5 Camping Hacks We Learned the Hard Way

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Packing up the car and puling away from the driveway to go camping is always a favorite thing. The cooler in the middle of the living room floor being aired out from the last trip, the sleeping bags and tent in a pile by the door waiting to be loaded up, and the last minute trip to the store down the street to pick up a barrel of firewood that’s ready to fuel the making of numerous peanut butter cup S'mores. As a kid, I counted the “sleeps” until I knew my family would head out for a weekend under the stars. (Let’s be honest, even now at 26, I still count my “sleeps” until then.)

Although camping always leads to incredible sights and endless laughter, even camping has its inconveniences that we learn the hard way. We thought we would share a few we’ve learned the hard way and save you these troubles.

 

You’re welcome.

 

1. Soggy Food Troubles: How to store your food in coolers properly

 Photo: @jeremy_ryan_photo

After buying all your weekend groceries, you head out for a weekend of fun. You wake up, spread the cream cheese for your freshly toasted cinnamon raisin bagel and prepare the turkey and hummus before you head out on your afternoon hike. All is well... so far.

You come back to camp and reopen that cream cheese to add to your dinner meal. Instead of that amazingly creamy cheese that you love, you find a mixture of soggy cheese and that melted ice water creeped up inside.

You think you learn your lesson and you even try Ziploc bags and Tupperware instead, but that cooler water always finds a way to ruin your food. Who wants to eat lunchmeat soaked in this cloudy cooler water?

 So what is the solution?

 Trusty Mason Jars.

 Before leaving, unpack your food, place it in individual mason jars as the jars come in many different sizes. (We like to use the extra small and small ones as much as possible to save space and weight.) Place the jars inside your cooler and they stack nicely with ice intertwined throughout. As mason jars were built for jarring jams and jellies, they are very air tight, thus not allowing the water to come in and spoil all your food.

Take it from experience. You don’t want to be stuck hours away from the closest grocery store and all your food spoiled with ice melt water.

 

 2. Coffee Lovers: How to start the morning off right while still packing lite.

 Photo: @jeremy_ryan_photo

Personally, I married a coffee addict and let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy slow mornings with that cup in your hand sipping on that smooth brew. Coffee while camping is not hard to do. Bring your ground beans, a boiled pot of water, and pour yourself a cup of coffee. You see the problem is, we are kind of what you may call coffee snobs.

To combat our problems, here is what we’ve found:

 Cold Coffee Drinkers: You need a mason jar, grinds of your choice (our favorite is a Colombian Dark roast we go get freshly ground on our way out.), and a quinoa strainer bag or homemade tea brew bag. (They make the bags for coffee too, but these are way cheaper then the ones made for the cold brew coffee.)

Right before you fall asleep, fill the mason jar three quarters of the way with water - the bag needs about 3 tablespoons of grounds. Place it in the cooler, or if the nights get cold enough, we like to let the cold air do the brewing. 

Wake up the next morning and immediately enjoy a smooth, biting cup of coffee without having to wait for the water to boil.

Hot Coffee drinkers: A small, easy to pack percolator for $6. These are simple to use and take a little more time then the cold brew, but we have found the results from this brew taste better than regularly boiled water. The flavors come out slowly and you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t cut yourself short with powder packs of coffee. Try these methods and your cup of Joe won’t disappoint.

3. Winter Woes - the simple way to keep warm that doesn’t require sleeping in more layers.

 Photo: @jeremy_ryan_photo

I myself grew up in San Diego, CA. I am the biggest wimp at the cold. If it drops below 70, you may even hear me say, “It feels like the arctic”. Ask my friends. They think I am ridiculous. Growing up in San Diego also means very few months of warm clothing and pants in general. Shorts, dresses, and anything that keeps you feeling free and comfortable is the key.

 This means while camping, I am always looking out for ways to keep myself warm, without piling on those restraining layers of clothing.

While camping at the rim of the Grand Canyon at the end of an off road trail with no one else around for miles, it began to snow. We were cozied up in our wool clothes, mummy bag sleeping bags for cold temperatures, beanies, and even wool socks. We were covered head to toe - but for some reason, the icy air bit at our toes and we just could not keep warm!

