Outdoor adventures provide a brief respite from the eternal suffering that is modern life and, as such, we want to keep them as hassle-free as possible. Besides packing efficiently and organising your gear neatly, there are a few other little tips and tricks that can make life on the road (and rocks) a bit comfier – we asked our team of adventurers at Mountain Mail Order (and a few other friends) to share their favourite camping hacks for a blissful bush experience:
Tyler, Johannesburg Shop Manager
Fill your Nalgene (or another heat-safe water bottle) with hot water and put it at the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm.
Bring along some Jungle Oatso Easy – their packets are small, surprisingly durable, and you just add warm (NOT hot) milk or water to the sachet and let it soak for a tasty breakfast.
Doritos can be used as kindling for a fire – but only in an extreme emergency.
Michael, Cape Town Shop Assistant
Make an instant adventure kit by filling a large, durable box or crate with everything you need to camp – crockery, cutlery, first aid supplies, gas burners, a braai grid (you always need a braai grid), tent, tarp, emergency blanket, and any other staples you’d like.
Tarryn, CityROCK Cape Town Gym Manager
If you’re still figuring out what you do and don’t need on a camping trip, use a tagging system. Simply use stickers of three different colours to mark (a) items that you use all the time, (b) items you use every now and then, and (c) items you never even touch. After a few trips, you’ll know exactly what you need to be packing.
Never underestimate the value of a glasses case – especially the hard cases. These can be used to store a first aid kit, keys and valuables, spare change, small tools, a fire kit, or anything else your little heart desires.
You can use cotton wool smothered in petroleum jelly as a fire-starter – get together a small tub of Vaseline, some cotton wool and matches, and you’ve got a fire kit.
Always carry a tarp, some good rope, an emergency blanket and a nice sharp knife.
Ben, MMO Online Wizard
Always carry a reliable, refillable lighter wrapped in several layers of duct tape – you’ve got fire and the world’s strongest material all in one!
You can start a fire with just wool, ash and a couple of pieces of wood – watch this video for the method.
A plastic poncho can be used as rain protection, a ground sheet, and a shelter (if you use your trekking poles to suspend it).
Jean, Johannesburg Shop Assistant
Hiking/trekking poles make your hike 200% better, and they can even take some of the weight of your pack.
You can never have enough spare batteries, especially for your headlamp.
Bring along plenty of spare plastic bags (preferably reusable ones, like this silicone pouch from Forever Fresh). A Ziplock bag keeps your phone dry in the rain while still letting you use it (depending on the phone itself).
If you have a thin blow-up mattress, use any thin foam pad (like a yoga mat) underneath and it’ll last a whole lot longer by protecting against small pebbles, twigs, thorns and spiky grass.
Add couscous to any freeze-dried meal to bulk it up.
Ben, MMO Online Wizard & Jean, Johannesburg Shop Assistant
Use the Netflix and/or Youtube apps to download videos for offline viewing on rainy days. Bring along a solar charger and a power bank and you can binge away.
Christoff (a.k.a. Willem), CityROCK Johannesburg Route Setter
Ditch the camping mattress and sleep on your boulder pad.
Kirsty, CityROCK Johannesburg Gym Manager
Grab some peanut butter sachets for a quick, light and compact energy refuel on the go.
Devin, Inside Edge Head Coach
Dried out tea bags work well as kindling or fire starters, and tags from bread loaves can be used as washing line pegs.
Storm, CityROCK Cape Town Assistant Gym Manager & Studio Manager
Always bring a cutting board and an empty ice-cream container for leftovers – also, don’t forget the salt.
Always pack extra plastic packets – you can use them as rubbish bags to keep your camp clean, and you can store your wet clothes in one to keep the rest of your pack dry.
Get yourself a little door mat, towel or rug to wipe your feet and/or take off your shoes before going into your tent. You can also bring along a little brush and pan to clean out your tent before taking it down.
Jennae, CityROCK Johannesburg Gym Manager
Freeze (or dry out) blobs of toothpaste and wrap them up so you don’t have to bring the whole tube.
Jennae, CityROCK Johannesburg Gym Manager & Paula, CityROCK & MMO Graphic Designer
Get yourself a menstrual cup and take it with you everywhere! It’s super light and compact, saves a ton of money, and it’s far more environmentally friendly than conventional period products.
Andrew, Past Johannesburg Team Member
Always carry a roll of toilet paper because sometimes the coffee hits when you least expect it.
Matthew, Johannesburg Shop Assistant
Get yourself a compass and learn how to use it.
Julian, Inside Edge Coach & Photographer
Stuff your sleeping bag sack with clothes for an instant pillow – this saved me in Rocklands.
Dylan, MCSA Johannesburg Section
Freeze half your hydration bladder or water bottle the night before and fill the rest with water in the morning for icy water all day long.
Emily, CityROCK & MMO Marketing Monkey
If it’s a short trip with no rain predicted, ditch the tent and hammock-camp (just remember to use a yoga or sleeping mat for insulation with your sleeping bag).
Always bring dog and/or cat treats to win the affection of the campsite pets. Bring along some carrots and apples if there is a possibility of horses, donkeys or alpacas.
Always travel with duct tape and accessory cord for when the important things break.
Be naked as much as possible – clothes can’t get dirty if they’re not there.
These are just a few suggestions in a world of endless possibilities, and the best way to find what works best for you is to experiment! So get out there and have a chat with your local adventure gurus, grab yourself some gear, and enjoy happy camping!