At this point in your camping career, you probably have begun to run across some other special equipment or other odds and ends that have found a place in your tent camping setup. This is a natural thing, and if you haven’t found anything like this yet, don’t worry, you will. There might be some people reading this wondering just what sorts of specialty items there might be out there that I’m talking about. Well, I can name several of them, but keep in mind that this isn’t an exhaustive list because new trinkets are coming out all the time. I’ll break these up into sections to address them just for simplicity’s sake.
Just like for your regular kitchen at home, the number of items in this section is amazing. Many of the things that are handy at home can also be handy while tent camping, but the fact is that you are at home more than you are out camping, so you may not want to have 2 of everything. However, if you find it helpful, then, by all means, include it in your gear. You may have seen some different versions of the camp kitchen setup.
These are essentially mobile table setups that usually have a sink and some small counters, plus some shelves and hooks to hang things on. It’s almost like having your kitchen with you in the woods! Sounds great, until you realize that you need space to store this, to pack it with you, and then to stock and unstock it when you arrive/ depart from your camping site. Now it sounds like I’m down on these kitchen camp setups, but in some circumstances, they can be very useful. If you are camping for an extended period of time, something like this would be very handy and worth the additional space and setup time.
Also, if you are camping with a large group of people, a kitchen camp setup can help organize things and make meal prep easier and faster, as well as clean up. To date, my wife and I have not acquired one of these, though we’ve had opportunities to buy them at garage sales. The last one that we found for sale was being sold because the couple had upgraded to a travel trailer, but they really enjoyed having the kitchen camp set up when they tent camped.
One thing in particular that you may want to look for that is specifically geared for camping are fire tools, specifically a wood poker. This is basically the same device that is used for home fireplaces to move wood logs around in the fireplace itself without getting burned. While this sounds like something that would be easy to find, it’s surprisingly hard to locate a used version. I’ve looked at garage sales for several years and have still not found a set of fireplace tools to purchase. Having a nice heavy steel poker to move things around in the fire is a really nice additional tool, and it will help with cooking as well. Of course, you might be able to fashion your own poker if you can find something heavy enough – we’re talking solid steel, nothing hollow or made of aluminum. If you know someone who is a welder or blacksmith, you may be able to get them to make you something that would fit the bill. I’ve been wanting something like this for years, but haven’t wanted to hire out someone (yet) to make me something. The one time I used a fireplace wood poker camping, I was hooked and knew I needed to add one to my equipment. Another item to consider having is a small hand ax or hatchet. Whether you forage for firewood in the woods in and around the campground, or you end up purchasing some dry wood, some of those pieces would serve you better if they were cut down to a better size. The hand ax or hatchet will make quick work of the wood and will make starting your fires easier and provide you with a way to produce more even heat if you are cooking over the fire with smaller pieces that you can continually feed the fire with. Be sure that you have a protective covering for your hand ax or hatchet, usually made of tough leather. If you find that you use it frequently, consider keeping a sharpening stone of some kind in your kit as well. A dull ax will only make you tired and frustrated. A third item that may be worthy to include, and one that is a nice complement to the hand ax or hatchet, is either a folding saw or a bow saw. These are
lightweight saws that can help you cut through branches of downed trees quickly, or to cut up a small tree that was blown down. The folding saw, in particular, takes up minimal room in your kit. Lastly, consider having a fire lighting source that is easy to carry and doesn’t require fuel, and can even work when damp. I’m referring to a firestarter that allows you to scrape metal against each other to produce sparks. There are several different designs, but they all work pretty much the same. These are great to have as they replace matches (which can get wet and/or lost) and the fuel-using lighter sticks (which run dry). They are cheap, light, and last a long time.
