The title of this post might sound a little ridiculous, but bear with me. I was raised on Martha Stewart--my mom had (and still has) a subscription to Martha Stewart Living magazine that I would always get to read after she was done, and many of our family staple recipes were Martha classics. I see Martha as the original Pinterest. Love her. As I've gotten older, I've also come to love Ina Garten and The Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond). 9 times out of 10 when I need a recipe or craft idea, I get it from one of those three women's websites or books. And while I don't really think of these ladies as big campers, a lot of my inspiration, aesthetic, and recipes for camping trips comes from them.
One of my biggest goals behind Have Dog, Will Drive is to inspire others that camping can be beautiful, tasteful, and even have a touch of luxury. Whether consciously or not, whenever I'm planning a menu for an upcoming camping trip or deciding on what to pack, I'm thinking, "What Would Martha Do"? Today, I want to share with you a few of my recommendations to make your next camping trip just a little more Martha.
When packing supplies, focus on things that you won't end up throwing away.
This is one of my top tips in making your camping trip feel more like something that the Barefoot Contessa would effortlessly throw together after a walk in the woods with Jeffrey (if this doesn't conjure up an image for you, I recommend spending more time watching the Food Network). It also has the added benefit of being much more environmentally friendly! Of course, we almost always end up having to throw away some things--food packaging or wet wipes or whatever--but not using disposable plates and napkins changes the whole feel of your camping meal experience. We use GSI Outdoors Baked Enamelware plates, mugs, and forks. They are inexpensive and super sturdy. Grab some cheap cloth napkins from Target, and you're set! We just throw our cloth napkins in with the rest of our dirty clothes from camping and wash them when we get home. Below is a photo of our basic table setup when we go camping.
Most campgrounds have dishwashing stations, or otherwise we'll bring an extra gallon of water and some biodegradable camp dish soap to rinse everything off at our site.
Next: there is no rule that you have to subsist on burgers or hot dogs when you go camping.
If that's your thing, that's great! But if you're bringing a cooler, there is no reason why you can't have much more variety in what you eat when you go camping. Recently, I've made delicious veggie tacos, made-from-scratch calzones, steamed fresh mussels, and we usually drink champagne! Why not?! If you know how to build a fire and prep food in advance, there's no reason to live on trail mix or prepackaged foods. A good cooler can just as easily hold fresh seafood as it can freezer-burned veggie burgers. I talked about this a bit in my Big Bear recap post, and I'm planning on doing a whole camping food post soon, but we like to eat really well when we camp. And it's a misconception that it's difficult!
If you can, bring more than just the essentials--camping can be beautiful!
When we car camp, I usually bring tea light candles, battery operated string lights for our tent, and even a sturdy vase for picking wildflowers at our site. If you're backpacking, this would obviously be much more difficult, but if you're just unloading stuff from your car to your site, it makes a huge difference. A couple of years ago, we bought some twinkle lights that are battery operated and meant for camping, and it's so cute to string them in our tent. And a candlelit dinner is never more special or romantic than when it's out in the wilderness. I do not recommend tall candlesticks, especially in wildfire-prone California! But tea lights or short candles inside a hurricane vase are safe and add a lot to the ambiance, as you can see in the first photo in this post.
I also will often bring sturdy bowls and serving dishes from home, wrapped in dish towels in a canvas bag so they don't break. This makes a spread of appetizers so much more beautiful!
My final tip is to not forego your creature comforts when camping.
This is a big one that I think people forget. When Grace and I camp, we want to come home feeling rested and rejuvenated, not cranky and craving a coffee and a shower. Because of that, we've always made it a huge priority to have a comfortable sleeping setup when camping. We use the REI Co-op Camp Bed 3.5 inch inflatable mats (previously, we were borrowing something similar from my sweet godparents who let us use their stuff for years). These beds are 3.5 inches thick when inflated, which is actually a lot and makes a HUGE difference compared with sleeping on the ground or just using a thin foam mat. We usually push two of them together and cover them with queen-size flannel camping sheets, a woven blanket, and a quilt over top of everything. When it's cold and we're camping in Alaska, we are going to be using an amazing queen-size sleeping bag that Grace's mom gave us. Below are some photos of our setup:
Also in the category of comforts, if having a glass of wine in the evening or a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning is important to you, make sure you have it when you camp! I'm not a coffee drinker, but Grace most definitely is. We always make sure to get some coffee brewing in the morning for her (Contact me if you're curious and I'd be happy to share our method of making coffee using a fire; I won't include it here for the sake of brevity).
What I love about Martha Stewart is that her recipes and tips are not necessarily about extravagant luxury, as that doesn't really play well with Mother Nature. Instead, what I take from my years of reading everything Martha has to offer is that when possible, it makes all the difference to plan things out and make them a bit more intentional and refined. That's what I try to contribute to our camping trips, and I think it's a big part of why we love camping so much. I have eaten some of my best meals and slept some of my best sleeps while camping. It does take a bit more work, but having a lovely, special, and most importantly comfortable camping trip is more than possible. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, silly as it may sound, so please feel free to comment or get in touch if you are interested in more tips!