes without saying, but it bears repeating. Wet Wipes are your friend when you’re camping, especially in a place with no running water.
We use ours for all sorts of things, not the least of which is cleaning up after s’mores have melted all over faces and hands. We even use them on the dog’s paws after a muddy hike.
I also use them in the camper for quick clean-ups after cooking. Once they’ve dried out, they also make good kindling for the campfire!
12. Sunscreen/Bug Spray
Bug bites and sunburns are no fun, so most of our favorite camping spots require both bug spray and sunscreen. I recently discovered this two-in-one sunscreen bug repellent that makes my life so much easier. Now I’m only chasing after my kids with one bottle, instead of two!
13. First Aid Kit
Please don’t go camping without a first aid kit! On our first ever camping trip, another family was with us and within the hour after setting up camp, their oldest son almost cut his thumb off (I might be exaggerating a bit) while trying to whittle a stick with a pocket knife.
Luckily we had lots of gauze and antibiotic ointment handy and he didn’t need stitches, so he was fine. Plus he got the prize for bravery and not passing out at the sight of so much blood.
That was the same trip our kids found a snake, and another kid got hit on the head by a falling rock. You’d think that would have been our last camping trip, but we don’t learn very quickly. However we did learn the value of a first aid kit!
Here’s what I keep in mine:
- Antibiotic Ointment
- Topical Pain Reliever Spray
- Itch Relieving Spray
- Tylenol or Advil
I keep my first aid supplies for camping separate from my home supplies. This way they’re always ready to grab and go, and I’m not searching the house for Neosporin the night before a trip.
Just make sure you keep an eye on expiration dates when you’re packing for your first camping trip of a new season.
Bonus Camping Hack
I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve gone camping, but I still use my handy packing list every time to make sure we don’t leave any important camping gear behind. You can read about it in this post here, as well as grab the free printable camping packing list.
Planning a great camping trip can be a lot of work, but it’s always worth it! And with a little organization, you can make your camping experience much easier and more fun. I hope these camping hacks have helped you and I’d love to hear your favorite tricks too.
Leave me a comment below with your best camping hacks, and I’ll be sure to respond, once we get back from our next camping trip!
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Saturday 14th of May 2022
Being a very seasoned camper I thought I knew all the little secrets but didn’t think of the retractable dog leash running off of a rope. What a great idea! My little dog, if allowed will wander from campsite to campsite looking for someone to pet her. This will keep her in our site but give her freedom. Thank you for posting.
Monday 16th of May 2022
Thanks Jackie, my engineer husband came up with that one! Our little dog is the same way, and we couldn't bear to lose him, or keep him tied up too tight while we're all enjoying the great outdoors.
Sunday 6th of June 2021
The number one hack on people's minds this year should be any alternative to having a wood-burning campfire. Cooking on a gas stove and bringing battery powered lights instead of burning wood goes a long way toward preventing wildfire. In the West, we suffered through a catastrophic wildfire season last year which destroyed millions of acres of forest, thousands of businesses, careers and homes and cost hundreds of people their lives. Too many of those fires were human caused and therefore, preventable. Most of the Western U.S. is in a state of prolonged drought and it's extremely important to keep that environmental factor in mind as you use natural areas. If you truly love Nature, please respect and protect it.
Wednesday 17th of July 2019
Oh my goodness! Never a dull moment with camping!
Jeri Walker (@JeriWB)
Thursday 27th of June 2019
Wet wipes are the best! These are all great tips. Now that I've been sleeping alone in my camp trailer from time to time on my family's property in MT, I woke up to a black bear licking dead bugs off the front of my car last weekend. Needless to say, I won't be leaving my cooler on the front porch anymore. In all the years my grandpa spent over there, he never saw a bear in camp. It was an interesting morning, to say the least ;)