If you are my friend or have followed me on Instagram you know Jason (Mr Jeffers) and I LOVE camping! We can camp any time, rain or shine. Or 100+ degrees (YIKES!). Our favorite spot is Inks Lake State Park in Burnet, Texas, North of Llano. It has a nice lake and allows motor crafts (Boerne Lake sadly does not). It also has a really nice area for tent camping with tons of trees. To be honest, we don’t notice the heat when we are there. When you’re wearing your swimsuit by the lake in the shade it takes at least 10 degrees off of the actual temperature outside. We were just there last week and we hit 99 degrees with no problems. You may think we are crazy (and we might be HAHA!) but I’m sharing my best secrets to tent camping
C-O-M-F-O-R-T-A-B-L-Y. And be sure to leave your best advice for us, too!
*DISCLAIMER* If you have arachnophobia or if you’re a germaphobe this is not your scene. I used to be freaked out by spiders, but after walking into about a thousand spider webs and having them crawl on me, I’m numbed. SO. MANY. SPIDERS!
Sitting by the water in the shade with a breeze in your face is nice, but what about when you’re in your tent trying to go to sleep? We use two portable battery-operated fans (you can get yours here) and one tent fan that hangs on the ceiling(you can get yours here). It also has a light that dims, so you can see, but you’re not blinded. The Amazon reviews aren’t great, but we have used this fan for over a year with no problems! I actually get cold at night and have to use a blanket, so I can attest that this works. If it is REALLY hot at night we put a small Yeti ice chest in the tent with dry ice and regular ice, and it’s colder than our AC at home.
It’s also important to have a breezy tent. And just a PSA: when you read “3 man tent” that does not mean that it fits 3 men comfortably. HA! I would suggest at least a 6 man tent so you can fit an air mattress in there(because who wants to sleep on the ground?) and your bags and fans. And if you want to get really fancy, you can get a folding side table like this one. Click here for a good tent option. And here.
While we are talking about tents, it’s a really good idea to have a small tent (a cheap one like this works great) dedicated to keeping your food squirrel-free. We learned the first time we went camping when we left some food out. We came back and it had holes and bites taken out! You can also have a good storage tub that is hard for a squirrel to open. We actually do both.
They keep bugs away! A lot of campers use lanterns which attract every bug God ever made, but Tiki torches(you can find some here) repel and provide ample light. You can also get Tiki buckets (like these) that do the same thing without the hassle of trying to get the torch into the ground. But watch the buckets closely when they get low, because they can (AND WILL) burn a hole through your table(and THAT is another story!). You’ll also need wicks and torch fluid. We use lanterns and Tiki torches, because we already had lanterns, so we may as well use them!
You don’t have to be a clean freak to appreciate this little commodity. After a few days of going in and out of your tent, you will track in dirt and sand and gravel. It’s refreshing to get rid of it! Plus, you’ll need to sweep your tent out before you pack it up when you’re ready to head home. We used to have a hand broom and dust pan, but getting down on your knees and doing this isn’t ideal. We also put a tarp halfway under the tent so we have something to step on outside of the tent, and it helps reduce the dirt and gravel that comes inside. This is the one we use now.
Fires are nice and romantic, but if it’s the middle of summer, the last thing you want is a fire that’s burning for hours while it’s 90+ degrees. It also takes much longer to cook your food on the fire. You have to wait until it’s the perfect temperature, then cooking seems to take forever. We use a camping stove with two burners (like this one) and cooking is a breeze. 1 propane bottle lasts a few days, so it’s also cheaper than using a ton of charcoal to cook every meal. With that being said, make sure you bring everything you need to cook those meals! They make special camping cookware. I would suggest a skillet like this one.
This is something most people don’t think about. Folding tables help tremendously when you’re cooking meals. Otherwise, where do you put your tongs or egg turner or camping stove? A campsite usually has one picnic table, but don’t rely on that. Plus they’re pretty dirty, and cleaning them is a waste of time.
While we are talking about cooking (I feel like that’s all I talk about. Ha!) It’s very important to double bag all of the food going into your ice chest. If you’re just doing a day trip, you may be okay without the Ziplocks, but as soon as your ice melts, it seeps into your lettuce and cheese and any other thing you have that isn’t sealed really well. The only things safe are bottled water, things in jars (i.e.: pickles), and condiments like ketchup and mustard. If you’re unsure, it’s better to be safe than sorry. There’s nothing worse than finding waterlogged food when you’re trying to cook dinner.
you can never have enough. Squirrels (those pesky, famished critters) LOVE to dig around in your trash! But they don’t just hop in your trash bag. They tear holes in the bottom, and before you know it, all of your trash is all over the ground. But don’t fret(too much). It happens. So bring extra trash bags! And if you have a dog, put them by the trash to keep the squirrels away. You’ll also need tons of paper towels. Just because.
These are totally not necessary, but they are SO comfortable! They recline like a lazyboy, and I could sleep for hours in one of these. Who am I kidding, I DO sleep for hours in mine! Click here for an amazing deal on Zero gravity chairs!
If you live in a state with unpredictable weather (*cough* Texas) you’ll need a plan B for unfavorable weather. We have camped for over 5 years together and have never had an issue with rain until this year. We went in June and July, and it rained on us both times! But we were prepared (more so the second time). We initially had a shade canopy. After it started raining, we realized the canopy wasn’t waterproof! So we taped two tarps together with Gorilla tape (it’s like Duck Tape on steroids) and covered the canopy and our tent using bungee cords! *be careful with bungee cords. They have no mercy on you* PS most tents are not actually waterproof, so I would suggest spraying your tent cover with Scotch Guard or doing what we did here with the tarps.
This may seem like a “duh” but you need at least one flashlight. State parks get dark at night, and you have to walk over the river and through the woods (okay, maybe not THAT far) to the bathroom. We bring multiple flashlights with us because when you “gotta go” and you can’t remember where you put the one flashlight you brought, it’s not a pretty scene.
You don’t have a washer or dryer out in the wilderness, and you won’t want to wear your swimsuit for more than two days in a row (trust me). I bring a different swimsuit for every day that we are camping.
Chacos are the ultimate camping sandal. You can wear them in and out of the water, and they’re super CUTE! I got mine on Amazon last year! You can find similar Chacos here. I wasn’t able to find a link to the leopard print Chacos. And yes, that is seaweed stuck to my right foot. #dontjudgeme
We use two storage lockers (like this). One has all of our cooking/eating things in it (paper towels, paper plates, plasticware, pots, pans, seasonings, etc.), and the other has things like lanterns, batteries, fans, sunscreen, flashlights, knives, etc.
I hope these help! If you are looking at all of this thinking “Dang, this is in-tents(HA! I couldn’t resist)” you may want to start by “glamping” or staying in a cabin. At Inks Lake State Park there are significantly fewer trees on their cabin sites, so we still prefer the “water only” sites because there is so much shade!
If you’re a camping lover and have tips and tricks of your own, I would LOVE to hear them! Feel free to comment below!
And If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!
Allison Jeffers is a photographer and educator serving sweet brides and helping other creative entrepreneurs reach their goals. She specializes in wedding photography and proposals as well as Bridal and Engagement portraits in Texas. She is available for travel worldwide and has her passport ready!