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August 25, 2014
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15 camping hacks and tips you need to know about

Since when does camping mean 'roughing it?' With these camping tips, you'll be enjoying a luxury vacation under the stars

Editor's Note: The following column is part of our new TacticaList series, a collection of expert columns and features on all things tactical — from fishing and hunting to camping and shooting. These columns are featured in our monthly TacticaList newsletter. Check out our most recent issue and let us know what you think! Click here to subscribe to the TacticaList.

Brought to you by a selected group of Quora community members, and TacticaList staff, here are 20 tips and tricks to keep in mind to ensure a safe and fun camping trip.

1. Always bring a 20x20-foot tarp, extra tent stakes, and 100 feet of paracord. If it rains, you can make a shelter over your campfire and kitchen area and still hang out and enjoy yourself without having to hole up in your tent the whole time.

2. Bring a cast iron skillet. Camp stoves are cool and all, but putting a cast iron skillet on top of a fire is way cooler. Plus nothing cooks more evenly, cleans easier, and risks insane burn wounds better than cast iron. Pro tip: Make bacon in skillet. Leave all bacon grease in skillet. Fry pancakes in skillet full of bacon grease. Smother in maple syrup. Thank me later.

3. Don't forget firewood. Scavenging wood from around your campsite is not a hack. You're harming fragile environments by removing deadfall, which shelters and builds colonies/specimens of important animals and insects. Most campsites in pretty areas only allow you to collect firewood that is already fallen, and of that, you're only allowed to take what already fits into the fire ring. Guess what, all that is taken, and you're not allowed to cut deadfall. If you're hiking in and allowed to collect firewood, make sure you have a heavy duty knife or small saw to cut pieces of wood.

4. Baby wipes. Yeah, I said it. If you don't know why this is correct, just take them. You'll want them.

5. You need one-fourth of the clothes you think you need. You're camping, it's not only okay to wear the same pants for three days, it's practically encouraged. You need one of every item, including the ability to build a very warm outfit out of layers. The only things you need multiple of are clean socks and clean underoos. Everything else is going to smell like campfire smoke and hot dog grease five minutes after you put it on anyways.

6. My fire starter kit is made from petroleum jelly-soaked cotton balls. I put half a dozen or so in a pill bottle. They're not even for emergencies; I use them for every fire I start, be it backpacking or barbecuing.

7. Getting water from a shallow, stagnant pool can be a pain if you need to make water potable. Take a re-sealable plastic bag and cut off about 1 inch of one corner. Now, take your camp towel or a sock or something absorbent and carefully lay it on top of the water to avoid stirring up sediment. Let it absorb as much water as it will and the put it in the bag. Holding the cut corner, place it inside your container and squeeze the water out. 

8. Baking soda can be used for: brushing teeth, soothing a sour tummy, minor burn poultice, deodorizing, moisture absorption, leavening, and as a mild abrasive.

9. Arizona Iced Tea bottles are damned near bomb-proof, and they cost $1. They hold 20 oz. I made an insulated cup from one by cutting it down and putting a neoprene koozie around it. I put instant coffee and sugar in film canisters, put them in the cup, and then put the koozie on upside down. 

10. Plastic ammo cans are inexpensive compared to "camping" boxes, but work even better.

11. Blue automotive towels are stronger than regular paper towels and have several other uses. They can be used to filter particles from water (won't disinfect, but gets out the larger particles). They can be used as a coffee filter with a funnel (line the funnel with a towel, add the ground coffee, then pour boiling water over). They can be used as a wick for citronella lamp oil. I keep a small bottle of citronella lamp oil. Punch a center hole and air hole in the top of a small jar. Pull the length of the blue towel through as a wick. Add the lamp oil then close. Light the wick for a handy mosquito repellent. Of course, observe safety precautions with your tent and an open flame.

12. Go off the map. For every popular car camping site, there are dozens of campgrounds and designated forests/wilderness reserves that have free, cheap, first-come, first-serve, awesome camping. You'll find better places to camp for cheaper with less people and less hassle. Try a Moon guide for good advice on this.

13. Tree oil is a natural deterrent for ticks. Add 1 part tree oil and 2 parts water into a spray bottle.

14. Wrap a head lamp around an empty milk or water jug so that the light is facing the jug to create an instant lantern.

15. Use a clear hanging shoe organizer to keep your cooking and eating utensils off the ground and easily accessible.  






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