14 Tenting Abilities All Backpackers Ought to Know


Congratulations on another successful hiking day! (Of course, you’ve been following these tips to get out of the house and onto the trails, so you haven’t had any snafus yet.) Keep that momentum going with these solutions to common campground problems.

1. Attach a tent pole

Peter Suchesky

They don’t snap often, but when they do – whooee, it can ruin your trip. To make it through the night, find the tubular rail that probably came with your tent (you packed it, right?), slide it over the break and tape it down like crazy. No rail? Glue a tent peg to the break point behind the most likely stress point.

2. Do your business

Find a site (bonus points if it’s scenic; you’ll spend some time there) at least 200 feet from water, trails, and camp. Dig a hole in the ground that is at least 6 inches deep and 4 inches wide. (Snow? Find the bottom first.) Do your thing, fill the hole and cover it with branches or rocks. Unwrap TP (double wrapped) or use natural material.

We asked: what is the best natural TP?

You said:

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

Are you in an area that requires WAG bags? Here’s our tutorial for eco-friendly, efficient backcountry poop.

3. Furnish your kitchen

Find a flat spot 200 feet from your tent and remove any dry grass or leaves. Place cookware, dishes and utensils to one side and ingredients to the other, all within easy reach. The idea is to stay there when you start cooking to reduce the risk of knocking over the stove or kicking dirt into your dinner.

4. Wash dishes the easy way

Easy Boil water in your pot, scrub your spork with pine needles or sand, then hurl the bilge in a wide arc 200 feet from water sources. (LNT high flyer? Mmm, gray water – drink up.)

Easier Rehydrate and eat from your dinner in a disposable bag. All you have to do is clean your spork! Unwrap the empty bag or use it as your new bin liner.

5. Choose a campsite

Peter Suchesky

Not sure what to look for? Your humble abode for the night should include these items:

  • Tent size flat platform
  • Durable surface
  • Elevations (cold air collects in valley bottoms, and small elevations drain well when it rains)
  • At least 200 feet from water and hiking trails
  • sheltered from the wind
  • No standing dead trees around
  • Instagramable tent door views (optional)

6. Learn from the pros


Whether you’re new to backpacking or looking to perfect your technique, it pays to learn from the experts. We’ve partnered with 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. Make a fire

Check local regulations first. good to go Build a teepee out 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 if the little guys catch fire. (Get more tips with our guide to fire.)

8. Sleep warmer

Cold Fuel your own fire with camping jumping jacks, high knees, or sit-ups. Better yet, curl up with a high-calorie snack before bed. Aim for fats and/or proteins that take longer to digest.

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

9. Tie a bowline knot

It is self-tightening and forms a sturdy loop at the end of a rope, perfect for tying bear sacks and deflating backpacks. It’s also a great way to impress your friends. Here is your step-by-step guide:

10. Pack a tent

Roll it or stuff it – it doesn’t matter. But always hang it out 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 places where condensation collects. And pitch your shelter just in case; You’ll be glad it’s there when the weather turns or you get cold.

12. Make a 5 minute pizza

Lay chunks of overlapping hot peppers to cover the bottom of a nonstick skillet. Garnish with shredded cheese and rehydrated vegetables. Cook until cheese melts, then flip and brown for a few minutes. Place on a heated individual pita (or tortilla). Eat with two hands.

13. Make next level s’mores

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

Base: honey, cinnamon, or chocolate graham crackers; shortbread cookies; Girl Scout Skinny Mints; waffle cookies; chocolate chip cookies; Peanut Butter Pop Tarts (don’t pop them until you taste them).

Chocolate: dark chocolate; White chocolate; Reese Peanut Butter Cups; mint chocolate; Nutella; Fun sized Snickers (cut in half lengthways for easier melting).

Extras: plain or flavored marshmallows; Peanut Butter & Jelly; fresh banana slices; dulce de leche; toasted coconut flakes; Cinammon; Potato Chips.

Don’t knock until you’ve tasted it: cheesy s’mores. experimenting with

14. Pitching a tent in any weather

Rainy Keep the tent body as dry as possible by throwing the flysheet over it before pitching. If it’s a freestanding tent, put it in a sheltered spot (under a tarp, in dense trees) and then put it in your campsite.

Windy Position the tent so that the narrowest and/or lowest end is pointing into the wind. Pin the corners first to keep the tent from blowing away while you add the poles; Stack your backpacks in to weigh it down while fine-tuning the pitch. Use all guy lines for stability.

snowy Stamp out a platform with skis or snowshoes, then allow to sinter for 30 minutes or until bottom hard. To pitch your tent, construct dead man’s anchors by tying guy lines to skis, poles, poles, or snow-covered dry bags and then burying them in the snow or under a rock. Pro tip: tie a slip knot around a rock and bury it. Now you can pull the string without digging up the rock.

Meet the experts

Sarah EbrightOperations Manager and Mountain Guide for St. Elias Alpine Guides in Alaska

Marco Johnsonsenior faculty of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming

Patrice and Justin LaVigneGear testers and new hikers of New Zealand’s 1,864-mile Te Araroa

Katie YakubowskiInstructor and guide for the Appalachian Mountain Club in Maine