This all sounds great, but before you can get there some preparation is needed.
My family went on our first real camping trip just this past weekend. My husband and I had each gone camping growing up and had even done a few trips together in the pre-kid era, but since adding our little ones to the mix we had not taken on the full outdoor adventure. Hoping to make this trip as hassle free as possible (haha) I did some research before we went about what to bring on the trip (and still forgot a few things).
What I did not find a lot of, though, was how to pack for the trip, and how to store all your gear once you get home. This guide shows you my current solution to these issues, along with some helpful hints.
Tip: Do not tackle every aspect of the trip at once. Make a list of items you will need and categorize them, then take on one part of the list at a time.
Since our plan is to continue camping regularly during the summer I decided to invest in some heavy duty plastic tubs to store our gear between uses. Due to my desire to be completely organized and still be able to carry everything to the car I opted for one small tub, three medium tubs and one large one for the bulk of our stuff.
Here is how those bins actually broke down:
This bin holds our tents, the tarp and a mallet to drive in those tent stakes. It still had a little room left so I also tucked in the air mattresses as well.
Tip: Make sure that this bin is packed in the car so it is easily accessed when you arrive at the campsite, since setting up the tents is usually one of your first priorities.
Medium Bin 1
In this bin I stashed the camp stove, one of our cast iron pans, heat proof gloves and some cooking utensils. Once at the campsite this bin can be left near the cooking area. At home this bin is stored on the bottom of the stack since it is so heavy.
Medium Bin 2
I still had cooking gear, so I used the next bin to hold the rest of it. My cast iron Dutch Oven, the mixing bowls, colander, cutting board, and everything needed to set the table (plates, utensils, bowls, cups, tablecloth) is neatly stored in this bin. It can also be set near the cooking area at the campsite. It is also rather heavy so it is stored on top of the first bin at home.
Medium Bin 3
Finally, I had a collection of other goods that will go into setting up our campsite. Items like citronella candles, a bag full of useful tools (scissors, glue, tape, utility knife, matches, trashbags, etc), gas for the stove and lantern, rope, a canteen, bug spray, and sunscreen. All of these items go into the last medium sized bin. At the campsite this bin can be stashed in a tent or left out in a space that people gather in for easy access. While being stored at home I have placed it on the top of the pile, because it is the lightest and the bin that also might need to be accessed while at home to place additional items in.
Tip: Leave extra space in this bin if possible. Any last minute items can be stashed in the bin when it is time to go.
We own a Coleman lantern and have yet to purchase a case made for it, the small bin I picked up holds it pretty well. I wrapped the globe with a towel to help pad it and now the lantern has a nice protected home. (I did drop it a foot or so the other day and it survived fine)
Labeling Tip: I marked each box ‘Camping Gear’ in marker, but then used small labels to designate what went in each box, that way I can relabel the boxes later if I find I need to rearrange things.
When it comes time to actually go on our trip I simply need to gather up our food, clothes, toys, toiletries, additional bedding and the bins from the basement.
Finally here are some ideas on how to pack each of those additional items.
Food can be grouped and stored in two containers, the cooler for cold items and another bin for pantry items. Putting all food into a container with a latching lid is advisable so that it stays together and won’t be disturbed by wildlife.
Tip: If there is food in the cooler that should not get wet (think sliced cheese) put it in a plastic container with tall sides, ideally taller than the water that will accumulate on the bottom of the cooler as the ice melts.
I gave each family member their own bag (okay the little kids who do not dress themselves had to share). Outfits were rolled up and banded with a rubber band to keep them together. Make sure to pack one or two extra outfits and a few options in case the weather changes.
Very few are actually needed. I put together a small bin with coloring books and markers (hey let them go for it when there aren’t walls to draw on), digging toys, cars, beach ball and a Frisbee.
Check out what the campsite has to offer when it comes to facilities and pack what you need around that. We like camping at State Parks which have community rest rooms complete with shower stalls available for campers, so I just need to bring towels, showering supplies, toothbrushes and anything else we need as part of our bedtime/wake up routines.
Tip: Get beach bags to help transport all that gear to the bathroom, I tried laundry baskets but they were too cumbersome, something with a shoulder strap will work better. I am going to get two, one for the girls and one for the boys. As the kids get older we might need one for each family member.
Sleeping bags are obvious, but do not forget pillows and extra blankets. Space Bags are great for this, stuff the pillows and blankets in them to keep them dry until the tent is properly set up while also saving some space in the car.
Tip: Do not use the vacuum to extract air from the Space Bags, manually push out as much air as you can, you will not have the vacuum when you are preparing to bring everything back home and making sure there is enough space for the bags is important.
Well, that is it. Get your basic camping gear together and store it neatly in bins with accurate labels. Find a safe place to store these boxes when you aren’t camping, a storage unit might be a great option if you are running out of room in your basement. When it is time to go camping, collect the bins and then add in the other items that are needed. Pack everything in your car, if space allows do so in a way that the bags/bins you will need first are easily accessible. Head to your destination and have a great time enjoying the great outdoors!
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