Life Hacks: Camping Edition
“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grass and the gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks.”
- John Muir
Nature and technology don’t always play nicely. We think of these things as opposites rather than going hand in hand, and as wo/mankind develops more and more advanced objects to make our lives easier (the iRobot Roomba is kind of a godsend) in some ways we are losing touch with the natural world around us. Therelease of the new Apple Watch thrown into the smartwatch mix gives us another reason to stare down rather than up. We will come to rely on monitors to check our pulse rather than listening to our own heartbeats. There are multiple Darwin Awards out there that tell us that nature and technology don’t mix well.This man was trampled by a wild elephant while attempting to take a selfie.
However, we also live in a world where people are really into the things they’re passionate about. There are definitely still avid backpackers out there. I personally know three Eagle Scouts. San Francisco is stoked full of people who are really into the tech scene, then take their passions to the great outdoors on the weekends. Hikers, bikers, walkers, campers, backpackers, runners, joggers, etc. take to the streets and trails en masse for mini weekend vacations and afternoon workouts. Nobody’s complaining about the amount of trees in the surrounding area.
I’ve come to love going into camping stores. REI is basically Disney Land, and I’d like to personally thank the folks at Young’s Backpacking for tolerating all of my questions about their gizmos. While exciting, some of these things can be expensive and/or bulky if you’re taking the weekend to go backpacking or camping. Sometimes the best things in life are free (or kinda close to free). There are some really creative ways to take that hackers attitude of yours and apply it to other aspects of your life.
I went on my second backpacking trip in Tahoe National Forest Desolation Wilderness (yes, it’s really called that) last weekend. Like everything in life, the more you backpack, the more you learn, and the more you remember all those stupid little things that make your life easier.
Here are some ways I found useful ways to hack while camping, and a couple other tricks of the trade. I am, however, not a master, so if you do this a lot, teach me your ways and let me know your tricks in the comments!
1) When the dark descends and you’re strapped for a light source, don’t try to light the camp stove by the light of a single flashlight. If you turn the light so it’s facing into a jug of water (I use my Nalgene), it reflects through and creates a much stronger and brighter light source. Another plus: it never runs out of batteries or gas.
Side note: A Liter of Light is a company that uses this idea to create cheap light sources in developing countries. Pretty dang cool.
2) Of course you’ll want bug spray for pesky mosquitos, but ticks can be a little more persistent. And they really creep me out. I use tea tree oil for a lot of things, but one of my favorite uses is to keep ticks at bay when I’m going to be spending a lot of time in deep woods. 1 part tea tree oil to 2 parts water in a spray bottle can do wonders for this. I get mine from Trader Joes.
3) When you’re backpacking you really don’t want to lug around bottles of antibiotic ointment and toothpaste. If you’ve ever been backpacking before, you understand, and if you haven’t, trust us. My favorite solution: put little single-serve sizes of these products in cut-up straws used as tubes, and use tape or a lighter to seal the edges. You only need a pea-sized drop of toothpaste to clean your teeth anyway.
4) If you’re thinking of bringing a pillow with you while backpacking, we need to have a discussion. This isn’t the Four Seasons. But you don’t need to suffer either, just stuff the clothes you brought with you, or even the tent rain cover I know you didn’t take the time to put up, and stuff it into your sleeping bag bag. #Instapillow.
5) I’ll admit I haven’t tried this one yet, but I really want to! This one’s for camping rather than backpacking, but I think it’s pretty safe to say we all know the struggle of trying to haul everything we need into a campground shower. I think this whole lanyard thing is kind of brilliant, and it can bring you back to the days when you were a freshman in college. Just attach to-go sized bottles of all the products you need into the loops and you’re good to go.
6) And finally, if you really need to plug in to call your mom or something, a fully loaded portable phone charger is not a bad idea.