Be forewarned, this one is a doozy! Grab a coffee or a glass of wine and settle in…
If you haven’t car camped before, or it has been a long time, or if you just want to know how I pack up my stuff, then this one is for you! Below is a brief outline of how I pack for a great, enjoyable, and dare I say, relaxing camping trip!!
My basic camping list starts with car camping as my standard. I love all the luxury that you can have at your campsite when you are car camping. Why not make it great right? I truly believe that anyone can enjoy camping and being in nature, it’s just finding the right mix of what being in nature means to you.
When it comes to packing for car camping, I try to keep everything simple and logical. I use some black bins to help me and the family stay organized so that loading the stuff into the car, and setting up the site is as smooth as possible. After all, that is the work part of it all.
I have separated our gear into categories, so that each bin holds the stuff for whatever category.
Our car camping tent is a huge 11 man tent! We only have 4 in our family, but I LOVE this tent! It’s nothing special, just a large Coleman tent. I love that I can stand up to change! It’s amazing how much of a luxury it is to be able to fully stand up inside a tent! If you’ve never experienced a small cramped tent, then you don’t even know! There are TONS of windows for a great cross breeze! There is a room divider so that the kids can imagine camping in their own tent…even though they end up moving closer to our sleeping bags! This tent came with quite a large carry case, so I love to ensure there are a few extra pegs, and a mallet inside the tent bag. That way everything is together, and you just need that one bag to complete the set up!
Bin #1: Sleeping
This bin can get unloaded from the car and go straight into the tent (after it is set up of course). This bin contains our sleeping bags, sleeping pads, any pillows, and a little hand broom to clean the tent at the end of the trip. The other thing I add to this bin at the time of loading it into the car is one of our battery operated lanterns. Again, it’s all about keeping it straight forward and simple. Even simple enough for the kids to unpack the bin and get everything set up. (I am always trying to come up with new ways to get the kids involved!)
We try to keep this at a minimum. It’s sooo easy to overpack on clothes! You need to really think about how many days you will be gone, and how bad it could really be to re-wear your clothes (even if they are a tad dirty). We bring a pair or two of PJs each, one pair of pants each, a sweater each, a couple t-shirts and shorts, extra socks and undies, swimwear, hats and sunglasses. We also generally pack running shoes and sandals.
Bin #2: Camp Comfort and Utilities
This bin is my favourite, and it’s essentially pure luxury! This bin contains hammocks, extra blankets, solar lights for around the site (especially great when going to the bathroom that first night and returning to camp – just look for the garden lights). I have some solar string lights that I put close to the kitchen. I also have a picnic blanket that we use outside the tent to put shoes on or take them off to make attempts at keeping the tent cleaner. We also keep some of the utility type stuff in this bin. Things like extra rope, flashlights, citronella candles, and some extra batteries. At the time of loading all the stuff into the car we will also add electronics to this bin. We have a battery pack to charge our phones, and some charging cables.
Kitchen and Stove
I have a fold out kitchen “counter”. It is it’s own bag, and I can’t fit much else into the bag. I love this little counter set up because it keeps the stove off the picnic tables, and gives some space, at a better height, for prepping food. I also use some of the side counters for a hand washing station. We have a standard double burner Coleman stove that we pack separately as well.
Bin #3: Camp Kitchen
This bin contains MOST of the kitchen essentials. This bin contains the kitchen utensils, plates, bowls and cups for eating. It also contains cooking utensils like tongs, spatulas etc. The pots and pans are in this bin too; Pro tip: use the pots as extra storage space! I store the eating bowls, plates etc. right inside the pot!! I also have some consumables in this bin like table cloths, paper towels, aluminum foil, garbage bags, even extra cooking fuel canisters and a couple of lighters. I also have a small packing cube with dish washing supplies like a small compact towel, cloth, scrubby brush and camp friendly dish soap. We recently acquired a large camping drip coffee maker. We have just kept it in it’s box since it keeps it protected and contained, and I can easily store the ground coffee and filters in the box too. At the time of packing the bin into the car, I will also add some of the food items, or seasonings we may need, anything that doesn’t need to go into the cooler.
Toiletries and Laundry
I have a packing cube organizer for the toiletries, we try not to bring much, but there are things like toothbrushes and toothpaste, some flosser sticks, a small container with soap and shampoo for the showers, another container with a small amount of laundry detergent, and some rope for a clothesline. When loading this into the car, I will also toss in bug spray and sunscreen and anything else the ladies of us may need. Depending on where you are camping you may also want to consider bringing toilet paper, though it’s generally not essential for car camping trips.
First Aid Kit
I also generally carry a fairly extensive (some might say overkill) first aid kit. I would rather have it and not need it, than not have it and need it. I always stock it with some medications like immodium, gravol, benadryl, tylenol and advil. I have creams like afterbite, aloe, and polysporin. Then I toss in some trauma related supplies like hot packs, cold packs, and a variety of bandages. I also ensure I have supplies to deal with specific insects local to the area. I recommend looking up some common insects and their bites for the area where you will be camping. It’s also helpful to know some of the local vegetation so you know what to watch out for.
Stuff for Fun
I usually tend to bring at least a few things to do. I have been around kids long enough to know that sometimes a brief distraction can actually save the entire day! We bring a beach shelter that we add some kids games or activities to once it is set up on the site. I try to add things based on their interests at the time, but I usually add some learning activity books, some reading books, and some crafting supplies like markers and paper. Other simple crafts like string bracelets usually go over well, even for boys! AND sometimes even for moms and dads!! I add some simple dice games and a couple decks of cards. The parents could need something to do too!
My list here is pretty detailed, and extensive! You don’t need ALL of the supplies on the list but if you will be camping for a few nights in a row, it will help to make your time easier to enjoy. The whole idea is to get out into nature and take it all in!
The list grows or shrinks depending on whether it is car camping with or without electricity, back country camping, or even camping in a trailer or RV. If you have the space and the electricity, you may want to consider adding a fan, or heater, perhaps a crockpot, even investing in a plug in camping cooler if you’re going to be camping like this often. If I’m going deeper into the woods, I leave out most of the luxury items (other than my hammock!), and trade out the large supplies for some compact essentials like a MUCH smaller tent (maybe even a sleeping hammock), small single burner stove, and well, basically just generally bringing WAY less for the back country! Who really wants to lug around extra weight if they don’t have to??
What are the things that you love to bring with you, or would never consider camping without? What are your best packing tips and tricks? I always love hearing great tips when it comes to camping or packing!