Tips for Camping and Cookouts

Ideas for a more enjoyable camping experience.

Aluminum Foil

  • You’re about to relax in your backyard with a well-deserved glass of lemonade or soda pop. Suddenly bees start buzzing around your drink. Keep them away by tightly covering the top of your glass with aluminum foil. Poke a straw through it, and then enjoy your drink in peace.
  • To keep meat drippings off your barbecue coals, fashion a disposable drip pan out of a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Shape it freehand, or use an inverted baking pan as a mold (remember to remove the pan once your creation is finished). Also, don’t forget to make your drip pan slightly larger than the meat on the grill.
  • After the last steak is brought in, and while the coals are still red-hot, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the grill to burn off any remaining foodstuffs. The next time you use your barbecue, crumple up the foil and use it to easily scrub off the burned food before you start cooking.
  • Brighten up the electrical lighting in your backyard or campsite by making a foil reflector to put behind the light. Attach the reflector to the fixture with a few strips of electrical tape or duct tape — do not apply tape directly to the bulb.
  • When you need a convenient disposable platter, just cover a piece of cardboard with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  • Don’t feel like lugging a frying pan along on a camping trip? Form your own by centering a forked stick over two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Wrap the edges of the foil tightly around the forked branches but leave some slack in the foil between the forks. Invert the stick and depress the center to hold food for frying.
  • Keep your tootsies toasty at night while cold-weather camping. Wrap some stones in aluminum foil and heat them by the campfire while you are toasting marshmallows. At bedtime, wrap the stones in towels and put them in the bottom of your sleeping bag.
  • It’s a tried-and-true soldier’s trick worth remembering: Wrap your kitchen matches in aluminum foil to keep them from getting damp or wet on camping trips.
  • None of your fancy fishing lures working? You can make one in a jiffy that just might do the trick: Wrap some aluminum foil around a fishhook. Fringe the foil so that it covers the hook and wiggles invitingly when you reel in the line.

Aluminum Pie Pans

There’s nothing like a cookout in the great outdoors. Whether you’re planning a day trip or a longer excursion, be sure to pack a few aluminum pie pans. Put a small hole in the middle of each pan, then push them up the sticks used for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows. The pans deflect the heat of the fire, protecting your hands and your children’s hands.


Bring along several helium-filled balloons on your next camping trip to attach to your tent or a post. They’ll make it easier for the members of your party to locate your campsite when hiking or foraging in the woods.


Here’s a great way to wash clothes while camping. Make a hole in the lid of a 5-gallon (19-liter) plastic bucket and insert a new toilet plunger. Put in clothes and laundry detergent. Snap on the lid and move the plunger up and down as an agitator. You can safely clean even delicate garments.

Coffee Cans

Bring a few empty coffee cans with you on your next camping trip. Use them to keep toilet paper dry in rainy weather or when you’re carrying supplies in a canoe or boat.

Foam Food Trays

If you need a quick disposable serving platter while you’re on a cookout or camping trip, you can make one from a foam food tray. Wash it with soap and water, cover it entirely with foil, and load it up with food.


When you’re boating or camping, keeping things like matches and paper money dry can be a challenge. Store items that you don’t want to get wet in clear jars with screw tops that can’t pop off. Even if you’re backpacking, plastic peanut butter jars are light enough not to weigh you down, plus they provide more protection for crushable items than a resealable plastic bag.


Nip cookout cleanup blues in the bud. Rub the bottom of your cast-iron pot with a bar of soap before cooking with it over a sooty open flame. Look, Ma! No black marks!


Your guests want their steaks done differently at the family cookout, but how do you keep track of who gets what? Easy. Just use different-colored toothpicks to mark them as rare, medium, and well done and get ready for the accolades.


  • Planning a camping trip? Here’s an old army trick to keep away the ticks and mosquitoes: Approximately three days before you leave, start taking 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar three times a day. Continue using the vinegar throughout your trek, and you just might return home without a bite. Another time-honored approach to keep gnats and mosquitoes at bay is to moisten a cloth or cotton ball with white vinegar and rub it over your exposed skin.
  • Serve the ants on your premises with an eviction notice. Pour equal parts water and white vinegar into a spray bottle. Then spray it on anthills and around areas where you see the insects. Ants hate the smell of vinegar. It won’t take long for them to move on to better-smelling quarters. Also keep the spray bottle handy for outdoor trips or to keep ants away from picnic or children’s play areas. If you have lots of anthills around your property, try pouring full-strength vinegar over them to hasten the bugs’ departure.
  • Keep your water supply fresh and clean tasting when hiking or camping by adding a few drops of apple cider vinegar to your canteen or water bottle. It’s also a good idea to use a half-vinegar, half-water rinse to clean out your water container at the end of each trip to kill bacteria and remove residue.
    If several people in your home use the same rinse cup after brushing their teeth, give it a weekly cleaning by filling it with equal parts water and white vinegar, or just full-strength vinegar, and let it sit overnight. Rinse thoroughly with cold water before using.

Wax Paper

Company’s coming, and you want every room of the house to look its best. To keep bathroom fixtures temporarily spotless, rub them with a sheet of wax paper after cleaning them. The wax that transfers will deflect water droplets like magic — at least until the next cleaning.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest