Some of My Best Camping Ideas: Over the years, we have all learned valuable things from the people we camp with. Here are some that I use when hiking and backpacking, and others more geared to kayaking where size matters but weight is usually not an issue.
1. Water carrier.
Salt water has many uses around camp – to boil vegetables and pasta and do dishes. When I still have my wet shoes on, I fill this simple nylon bag with seawater and make only one trip. It can also be used for fresh water.
2. Carrying Water. Look at my separate post on this.
a. MSR Dromedary bags.
These are the best designed way to carry water on kayaking trips as they are bombproof, have great carrying straps, 3 ways to pour water and complete collapsibility when empty. But a manufacturing glitch (I understand this is from the anti-bacterial treatment added to the interior coating) causes a plastic taste in the water, making the water unusable for drinking. I originally purchased one-six liter and three-ten liter bags (value of almost C$200), had them replaced 10 years later by MSR but with no improvement. The taste makes the water not usable even for boiling vegetables. As sea water is often used for dishes and boiling vegetables, there is no need to carry nonpotable water.
b. Wine Bladders. Available new, these have become my method of carrying water in kayaks. I sewed nylon bags with straps to hold my wine bladders.
c. 2 litre juice bottles: Two of these fit behind my seat. This is readily available water used on a daily basis.
d. Water bladder. Useful for drinking while paddling. Put on deck or better yet on mesh holder on back of PFD.
Use a large tent: a 3-man tent for 2 people and a 2-man tent for one. With kayaking and camp clothing, extra space is nice. The fly should cover the body completely. Double doors and vestibules are great. Camping on the “wet coast” mandates using tents with good fly coverage extending over the doors. Add a loft to the ceiling and a clothes line to dry clothes. Use a tarp over the doors when raining.
4. Loft in a tent.
I use my loft every day to store the clothes I am not wearing. Clothes have a chance to dry. Hang socks on the tie lines. This is very useful for one-man tents with little area.
5. Silicon tarps.
Integral Designs makes two sizes of tarps: 5×8’ and 10×8’ that weigh little and stuff into incredibly small bags. The larger tarp will protect most camp kitchens. The smaller will cover small tents or add a good, dry vestibule that can be cooked under with care.
Sleeping Bag. Should be polyester not down. I carry mine in triple bags (soft compression dry ba
6. Fleece pillowcase.
This hand-sewn pillowcase holds my down jacket and other clothes, the top folds over and keep everything in place.
7. Exped Down Mat.
I have had many Thermarests but never a mattress as comfortable or as warm as the Exped Down Mat 7. For those men with a wife who refuses to camp, buy one of these and you may have a convert. It is inflated with an included hand pump or with an ingenious dry bag system. It packs up small and weighs 30.2 oz. Exped has other mats using the same inflation system.
8. MSR Dragonfly stove.
This gourmet backpacking stove boils water as rapidly as any stove but also the gentlest simmer giving a wide range of cooking options. Combined with diffuser plates and/or an Outback Oven, anything can be cooked in the wilderness. Unfortunately the old design has a weld between the cup and jet that eventually breaks (now replaced with a screw), possibly leaving you without a stove in the wilderness.
I also carry the tiny MSR SuperFly canister stove for emergencies. Butane canister stoves are very convenient to use (I just have never used them much).
9. Outback Oven.
Using a stove with simmer capacity and up to 3 diffuser plates with extension bars, you can cook pizza, cakes, corn bread, brownies and many other foods on your kayaking trips.
10. Trangia Alcohol Stove.
This stove is extremely popular in many parts of the world. Although not as hot as a white gas stove, its main virtue is that it has no moving parts to break down. A complete pot/tea kettle system fits inside the stove taking up minimal space. Methyl hydrate is widely available and can be carried in cheap plastic bottles. Check for fuel availability if going to another country.
11. Open Fire Cooking
a. Fire pots – Because they become so black, use a separate set of pots for the fire, and store them in a separate bag. Coating them with dishwashing soap after cleaning makes them easier to clean up after the trip.
b. Double rim fire grate.
Because of the double rim, this grate does not warp or sag over time in the fire. Store in a separate bag.
12. Dutch oven cooking.
Dutch ovens can be used for any kind of cooking – boiling, braising, baking, frying. For baking, use briquettes or coals to put on the lid. The key is to leave the lid on and not look.
14. Butane lighter.
Because they work well in wind and after getting wet, these rechargeable lighters are a more reliable lighter. Still carry spares. BBQ lighters are also handy.
