Kids learning how to build a campfire
Kids learning how to build a campfire

Necessity truly is the mother of invention. Yup, we’ve all had those camping moments. Those oh-no-we-forgot-the-tent-poles or where-the-heck-is-the-toilet-paper moments. And in these dire situations, you’ve got to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve packing up and heading home if you want to keep enjoying the peace of the woods, brilliant stars, and tear-free family fun.

Here at KEEN, we love a good problem because we love the challenge of coming up with a good solution. Check out some of our tips for how to use your KEEN gear in unexpected ways during those “Ohhhh crap!” moments.

1. “Hey, where’s the corkscrew?”

(Or the no-wine-key-no-problem scenario.)

Your feet are tired after a long day at the river and a fragrant dinner is simmering in the cast iron dutch oven. The kids are reading books in their camp chairs and you think… “Ahhh it’s about time for a splash of tasty merlot in a camp mug.” But after rummaging through the camp-kitchen tub, all the grocery bags and the glovebox (who knows ok!?), you find that there is no corkscrew in sight. Sure, you could try to machete the top of the bottle off, but (surprise surprise) you don’t have a machete either. So gather up some gumption and try this instead:

1. First, take the foil off of the wine bottle. You want that cork to be able to move freely!

2. Grab your boots. Although many of our shoes or boots should work, we recommend a pair with just the right amount of cushioning like our men’s Slater or women’s or men’s Jasper. Boots or shoes with too much cushion (like a running shoe) don’t work as well since the sole tends to absorb the impact before it can transfer it to the wine bottle.

3. Slide the bottom of the bottle into the shoe so that it’s nice and snug.

4. Find a vertical surface like a tree or concrete wall (the back of the campground bathroom should do!) Hit the heel of the shoe against the surface. The shoe will lightly cushion the bottle and the pressure from the blows will force the cork out.

5. After a few strikes (less than 100 for sure), the cork will come out far enough that you can just pull it out. (Make sure to do this part with flair!)

6. Enjoy the sweet taste of perseverance.

Editor's Note: Opening wine using this technique comes with some risk, so if you decide to try this approach, please clear the area of people and pets and be careful as broken glass is possible. If you’re nervous, you could always just go ask the family two campsites over if you could just borrow their corkscrew (that way you could make some new friends while you’re at it).

2.“My hands are cold!”

(Or the nobody-packed-gloves-even-when-you-told-them-to scenario.)

Ah, that crisp mountain air! So refreshing by day and frosty by night. You and the fam are pushing summer camping into fall, and all sleeping bags, sleeping mats, lanterns, and long johns are accounted for. You’re looking forward to campfire fajitas, s’mores, and singing silly songs around the campfire.

But the glory of a perfectly planned camping adventure starts to fade when halfway through your first fajita you hear, “I hate camping! My hands are freezing!” Your kiddo stares at you with wide eyes and cold fingers. Good thing you packed extra socks. In a pinch, a good pair of warm socks can double as mittens. Kids tend to think this is a hilarious and enjoyable solution to the cold-hand problem and wear their new “mittens” with glee. Pretty much any socks will do, but a pair of KEEN’s merino wool socks will keep those little hands plenty toasty. If you need to wear those socks tomorrow though, we don’t recommend mixing with marshmallow activities.

Roasting marshmallows on a campfire

3. “Why am I wet?”

(Or the fixing-the-rainfly-in-the-dark scenario.)

Your tent is where ghost stories happen, where the whole family cuddles, where you wake up in the morning crammed into the corner because someone let the dog inside in the middle of the night. But after years of memories, even a good tent starts to slow down. And by slow down, we mean deteriorate. Seams start to delaminate, tent poles begin to crack, the guy-lines on the rainfly start to fray and go missing.

The laces on our mid-to-high boots are long, durable, and can easily double as a guy-line.

Inevitably, you’re sure to notice tent failure at approximately 3 a.m., smack dab in the middle of a freak rainstorm. For these types of situations, we recommend duct tape (never leave home without it, right?) and a pair of KEEN boots. Tape up those leaky seams or busted poles and start removing your shoelaces. Since space between your tent and rainfly is key to preventing condensation (that can then drip and leak into your tent), keeping the rainfly taut is an absolute must to ensure cozy, dry sleeping conditions. The laces on our mid-to-high boots like our men’s Targhee High Lace or women’s Terradora are long, durable, and can easily double as a guy-line should you need them. Thread them through the rainfly loops, do a little bowline knot (or whatever knot you know how to tie), and use the heel of your now laceless boot to stake that line in place. Take a moment to feel pride in your work and then head back to bed.

There are lots of ways to get creative in the woods. Ever used a pair of pliers as a pot lifter or a quick-dry towel as a pot-holder? (Heads up… that one doesn’t work so well. Turns out many synthetic materials will burn). What are some of your favorite camping hacks? We’d love to know what you’ve learned during your adventures outdoors. Tag @KEEN and share your tips!

Sleeping outside the tent

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