Planning a family camping trip with kids? Pinterest is a fantastic place to find clever tips on how to organize your campsite and do just about anything smarter. Here are some of the very best camping hacks I've pinned to my family vacation-planning pinboards.
Use a cardboard egg carton as a fire starter
This forehead-smacking tip on the Sew Many Ways blog proves that the simplest ideas are always the best. A cardboard egg carton makes a terrific fire starter that's clean and easy to carry. Place one briquette of match-light charcoal in each egg cup. Put the whole carton in your firepit and light it; the charcoal will ignite easily.
Cook muffins over the fire inside orange peels. No, really.
Did you know you can make campfire blueberry muffins inside orange peels? Crazy! The Apron Strings blog tells you how to fill emptied rind with batter, wrap it in aluminum foil, and then:
Just throw them in the fire. No, really. Literally toss them in the fire. I know, I know. This might be scary the first time you do it. But trust me – they will not burn! The orange peel will insulate the muffin mix from burning. The orange peel itself might blacken a little, but the mix in the middle will turn out steamed and delicious. Like a steamed pudding. With a delicious orange flavor. Yum.
Use foam tiles to cushion your tent floor
Repurposing a playroom staple into a camping creature comfort? A stroke of genius! The mom camping blog A Little Campy swears by inexpensive interlocking foam floor squares to soften the biggest downside of tent camping. (Found in toy stores everywhere.)
Use solar lights to illuminate your campsite
As noted on the Starling Travel blog, cheap and cheerful solar lights are a handy take-along item on any camping trip. Plant them to illuminate a path and avoid walking into clotheslines or tripping over guylines in the dark.
Send the kids on a nature scavenger hunt
One wonderful and fun way to engage kids on any outdoors outing is to create a nature scavenger hunt like this sensory game on Go Explore Nature. It can be as simple as a handwritten list or as fancy as a pictoral hunt using a free printable.
Keep toilet paper clean and dry in a sealed coffee can
If it rains during your camping trip, you'll be oh-so-grateful for this simple tip from Lifehacker. 'Nuff said.
Water jug + watering-can spout = portable shower
It's so handy to have a mini shower at your campsite. The genius DIY site Instructables features a six-step tutorial on how to fashion a reusable camping shower from a water jug and a watering-can spout.
Make crescent rolls over a campfire
Another great tutorial from Instructables describes how to make crescent rolls over a campfire. The directions ooze been-there-done-that wisdom that begins with finding a Y-shaped stick about as thick as your pinky.
After slicing the bark off the Y and the handle, "braid" the crescent roll around the Y. This will make the dough thinner than if it is simply wrapped around the stick, reduces cooking time, allows it to cook evenly, and doesn't leave you with a gross sticky mass of uncooked dough in the center.
Roll dice in a transparent container
Leave it to an elementary school teacher to come up with this smart tip. If your family likes to play board games in your tent or RV, keep the dice in a small transparent Tupperware-like container to keep them from getting lost, as recommended on Cardigans and Curriculum.
Delight your kids with campfire cones
These four-ingredient campfire cones are Katie-bar-the-door delicious and simple to make, says Come Together Kids. If you don't feel like packing up the ingredients, you could ditch the bananas and prep a s'mores version at home (ice cream cones, marshmallows, chocolate chips), wrap them in aluminum foil, and they'll be ready to go at the campfire.
Make a travel-size game from an Altoids tin
Inventive folks find all sorts of clever uses for empty Altoids tins. Here, Melissa's Bargains shares a tutorial for how to make a magnetic travel-sized tic-tac-toe game that would be perfect for family camping trips. It's small enough to be popped into a backpack and played just about anywhere.
Make a guyline tensioner from a pull tab
Lose one of your tent's guyline tensioners? No sweat. Simply replace it with any aluminum can's pull tab, as described on the hardcore survival blog Preparing for SHTF.
Discover the joy of solid shampoo bars
Something that's practical and makes you feel pampered is what's known as a win-win on a camping trip. Case in point: The portable and wonderfully scented solid shampoo bars from the cult favorite cosmetics company LUSH. These just-add-water shampoo bars deliver about 80 frothy shampoos and they come in a marvelous array of ingredient combinations, including citrus, cinnamon-and-clove, honey-toffee and rosemary-peppermint. You'll also love LUSH's solid conditioner bar.
Try this nifty tarp trick
When hanging a tarp, a small stick does the trick of securing the main center line. "When pressure is put on one end, the line will tighten evenly, keeping the grommets from being torn out," says Buzzfeed.
Keep your power cord dry
If you've got a campsite with electric hookup, an upside-down bucket with two drilled holes will keep your power cord off the damp ground, as illustrated in Protracted Garden.
Slip pool noodles over struts and lines
Here's a nifty safety tip gleaned from Buzzfeed: Slit a pool noodle and slip it over awning struts to make them more visible and padded. You can do the same for tent guylines, clotheslines and other hard-to-see lines that could potentially trip you up.
Put glow sticks in water bottles for night-time bowling
Coolest after-dark game ever: Set up a bowling alley using pins made from glow sticks in water bottles, recommends Little Inspiration.
Bring a portable washing machine
No washing machine? No worries. The Scrubba Wash Bag is a nifty little laundry bag with an interior washboard that lets you handwash a small load of laundry in under five minutes. Small enough to fit in a day bag or backpack, it will allow you to pack less and travel lighter.
Find this pin on my Brilliant Packing Tips board.
Use a terra cotta pot to make tabletop s'mores
From Smart School House comes this genius hack: Place charcoal in a foil-lined terra cotta pot and you've got the perfect set-up for tabletop s'mores.
Keep ants off the picnic table.
Leave it to Lifehacker.com to provide a tutorial for how to keep ants off a picnic table by pouring water into some pie tins. Easy peasy.
Upcycle a 6-pack holder
Once your drinks are in the cooler, repurpose your 6-pack holder into a cutlery station, says Second Chance to Dream.
Create a travel medicine chest
Use a pill organizer to create a travel-size medicine chest, recommends the Or So She Says blog.