If you had asked me to go camping a few years ago, I would have found the first blanket to hide under. Back then, it just seemed like so much effort, and I wasn’t prepared to leave behind my cozy bed for the forest floor and a sleeping bag just yet.
But after my first time camping, I realized that your trip and your campsite are what you make of them. Adding comforts and character to your campsite can help your experience go from “roughing it” in the forest to a weekend more comfy and photo-worthy than one spent in the city. Even on a short getaway with friends, nothing beats getting a little indulgent and sprucing up your campsite, especially if you’re rolling there with a vehicle or are just a short walk to your site. Here are some tricks I’ve learned along the way that can bring a little more luxury to your next camping trip.
Get fancy with meal planning
It’s a myth that camping means denying yourself the comforts or luxuries of home. With room in your trunk and some solid camping cookware, you can almost recreate a mini version of your very own kitchen, only outdoors.
Who’s to say you can’t cook a 3-course meal in the woods? There are lots of double burner stoves to choose from that are still light and compact, like the Primus Kinjia Stove, for instance. I like to poach marinated chicken in boiling water (all you need is a pot) until it’s shreddable and treat my campmates to chicken and pineapple tacos by the campfire. You can also step things up by charring corn on the campstove and adding it to the tacos or a cold salad.
Create the ultimate hangout spot
Beyond the basic tarp and tent combo, you can add a little flair to your campsite to make it feel more luxurious.
Some cozy bedding goes a very long way. When you’re car camping, there’s plenty more room in the trunk than there would be in a backpack, so why not take advantage? Bringing throw blankets and pillows can help you turn your tent set-up from comfortable to a full-on adult fort in the woods. Consider creating a tent “patio” with a tarp, blankets and some deluxe camping chairs with adjustable padded pillows to enjoy camp coffee and breakfast in the sunlight.
You can also make use of the space around you, including the trees in the area. Most of us are familiar with the tree-to-tree clothesline set up, but why not hang up a hammock instead? For an afternoon lying horizontal under the trees, it’s worth the 5-minute set-up.
Add mood lighting
Consider swapping out headlamps to create some mood lighting. Lanterns are an easy and quick way to give your campsite some ambiance. You make your own with tealights in glass containers or pick up some rechargeable or USB-powered options (like the BioLite SiteLight XL or the Moji LED Lantern). But to really jazz up your campsite, consider hanging LED accessory lights around your tent or from trees. It may seem like a small addition, but the twinkling lights can have a magical effect on the most simplistic of campsites.
Of course, if you do have a headlamp, you can rig up some soft, glowy light with just a water bottle:
Camping is a great way to spend time outdoors, and you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to do it. Whatever your camping ambitions are for the summer, remember the Leave No Trace principles and check out hiking and camping clinics at MEC stores for more tips on outdoor adventures.
Top photo: Shutterstock / ballphotographer