Summer brings popsicles, suntans, and, of course, those cherished family camping trips. Mom and Dad load up the family car with the tent, the kids, the dog, and all their stuff and set up their home-away-from-home in the wilderness.
Below are some tips from your organizing experts at Restoring Order® to make packing for camping a cinch. These tips are not an exhaustive list of items to bring camping, but a guide to maximize the ease and enjoyment of your camping adventure.
You’ll need to call well in advance if you plan to rent a trailer or RV if you’ve chosen a popular camping weekend.
Find out beforehand if there are facilities on the grounds, or whether you’ll need to bring your own T.P.!
Sometime before the day you leave, put all bags, coolers, and camping supplies in the middle of your garage or driveway to see if what you plan to take will reasonably fit in the car. (You don’t have to have the coolers loaded at this time.) If your gear won’t fit, you must either pare down or get a haul-behind trailer or roof-top storage.
Don’t forget your camera to record your trip! If you use a smart phone for taking photos, you can purchase external batteries that you can charge ahead of time to make sure a dead phone battery doesn’t cause you to miss out on precious photo ops! (But, remember that the point of camping is to unplug!)
- Assign only one person to load the car. When multiple people are tossing things in, space is not conserved, and a plan cannot be followed. This also increases the chance of items being forgotten!
- When loading the car, put food and other items that will not be needed right away at the back or bottom.
- Limit toys, books, and games to that which can fit in one backpack per child. Otherwise, these items will overtake your car. Remember, you’re going camping to get away from the daily routine and have new experiences!
- Avoid using cardboard boxes, cloth bags, or any storage containers that aren’t waterproof. In this climate, plastic rules.
- Shrinkable is good. Inflatable bed mats use less room than foam cushions. Sleeping bags that stuff into a bag take less room than layered cotton roll-up bags. Fold-down tables and chairs are available at any outdoor store.
- If you plan on obscuring the windows by packing up to the ceiling, set your side mirrors for maximum visibility before leaving your driveway.
- Bring a cell phone (charge beforehand) in case of emergency.
- Carry a first aid kit. Don’t forget any current medications, allergy relief, bandaids, and sunscreen.
- Hand-held radios are a great way to keep track of each other in a large campground. Agree on a time to check in with each other if you’ve split up. Keep tabs on kids.
- Plan outfits in advance of trip. Remember: you can wear clothes more than once. It will mean less laundry when you get home!
- Roll clothes inside bags to save space.
- Pack lots of extra plastic bags to separate dirty laundry, wet clothes, or dirty shoes.
- Don’t leave home without your sunglasses and hats.
Invest in a pop-up shade. Don’t forget rope and stakes. You’ll be glad to wait out a shower under the shade, rather than huddle in your tent with wet boots. If the weather is nice, you can leave it in your car.
A ground tarp will limit seepage into the tent. Bring hammer and stakes for tent assembly.
Tables that fold out make a great cooking/staging area for your stove, food prep area, and clean up area.
A gas or electric lantern (or two) will shed needed light on your site. Don’t forget extra fuel, mantles, or batteries and bulbs. Fit lantern and supplies inside a plastic tool box for safe transporting.
Bring one flashlight per person (and extra batteries).
Find out before you go whether firewood will be available for purchase, or whether you will need to bring your own. Plastic water-tight bins work well for wood. One bin of wood will only last a few hours, so pack accordingly, or bring cash to purchase available firewood.
If you forget matches or lighters, you’ll have to resort to rubbing sticks together.
Rope and string seem to come in handy when camping. From clothes lines to tie-downs, you’ll find many necessary uses.
Order & Cleanliness Tips
- Pump soap and hand sanitizer go a long way to keeping campers clean.
- Baby wipes or moist towelettes. A thousand uses–from wiping hands to quick clean-ups, to mini baths, wipes are so handy!
- Use a floor mat in front of the tent for wiping feet (faux grass works well).
- A whisk broom or battery-powered hand vacuum will rid the tent of needles, grass, and dirt that is carried in on shoes.
- Dishwashing soap, scrub brush, towels, and paper towels are a must for cleaning up dishes and pans. Some seasoned campers even use a dish rack (if you have room) to air dry dishes to eliminate drying.
Food & Cooking Tips
- Call ahead to find out if there are barbeques available, or if you’ll need to provide your own. If you bring a grill, clean it out before packing, and bring large plastic garbage bags to cover it on the ride home.
- Store non-perishable dry food in big plastic storage bins with air-tight seals. If you use clear plastic, you can see what is in each one. This way, food can be left outside, even if it rains.
- Block ice lasts longer than shaved ice. Pack each cooler with one block, and nestle food around the block.
Bring water jugs if it is not readily available. Each person needs at least a half gallon of water per day. Bringing personal-size bottled water is also useful. You will use more than you think, especially if it is hot.
Plastic zippered bags of all sizes are great for snacks, leftovers, collected treasures, and so much more.
Are you a seasoned camper and have other helpful tips to share? Leave a comment below with your favorite camping strategies!
- Learn more about our Professional Organizing Services – we can even help you with packing for camping!