At this point, you should at a minimum have a tarp or something similar to put under your tent to help protect the floor of your tent. But what you might not have done yet is to put a tarp OVER your tent. This isn’t for every single trip, but if you are going for an extended trip and you’ll be staying in a wooded area where you can tie up a tarp to trees, you might consider having an oversized tarp that you strap to some trees as an additional layer of rain protection. If the tarp is large enough, you might even extend it to be over your campfire so that you can sit around the fire even when it’s raining. Regardless of the size, be sure to angle the tarp so that the low side is aimed at the lowest spot on your tent camping spot. Rain will flow downhill, so don’t fight the topography and gravity.
Couple the tarp with several ratchet straps and you’ll quickly and easily get your tarp up to help keep you dry during your stay. While I mentioned this earlier, I feel that it bears repeating in a different way here. Camping Console suggests the best 2 person tents. It’s worth checking it out Tent stakes can easily be overlooked as “just those metal sticks” that you push into the ground with your feet. But really, those metal sticks aren’t the best, and you should consider upgrading them to better metal stakes. You’ll find that your strings hold better because the stakes will actually stay in the ground better than those easily bent metal rods. Along with better stakes for your tent, you should have a mallet of some kind to drive those stakes into the ground with. Not everywhere you camp will have soft
ground; often you will encounter rocky soil or soil that is compacted or root-laden.
Having the mallet will ensure that you get the stakes down where they can really anchor your tent and keep it in place.
Earlier in the book, I mentioned that you might want to consider getting a small tote for some of the items that you’ll start to acquire. If you haven’t done so yet, or if your earlier totes are too small or of inferior quality, it’s time to step up your game. It’s time to invest in some really good storage totes for your camping gear. First of all, having these totes devoted to your camping gear means packing for camping suddenly gets much easier and faster. Additionally, they will most likely be waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about your gear getting wet. Lastly, you won’t be wondering if you brought X or Y because it will already be in your totes! One thing that you might consider is having a smaller tote you keep inside of a larger tote. This smaller tote you would use as a dishwashing tub, or if it’s large enough, you can use it as a transport tote that doubles as a wash basin. We do this because we often use metal cookware and silverware, and it’s best to clean things up before they get used again as well as before you pack things away for heading home until your next camping trip.
While there are usually plenty of activities that you can do when you camp, including riding bikes, hiking, swimming, or just relaxing by the fire, sometimes you’ll want to break out some games to play, even if it’s only a simple deck of cards. Besides, if you end up dealing with rain, you’ll want something to do in your tent or screen tent. The first type of game is the basic board or card games. It’s not a bad idea to at least put a deck of cards, a small pad of paper, and a pencil into a zipper storage bag to keep it dry, and keep it in one of your camping totes so that you always have it with you. But you should also look for travel versions of some other games that you like to play: chess, checkers, backgammon, and others. Often times you’ll find
a set of these travel games that come together. This is a great deal to keep in your camping tote! The other game types are the larger outdoor/lawn games. These include horseshoes, bean bag toss, ladder ball, oversized Jenga-style games, and yard dice, among others. Some of these can be purchased retail, but sometimes it’s fun to make your own version at home and personalize them. These are fun games to do during the day, and help to entertain kids as well as adults.
If you tend to use your lanterns regularly when you camp, you’ll probably want to move them around your site rather than just set them on your table. You can have a few setup and glowing around your site to provide area light so that you don’t end up tripping on tent lines, roots, rocks, or other things. There are a number of different solutions, but a couple that is easy to use and pack include shepherd hooks and outdoor lantern hooks. The shepherd hooks are typically used for hanging flower pots from to make a nice decoration at home. But they work equally as well at the campsite. They come in a variety of heights, so you’ll want to figure out just how tall you want your hooks to be. While their long size might be a bit challenging to bring with on a trip, they can quickly become worth it at night. If you are going camping in an area that doesn’t have trees or other things on which to hang your lantern, this would be a great option. The outdoor lantern hooks come in several shapes and sizes, and they have the advantage of being compact, making them easier to pack. Some you can wrap around trees or poles, while others can attach to your tent poles or other vertical surfaces. No matter which option you go with, it provides your lantern with greater versatility to enhance your camping experience.