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Hey! We are two Michiganders with adventurous souls looking to explore the beauties and wonders of this spectacular world. Our mission is to provide you with budget-friendly itineraries that inspire and encourage you to get outside, eat delicious foods, and enjoy high-quality brews. Ultimately, there are three key ingredients to any amazing trip: 

Noms, Brews, & Views.

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  • Writer's pictureJ&L

Camping Hacks

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Camping is usually associated with a 1-star lodging experience of sleeping on the ground and peeing in the woods. However, we are here to share with you our favorite camping hacks to turn this 1-star experience into one for the memory books. Granted, you will still be sleeping on the ground and likely peeing in the woods. However, with our camping hacks, we hope to inspire a new appreciation for lodging primitively in the great outdoors.

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Picking a Site

In order to have a quality outdoor experience, there are three key elements we look for when reserving a campsite ahead of our trip:

  1. Seclusion: How far is the site from other campsites? Are there trees and vegetation surrounding the site? We also look to see if there is a lake, river, or stream campsite option!

  2. Size of Campsite: Most booking sites will give the square feet of the site you are booking. Not all campsites at a campground are the same size, therefore, be sure to look at the square feet of your options to get the most space and seclusion while camping.

  3. Reviews: We look for reviews of the campground & sites before selecting our ideal campsite to reserve. A great site for researching reviews and amenities at American Parks is The Dyrt. We also use for reviews, photos, and reservations of American National Parks.

Like these campsites? Also Read: Great Smoky Mountain National Park

5 Bear Safety Tips

Remember : Bears keep to themselves and are generally afraid of humans, unless they are tempted by food or are protecting their young. Not practicing the proper bear safety while camping can not only endanger you, but the bears as well. Please follow the below bear safety tips to protect both you and the bears.

1. Tent Clothes vs Day Clothes

Be sure to pack a separate pair of clothes for sleeping in the tent. Your day clothes carry the scent of food from cooking and eating throughout the day. Wearing this clothes inside your tent increases the likelihood of a bear coming across your campsite in search of food.

Bears are thought to have the best sense of smell of any animal on earth. In fact, they can sniff out food at a distance of 20 miles away. Although you may think your clothes smell fine after a day of cooking and eating, a bear may think otherwise and come to sniff it out. We recommend keeping your day clothes in an enclosed vehicle or a bear-safe box (usually provided by your campsite).

Fact: Bears can smell food at a distance of 20 miles away


2. Unscented Toiletries

Similar to the above mentioned reasons for wearing different tent clothes, bears will also come sniffing out anything with a strong scent (not just food). Since bears can smell food up to 20 miles away, imagine how many miles away they can smell stronger scents, such as perfume or cologne. Even if you wear separate tent clothes, wearing scented body wash, spray, or deodorant can also attract bears to your campsite.

We recommend these unscented options for body wash & deodorant.

3. Unscented Dish Soap

If you are leaving your cooking supplies out to dry for the evening, using unscented dish soap is a smart idea to avoid attracting bears with its citrusy smell. We recommend using Planet dishwashing liquid. Additionally, we also recommend purchasing a reusable tablecloth for your picnic table. This allows you to contain any food during meal prep and cleanup, avoiding leaving leftover food on the table after meals.

Also Read: Hiking in Bear Territory

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4. Disposing dirty dish water

[this is a big one]

Washing your dishes correctly is very important when you are camping in bear territory. DO NOT simply wash off your dishes at your campsite or nearby water spigot and let the dirty water run off onto the ground. This is not eliminating the food source at all. This does nothing more than if you left food-covered dishes sitting out at your campsite overnight. Bears will come in search of the leftover food they smell (washed onto the ground), leading to a higher chance of them invading your campsite. Instead, please use the indoor kitchen drains found at campsites in bear territory, or dispose of your kitchen water far away from where you will be sleeping that night (as well as far from trails or water sources).