Solution: Simple - boiling water. Well, not on you. I think that might make you too warm. Anyhow, put this warm water inside of a nalgene bottle (do not attempt this with a plastic water bottle. It will be much too hot, and if it leaks, you may end up burning yourself). Also, make sure to not put this into a thermo container such as a Hydro Flask as the bottle will keep all the warmth inside. The key here is for the heat to permeate to the outer layer of the bottle. Now here's the best part: jump in your sleeping bag and cozy up with that now toasty nalgene. Absolute gratification. This will warm you right up, as well as the entire sleeping bag. Bring multiple nalgenes and for friend and family, or just hog all of them and put them between your legs, armpits, thighs, etc. Believe me when I say this will work wonders.

The other solution is to lay down a sheet on the ground where you'll put your sleeping bag as warmth escapes through the ground. 

You can rest easy dreaming of tomorrows hikes, sights, and exploring the forest.

4. Cooking after Long Adventurous Days

 Photo: @jeremy_ryan_photo

After long days of work, how many times do you come home and just have nothing left in you to cook that meal? When we are home, our solution is Crockpot meals, leftovers, or maybe even just walking down to the corner burrito shop.

Being out in the wilderness can be just as exhausting as you swim in rivers, jump off cliff edges, find waterfalls, and take afternoon naps on the edge of lakes. Sometimes, you get back to camp and you just don’t want to cook. Instead of having mediocre food or not eating, here is the remedy.

With a little researching, you can find thousands of recipes of food you can easily prep before hand and these resources will even give you tips on how to pack them so they stay at a safe temperature and don’t take up too much space in your cooler.

One of my favorites is chicken tacos. Cook the deliciously marinated meat before, freeze the meat in freezer bags, bring the frozen meat that will defrost safely in your cooler, precut the toppings for the tacos, and reheat in a pot when you’re ready to eat on your trip in 5 minutes flat.

You can prep breakfast lunch or dinner, and not have to spend time washing dishes and prepping, but more time playing in this beautiful world.

 

Here are two places I have gotten a lot of my ideas. (But let’s be honest, Pinterest is our friend.)

 

http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2015/08/make-ahead-camping-ideas.html- These girls had an amazing breakfast burrito prep meal that I have been dying to try on our next trip.

http://ohlardy.com/real-food-camping-planning-ahead-play/

 

 5. Busy Beach Camping Blues - Beat the system

 Photo: @jeremy_ryan_photo

I love to go beach camping. Waking up hearing the waves, ending the day with front row seats to sunsets, and falling asleep with sandy toes and dreams of morning walks on the shore with your fresh coffee in hand.

The problem is, beach camping is something EVERYONE loves. It is harder to find those free camping spots on beach shores that I have posted about before. Most beach areas are state owned and operated and they typically book up about a year in advance! Who thinks of trips that far out? At least we don’t. We’re more the few weeks before kind of folk.

But I have found a way to beat these sold out spots!

In the reserveamerica.org site, if you search any of your dates, most likely all beach spots will be sold out. (I have never found a spot on my first try.) If you create a free account with them, there is an option for Availability alerts. These are your golden ticket.

Even though I am not someone who plans a year out, many other people do. A lot of times, a year out means you do not know what will actually be happening in life on those dates. This leads to a high cancellation rates for those sold out sites.

So, here is what I do. I choose the beaches and dates that I am interested in. I set alerts individually to each beach to send me an email if there are any cancellations for my trip. Then, I receive an email immediately when those sites open up last minute from cancellations. I hop on and snatch those sites up as quickly as possible because even those can go fast if you leave them open too long. (Yes, even when I get those emails at 1:30 AM, I hop out of bed and lock those sites down!) And of course, this will work for any campsite you are attempting to reserve. 

 Moral of the story: Don’t let that red message “No Availabilty for these dates” deter you from getting out. Try it out and enjoy those morning walks in the sand.

 

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What camping hacks have you found? Let us know what you can save all of us adventurers from having to learn the hard way!

 

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