I love camping. Camping is a fun and frugal way to see places. Nothing puts us closer to the “view” than camping. That too for very cheap. As city folks, we are used a lot of creature comforts. I was a little scared before my first camping trip. But learned that camping need not be uncomfortable. With car camping, there are very few restrictions on making yourself comfortable. Here are a few methods I have used to make my camping experience comfortable. I have listed only the comforts in this post, but have included the entire checklist I use, including the essentials, at the end of the post. I was planning to post this next week, but am posting it sooner as an answer to Wisebread’s Camp Much? post.
(This post is not about back country camping. I have not ventured there yet.)
- Comfortable tent: A good quality tent can set the comfort level for the whole trip. Try before you buy. Borrow a tent that is similar to the one you are planning to buy. This can save you a lot of money; by trying first you can avoid buying a costly tent that you don’t like. Also, consider up sizing your tent. That was one of the best decisions I made. I bought a 4 person cabin style tent for the 2 of us. It has a lot of room and my husband can stand up. This might not matter to some people but makes a LOT of difference fpr us. Pick a size and style that will give you comfort without overdoing it. Don’t forget a tarp.
- Sleeping bag: This is another piece of gear that is worth spending money on. Nothing screams comfort more than a warm sleeping bag on a cold night. I love my pillow, it is uncomfortable for me to sleep without a pillow, so I bought one with an inflatable pillow. There is sleeping bag to please every need, decide what you want, research and buy.
- Mattress: I tried the Thermarest sleeping pad and a regular 12 inch queen mattress. The mattress was much more comfortable. Some people use cots or rollaway beds, an air mattress was enough to make us comfortable. If doesn’t do it for you, check the variety of cots and beds available.
- Stove or at least a burner: A camping stove opens up a lot more possibilities than the regular campfire. Pre-make sauces and soups and freeze them. It will serve double duty by keeping your other items in the cooler cool and filling you up when hunger strikes.
- Spices & herbs: Salt and pepper will spruce up any type of dish, but having a little dried basil, cilantro, parsley, garlic (and whatever spices that make you feel that you are in an exotic restaurant) can really take it an extra step up. These are very easy to pack/carry too.
- S’mores : Need I say more
- Throw mat : This doesn’t take much space, but saved quite a bit of time when we have to pack up. As we could remove our shoes and wipe our feet before entering the tent. The tent stayed very clean throughout.
- Camping heater: There are a lot of portable heaters on the market now. I have a Coleman Sportcat heater that has kept me warm so far. If you are going to be camping in a very cold place, consider the Buddy portable heater from Mr. Heater. (Make sure to vent properly and practice standard safety precautions when heating a tent space)
- Camping Fan: Excellent comfort on a hot night. There are small compact fans that can be hung from the tent ceiling or window.
- Comfortable Chair: Or a hammock. Much more comfortable to sit on a good chair and read a book than sitting on the ground or the picnic table.
- LED lantern: A compact LED lantern that can hang from the ceiling of the tent made my camping experience much more relaxing. Enough, adjustable light without all the safety worries.
- Folding bucket: Like this sea to summit model, can be very useful for storing water, if the common faucet is not right next to your site. Beats hauling all the vessels after a meal to wash up and bringing water to your tent.
- Swiss Army knife: This is an essential in my book, very handy to have one.
- Wet wipes : There might be toilet paper available in the camp toilets, but take your own favorite kind of wet wipes or better, some baby wipes to feel extra fresh.
- Bathroom/shower slippers: Some camps require you to wear shower shoes, some don’t. Even if they don’t, having your own slippers when you take a shower makes you feel much cleaner. They really come in handy to just slip on when you have to go the bathroom.
- Bladder of water for washing : Get a nice bladder of water, fill it up, hang it from a tree. You can wash your hands standing there.
Deck of cards, books, games and puzzles : Pack whatever you enjoy. It might be fun and entertaining for kids to pack crafts that need pine needles or leaves.
Other general tips
- Check road conditions and weather conditions before you leave home so that you can be prepared.
- Start saving the extra condiment packets you get, ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, pepper flakes… very handy for picnics.
- Freeze water bottles before you leave, so that you can pack the cooler with these instead of ice. The food stayed cool the entire time and we had cool water for 4 days.
- Keep the clothes in the car so that the tent will be less messy. Also it is more comfortable to stand and sort clothes instead of keeping everything on the floor of the tent.
- Have a laundry bag and keep dirty clothes separate. Saves a lot of time and keeps the fresh clothes smelling good
- Premix/Pre-make as much as you can: Make soups or sauces and freeze them. All you have to do is heat up the soup, have some grilled veggies/meat along with it for a very hearty meal. Pack some dry oats, dried milk and dried fruits in a ziplock bag for instant healthy oat meal. Prepare foil meals beforehand and cool them.
- Choose a site that is not overcrowded. You can call the ranger office or get an idea of how crowded the campground will be from the online reviews at TripAdvisor. I enjoyed my camping experience much better when there weren’t many people camping around us.
- Choose a campground with all the basic amenities. This is particularly important for someone camping for the first time.
The above mentioned accessories and tips were enough to keep us comfortable and fall in love with camping. But for some people who need the ultimate luxury there is
- Portable camping shower and toilet
- Portable DVD player
- Roll away beds/cots
On our first camping trip I packed too little. Second time, I packed too much. Now I know what makes us comfortable. Camping gets us much closer to nature than any other type of lodging. Nothing beats waking up to the sounds of birds and squirrels instead of the alarm clock. So even if you forget something, believe me, you can make do without it and still have a very relaxing and enjoyable trip! Here is a list I have compiled for my camping trips – Camping trip checklist. Let me know if I have missed something. What is your favorite tip on making camping comfortable?
This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance #267 at Beating Broke. Thanks!