Best Camping Tips & Tricks from a (Previously) Non-Camper

Now that summer is (mostly) over & the camping season is coming to an end, I’m both reflecting on the highlights from this year’s camping trips and already starting to fantasize about next year’s trips.

This was the summer that I really started enjoying camping. Growing up, we didn’t camp and I’ve never been a big fan. But my husband did grow up camping, and it’s one of his favorite things in the world. I started camping with him back when we were dating, and after our wedding this January, we used some of our tax return money to upgrade our camping gear. We splurged on a bigger tent and a double-high air mattress — both of which have made a huge difference in how much I enjoy camping. (We also made the not-so-romantic decision that separate air mattresses are also much more comfortable for us while camping!)

This was also the year I found I could be happy camping more than two nights in a row, bumping up our trips to three nights — and next year we might even do four! These may seem like silly milestones to veteran campers, but for me, it marks a big change in perspective. I’m still pretty particular about the campsites where we go (I require indoor plumbing, flush toilets & real showers), but I really do love our camping trips now.

But having started out as a non-camper, I’ve learned what sort of creature comforts I need to be comfortable sleeping in a tent. Here are my top tips and tricks that have made our camping trips so much more enjoyable:

tent1. Bigger is (Usually) Better

This year, my husband and I invested in two major upgrades to our camping gear: a new, bigger tent and a double-high air mattress. Best decision ever.

The bigger tent allows both of us to stand up inside (I’m 5’9″ and hubby is 6’3″), leaves PLENTY of room for our air mattress and all our gear, plus room to move around.

The double-high air mattress is also far more comfortable than the regular kind, and is a lot easier to get in and out of for those of us with lousy knees.

2. Leave the Romance at Home

One thing the bigger tent allowed us to do … is to bring two air mattresses. Yes, my husband and I have started sleeping in separate air mattresses when we camp.

No, our marriage is not in any trouble. We still sleep perfectly soundly together when we’re at home. But in a tent and on an air mattress — where every little movement is magnified — sharing just wasn’t working for us. With the larger tent, we’ve started sleeping on our own air mattresses and BOTH of us have been so much happier as a result.

3. Cozy Comforts

One of my complaints when camping previously had been the struggle to stay warm at night. I could pile lots of blankets around me, but for some reason, the night air made my pillow cases SO cold. I started wrapping them in my camping Snuggie* and that’s what lead to this light bulb moment: fleece pillowcases.

I sewed custom fleece pillowcases, and my husband and I have been thrilled with the results. Not only are they super soft and cozy, but they stay warm all night long during our camping trips — no matter how low the temperature dips.

* Yes, I also have a camping Snuggie. Laugh all you want, but the “blanket with sleeves” is great for cozying up around the campfire when it gets chilly out — and acts as another extra blanket at night when it’s time for bed.

4. Camping Carpet

My husband thought I was crazy when I came home with a small microfiber bath mat and said it was for camping. But I’m having the last laugh, as it is SO much nicer to stand on when getting dressed inside the tent than the bare tent floor — which often gets gritty from tracked in dirt and sand. It’s a small creature comfort that (for me) makes a big impact on my enjoyment of camping.

camping oysters5. Bedside Tables

One small purchase we invested in earlier this year were collapsible camping stools — which I actually use as makeshift bedside tables for our air mattresses. Both my husband and I wear glasses, so for one, it’s nice to have a place off the ground to place our glasses at night when we go to sleep. I also like having my hand lotion, chapstick, and flashlight handy and within reach, off the ground.

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Overall, we’ve slowly been adding to, subtracting from, and adjusting our camping supplies — since originally, my husband had gear for camping solo. Since we now usually camp together, we’ve been adjusting — things he no longer uses, things I’ve requested, or just general changes to what we bring with us. (For example, I LOVE cooking over the campfire and have enjoyed experimenting with new campfire recipes. As a result, I’ve been expanding our camping kitchen supplies to meet my cooking needs.) It’s been a lot of trial and error, to figure out what works best for us as a camping couple — but this year, in particular, we’ve really found our stride and every camping trip has been getting better and better.

We’ve already started looking at new campsites to explore next year, planning a return trip to our favorite campground next summer (Devil’s Lake State Campground in Lincoln City, OR), and thinking about more changes and additions to our camping gear. But for now, it’s time to pack things up for winter storage.

For the comments: What makes YOUR camping trips more comfortable and enjoyable?