There’s nothing as liberating as roughing it in the wilderness. And for those of you who just load up a tent, grab some firewood, and stroll into the woods, more power to you. But for those of us who prefer a little less “rough” in our roughing it, here are a few tips and tricks to make the great outdoors a little more comfortable.


Keep the bugs away

Mosquitoes are the worst part of any camping trip. The whining, the itching, the constant slapping at yourself when all you wanna do is just sleep… Well, we’ve got your back. There are actually a lot of things you can do to keep the pests to a minimum!

Choose unscented hygiene products. Yup, bugs love all that nice-smelling perfume, vanilla hand soap, and cherry-scented body lotion. Also, make sure you choose a waterproof bug spray, especially since you’ll be relying on it almost exclusively on a long hike or while spending time outdoors with the family, so the last thing you want is to sweat or splash it off your skin. Waterproof is the way to go.

You’re gonna want to choose a campsite that’s generally unappealing to mosquitoes. We’re talking high and dry, my friend. Mosquitoes love a wet environment, so stay away from any boggy, misty or swampy areas.



Invest in a bug net that works for you. James Menta from Eagle’s Nest Outfitters recommends the Guardian Bugnet since it’s pretty lightweight, easy to put together, and comfortable to breathe under. Lastly, bring some fresh sage to throw on the fire. The scent should keep the mosquitoes away for hours.

Bring fresh sage like these smudge sticks to throw into the fire. This old camping trick should help keep your whole site bug-free.


Stay warm and dry

It’s a well-known fact that the campfire is the heart of every campsite. Don’t be left out in the cold because you’re unprepared. Keep a few household items handy so you can start your fire under any circumstances.

If you’re staying at a campground, only use the designated fire ring or fireplace, and if you’re camping in backcountry, make sure you have a fire permit.

Always have dry tinder in your pack to get your fire going on wet days. Dryer lint tucked into empty egg cartons with paraffin wax is a classic fire starter. Vaseline worked into cotton balls is another great lightweight alternative. To keep a fire going, if you have an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, squeeze some onto damp wood to keep it burning long enough to dry out. And if you’re really in a pinch, duct tape or Doritos are also highly flammable.

To dry your shoes overnight, stuff them with newspaper or dry clothing. The moisture will be absorbed and you can start fresh in the morning!



For extra warmth in your sleeping bag, stuff the bottom of your bag with clothes. You’ll be snug all night! Also keep a pair of dry socks to wear just for sleeping to keep your feet warm. You can also fill your Nalgene with hot water for a cozy hot water bottle to cuddle up to.


Feast like wilderness royalty


Once you’re warm and dry and the bugs are history, it’s time for some good eats! Cooking over a campfire isn’t so difficult once you know a few tricks.

Tinfoil is your best friend. Wrap your meal in it, toss it on the coals, and let it do its thing. A classic campground meal is ground beef with onions, carrots, and potato, with a drizzle of ketchup, wrapped neatly into a flat packet and cooked on the coals for 10 minutes per side. But it’s easy to change out your protein, your vegetable, your starch, and your spices and condiments for an infinite number of variations. Keep your potato chunks small and your meat chunks large to ensure even cooking.

Cook eggs and bacon in a paper bag. If you don’t want the trouble of carrying a bowl and whisk into the woods with you, beat your eggs at home and store them in a plastic water bottle. When it’s time for breakfast, grease the inside of the paper bag with a generous hand. Place the bacon in the bag and pour the eggs on top. Fold the bag down firmly several times, then run a stick through so the bag is hanging from one end. Cook over hot coals (not open flames) for about 10 minutes and voila!



To make pancakes over a fire, you’ll need a griddle or skillet. You can premix your batter at home and store it in zip lock bags until you’re ready to cook. Then clip the corner and just squeeze the batter out. Easy peasy! Plus, the squeeze technique makes it easy to draw fun shapes for the kids.

If you want to get really ambitious, wrap your freshly-caught fish in leaves and cook it right over the flames. The leaves will prevent the fish from burning and trap the steam inside for a beautifully moist meal. Use wet twine to hold it all together. Edible leaves such as grape leaves, walnut leaves, cattail leaves, chestnut leaves or many others will impart a lovely fresh flavor to your fish. But be sure you know your flora before you try this method. You don’t want to cook your food in anything toxic.


Image Courtesy of John Lustig


It’s doubtful you’ll forget the fixings for s’mores, but remember to bring a treat for the grownups too! Mason jar sangria is a beautiful thing. Fill a quarter gallon mason jar with fruit of your choice. Pour in vodka about a quarter of the way up, then fill the rest of the jar with wine. Pack your jar. When you’re ready to serve, pour it into a jug and add 1 liter of your favorite carbonated drink, and done!  You’ll be the most popular person around the campfire that night for sure!