Art and camping

Camping Art - colored pencil work

For the art lovers among us, a camping holiday can be the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time painting and drawing.  Knowing what kit to take with you can be a real challenge.  In this article from my Wife, Jo, she takes a close look at the joy of art while you are on a camping trip, and the best gear you can take with you.

Jo is the photographer on the team. Take a look at her post on getting started with camping photography.

The Trouble with Packing Your Art Kit in Your Camping Gear

A camping holiday, in a well setup tent and campground, is a relaxing time in which you can enjoy the peace of the countryside. Those beautiful views and amazing landscapes are great subjects for paintings and sketches. The trouble is, all your art kit takes up a lot of valuable space in a tent and can be awkward and bulky to carry about in a rucksack.

Some people like to have all their “must have” items with them and end up lugging a huge bag, fold-up easel, stool, fold-down table as well their lunch, extra clothes, first aid kit, maps and of course drinking water. By the time they get to the place they wish to set up and paint, they are so worn out they lose interest.

Or they spend ages looking for that vital bit of kit they can’t find because they can’t remember where they put it or forgot to pack it in the first place.

Watercolors, Acrylics, Oils or Pastels

Not only that, there are also technical problems: if you use watercolors you have to take adequate supplies of water which can leak or spill, all your brushes, paints, palette for colour mixing, paper which won’t cockle and possibly a folding easel and stool. If it suddenly starts to rain your work can be ruined.

If it’s not too warm you have to wait for your work to dry before you can pack it away. If it’s very hot, your work may dry too quickly preventing you from using washes and wet-in-wet techniques the way you would like to.

Using acrylics means you have to cart about and store a similar amount of equipment and materials as for watercolors. The main problem with using acrylics outdoors is that they can dry too quickly.

Oils too have their problems. Quick drying oils would have to be used so that you can easily pack up your painting quickly without ruining it. You need to take your brushes, palette knives, palette, linseed oil and other thinners and mediums, tubes of paint and your stretched canvas.

Pastels might be a possibility, but they are so messy! You need to wear an apron and take lots of wipes for your hands.  It can also be difficult to protect your work from getting smudged during transport.

These outdoor (en plein air) painting problems are even worse when you are camping and/or hiking as space and weight capacities are at a premium. You really need to keep it light and keep it simple.

Art Kit While Camping – The Solution

So, what’s the solution? 

You can just go sketching instead but then you don’t record the colors in the landscape. Taking a few photos will act as reference for painting the landscape at a later date or take color notes.

Castle Coloring Pencils

Recently I have discovered just how good colored pencils are. I had always thought they were like the ones you used in school as a young child creating your first masterpiece. But they are not. A word of warning – they are not cheap but they are well worth the expense. There are many different makes to choose from, some are wax based and some are oil based. You can layer them for depth of color and mix and blend them too. It’s best to layer the wax based ones first and layer oil based pencils on top rather than the other way round. They are all waterproof and archival. The ones I have used and found to be excellent are:

Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils – these are excellent oil based pencils that come in 150 colours in a tin. You don’t have to buy the whole set, just buy the range that will suit your needs.

Faber Castell Polychromos Coloring Pencils

Derwent Drawing pencils – these are wax based and conveniently come in tins of 24 colors used in landscapes and nature

FDerwent Drawing pencils

Caran D’Ache Luminance – wax based pencils in boxes

Caran D’Ache Luminance

Caran D’Ache Pablo – wax based pencils in tins

Caran D’Ache Luminance

All the above come in many colors and can be blended. I would suggest buying a box/tin of the colors you are most likely to use and build up your range by buying single pencils.

They can all be erased if required. This is a good way of introducing highlights into your work. Layers can also be removed using a sharp craft knife for very fine lines such as hairs or whiskers but be careful not to damage your paper!

You also need a good sharpener. I can fully recommend this one as it can sharpen pencils of different diameters to a fine point. It also collects the shavings which you obviously don’t want to leave behind:

Colored pencils can be used on paper or Pastelmat or drafting film. All of these come in pads which protect your work more than single sheets.

Drafting film has the added advantage of being able to use both sides to get a more intense colour. Make sure you buy double matte to use both sides. As it is transparent your work can be placed over colored paper to add a quick background. It is very useful stuff to use and certainly worth trying it if you haven’t already.


Pastelmat comes in a different colors which can be useful. It has more tooth that other papers and film so you get more layers down.

Pastel Matt 12 Leaf Pad

The Tombow is brilliant eraser for creating highlights by lifting out fine lines of pencil:


Here are some examples of colored pencil work:

Bird - colored pencil
Birds - colored pencils

So, all you need is a tin of pencils, a pad of paper or film, a pencil sharpener and an eraser! Minimal carriage, storage and fuss. What could be easier?

Take a hat, water to drink, sunglasses and your SPF if it’s sunny – it’s so easy to get absorbed in what you’re doing that you can easily get burnt.

Don’t forget to take a few photos for future reference too.

Have fun and create some amazing art that will remind you of your vacation for years to come.

Last update on 2024-07-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Keith Longmire

Keith Longmire

I’m the guy that loves camping, insists on family camping trips, and the editor and owner of Campingsage.com

I love camping and the outdoors. Through this site I hope to help you enjoy it too.

About CampingSage

CampingSage is all about comfortable family camping in tents.  It is written by campers, for campers.

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