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Eight tips to help take the discomfort out of camping

In his book, Camping and Woodcraft (1906), Horace Kephart writes: “We do not go to the woods to rough it; we go to smooth it.” Stick with camping and you, too, will discover tricks that will make outdoor life easier.

Smooth the way with these eight simple tricks.

Make a Sleeping Pad Cover

Protect your sleeping pad from punctures and keep it from sliding around on the tent floor with a porous cover. Make a pillowcase-like cover using cotton, polyester or merino wool. This will also help absorb perspiration as you sleep.

Pitch a Tent on Uneven Ground

Conventional wisdom suggests tents should be pitched head-end high on a slope; do this and you’ll slide downhill all night. If you place clothing under your legs to stop the sliding, the price will be a hammock-like position — and in the morning, possibly a sore back.

It’s better to pitch your tent perpendicular to the slope, one side lower than the other. Place folded clothes under your sleeping pad along the downhill side. This will produce a level trough that is more comfortable than an arched position.

Fix Tent and Tarp Seams

Not all tents and tarps have factory-sealed (waterproof) seams — and with enough use, those that do often leak. Special seam sealants — available at outdoor gear retailers — do a good job, but they are expensive and might become brittle when it’s cold or sticky when it’s hot. Eventually, they peel.

Thompson’s Water Seal (available at hardware stores) never becomes brittle or sticky. Apply it to seams with a foam varnish brush and wipe off the excess with a cotton rag or paper towel. The fabric will slightly discolor, but one application lasts almost forever. It’s great for paper maps and journals, too, as you can write over it. (This will not stick to the seams of silicone-treated tent flies and tarps, however.)

Fold a Ground Cloth

You need a partner:

  1. Each person grasps the opposite side of the plastic groundsheet and holds it high. Two sides will fall to
    the ground. Adjust the lengths so they are equal.
  2. Repeat the procedure with the once-folded sheet. Again, you have two equal lengths.
  3. Continue folding in this manner until the sheet is roughly equal to the width of your pack.
  4. Roll up the folded sheet. One partner holds his or her end of the sheet while the other rolls it. Keep your hands inside the roll. The entire procedure takes about 15 seconds.

Avoid Guyline Falls

Tents and tarps should be equipped with brightly colored cords or ribbons that can be seen in dim light. But even bright colors aren’t visible when flashlights rule the night. The solution? A yellow reflection cord that glows in the beam of a headlamp. It is more expensive than a military-spec parachute cord, but the falls it prevents are worth the price. You’ll find it at high-end camping stores and on the internet.

Pack a Nail File

Need to smooth a sharp edge on a canoe or kayak paddle, rough a surface to be patched, or sharpen a knife or fishhook? A reinforced foam emery board or nail file is tougher than sandpaper. f

Flip Your Lid

Many hikers use Nalgene bottles. Open one and the leashed cap will snap back against the bottle (or the bridge of your nose). An easy fix is to remove the cap with its leash and retaining ring. And install it on the bottle upside down. The flipped leash will make the cap spring away when you open the bottle.

Dry Your Socks

An old woodsman’s trick: Heat some rocks at the edge of your campfire and stuff them into wet socks. Roll up the socks. They’ll dry in about an hour.

(Remember: Don’t take rocks from a lake or stream. Trapped moisture could cause them to explode when heated.)

The more you camp, the more tricks you’ll accumulate. Also, seasoned Scouters are a great source for camping tips, so ask colleagues at your next meeting or campout.

Share your camp-in-comfort tips in the comments below!