5 Hill Country Camping Hacks You Can’t Go Without

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Tony Maples Photography


The definition of “camping” has morphed into many forms over the years. Some “camp” with an RV or camper, wheeling their home around with them where ever they may go. Others “glamp,” making use of fancy house-like tents with all the comforts of home, in the wilds of the wilderness. Then there are those who “camp” with a good ol’ tent and sleeping bags under the bold stars of the Texas Hill Country. Whether an experience outdoorsman or a novice these 5 camping hacks will make your next trip a true Hill Country Adventure.

1. Sage Insect Repellent

5 Hill Country Camping Hacks You Can’t Go Without

Photo: PinterestToss a little sage on your campfire to ward off Mosquitoes

The Texas Hill Country is full of useful plants and critters for us to explore, and many have incredible benefits. When camping, it is important to acquire the knowledge necessary to distinguish the differences between the beneficial and harmful plants you may find in the Texas wilderness. One plant you should always know when camping is Sage.

Known as a natural mosquito repellant, a bundle of sage on a camp fire will go a long way to making your relaxing camping trip, much more peaceful without the constant buzz of our Texas-sized flying leaches harassing you.

Sage takes on many forms across Texas, but most grow in well-drained limestone soils, in sunny prairies, hillsides and slopes from northern Texas, to Mexico, and west to New Mexico. Remember, when camping in a Texas State Park, scavenging is strictly prohibited, plan ahead and bring some from a local field or maybe from your own garden.

2. Dryer Lint Fire Starter

5 Hill Country Camping Hacks You Can’t Go Without

Photo: Jeromy Kusch, Dryer lint makes a great fire starter

The mundane task of doing laundry may take on a new found purpose with this next camping hack. The vague grayish colored fluff we discard from our dryers could provide a life-saving fire the next time you go camping.

Large amounts of lint can be stashed in plastic sandwich bags or paper sacks for a dry, easy fire starter for cooking or survival. All it takes is a healthy pinch of lint nestled below your kindling to create a quick fire with a small amount of effort.

Camp fires need fuel, don’t forget to pack plenty of firewood before you leave. Since gathering firewood in State Parks is prohibited, make sure you pack enough wood for your cooking and your warmth while enjoying the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

3. Natural Tick Repellant

5 Hill Country Camping Hacks You Can’t Go Without

Photo: viergemagazine.comTea Tree Oil can provide a natural and safe tick deterrent

Texas and ticks go together like eggs and bacon, while one of those options is great for camping, the other, not so much. Ticks turn a great camping trip into a miserable camping trip with just one bite. Thankfully, a natural pestering potion for these common pests is tea tree oil.

Touted for its power to solve many types of ailments, Tea Tree oil provides an all-natural way of managing ticks without all the chemicals normally associated with bug sprays. When properly diluted with water in a small spray bottle, you and your fellow adventurers have a quick and easy solution for ticks, which may also provide a handy option for other common camping skin irritations and ailments.

Keep in mind not all oil is created equal, make sure the oil you choose is therapeutic grade, not perfume grade, to avoid harmful chemicals and ensure less skin irritation when applied.

4. Medicine Bottle Storage

5 Hill Country Camping Hacks You Can’t Go Without

Photo: Jeromy Kusch, Medicine Bottle Fire Kit

These compact, easy to spot containers are the by-product of most peoples’ daily lives. Generally tossed after use, saving a handful of these medicine bottles for your camping adventures is a great way to store useful supplies in a small, easy to carry package.

The great thing about these compact carriers is they generally come in a variety of sizes. Perfect for portaging matches, medicine, dryer lint kindling, spices for cooking, small treats, and even cash, these can be packed anywhere from your pockets to your suitcase with general essentials for your trip.

You can create a perfect fire-starter kit with an old medicine bottle and normal household supplies. First, close the lid and run water around the edge to ensure it will not leak when wet. Next, fill the bottle with matches; they may need to be trimmed slightly to fit. Last, glue sand paper to the lid or the side for a built-in striking surface for your matches. You can also place a flint strike tool and a healthy dose of dryer lint inside your bottle as another option for a fire starter kit.

While the bottles are not generally accepted as waterproof, they do handle moments of submersion or getting rained on without giving up their cozy interiors to the penetrating moisture.

5. Acorn Whistle

5 Hill Country Camping Hacks You Can’t Go Without

Photo: instructables.comAcorns can be used to create a loud whistle

Camping gear 101 requires everyone in your camping party to carry a whistle. Even in beautiful Texas Hill Country parks where trails are thoughtfully marked and cleared, it is not difficult to find yourself, or someone you know, lost in the wilderness. Whistles are the quickest way to communicate when you find yourself lost or to locate someone has wandered away from your group. Maintaining a solid grip on that whistle, however, may be a greater challenge altogether. Our natural world in the Hill Country provides us just the solution for that situation.

Found across most of Texas, acorns are readily available to those needing an alert with very little effort. By removing the cap of the acorn and fixing it between the properly formed index fingers and thumbs, one can create a high-pitched, loud whistle in just seconds. Follow the steps provided in this video to learn more about making your own acorn whistle.

These five hacks may not change you into Paul Bunyan, but they will definitely make your next Hill Country camping trip a little more enjoyable.