Creative Camp Shortcuts

Less work, more fun! We’re all about making camping easier and we’ve got the shortcuts to prove it. Consumer Educator, Teresa Hunsaker shares her secrets to make summer camping, simple.

Planning your next camping trip can be a lot easier if you keep these things in mind:

1. Know what type of camping suits your family or that you are going to experience on each type of trip. Will you be in remote areas without any amenities? Will there be running water? Are there picnic tables, fire pits, etc.

2. Will you be in a trailer or a tent?

3. What activities will you be doing while camping?

4. What type of meals does your family expect to eat?

5. What is the weather forecast?

All of these questions must be addressed as you consider the short cuts and tools that will help make the job of camping easier.

Tricks to the Trade

Make a list…don’t think you will remember everything…you won’t.

Pack by categories…clothes (each person), food; kitchen gear; bath gear; etc. Pack you kitchen supplies using a shoe bag that hangs on the back of a door….this is great to hang on a tree to keep things organized while camping.

Plan simple meals that have part of the prep done at home before you leave…things like pre-cooking meats, grating cheese, cracking eggs into a container that has equivalents listed on a label. Consider some freezer bag meals or hobo dinners with precooked meatballs and frozen hash browns.

Don’t count on just the fire for cooking…bring a stove or some other cooking device.

Fire starters…lint in toilet paper roll, lint and wax, wax and pinecones, etc.

Briquette starter…put one briquette in each of the bins in an egg carton. Light the carton, this helps light the briquettes.

Use foam floor tiles…the kids play kind, to line a tent floor…softer and more comfortable, and keeps the cold and damp out better.

Strap a head lamp to a gallon jug of water…makes a great filtered light for the tent or trailer…

Ketchup bottle as pancake batter dispenser…this can even be pre-frozen then thawed the night before.

Pack tea tree oil to make a quick natural tick deterrent: 1 part tea tree oil, and 2 parts water….spray on shoes, socks, pant leg bottoms.

Glue sandpaper to the outside of a small plastic container to store matches in. Dip matches in melted wax first.

Consider buying some small solar panel yard lights to mark tent stakes (to avoid tripping in the night) and to light an area around your campsite. Kids new to camping feel a little more secure with a few of these around. Glow sticks also work well for this.

Use an old belt and some ‘S’ hooks to hang things around a tree…pans, towels, etc.

Pack an old prescription bottle or Altoid can with some Band-Aids, ointment, etc. as a mini first aid kit for the kids pockets.

Use an empty plastic peanut butter jar (washed and clean), and a small battery operated votive as a small lantern around the camp area. Can use small twine or wire to hang from trees or set on stumps around the camp.

Keep kids entertained for a while with a nature scavenger hunt. See items below….

Use an old pill dispenser, small prescription bottle, or used tic-tac containers for spices.

Fill used but cleaned liquid laundry detergent containers to hold water for washing hands. Attach a paper towel holder with bungee cords to the top. Soooooo nice!!!

Pack a tote with standard cooking items: spatula, can opener, baking mitts, marshmallow roasting sticks, plastic ware, table covers, dish towels, foil, skillet, small pot, etc. Include basic seasonings as well. Make the contents specific to your type of camping needs. Attach a master list on the outside of the lid.

Pack a second tote for: antibacterial wipes, bug spray, bungee cords, clothes pins, plastic bags of different sizes, whistles, lantern, binoculars, water bag, flashlights, fire starter supplies, batteries, etc.

Have a separate cooler for drinks and one for meals.

One last note: Kids and families can have just as much fun camping close to home for just quick and simple trips. Certainly worth considering…

Store Bought Camp Gadgets:

GSI Outdoors Spice Missile, $9.95 REI

Alpine Chef’s Knife, $29.95 REI

Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink, $29.95 REI

Sea to Summit Folding Bucket $29.95 REI

Byer Wash Statin, $44.95 REI

Nature Scavenger Hunt


Something round and hard

Something fuzzy

A Pinecone

Something long and straight

3 different kinds of leaves

Something that has seeds

A wildflower

3 pieces of man-made litter

Tree bark

Blade of wild grass

Something beautiful to you

Brown leaf


A lost coin


Pinterest and many different websites and blogs.

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