I wish summer could last forever! It is hands down, my favourite season. We’re enjoying every last bit of sunshine here in Kelowna, and for a lot of us, that means heading out on a last minute camping trip.
We are avid campers in our family – Tristan even proposed while we were camping. I like to pack for ultimate comfort, and tend to bring everything but the kitchen sink into the woods with me. But, on that same note, I prefer to go where my iPhone can’t find me. All I need is the trees, the lake, and of course, snacks! No cell reception, no problem.
Today I’m going to share my favourite tried and true camping tips, to help you have your best trip ever! And, as a bonus, a lot of them are tips for being more eco-friendly in the woods. Here we go:
1. PREP YOUR COOLER
When it comes to camping coolers, things can get ugly, fast. Melting ice, open wrappers, spillage… avoid all of that mess by meal prepping. Instead of buying fruit and vegetable trays in flimsy single-use containers, wash and chop your produce and pack it in your own containers. Unpackage your smokies, hot dogs, deli meats, cheeses, and anything else in a plastic wrapper, and pack that up as well. If you can, buy these things directly from the deli counter and avoid the plastic altogether. This also works great for dry goods – try unwrapping and packing up marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers in one container to pass around the campfire – this also makes it so much easier to make s’mores when it gets dark! The biggest perk of food prepping your cooler – you have way less trash to pack out.
2. FREEZE JUGS OF WATER INSTEAD OF BUYING BAGGED ICE
The perks are abound with this one – you won’t have to deal with melting bags flooding your cooler, the ice lasts DAYS longer, and the best perk of all: you can drink these instead of buying bottled water! Have everyone bring a reusable water bottle, and fill them using the melting ice jugs as the days go on. By the end of your trip, your coolers will be lighter, and you won’t have dozens of plastic bottles to haul out. AND you get to enjoy crisp, cold, ice water while you’re camping. We typically have 4 coolers for 4 people, and use two 4 litre jugs per cooler. We always come home with extra water, and drink it until the jugs are emptied. Afterwards, you can recycle the jugs (still much less plastic than individual bottles), or let them dry completely and store them in your camping gear to use next year.
*IMPORTANT NOTE* Freeze the jugs only 3/4 full, and top with water before you pack them. If you freeze a full jug, it will explode – trust me, you only do that once before you learn. Plus, adding the water means that once you get to your campsite, there will be some water started in each jug for drinking.
3. BRING A CATCH-ALL TRAY FOR YOUR PICNIC TABLE
If you’re an obsessive organizer like me, you know that even when you’re camping, mess will drive you crazy. Enter: the catch-all tray.
Basically anything that people leave on the table, ends up in the tray. That way your picnic table is always open and clear for making meals, doing activities, or just sitting and having a drink. It’s also a good spot to keep all the things that you need regularly, like a lighter, bug spray, and sunscreen, so you’re not constantly hunting them down. My compass tray was from Indigo a few years back, and has become a staple in our camping supplies.
4. USE LAKE SAFE SOAPS
If you camp where there are no showers, it’s important not to introduce chemicals to the local marine and wildlife. That means not washing your hair with your regular shampoo in the lake! I use Green Cricket, lake safe soaps made here in Canada. You can find the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash on Amazon, or on Green Cricket’s site. They’re roughly $15 each, which I’d say ain’t too bad! You can also use Wilderness Wash, which is the most popular one on the market. I chose Green Cricket as it’s made in Canada.
5. CREATE A HAND WASH STATION
Instead of washing your hands in the lake or river, or relying solely on hand sanitizer and wet wipes, make a hand wash station in your camp. All you need is a water jug dispenser, a tea towel, and a bar of soap (or you can use your Green Cricket soap). It’s convenient for your camping crew, it keeps chemicals out of the water, and I don’t know about you, but I love being clean even when camping!
6. MAKE A CLOTHES LINE (OR TWO)
No matter what, bring a roll of rope on your trip. You WILL end up needing it for one thing or another. My favourite is for making clothes lines! Bring a couple of beach towels per person, and everyone will always have a dry towel. Make an extra clothes line for tea towels – you can use them instead of paper towels and napkins, wash them with your lake safe soap, and hang them to dry. I use thin, 100% cotton tea towels to ensure they dry extra fast.
7. INVEST IN ZERO GRAVITY CHAIRS
After a few days of living in the forest and sleeping on a blow up mattress, your back can get a little stiff. Enter, your new favourite chair.
Zero-gravity chairs took the world by storm a few years ago, and I’m here to tell you they aren’t just for your backyard! We take ours EVERYWHERE. Camping, the beach, the drive-in theatre in Enderby… everywhere. They are so much more comfortable than typical camping chairs. You will never go back! In the early spring, you can find chairs like these in every major retailer, such as the Real Canadian Superstore, The Home Depot, and Canadian Tire.
8. GET AN EXTENDABLE CAMPING FORK
What’s a camping trip without a camping pokie for roasting marshmallows and hot dogs? And now it’s easier, with a telescoping stick! They’re easier to pack, and you can change the length depending on how close you’re sitting to the campfire. Life changing guys.
9. ROAST PIEROGIS OVER THE FIRE
Speaking of camping forks, this is one toasted snack you must try. They’re like a marshmallow’s savoury best friend. Always popular in our group, once you start you can’t stop! They’re typically gone in one sitting, so bring extra if you love pierogis. Not to be forgotten – pack along sour cream or Helluva good dips for dunking, and you’ve got a dinner perfect side, or a delicious snack.
10. PLAN OUT DINNERS THAT AREN’T SMOKIES OR HOT DOGS
They’re great, but they can get boring three nights in a row. Variety is the spice of life! Camping is a great time to try out some indulgent, ‘cooked over the fire’ dinners. Here, Tristan made pizza subs wrapped in foil and slow cooked to perfection, and sliced them into sandwiches for a crowd. I prechopped and packed all of the ingredients in containers, so it was incredibly easy to assemble, not to mention fast!
Check out this article for 100 Best Camping Recipes, on Prudent Penny Pincher. They all look sooo delicious, your only problem will be narrowing them down!
11. BRING CRAFT SUPPLIES
We all hope for perfect weather when we’re camping, but Mother Nature can be unpredictable. On rainy days, or when the group just needs some quiet time, get out the arts and crafts! Painting in the forest feels like free therapy, and there is inspiration all around. Afterwards, take your crafts home to decorate your yard or patio, for a daily reminder of your trip.
12. PACK KAYAKS OR SUP PADDLE BOARDS
This is one I cannot skip. One of the best parts of camping for me, is getting out on the water! It is serene, peaceful, and oh-so relaxing. It’s my favourite way to commune with nature. If you don’t own a kayak or SUP paddle board, you could borrow or rent one – but be advised, you will be hooked and want your own! Just remember to wear a life jacket if you plan to go out far, or you aren’t a strong swimmer. And always tell someone where you are going, and how long you expect to be. Stay safe out there, friends.
And my last, unofficial tip:
Leave your campsite exactly as you found it! Make sure your campfire is completely out, and you’ve packed out all your trash. Respect the forest, the critters, your fellow campers, and most of all, the Earth.
I hope you are inspired to try some of these tips on your next outing, and I’d love to hear how they work for you. Drop me a comment if you have any favourite tips to share with me, and thank you for reading!