Camping Hacks


Since Covid-19, camping has become even more popular as a wholesome way to spend a summer vacation. Hacks make camping especially fun.

We recently spent a few days tent camping in Arizona. It was a fine time and reminded me that summer camping season is just around the corner here in Idaho. It also reminded me of a few things that I have learned that improve my camping experience. These are often referred to as “hacks” meaning tricks and tips that make an experience better. There are a lot of camping hacks on the internet, but most of them seem to be copies of each other with very few new ideas. So, I thought I would share a few of my favorite camping hacks and see what you think.

My first hack is one that I just did a few days ago. I recently realized that on my less expensive coolers, the lid of the cooler is hollow, with no insulation. I have always wondered why these coolers seem to be so inefficient, and I believe this is a big part of the reason. So, my solution was to drill a hole in the lid and inject expanding foam, the kind you might use to fill cracks and gaps in your foundation or walls. This worked great, but there are a few tricks to be aware of. First, you need more than one hole. As you squirt in the expanding foam, the air that is existing in the lid needs to have someplace to go (I learned this through sad experience). Several extra holes will give that air an escape. I place mine as high as the fill hole. Second, I like to fill from top down and let gravity help the foam to get into all the nooks and crannies. So, I drill three holes in the back edge of the lid, use the middle one to put the straw attached to the foam can in and fire away. You don’t need as much foam as you think you might as this stuff expands to three times its volume. It will eventually come out the holes that you have made and will make a little mess so put some paper or plastic under the cooler to catch the excess. Also, don’t try to clean up the excess immediately. Let it dry and then pop it off or use a chisel to take it off. If you get some foam on your hands, it cleans up with acetone.

My second hack is to use those jugs liquid laundry soap comes in for a handwashing station. I got this trick from my son and found it brilliant. The jugs have a handy dispensing button on the bottom. You don’t even need to add soap the first few times you use it. The residual laundry soap will work just fine. When a jug is finally cleaned of soap, I use it as the rinse water.

It seems that each winter, I lose an innertube or two to the sleigh-riding gods. Once they get a substantial tear, they are pretty much useless. Or are they? I discovered that by cutting bands from the tubes I suddenly have plenty of stretchy ties to use around camp. The wider you cut them, the stronger they are and the less they stretch, so cut different sizes. I find that these are great for bundling gear, as shock cords for tarps and tents, and to keep a piece of garden hose over the end of my axe. The uses are almost as vast as your imagination.

Finally, this trip, I made a concerted effort to organize everything into bins (well, one “bin” was my jet sled so I could pull things out of the truck easily and another “bin” was my camping kitchen box). I had a bin for things like propane and butane bottles, pumps and such, another for general camping gear like lanterns, one for bushcraft stuff (a hobby I am getting into) and another for photography. It made finding and retrieving things much easier and kept the bed of the truck far more organized.

Camping is still one of my favorite activities and I find that “hacks”, using something in a new or different way to solve a problem, is part of the fun.


Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho