Camping is great. You get to wake up to the sunrise every day, immerse yourself in nature, and forget about your responsibilities for a bit. You can breathe in the fresh air, detach yourself from technology for some time, wake up to a spider staring you in the face, not shower for 3 days, and constantly be paranoid about ticks latching to your body. It’s the best.
I’m (obviously) not that big of a camper. I really do like hanging out among the trees and under the sky, but after a while, I need air conditioning, a warm shower, and a comfortable mattress. Having now been camping a few times myself, I’ve learned what to bring and what not to bring each time I’ve returned home after the experience is over. To all the fellow newbie campers out there that think it’s awesome at first and then get into their tent at night and feel like crying because they miss their bed so much, this is for you. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over time to help you feel like you’re “glamping,” when you’re really, actually, not at all.
1) Multiuse makeup wipes. Whether or not you wear a full face of makeup on your camping trip or go the natural route, makeup remover wipes should get packed in your bag. Besides doing the obvious, they can also be helpful in various other situations. I’ve found them especially useful when I take my shoes off and am about to climb into my tent at night to get some sleep. If you don’t wear closed-toe shoes, your feet are going to be nasty from walking around in the dirt. Easy fix? Wipe them down with some makeup wipes. They’re mess-free and you don’t have to walk to the nearest water source to wash your feet and then dry them. They won’t give you the deepest clean (depending on how dirty your feet actually are), but they’ll make you feel better about climbing into your sleeping bag at night.
2) Bathroom talk. Going camping with my boyfriend and other guys makes me jealous. It makes me jealous because they can just run off into the darkness and pee into a bush with ease while us women have to pull our pants down, pop a squat, and make sure we don’t get any pee on our own feet. I’ve been to camping music festivals where at least there were porta-potties, but those can be even worse when drunk people are entering in and out of them, and in that case I’d rather get my own bodily fluids on me than someone else’s. *shudder* So, I bought a little silicone funnel, basically, called the GoGirl, which is made specifically for women when they’ve gotta go and there’s nowhere near to do it. NO. SHAME. It makes things so much easier. It’s still a little gross and invasive but, hey, I can stand and pee without worrying about acquiring multiple diseases from a dirty porta-potty or smelling like a cat’s litter box, so that’s a plus.
3) Pack light. While it may be tempting to dress like a stylish hippie chick a-la Stevie Nicks, make sure you actually pack clothes that are going to be appropriate for the weather and the environment you’ll be in. You really don’t need 5 outfit changes. You’ll probably end up falling asleep in your outfit from the day, anyway. Rompers are a bad idea (see #2), maxi skirts/dresses will be ruined by the time you leave, and open-toed heels will kill your feet. Keep it simple, comfortable, and light and airy—especially if the weather will be warm. And wear things that you wouldn’t mind getting a little dirty (aka nothing you spent a decent amount of your paycheck on).
4) Bug spray. Lots of it. After a weekend camping, returning with only 4 bug bites is a success. For reasons unknown, mosquitos love me. (I have a burning hatred for them.) This goes for everyone—not just the ladies—but bring bug spray. This should be priority on your packing list. Bugs carry disease and nobody has time for that.
5) Tweezers. Another creature of the woods that has potential for harm: the tick. Places like the CDC recommend wearing long sleeves and pants if you’re going to be walking through grassy areas (and if you’re in an area where ticks are aplenty). But if it’s 80 degrees out, I’m doubtful that you’d want to be wearing a sweater. Hopefully the bug spray that you pack will prevent ticks from clinging onto your skin, but if the inevitable happens, make sure you have some (clean) tweezers on hand to pluck ’em off. (You shouldn’t use your hands, as pieces of the nasty bug can get stuck in your skin.) And even if you don’t end up using the tweezers for tick-plucking, at least your eyebrows will look great.
6) Some type of inflatable mattress. Anyone who actually enjoys sleeping on the cold, hard ground is insane. (I’m sorry, but I like cushioning.) If I could sleep in a pile of warm laundry every night, I would. The thin layer of fabric in a tent that separates you from the earth does not provide enough of a barrier from the rocky, bumpy surface. This is why I feel that it is absolutely pertinent that you bring some type of air mattress, cushion, or blow-up pool raft (hey, it’s better than nothing) to sleep on.
7) Dry shampoo. My hair is thick and wavy, which means I can get away without washing it for probably 3 or 4 days before it turns into an oil zone. But even still—after dancing, sweating, or just being outside—it can get pretty gross within a day. And when there are no real showers around, that could be an issue. Dry shampoo, though, is the answer to all of your problems.
8) Handheld mirror. Because taking out your contacts using selfie mode on your iPhone is not fun. (Trust me, I’ve tried it.) Even better would be a battery-powered mirror that lights up so you can also see in the dark—if not, a traditional flashlight will do. You don’t realize how often you check yourself out in a mirror on a daily basis until you don’t have one to do so.
9) Portable phone charger. Okay, so I know I mentioned the whole ‘unplug yourself from reality’ thing before. But the thing is, having a charged phone is nice. Not only is it useful if you somehow wander away from your friends and find yourself lost in a sea of tents, but how else are you going to document the fun adventures you’ll have? That Instagram photo isn’t going to upload itself, you know.