With another summer camping season kicking off, the internet is filling up with lists of camping hacks for all of the neophyte (as well as old time) campers heading out for the weekend.
I have tried to glean some of the more practical tips along with sharing some that might not make it on other lists.
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There are quite a few good tips out there about how to deal with bugs.
One way to keep bugs away from your campsite is to add sage to your fire. This is the spice, not the common sagebrush that grows in the west. Buy the cheap stuff from the spice rack, and save the expensive organic spice for your cooking. Just sprinkle some on the fire every once in a while to keep the camp smelling nice and the skeeters at bay.
Another fire additive (or fuel, if you like) is a cow pie (yes, cow manure). When it burns, it emits something that drives the skeeters away. Don’t worry; they don’t stink while they are burning. The pioneers heated and cooked away the long prairie winters with nothing but buffalo chips as a fuel source. Any ruminant (deer, elk, etc.) droppings should work.
Citronella Tiki torches do an okay job of keeping bugs at bay, but they kind of put a cramp in the camping mood unless you are camping in the South Pacific. The cool thing is you can burn the citronella oil in any kerosene lamp or lantern with the same effect as the torches. You can even use the oil to make your own citronella candles. Just add a few drops of oil to the liquid wax of your burning pillar candles.
If you find a tick attached to you, take a cotton ball and put some liquid soap on it, then place it over the tick. The tick will let go and reattach to the cotton ball.
The last advice on avoiding bugs I can give you is to camp where they aren’t. This means picking a spot that is windy. As long as it doesn’t drive you crazy, the constant wind will keep the bugs away from your camp site.
Keep your TP clean and dry by storing it in a coffee can. You can also use a bulk pack CD case.
If you somehow run out of TP on your trip, you will have to use “natural” materials. Mullein is agreed to be the nicest and softest available. If you can’t find leaves you know are safe to use on your sensitive skin, you will need to test it before using it where you might regret it. Take a leaf and crush it up and rub it briskly on your inner upper arm. If after 15 minutes or so you
aren’t having a reaction where you rubbed it, it will probably be safe to use for your TP.
Cooking over evergreen flames will coat your food with a black tar that tastes like turpentine. As many times as I have seen this advice given, it amazes me how many people I still see cooking over evergreen fires.
If you must use evergreen for your camp fire, you will want to cook using the radiant heat from beside it. Better still, wait until it is completely burned down to coals before doing any cooking.
Jewel weed grows in the same areas as poison ivy; it is a good idea to learn to recognize this plant. Just crush some of the leaves and rub them on exposed skin to lessen the poison ivy’s effect.
If you somehow have forgotten your tea or coffee, you can substitute from the wild. Dandelion or chicory root make a passable coffee. Those that have tried it and don’t like it most likely have not roasted it long enough. It should be cleaned, crushed (or chopped fine) and then roasted until black (even burnt), then brewed.
My favorite wild tea is Goldenrod leaf tea. It brews up bright green but has a nice astringent flavor like real tea.
My final tip here is for those who smoke and have run out of tobacco. Kinnikinnick makes a fine pipe tobacco if you happen to be in the west where it grows.
Simple hacks can make your camping so much more enjoyable. Hopefully something on this list will be useful to you this summer.
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