There is one necessity that any “civilized” camper knows- you need a tablecloth. Sure, sitting at an uncovered, possibly dirty table is okay if you are at an impromptu picnic in the park or if you are a through camper carrying everything in a pack on your back. But if you are bringing any gear at all, a tablecloth must be amongst what you have in your stash. Tables are often covered with grime or at least forest detritus and the easiest way to ensure that it doesn’t mar your mealtime is to cover it up.


Like all beginning campers, we started our camp days with a plain red gingham checked plastic tablecloth. They pack up small and are easy to acquire (Target, REI, anywhere with basic campgoods), cost just a few dollars and do the job. Of course, they don’t last. They are easily torn and melt with the least of a hot pan touching them. They get spotted and dirty in a way that just won’t come out. And once wet, they are hard to dry.

After a few years of wearing one down and then replacing it and even one trip of carrying two since we wanted to be able to have a decently dry tablecloth and it kept raining, we started to look for something better. We tried a few different options before we settled on oilcloth.

An oilcloth tablecloth has turned out to be amazing. It is pretty heat resistant and is easy to wipe down. It is pretty waterproof and so makes it easy to wipe off the rain or morning dew. A quick spray and a cloth wipe and any spots are clean again. It is nearly impossible to rip. They come in cute patterns and are bright and cheery. And you can either pay for a proper tablecloth or just buy some of the cloth at your local fabric store. Yes, it doesn’t pack quite as small and it isn’t quite as inexpensive, but we feel the trade-off is well worth it.