Whether you’re a first time camper or a seasoned professional, there’s always going to be a few items on your packing list you forget or overlook. My go-to items on my personal packing list include twice as many socks as I think I’ll need, extra sunglasses because I always loose a pair, sunscreen, and a rain poncho, but I always forget to bring matches. Every single time.
I’ve been going camping since I was younger so I’ve developed a lot of creative ways to use objects you’ve probably already brought camping with you, like garbage bags or bandanas. Without a doubt, you’re probably going to forget to bring something crucial to your camp experience, and you might be too far away from civilization to run out to the store and pick up a spare. Here’s my list of things to bring camping that you normally would forget or might not think of.
Garbage bags (or even just regular plastic shopping bags) are the magical multi-purpose tool for camping. You can use them for practically anything. Obviously, they’re good for carrying out trash, but you can line your backpack or duffel bag with them to keep your clothes dry when it rains. On multiple occasions I’ve slit a few holes in a large garbage bag to use as a poncho in the midst of a torrential downpour. You can use a garbage bag as a tablecloth when preparing food, or a makeshift seat if you’re picnicking on wet grass. Get creative; garbage bags can be used for literally anything.
There’s always a possibility it will rain leaving you with wet wood for a fire. Or maybe you’ll need to start a fire quickly to get dinner ready before it starts getting dark. Either way, be prepared and creative when coming up with ways to start your fire, especially if you’re relying on it for the majority of your meals. Bring extra matches, and bring a lighter in case your matches get wet. Hoard some dryer lint every time you do laundry and don’t forget to pack it before you leave. Save some old newspapers to use as kindling for the fire. If you have access to it, sawdust is a great fire starter too. If you’re using coals, make sure you have enough for the length of your stay.
So you’ve made this great meal over a fire, and now you’re looking around to find something to lift up the lid of the pot and you set for threading a stick through the handle because you forgot to bring a pot holder. Pot holders and dishtowels are tiny, you can roll them up squeeze them into the sides of your bag and they save you from having burned hands.
First Aid Kit
Just in case you do get burned, make sure you pack a first aid kit, and make sure your kit is fully stocked. Even minor accidents like a scrape, burn, or blister needs proper treatment to insure you don’t get an infection while camping. You can buy a camping first aid kit, or you can pick up a couple items you don’t have lying around the house and toss it into a plastic bag. Either way, make sure it’s stocked well with band-aids, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin, a disposable ice pack, aloe vera, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, tweezers, and insect sting relief.
Making sure your flashlight or lantern has enough battery power is crucial, but even more crucial is making sure you have extra batteries in case your only source of light happens to run out of power. You definitely don’t want to be fumbling to make dinner in the dark using your fire as your single source of light.
Duct tape literally fixes everything. Duct tape could probably hold your entire campsite together. Use it to fix a broken tent pole or to cover up a tear in the rain fly of your tent, or even to patch up holes in shoes or clothes. You can also use it as a marker or signaling device if you’re out hiking and get lost.
Bandanas can be used for a variety of things and they don’t take up much space. Besides the obvious headband or hair tie, you can use it as a potholder (in case you don’t want to pack one), a hand towel, or even an arm sling. You can also drench it in cold water and tie it around your neck to keep you cool, or you can spray it with bug spray and wear it on your head to keep from getting bit.
Deck of Cards
Bringing a deck of cards (or really any other small source of entertainment) is the perfect cure for idle hands that are used to reaching for the smart phone every ten minutes. There’s seriously dozens or card games, classic or new, that will prevent boredom from all age groups. Bonus points if they’re waterproof cards.