It doesn’t matter where I’m going or how long I plan on staying, the two things I always pack first for any camping trip are duct tape and 40 plastic bags. OK, so 40 is an exaggeration, but I’ve found you can never really have too many extra bags for storing garbage, wet clothes, dirty dishes, exploded sunscreen bottles and more unforeseen camping casualties. Similarly, duct tape can be used to temporarily repair rips in your tent or a hole in your pants, and is also great at protecting your heels or ankles from blisters in a pinch. Of course, there are plenty of other random-but-useful products out there—and they’re a bit more fun than tape and Ziplocs. So I polled PureWow’s most avid campers to get their recommendations for the most useful products to take camping other than, you know, a good tent. Here are their suggestions.
Random-But-Useful Camping Gear to Stock Up On Before Your Next Outdoor Adventure
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This portable, collapsible sink can hold up to 8 liters of water so you can clean dirty dishes after cooking up a delicious campfire meal. It even has a catchall drain so you can keep and toss food scraps properly rather than just leaving them to the local squirrels or chipmunks…or bears.
Speaking of bears, this handy little bell can alert them to your presence, so you won’t accidentally startle them on a hike. One PureWow editor likes to loop it around her dog’s collar. “That way I always know where he is even if he gets a little ahead of us.” Plus, the magnetic storage bag prevents the bell from ringing unnecessarily when you want to put it away.
OK, so maybe you went camping to escape technology, but it’s smart to have a backup plan. This handy little device uses solar power to charge your electronics with two USB ports. Be sure to strap it to the outside of your pack or leave it out in the sun in the afternoon so it’ll be good to go come nightfall.
“I love in the summer how it stays light for so long in the evening so my kids and I can get the most out of the day before we tuck into our tent to sleep,” says one PureWow camper. “On the flip side, however, I loathe that the sun also rises super early, meaning everyone is already waking up by 6 a.m. Last time I remembered to grab an eye mask and, oh boy, it was great for helping me get in a few more zzz’s before I actually had to get up.” And don’t forget to pick up a few kid-size masks too.
Remember those 40-odd plastic bags I mentioned earlier? Well, a more eco-friendly option is to invest in some waterproof stuff sacks in a variety of sizes to do the very same job. “I use these to separate my wet or dirty clothes from the rest of my stuff,” says on PureWow editor. “I adore this super lightweight style that comes in four different sizes, especially for backpacking. But I also love this more affordable trio from Amazon for just $10, although it is, as you might expect, heavier.”
Beat the heat and keep pesky flies and mosquitos at bay with this hanging tent fan. The rechargeable battery lasts for up to 40 hours, and it even has a little light built in so you can keep reading those scary camp stories long into the night.
Why waste your time with a blow-up air mattress when you can prop up this cot in seconds? It won’t be as comfy as your bed at home, but it sure beats sleeping on cold, hard dirt. (P.S. Coleman has a bunch of different styles available, some even big enough for two.)
Full disclosure, the marshmallows themselves do not glow in the dark. But the bag does, making it easier to find while you’re cooking up some s’mores after dark, or just find yourself wanting something sweet in the middle of the night. They’re currently available at Walmart, Target and lots of local grocery stores, so be sure to keep an eye out when you’re stocking up on camp food.
And while you’re at it, why not get some glow-in-the-dark cards as well? Keep the deck out in the sun in the afternoon to “charge,” then enjoy multiple games of Go Fish, Canasta or even Solitaire after the sun’s gone down.
This handy little device allows you to pee without having to pull your pants and underwear all the way down, giving you a bit more privacy on the trails. After you’re done just slip it back into the carrying case so nothing in your pack accidentally gets wet. And once you’re back home, you can clean it with some soap and hot water.
This gentle-yet-powerful cleanser helps treat poison ivy or oak should you accidentally rub up against something. It can also help soothe bug bites and is even safe to use on dogs.