camping essentials

One of my favorite things about spring is the re-emergence of camping weather! Camping is one of my absolute favorite ways to spend a long weekend, but I know that for a lot of people, just the idea of spending a night or two outdoors sounds nothing short of horrendous – and, yes, without the proper precautions, it can be! 

But the more you camp, the more you learn, and I thought it would be fun to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned (usually the hard way) to make your next camping trip the best one yet.

And if something still goes wrong? Trust me when I say that some of my favorite camping memories are the ones where everything went to shit (like that time we ended up eating eggs at a Denny’s at midnight amid a torrential downpour that flooded the campground’s latrines…it’s funny now, though!).

So, without further ado, here are my camping essentials!

1. Pack LAYERS.

There is nothing worse than being cold (and I lived in freakin’ Sweden for nearly ten years, so I know). Even if you think bringing that extra sweater or pair of leggings seems ridiculous, just do it. You’ll be so grateful later. I always do like my dear Mama, and wear a pair of long underwear when camping, as it is much easier to remove layers if you’re too hot. Also, sleeping bags may keep your body warm, but I always bring an extra pair of socks, gloves, and a hat to keep my extremities warm and toasty all night long. As we say in Sweden, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes!

2. Anticipate darkness.

This may sound totally obvious, but, out in nature, there is this concept of night, and, away from the modern luxury of electricity, night time is usually quite DARK. While this means you’ll get to see some incredible stars, I always, always, always seem to forget how hard it is to manage in pitch black darkness. Plan ahead and bring as many flashlights, torches, headlamps (the best), as you can because you will need them. One of my favorite camping hacks? Strap a headlamp onto a gallon jug of water or milk for an instant  portable lamp.

3. Pack sustainable food.
When I say ‘sustainable’, I’m referring to food that will a) survive no or little refrigeration, b) be able to handle lots of movement, and c) still be appealing three days later. I always take a cooler when I camp, but, depending on the length of your trip, that may or may not ensure that all your food stays fresh the whole time. My favorite thing to do is to plan all of the meals ahead of time, and shop accordingly. Also, make sure to prep your food for easy cleanup/cooking time. If you want eggs for breakfast, crack them into a ziplock bag for easy transportation along with any cheese, salt/pepper/veggies, etc., that you want to add. If you want to grill hamburgers for dinner, wash, chop, and separate all your ingredients ahead of time to avoid doing so at the campsite. My favorite foods to bring on a camping trip are make-ahead breakfast burritos, kettle corn, foil-wrapped dinners, hot dogs/bratwursts, sandwich supplies (pb&j, ham and cheese, turkey, sprouts, mustard, etc.), and, of course, s’mores!

4. Embrace the gross

Depending on your level of comfort when it comes to roughing-it, camping usually means that you’ll be shower-less for the next few days. Instead of focusing on how gross that might be, just embrace it! It’s not like you have a job interview later that day or something (and if you do, reschedule immediately). Instead, focus on little ways to feel fresh sans shower, like brushing your teeth (totally doable with a bottle of water), changing your underwear daily (seriously, this makes a HUGE difference), and, if you have long hair, putting it up into an up-do of some kind (I usually go for french braids) to keep it off your face. In a few days’ time, you’ll be back in your lovely, warm shower, promise!

5. Anticipate problems

Knock on wood, you won’t need to break out your first-aid-kit or car jack, but I’m a firm believer in the idea that being unprepared is just asking for trouble. Always let someone know where you’re going (especially if going alone, which I do not recommend unless you’re a seasoned outdoors-person, and even then, remember this???). Make sure you always have:

  1. Lots of water
  2. Toilet paper
  3. A good knife
  4. A lighter or box of matches
  5. Lamps
  6. First aid kit
  7. A map and compass
  8. Storm-proof outdoor gear
  9. A way of contacting someone in case of emergency (phone, walkie-talkie, etc.)

6. Bring some of the good stuff

Camping is a bit of work, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be enjoyable! I always make sure to bring a good bottle of wine or flask of whiskey, a pack of playing cards, a frisbee or soccer ball, some comfortable lawn chairs, a hammock, a good book, and a portable radio for some of the quieter moments.

7. Research!

Always make sure to research where you’re going and what there is nearby before leaving for your trip. Your phone will most likely not work once there, so having some print outs of fun activities in the area can be great when you want to explore your surroundings. It’s also a good idea to know where the nearest store or town is in case of emergency (like running out of toilet paper!) or if you just absolutely need a ‘real’ cup of coffee in the morning.

Do you have any good camping tips to share? Let me know in the comments!


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