14 Camping Skills Every Backpacker Should Know

Congratulations on another successful hiking day! (Of course, you’ve followed these tips for leaving the house and hitting the trails, so you haven’t had a problem yet.) Keep the momentum going with these solutions to common camping problems.

1. Attach a tent pole

Pierre Sucheski

They don’t break often, but when they do, whooee, it can ruin your trip. To make it through the night, find the tube-shaped splint that probably came with your tent (you packed it, didn’t you?), slide it over the break, and tape it down like crazy . No splint? Stick a tent peg at the break, behind the most likely stress point.

2. Do your business

Find a spot (bonus points if it’s scenic, you’ll spend time there) at least 200 feet from the water, trails, and camp. Dig a hole in the ground at least 6 inches deep and 4 inches wide. (Snow? Find the ground first.) Do what you want, fill the hole and cover it with branches or stones. Pack the TP (double bag) or use natural products.

We asked: What is the best natural TP?

You said:

  • Leaves: 60%
  • Snow: 25%
  • Smooth rocks: 13%
  • Sticks: 2%

Are you in an area that requires WAG bags? Here’s our tutorial for pooping in the backcountry the eco-friendly and efficient way.

3. Arrange your kitchen

Find a flat spot 200 feet from your tent and remove any dry grass or leaves. Place cookware, dishes and utensils on one side and ingredients on the other, all within easy reach. The idea is to stay in place once you’ve started cooking, to reduce the risk of knocking over the stove or messing up your dinner.

4. Wash dishes with ease

Easy Boil water in your pot, rub your spork with pine needles or sand, then throw the wedge in a wide arc, 200 feet from water sources. (LNT overperforming? Mmm, gray water – drink up.)

Easier Rehydrate your dinner in a disposable bag and eat it. All you have to do is clean your spoon! Wrap the empty bag or reuse it as a new garbage bag.

5. Choose a campsite

camp site
Pierre Sucheski

Don’t know what to look for? Your humble abode for the night should contain these items:

  • Tent-sized flat platform
  • Resistant surface
  • High ground (cold air pools in valley bottoms and small climbs drain well in rain)
  • At least 200 feet from water and trails
  • Sheltered from the wind
  • No dead trees standing around
  • Instagrammable views of the tent door (optional)

6. Learn from the pros


Whether you’re new to hiking or want to perfect your technique, it pays to learn from the experts. We’ve partnered with the Colorado Outward Bound School to create an online course with essential tips including gear selection, trip planning, packing, navigation, cooking, camping, first aid, and more. . Available to all Outside+ members.

7. Start a fire

Check local regulations first. Is it good to go? Build a tipi of finger-width sticks around a triangular frame, then light a small pile of tinder inside. Blow lightly to keep the oxygen flowing, and add thicker sticks as the little guys ignite. (Get more tips with our fire guide.)

8. Sleep warmer

Cold Stoking your own fire with camping jumping jacks, high knees, or sit-ups. Better yet, get cozy with a high-calorie bedtime snack. Aim for fats and/or proteins, which take longer to digest.

Colder Go to bed. Then fill your Nalgene with boiling water, wrap it in an insulating layer and snuggle up in your sleeping bag. Or spoon your hiking partner.

9. Tie a bowline knot

It is self-tightening and creates a stable loop at the end of a rope, perfect for tying down bear bags and lowering bags. It is also a good way to impress your friends. Here is your step-by-step guide:

10. Prepare a tent

Roll it or stuff it, it doesn’t matter. But always let it hang to dry when you get home.

11. Sleep under the stars

Cowboy camping isn’t as scary as you might think; just know how to do it right. Avoid low spots where condensation collects. And plant your shelter just in case; you’ll be glad it’s there if the weather turns or you’re cold.

12. Make a pizza in 5 minutes

Lay overlapping pieces of pepperoni to cover the bottom of a nonstick skillet. Garnish with grated cheese and rehydrated vegetables. Cook until the cheese melts, then turn everything over and brown for a few minutes. Place on a warmed individual pita (or tortilla). Eat with two hands.

13. Bake next-level s’mores

There’s more to life than just graham crackers and Hershey’s. Mix and match the following ingredients to up your campfire dessert game.

Base: graham crackers with honey, cinnamon or chocolate; shortbread; Girl Scout Thin Mints; waffle cookies; cakes with chocolate chips; Peanut Butter Tarts (don’t hit it until you’ve tried it).

Chocolate: dark chocolate; White chocolate; Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; mint chocolate; Nutella; Fun snickers (cut in half lengthwise for easy melting).

Supplements: plain or flavored marshmallows; peanut butter and jelly; fresh banana slices; dulce de leche; toasted coconut flakes; cinnamon; potato chips.

Don’t hit it until you’ve tried it: cheesy s’mores. experiment with

14. Pitch an all-weather tent

Rainy Keep the tent body as dry as possible by throwing the rainfly on before pitching. If it’s a freestanding tent, set it up in a sheltered spot (under a tarp, in thick trees), then move it to your campsite.

Windy Orient the tent so that the narrower and/or lower end faces into the wind. Pitch the corners first to keep the tent from flying off while you add the poles; stack your bags inside to weigh them down while you refine the terrain. Use all guy wires for stability.

Snowy Stamp a platform with skis or snowshoes, then let it sinter for 30 minutes or until the ground is hard. To pitch your tent, make dead man’s anchors by attaching guy lines to snow-filled skis, poles, poles, or stuff sacks, then burying them in the snow or under a rock. Pro tip: Tie a noose around a rock and bury it. You can now pull the cord without digging the rock.

Meet the Experts

Sarah Ebrightoperations manager and guide for St. Elias Alpine Guides in Alaska

Marco Johnsonsenior professor at the National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Wyoming

Patrice and Justin LaVignerecent gear testers and trekkers of New Zealand’s 1,864-mile Te Araroa

Katie Yakubowskiinstructor and guide for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Maine