ALWAYS: wash your dirty dishes in a campsite kitchen

5. Garbage

Be sure not to leave garbage unattended for very long. If car camping, leave your garbage bag inside your car at all times. Otherwise, keep your garbage bag inside a bear-safe container (usually provided by campsites) at all times. When backpacking, minimize packaging on items before setting out on your journey and store all food/garbage/scented items in a bear bag up in a tree (50 ft cord). NEVER bring any food, garbage, or scented items into your tent at any time of day.

NEVER: bring any food, garbage, or scented items into your tent at any time of day.


5 Camping Cookware Items

1. Camping Cookware Kit

With most lightweight stoves on the market starting at $70, this cookware set comes with 12 pieces, including a stove and 2 non-stick pots for half the price! Having tested many of the more expensive lightweight stoves, we can assure you that it was hard to tell the difference when using this product. Compact, lightweight, durable, and dependable, this is another one of our staple camping products. Our second favorite piece in the kit is the 2 non-stick pots that can fit the fuel container and lightweight stove within, making the space in your backpack fully maximized. We are very impressed with how durable and easy these pots are to clean. Lastly, it is all wrapped up in a mesh bag to allow for drying on the go!

J&L Recommended: Cookware Kit

2. Ozark Trails 22 Piece Cook Set

Enjoy this 22 piece cook and dine set during your next camp out. This set made by Ozark Trail, provides 4 place settings and a strong variety of cookware. Pot and lid are non-stick for easy cleanup. The dinnerware is made from polystyrene and the cook ware is made from sturdy aluminum, promising years of use. Done eating? Pack it all up in a mesh carrying bag for easy transport. This lightweight and compact stainless steel is a complete 4-person dining set. Pack it all up in a mesh carrying bag for easy transport. Set Features: 1- 8.4 inch frying pan, 1- 5.6 Quart stockpot, 1- 2.5 Quart stockpot, 2 Lids, 4- 9inch plates, 4 Sporks, 4- 12 ounce plastic cups, 4- plastic cup lids and 1 Mesh carrying bag.


3. Ozark Trail 15-in-1 Multi tool

Take this Ozark Trail 15-in-1 Multitool with you while you're on the go, so you can have all of your tools in one place. This gadget features 15 different items including long-nose and standard pliers, wire cutter, medium and large slotted screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener, can opener, saw, knife, scissors, wire stripper, pry bar, and keychain. This device can conveniently be taken with you while traveling or when you're outdoors camping. Whether you're taking the family on an extended camping trip in the mountains or just taking a day trip to a local hiking trail, Ozark Trail has everything you need to enjoy the great outdoors.

J&L Recommended: 15-in-1 Multitool

4. Collapsible Silicone Coffee Dripper

Love camping but miss your morning coffee? You don't have to! This silicone coffee dripper collapses down into an easily packable size, allowing you to bring your morning coffee with you on your next camping trip. Heat up water over the fire or lightweight stove and pour it over coffee grinds in this dripper. Now you can enjoy a steaming cup of coffee surrounded by nature.


5. Ozark Trail 20 oz. Beer Stein with Lid

What better way to drink some craft brews around the campfire then with these Ozark Trail 20 oz. Beer Steins! On a hot summer day, the double-wall vacuum insulation will keep your drinks cold and tasting fresh throughout the night. Not just for cold drinks, the high grade-stainless steel is equally suited for both hot and cold beverages. With a durable, sweat-free design, these beer steins come with a lifetime warranty and are a great gift for family and friends!

Also Read: Great Smokey Mountain National Park Complete Guide

Food Prep Tips

Pre-Crack Eggs

Crack eggs for your camping trip and store the mixture in a water bottle that can be kept cold in your cooler. As long as the egg mixture will be used within the next few days, the eggs will be good to eat! This eliminates the worry of cracked eggs, while allowing an easy breakfast option at the campsite.

