10 Vintage Camping Hacks Every Camper Should Know

Make it easy to pack, store and cook your camping food with these simple tips from the good ol' days.

Camping out for more than a night or two can bring the same challenges—ones my own family faced all the time, back when most people lived without air conditioning. When we’re hit with crazy humidity or rainy days, I’ve had to recall my mom’s old tricks for keeping the salt from clumping, the grill clean, and much more, so we can enjoy great meals made over a crackling fire.

1. Create a dry box

Invest in an airtight and waterproof container to store your camping essentials. I’m talking a box of matches, a flashlight plus batteries, first aid supplies, a few protein bars and any other small, must-have items. This will come in handy if you’re camping in damp or rainy conditions.

2. Invest in a small thermometer

Place a small stick-on thermometer inside your cooler lid to ensure that the temperature inside is a food-safe 35-40ºF. And if you want to upgrade your cooler situation, invest in a waterproof cooler light so you can see what you’re looking for after the sun goes down.

3. Make your own ice packs

Keep a few milk jugs the weeks before you head out into the wilderness. Wash thoroughly, allow to dry, and refill with clean tap water at home. Freeze and place in your cooler to keep the contents cool but dry. Consider these cooling tips, too.

4. Save aluminum foil

Save that used aluminum foil! Crumple it up and store in a zip-top bag to take along. Use it to scrub down the campfire grate or grill, clean your cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, and to scrape bark off your marshmallow sticks. Check out these tips for camping with a Dutch oven.

5. Keep your salt from clumping

Take a cue from your local diner and put a few grains of rice in your salt shaker to keep the salt flowing instead of clumping together. Using a plastic shaker with a snap-down lid is also helpful to keep moisture out and salt inside where it belongs.

6. Don’t forget your spices

Bringing along armfuls of spices can seem inconvenient, but you still want flavor in your favorite camping meals, right? Instead, repurpose Tic-Tac containers and other small, food-safe tins and use them as makeshift spice jars. Store them in a zip-top bag or plastic tub to keep them dry.

7. Prep what you can in advance

Once you’re in the great outdoors, you won’t want to spend a ton of time meal prepping. Opt for no-cook meals like these or prep your ingredients at home before you leave. Pancake batter can be made at home, stored in a clean container or squeeze-top bottle and kept in the cooler until you’re ready.

8. Get creative with your fire starters

A proper campfire is made with crumpled paper, kindling and firewood, but that can be a lot to gather. Instead, you can get your fire started with some unconventional materials, like dryer lint (you can pre-portion this by stuffing it into toilet paper tubes) or even corn chips like Fritos and Doritos!

9. Bring your cast iron skillet or Dutch oven from home

Don’t fuss with multiple pots and pans when you camp or special camping cookware. Instead, bring just your cast iron skillet or Dutch oven. Cast iron can withstand the elements and can be used over a propane cooktop, grill or straight over the campfire. Try these recipes ready for the campfire and your Dutch oven.

10. Grab some bright colored ribbon

Stop tripping over tent tethers and running into the clothesline! Tie neon colored ribbon (or even fabric scraps) onto these cords to keep from getting tangled up.

Use these old-school tricks and your entire outdoor experience will be way more enjoyable. Now you just need something to eat! How about these camping recipes?

Campers, start your fires!
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Sue Evans
I am a mom, grandma, wife, nurse, gardener, writer, student, a steward of and a passenger on Planet Earth.