FOOD PREP and CLEAN UP
15. Utensils in Onsight bag Onsite makes great small nylon mesh bags that are perfect for holding kitchen utensils and for personal hygiene items. I have the following backpacking sized utensils: can opener, spatula, pasta drainer, large serving spoon, microplanar grater, tongs,
16. Victorinox Serrated knife.
This is the only knife I use camping. With a round end and a serrated blade that stays sharp for long periods, it is as good for spreading things as chopping vegetables.
17. Large plastic box for vegetables.
I use a 4 quart Rubbermaid container to carry fragile vegetables like tomatoes, avocados, green onions, hot peppers, and cilantro. With careful packing, little more room is taken in the kayak and the vegetables remain usable for long periods.
18. Thin plastic cutting board.
This paper-thin board takes up little space and is pretty functional with some support.
19. Lock & Lock plastic boxes.
These great boxes in many sizes are watertight. They work great as sandwich boxes, food storage boxes, to make French toast, to rehydrate dehydrated food, fish tackle boxes, and as a cheap watertight box for cameras or anything you want to keep dry (I believe they are more effective than many commercial watertight boxes).
20. Coffee French press.
My 3-cup plastic French press is the best method to get a good cup of coffee camping. The foam cover and rubber bottom keep the joe hot.
21. Siliconized nylon bags.
These 2 litre bags made by OR (Outdoor Research – orgear.com) may be the most used things I own. They separate and organize all my clothes when I travel backpacking 6+ months of the year around the world (go to ronperrier.net), separate food and clothes when backpacking, and are used only for food when kayaking. They are one of the things that makes for fast packing of my boat (about 7 minutes).
22. Ivory dishwashing detergent.
This is recommended as the best sudsing and grease cutting dishwashing detergent for use in salt water.
23. Collapsible dishpan.
Made by Seattle Sports, these large vinyl containers fold down ingeniously into a small triangle. Besides dishes, they are useful for carrying seawater or for collecting rainwater off tarps.
24. Dehydrated hamburger.
As part of any pantry style menu plan, this is useful to make spaghetti sauce, sloppy joes, burritos and anything else that uses hamburger. Lightly brown (don’t overdo) extra lean hamburger making sure that you break up all lumps with a fork, use paper towels to drain the fat, dehydrate normally on leather sheets, and store in portion size Ziplock bags. Use Lock &Lock plastic boxes to rehydrate all dehydrated food. Add water as little as an hour before needed. Portion size is about 1/2 pound per person. At home, I store in the freezer as some fat remains that can go rancid. I have used dehydrated hamburger based casseroles, chili, and hamburger up to a year after making, dehydrating and storing in the freezer.
Many kayakers fish from their boats by trolling or jigging. Beware that rock fish are very long living and slow to reproduce. Catch and keep only what you will eat.
a. Flip Reel by Squiddies. This simple hand fishing reel may be the most compact “fishing rod” – it is a soft rubber disk with a flip rubber cover that allows casting, covers the hook and line to stop unwinding, has a line cutter, hook storage and floats. Comes in 4 colours to colour-coordinate with your boat!
b. Cedar Fishing Rod. Made from a one foot long dimensional piece of 2×4 cedar, this jigging “rod” has a handle, bungee cord tether, and a club end with the line and hook. Designed by Ian Heath, he rarely takes more than a few minutes to get his limit.
26. Butter in a Bottle.
One pound of butter or margarine fits into a 500 ml wide mouth Nalgene bottle with a tight fitting lid.
There is no mess in a secure container.
27. Honey in a Squeeze Bottle.
Found in the organic section of stores, “Bunny Honey” is a very convenient way to carry honey.
28. Egg Carrier.
It is amazing how much abuse a dozen eggs can take and not break in these great boxes. Make French toast, breakfast burritos or anything that needs eggs.
29. Frozen Food for the Beginning of Trips.
I routinely take frozen food from home for the first few days meals. On a recent 20- day trip, my first 4 meals were frozen meat loaf, lasagna, and soup for 2 nights. This is another way to add variety to food for long trips.
30. Longevity of Food.
I love good tasting food and eat a gourmet menu when kayaking. I have been conducting a simple personal uncontrolled study on how long food that we normally associate with fast spoiling will last and still be edible. The end point would be food poisoning that is usually short lived. It hasn’t happened yet. Obviously you are at your own risk. Modern preservative methods are very good.