Fire-Starting Hacks

Gather your dryer lint prior to a camping trip and fill an empty toilet paper roll with the lint. Throw the roll filled with lint into your fire and it acts as great tinder! Another great fire-starter is chips such as doritos or fritos. Adding these to the base of your fire will also act as great tinder to get it going.

J&L Recommended: One of our favorite campfire treats is orange cinnamon rolls!


7 Everyday Camp Hacks

1. Ozark Trail Expandable Solar Lantern

Amazing tools come in small packages. This Ozark Trail solar rechargeable lantern and power bank is a versatile outdoor companion to assist in lighting up your tent or charging your devices. With three different light settings and the ability to recharge via the solar panel or a micro USB cable, you will find this small but mighty tool coming in handy no matter where your adventures take you. Compared to the Goal Zero Crush Light at $20, enjoy half the price and double the value with this Ozark Trail Expandable Solar Lantern.

Campsite Location: Great Smoky Mountains


2. Ozark Trails Quick Drying Camp Towels

One of the most useful items in our pack is our fast-drying microfiber towel. They take up hardly any room and come in handy whether looking to dry off from a quick swim, lay down a picnic blanket, or protect your shoulders from the sun. These towels are an amazing value compared to name brand towels of equal quality. We have had many people inquiring about where they can get a towel like this one, as it is truly a universal travel item. Compared to Matador NanoDry Towels at $35, this Ozark Trails Quick Drying Towel is one seventh of the price!

Quick Drying Towels Used At: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

3. Ozark Trails 6' x 8' Heavy Duty Tarp

Having a 6' x 8' tarp is a very handy camping hack. You can use this for a second tent base when it rains, to store muddy shoes outside your tent, a picnic blanket, table cloth, or as a shelter to cover wood/belongs. We recommend this Ozark Trails Heavy Duty Tarp as it is durable, long-lasting, and a great value!

4. Ozark Trail Himont Compact Camp Lite Chair

The Ozark Trail Himont Compact Camp Lite Chair is the perfect seat to kick back and relax in while camping or backpacking. This chair features an aluminum shock-corded frame which easily assembles for a sturdy, comfortable seat that can be taken with you anywhere. The Ozark Trail Himont Compact Camp Lite Chair features a mesh utility pouch hanging from the front which allows storage of a map, book, flashlight or phone.

The breathable mesh seat helps keep you cool and comfortable and also drains and dries quickly. This chair can be stored away in a zippered carry bag with molle straps for easy transport. With a carry weight of less than 2 lbs., this chair is comparable to a $100 Helinox Chair, however, Ozark Trail is offering it for a quarter of the price!

Campsite Location: Glacier National Park


5. Ozark Trail 300 Lumen Rechargeable LED Headlamp

Take your camping gear to the next level with the Ozark Trail 300 Lumen Rechargeable Multi-Color LED Headlamp. Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Ozark Trail 300 Lumen Rechargeable Multi-Color LED Headlamp has a 3-hour run time on high or a 37-hour run time on low/flood. Therefore, you can rest assured knowing that this headlamp will provide you with hours of light for your early morning and late night camping adventures. The included USB charger makes charging this headlamp easy and convenient whenever and wherever you go. Comparable to the Black Diamond Revolt Rechargeable Headlamp at $65, this Ozark Trails headlamps is a third of the price!

6. Deodorant on Mosquito Bites

The chemicals in deodorant help stop pain and swelling. Therefore, apply deodorant to mosquito bites and it will alleviate the irritation.

7. Sage

Adding sage to your campfire will keep mosquitos away!

Campsite Location: Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Happy Adventuring!


Travel Planning Resources

Below are the resources we use to plan all of our trips, find great deals, and pack our bags with affordable gear. We received a small kickback whenever you purchase something through a link on our site. But rest assured, there is no additional cost to you. In fact, in some cases you even get a greater discount for shopping through NBV! A Win, Win!

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