“Forty-one Camping Hacks”

I am not exactly a fan of Buzzfeed. However, they do publish interesting articles every so often. One that has recently made its way around social media is about camping. To be exact, the article is about “camping hacks” to make your camping experience better. Truth be told, a camping experience can only be made good by planning well and ahead. But for those that insist on knowing what the hacks are…. here’s the article.

41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius

These tips and tricks will guarantee you’ll be a totally happy camper this summer. By Peggy Wang BuzzFeed Staff (and obvious non-camper!)

For my thoughts on the Hacks given, plus a few of my own hacks, scroll down! 

First off – I am an avid camper. In the past 6-7 years, I have gone from filling the trunk and backseat of my car with all sorts of stuff to be comfortable while on a camping trip, to almost mastering the art of minimalist packing. In the past, I would lug my 5 person tent and set it up with an inflatable bed, complete with a set of sheets and duvet to keep the GF and I comfortable at night. Along with such sleeping accommodations, we would bring too much clothes, sundry kits ripped straight from the bathroom and… well, the list goes on. In effect, we brought the contents of our homes with us, save for our laptops and internet access.

Eureka Scenic Pass 4XT

In the past 2-3 years, I began an effort to start minimizing the gear I brought with me.  Through a process of minimizing and replacement, I have actively moved toward a kit that is much more economical from a time and energy standpoint. I didn’t need a 5-man tent that I could stand up in. I just needed a tent and it had to be lightweight. I didn’t need a bed with a full linen set. I just needed a well-made and lightweight sleeping bag.

I definitely didn’t need the mini barbecue, turkey burgers, buns and condiments, nor did I need the full-size frying pan and container full of scrambled egg mix. I just needed dehydrated foods and MRE’s, and a micro-light stove. And I definitely did not need a change of clothes for each day of camping.

However, quite possibly the biggest improvement to my kit next to weight reduction was organization. When it comes to organizing stuff, I can get a little screwy in an inventive way. I am a firm believer in repurposing things if they can fit a role elsewhere. Which is why I read the Camping Hack article in the first place. I was sadly disappointed when the list of 41 different ideas, only yielded me maybe a handful of ideas I had not thought of myself already.

As I mentioned before, I am an avid camper, who once took all sorts of creature comforts with him. A good deal of the ideas on BuzzFeed’s list are those that my former self would’ve done. Knowing better now, quite a few are real head shakers.

Looking at these hacks, I offer the following comments and criticisms.

1. Use foam floor tiles for a softer, more comfortable tent floor.
ASSESSMENT: Terrible Idea
REASON: impractical due to bulkiness

2. Point a head lamp into a jug of water for an instant lantern.
ASSESSMENT: Great idea
REASON: white plastic diffuses and spreads the light
POTENTIAL PROBLEM: Most headlights are not flat faced

3. Also: Mountain Dew + baking soda + peroxide = lantern.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: HOAX!

4. Make tin-can sandwich bread as a portable food option.
ASSESSMENT: Worth investigating

Geezus… what is that?!

5. Familiarize yourself with what the poisonous plants look like.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Familiarization should include Giant Hogweed and other nasties, like Stinging Nettle. Also, knowing what Jewelweed looks like would help.

6. Bring a tick deterrent.
ASSESSMENT: GOOD IDEA
REASON: Ticks carry Lyme disease.

7. Glue sandpaper to the top of your match holder.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Buy Strike-Anywhere’s and this isn’t a problem

8. Repurpose a coffee can to hold and protect TP.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: less bulky to squish the roll and shove it into a ziploc bag

9. Make crescent rolls over the campfire.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: those things are filled with all sorts of awful ingredients. And they stink of civilization, they very thing you are trying to getaway from by going camping.

10. Use Tic-Tac boxes to store spices.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: Pre-season your food at home, no need to worry about spices. After all, if you’re going to make bread in a can, you might as well…

11. Invest in a two-person sleeping bag.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: or invest in 2 one-person sleeping bags that can zip together

12. Get these seat hammocks for car camping.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: get a real hammock and get away from your car.

13. Cut up a straw and fill the pieces up with antibiotic ointment or toothpaste for single-use packets.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Seems like a good idea.

14. Make travel coffee bags out of coffee filters and dental floss.
ASSESSMENT: GREAT IDEA
REASON: Let’s you have coffee! Plus, you can easily compost after use.

15. Need your coffee? Bring a few of these.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Minimalist way to have coffee but forces you to carry small bits of garbage.

Seemed like a good idea at the time

16. Make candle stakes for romantic nighttime lighting.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL TO TERRIBLE
REASON: Do you really candles if you have a campfire and/or lantern(s)

17. Make single-use soap leaves from a bar of soap and a vegetable peeler.
ASSESSMENT: GOOD/NEUTRAL
REASON: Prevents bar from going gross but could take up more space.

18. Use an empty laundry detergent dispenser as a hand-washing station.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: Bulky as hell. Just bring hand sanitizer!

19. Use a belt and hooks to hang up pots and pans.
ASSESSMENT: GOOD
REASON: This is actually quite clever. However, my suggestion is to use carabiners instead of S hooks.
(Note: an acquaintance told me this is a bad idea if there are Bears in the park)

20. Make campfire cones!
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Seems tasty, but excessive use of tinfoil is not LNT* friendly.

21. Pack a mini first-aid kit into an old prescription bottle or Altoids tin.
ASSESSMENT: GREAT IDEA NOT FULLY FLESHED OUT HERE
REASON: Old ‘script bottles and altoids cans are good for a host of repurposed uses. I usually take a couple empty ‘script bottles with me camping, sometimes giving them to smokers for their cig butts. REMEMBER: LEAVE NOT TRACE! (LNT!)

