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?


Recipe: Sara’s Campfire Nachos

Last year, I told my husband (then-fiance) I was planning to make nachos during our camping trip, and he looked at me like I was crazy. Fast-forward several months to my bridal shower, and the “can she guess his answers” game my bridesmaids planned, and I learn he has dubbed the campfire nachos the best thing I ever made him.

Campfire nachos are now a regular on our camping trips.

Other recipes abound on the interwebs, but here’s my tried-and-true take, which is designed for convenient cooking on the go.

Sara’s Campfire Nachos

campfire nachos1Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 2 packages of Foster Farms Southwestern Chicken Strips
  • 1 bag of shredded Mexican-style cheese
  • 1 bundle of green onions
  • 1 can of Rotelle diced tomatoes with chiles (or your choice of salsa)
  • Sour cream

You’ll also want to bring a throw-away metal baking pan & heavy-duty tin foil.


Before leaving the house, dice the green onions and finely chop the chicken. Bag each ingredient separately.

At your campsite: Assemble the nachos in layers in the metal baking pan. Start with an even layer of chips, sprinkle liberally with shredded cheese, then add chicken, onions, and salsa. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.

Cover with tin foil and place on the rack of your campfire, over hot embers. (You do not want flames licking the tin.) Cook until cheese is melty and nachos are warmed through.

Serve with sour cream.


Camping Makeup 101

As I stated yesterday – I’m a glamor queen when I camp.

Well, not really a glamor queen … but I do wear makeup when camping. I feel more comfortable with makeup, I like the way I look in vacation photos better, and in general, it just makes me happy.

But that doesn’t mean I bring my full arsenal of cosmetics when I go camping. I mean, I’m not completely ridiculous. Here’s how I’ve simplified my beauty routine for camping – though keep in mind, this is what works best for me, and it’s still a work in progress.

camping makeup11) Foundation. In the last year, I have discovered the joys of BB cream, and this is particularly great when camping, because it combines all the stuff you WANT (moisturizer, SPF, etc.), plus a little tinted coverage to even out your skin tone — all in one nifty tube. I have sensitive skin, so I’m particular about my BB cream, and have been really happy with Tarte Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer, which includes an SPF 30 sunblock.

2) Contouring & color. Too Faced’s “The Secret to No Makeup Makeup” is actually one of my favorite go-to items for camping and other low-maintenance makeup days. Sometimes I’ll even skip using the BB cream (though I still slather on a moisturizer with SPF if I do), and just use the concealer and highlighter from this palette to even out my skin. (Blotchy red spots, dark circles, etc.) Then, I use the blush for color on my cheeks, and the bronzer works for a little definition on my eyes.

In lieu of packing this palette, I’ll bring a cream blush that I can blend in with my fingers and a matte bronzer that I can use on my cheeks and my eyes.

3) Finishing Touches. I’m a sucker for eye makeup, and while I can forgo fancy eye shadows when camping (I’ll just swipe a little bronzer over my lid and blend into my crease for some definition), I can’t live without eyeliner and mascara. For camping, I’ll stick with a waterproof pencil that I can work into my lash-line (no fancy winged eye necessary when camping), then finish with a few coats of waterproof mascara. Waterproof is great for camping, because it will stay put regardless of whatever activities you get into, and won’t give you that oh-so-attractive raccoon eye effect.

Waterproof mascara is notoriously wimpy compared to regular mascara, but I’ve been relatively happy with Sephora’s Full Action Waterproof Extreme Effect Mascara.

4) All the rest. I don’t go anywhere without lip balm, and camping is no exception. I also bring a good moisturizing lotion, because I have notoriously dry skin, and of course sunscreen.

5) Hair. This isn’t really part of the makeup routine — but I pretty much let my hair do whatever it wants when I go camping. I do bring a hair dryer, because I always seem to get sick if I let my hair air dry. But I keep the product to a minimum. After washing with shampoo and conditioner, I work a little Moroccan oil into my hair while it’s still damp (it helps condition and prevent tangles), and then blow dry upside down. That’s pretty much it.

A salt spray can also be great for letting your hair’s natural curl take over. I love this look, but tend to steer clear of salt spray unless I’m due to re-color my hair soon after getting home from a camping trip, as it is VERY damaging to colored hair.

For the comments: What are your camping beauty tips?


Yes, I wear makeup when camping. Here’s why …


The husband and I are getting ready to go camping this weekend, and as I tend to do before any sort of travel, I made a packing list. I’m a big fan of lists. Lists are great. Lists are gravy. Lists are life.

I love lists.

For the camping trip packing list I included our gear, my clothes, shower supplies, food, etc. … and makeup.

Yes, I wear makeup when camping.

A lot of people cringe at the very notion of wearing makeup while camping. I am familiar with the judge-y, disdainful glares from other women in the shared campsite bathroom when I’m flicking on some mascara. But I just don’t care. They can camp however they want, and I’ll camp however I like. And my way includes makeup.

Here’s why (a list, because I love them):

1) Photos. I like to take photos – everyday, on vacation, just because. I’m shutter-happy. And I don’t want to look back on a photo from our camping trip and wonder who that stranger is who snapped a selfie with my husband. I want to look like myself, and the “myself” I love and recognize wears makeup.

2) Comfort. You may be thinking, “If you want to be comfortable, then WHY are you wearing makeup?” But here’s the thing about comfort: it’s different for everyone, and my level of comfort involves makeup. I feel like myself when I have makeup on; it’s part of my morning routine. Without it, I feel sluggish and sloppy and out of sorts.

What’s more, camping isn’t my forte. I never camped growing up, and I wouldn’t camp at all now if my husband didn’t love it so much. I go for him. So to make the entire experience more enjoyable for myself, I partake in various indulgences that hardcore campers would scoff at for my own personal comfort. Like makeup.

3) Because I like it. The biggest and main reason I wear makeup ever is because I like it. I wear it for me. Not to impress anyone, or attract anyone – but because I enjoy it. I like the art of putting makeup on, and trying new techniques, new eye shadow colors, new styles. I like the way I look with makeup on. I like enhancing my favorite features, covering up my blotchy skin, and piling on globs of eyeliner and mascara just because I can.

For the comments: So do you wear makeup when you camp? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below!

TOMORROW: My camping makeup routine (because I DO simplify).