Mayonnaise and foods made from mayonnaise like salad dressings are thought to be one of the most likely culprits for a good case of vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. Most food poisoning is caused by an exotoxin produced by the bacteria, Staph aureus. The toxin causes a self-limited episode of severe vomiting about 3-5 hours after eating the offending food. Depending on toxin load, diarrhea can also result. It is the common type of food poisoning that we have all experienced. I have read and have come to believe from my personally conducted research that mayonnaise products almost never go bad even after open and not refrigerated for at least 3 weeks. When I get home these products go in my refrigerator and I finish them off. Why let perfectly good food go to waste? Homemade mayonnaise is not processed properly and would not be safe.
Other things normally kept refrigerated like cheese, sour cream (don’t open until ready to use), mustard, eggs, margarine or butter, and International Delight coffee creamer, seem to have great longevity (I haven’t been on a trip past 14 days).
Cured meats like ham and sausages often last at least a week. Hard sausages like salami and jerky last forever.
We all know the vegetables that have almost unlimited longevity – potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, hot peppers. Almost as long are organic romaine hearts, cucumber, sweet peppers (kept intact), celery, tomatoes and avocadoes (these two are purchased unripe and stored in a hard plastic box for protection). Ripen avocadoes by putting out in the sun for a day or two. Cilantro with careful preparation (wash, completely dry with spinner, blot repeatedly with paper towels, air dry, wrap portions into a paper towel taped to allow them to breath and keep in the same bruise proof box) can last up to 7-9 days.
I often have salads on day 12 or even later.
Cheese buns last about 9 days. Most fresh bread still makes good sandwiches on day twelve. Flat breads lasts forever.
This is a potent antiperspirant that is applied to your underarms once a week or less often with long term use. The result is that you never develop body odor if used regularly. This can be a real boon for big trips in cold oceans where the opportunity to bath is limited. I have used this for 25 years and I can guarantee its safety. Apply on dry skin at bedtime, wear an old tee shirt (direct contact with clothing can damage it), and shower in the morning. Prescription in the US, it is over the counter in Canada. The 35 ml Dab-on bottle is the most cost effective method of application and costs $20 or more depending on drug store. I have been using my present bottle for 8+ months. There is no film or residue and no deordorants are necessary.
35. Solar Shower.
Put it on your deck on a sunny day partially full and enjoy a warm shower at the end of the day, when the only alternative is a cold bath in salt water. It takes up little space when rolled tightly. Much less than a full bag works well for one shower.
37. At Home Care of Gear.
Wash all neoprene with wet suit shampoo and rinse in Mirazyme, an odor treatment. Rinse the rest out in cold water and hang everything from the shower rod. Treat your zippers with Zip Care. I put my sleeping bag in the drier with no heat and then store in a large cotton bag. The sleeping pad is stored inflated. Wash and store the boat. Wax at least once per year and treat regularly with an ultraviolet protectant.
38. Shower curtain bar in the bathtub.
When you get home after a trip, cleanup is made a easier when wet things can be hung up to dry after washing them.
I live in a condo that does not allow any drying on balconies, and this is invaluable.
39. Make a Campsite. Many kayak accessible campsites may have room for only one or a few tents. The tools necessary to hew a site out of the bush consume little space in the boat: small hand saw (for branches), large hand clippers, small hand clippers. A tube saw can handle larger branches. Sometimes the best site will be under a tree with low dense branches that leave a clear floor and no salal roots.
Useful for cutting firewood, making new tent sites, and clearing paths, there are many small effective saws usually with a sheath. The “Saw in a Tube” is a much larger saw that takes up minimal space.
Find a light daypack with no padding and that stuffs into its small top pocket. The small stuff size makes it ideal for kayak trips with hiking and it can be used as another carry bag.
42. Thermarest seat.
I use this as a pillow, seat cushion on the beach, and as a backrest in my kayak where I find it works great for back pain. It folds up small and shoves along side my seat.
43. Kindle or other electronic reader.
The battery will last for a few weeks depending on use. It can store 2,000 books and magazines taking up less space than any book. With the 3G version, it is possible to download anywhere there is cell service.
44. Solar chargers.
With all the electronics (phones, electronic readers, iPods, VHF radios, rechargeable batteries) we use, a solar charger can be indispensable on longer trips.
Virtually all frequently used campsites will have mice, and often many mice. They end up contaminating every surface in the camp with their feces and urine. Everything must be put away each evening.
Cut the top off a plastic container, fill half-way with water, add some lemonade or juice and some bread and you won’t be able to stop them from drowning themselves.