22. Make pancakes with pre-made pancake mix using shortening and dry milk, which don’t need to be refrigerated.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL/GOOD
REASON: A spiritual brother to the Can Bread. Just don’t do it in a glass jar.

23. Put a battery-powered votive candle into an empty peanut butter container to make portable lanterns.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: Bulk of the PB container + poor light source of votive candle = useless lantern. Plus… if you do #2, why would you bother with this one?

24. Make a portable washing machine with a plunger and a bucket.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Clever but really bulky.

25. Make an easy-to-carry fire starter with a cardboard-only egg carton and match light charcoal.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Charcoal is unnecessary if you’re building a fire with wood.

26. Doritos are great if you need kindling
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: Food should never be kindling.

 27. Make pocket-sized oil lamps out of travel-size or hotel toiletry shampoo bottles.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: Miniature flame source millimetres away from soft plastic?

 28. Forgo the meat marinade and put the rosemary right on the coals.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: If you prep’d at home, this is unnecessary. However, scented smoke can drive biting insects away… (see #30)

 29. Bring cheeses in waxed packaging as well as hard cheeses.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Do you really need to have cheese while camping?

hahaha! mosquitoes cannot stand against my hippy methods!

 30. Add bundles of sage to a campfire to keep mosquitoes away.
ASSESSMENT: AMAZING IDEA
REASON: One of the best ideas on this list. However, the list can be expanded to a few other items that can be smoked to drive away skeeters… like incense, “smudge” and citronella

 31. Try roasting Starburst.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: BLEGH! Crispy waxy sugar… Also… requires a metal skewer.

32. Forgo pasta for a quick-cooking alternatives like polenta, quinoa, or couscous.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: You can precook grains at home. Quinoa, Rice and Millet can be made into nice salads.

33. Cook cinnabuns (the canned kind) in a hollowed-out orange over a campfire.
ASSESSMENT: GOOD
REASON: Results are enough to make some people roll their eyes back into their head and see god. This same idea can be done with muffin mix or French toast – however, doing French toast is a great deal more difficult to accomplish

 34. If you’re going to be hiking, use this biodegradable trail-marking tape.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: LNT! Leave No Trace. Biodegradable stuff still sticks around for a while after you’re gone.

35. Keep the kids busy with a scavenger hunt.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: LNT! What happens to the items your kids don’t find and you forget about?

36. Use a bucket and a milk crate as an emergency toilet.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: is the milk crate necessary?

37. Cotton pads dipped in wax are a crazy easy way to make portable fire starters.
ASSESSMENT: NEUTRAL
REASON: Crazy easy, sure, but if you can’t start a fire without them, then maybe you shouldn’t start one with them.

38. Bring microfiber towels — they’re super absorbent and lightweight.
ASSESSMENT: GOOD
REASON: Microfiber towels are awesome. I have one that’s about 2.5’ x 4.5’’ – packs down to about 4’’ by 6’’.

39. Freeze gallon jugs of water and place them in your cooler.
ASSESSMENT: GOOD
REASON: You need water. You need cold. Take this one the next step by freezing everything and pack your cooler with only plastic and metal containers.

40. Make emergency light sources out of an Altoids tin, cardboard, and wax.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE
REASON: Potentially dangerous.

41. Make sandwiches with this campfire panini press.
ASSESSMENT: TERRIBLE IDEA
REASON: NOT A HACK AT ALL! Why is this even here?
Now that I’ve gone through their list… here’s my list.

JOS LAFLAMME’S MINIMALIST CAMPING HACKS!

A) use ziploc bags to keep dry items dry.
Get the big freezer bags and use them for clothes.

Gold standard container, regardless of contents

B) repurpose a 2 lbs protein powder container to hold all your small incidentals
For added protection against the wet, put the ziploc bags containing small items inside the container.

C) repurpose a 5 lbs protein powder container to hold larger items.
I like to use the bigger containers to hold all my MREs and dehydrated foods. I also like to keep my cup, sporks and spatula inside this container, allowing me to keep my all my dietary needs together.

D) Compression Sacks – If you have a camping backpack that has a compression pack structure built into it, this trick makes using that even better. Get a simple compression sack, fill it with whatever it is you need to put into it, and then slide it into the backpack. This works best with clothing and provides you with a dual-layer against the wet.

E) Go to a camping/military surplus store and buy dehydrated foods and MRE‘s. Why? They are lighter, take less space and are far denser nutrient-wise than regular food.

F) GARLIC/CURRY – Not exactly a “hack” per se, but keeping the skeeters away is easier to do if you “poison” your blood. Garlic tends to ward off the little vampires well enough, but chowing down on some muttar paneer the night before you head out into the woods will help the garlic do its magic. Of course, this is based upon my direct anecdotal evidence. I’ve gone camping after having some sort of curry and survived the weekend, bite-free. Unfortunately, garlic and curry won’t stop the wee bastards from buzzing all around you.

Take this idea and extend it into other areas.

G) PUT TOGETHER A CRASH KIT
This isn’t exactly my own hack, but it’s one that I have on my list all the same. In the past, I’ve had such kits but never with the pieces all together in one simple container. Colleagues of mine in the youth group I work with are where I got the “crash kit” name from. In said kit are all the stupid things that you may or may not need in a camping/survival scenario. Knife, Spork, Bandaids, Rope, Cup, multi-tool, flashlight, Fire starters, Gloves, duct tape, etc.  Keep all of these things together with a 2lbs protein container. Alternatively, you can use a tupperware container or pouch with a zipper. I recommend using ziploc bags to compartmentalize things.

I hope some of these ideas have given you a reason to re-evaluate how you pack for a trip. If you have a hack of your own, let me know!

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