Camping is a great way to create a relatively low-stress, low-cost, low-maintenance vacation. It takes just a bit of forethought to plan, register, pack and execute a camping trip as opposed to months or more of budgeting, researching, planning, mapping and creating a more elaborate vacation experience. Camping can help you reconnect with your family and yourself, creates lasting bonds and memories and instills relaxation and calmness to what can be an overworked, overstimulated lifestyle. If you want to make the most of your camping trip, you’ll need to know how, what and WHERE to pack all your gear and equipment. Follow these 10 packing tips for camping trips and take the stress out of planning your next getaway!
1. Back to Basics.
Part of the fun of camping is forgetting about all the extras in life – electronics, toys, games, equipment, utensils and STUFF – that we get bogged down with. Get back to basics by keeping your packing simple. Consider everything you’re planning on taking carefully and think, “Is this NECESSARY for 3 days (5 days, 7 days, what have you) away?” Take what you need and leave the rest behind. If you realize you’ve left something that really is essential, most campsites or state and national parks have stores for your convenience.
2. Don’t go overboard.
Over-planning is one way to stress-out any family vacation, but it also makes packing a million times harder. If you’re going camping for a few nights, chances are you won’t have the time (or energy!) to play every single outdoor game in your garage, do every single sport-related activity, or make every single gourmet meal and campfire treat you’ve got on your “ideal” list. Limit yourself. Pick just a few favorite games, activities, meals and treats and save the rest for another time.
3. Become ONE with nature.
Guess what? You’re camping, not spending the night at the Ritz. You’re going to get a little dirty. There will be bugs. You’re hair and clothes will probably smell like campfire from the minute you get there. So don’t worry about bringing a new outfit for every single day for every single person. You won’t need accessories and tons of shoes. You’ll probably want some soap, but don’t worry about cosmetics and the whole beauty regime. Don’t be afraid to be RUGGED! That’s what camping is all about. The biggest key when picking clothes is to remember you want to be warm and dry. Pack extra socks and a sweatshirt for everyone, along with just a few items to wear daily.
4. Make a List. Check it twice.
Camping doesn’t require a ton of fancy gadgets or equipment, but there are some definite things you don’t want to be caught without. To make sure you pack what you NEED and leave what you DON’T get a complete list of gear. You can find some sample lists online. The Packing List Place has one, as well as Love The Outdoors. Keep in mind that any pre-made list will likely need to be altered to fit your family and your particular geographic area so look it over ahead of time, whittle it down and add on as necessary. It’s also a good idea to make two checked columns – one you can check off for “checked and ready” and one you can check off for “packed in car”. That way you’re covering your bases and are less likely to accidentally leave something behind in the driveway.
5. Be prepared.
Check ahead for area conditions – weather, area emergency issues that might be a problem (wildfire probability, flooding, avalanche, etc.), park or camp site maintenance issues that might affect you, etc. The more prepared you are, the better able you will be to refine your packing list. When you check the forecast, for example, there may be no rain indicated for the week so you can likely pare down your wet weather gear.
6. Don’t lug your luggage.
Instead of packing a different suitcase for every family member, consider packing items into plastic tubs with lids according to category. This is perfect since they come in different sizes for different amounts of things (extra large bins like these are great for bigger camp items like lanterns, emergency radios, skillets, hot plates, camp stoves, etc. while medium sized bins are good for clothing), stack nicely together, have flat tops, are water resistant, and pack up well since they aren’t odd shapes. They are also easy to identify by using large labels such as these or simple tape with permanent markers. Consider using bins for clothing, cooking, food, games and activities, and weather-related gear (ponchos, boots, warm sweatshirt, etc.).
7. Pace yourself.
Don’t plan on throwing everything together willy nilly at the last moment. While camping can be a relatively stress-free family vacation you’re simply asking for trouble if you don’t give yourself time. Begin packing preparations two weeks in advance. It might seem excessive, but you’ll want to make sure all of your gear and equipment is in working order before you actually pack it away. You’ll also want to replace lost or broken items, make sure you have the right amount of things for your whole family, and create a “map” for packing your car.
8. SPACE yourself.
Chances are you’ll be driving to your destination, so make sure to leave plenty of room for passengers. Crowding can make people (especially little people!) crabby! So don’t try to cram so much into the passenger area of your car. Use storage areas for smaller items (like the pockets on the back of the front seats for small backpacks or bags) and fill up your trunk or cargo area with clean, well-packed, boxes and bags.
9. Think outside the box.
Utilize the space outside your vehicle as well. This will ensure that you have ample room for your passengers inside! While clean and sturdy boxes, backpacks and bags are great in the cargo area, you can pack dirty, cumbersome or large items outside. Use a bike rack on the top of your vehicle and consider getting a cargo carrier for the top of your vehicle, like this one. You can carry other large items for outdoor activities (like kayaks, canoes, folding tables, etc.) with various types of carrying racks.
10. Make a map.
A packing “map” can be super useful when planning for your trip. Essentially, list the items you’ll need based on bin, bag, box, etc. along with WHEN you’ll need them. Following the “first in, last out” rule, decide which items you’ll need to access right away and which can be accessed later. Then either draw the items in a diagram or simply number and label them according to when they will be packed in the car – this way you’ll know ahead of time what needs to go where in order to not only make everything fit efficiently, but also to have what you need WHEN you need it.
Looking for more helpful ideas for camping? Try these 7 Tips for Easier Camping!
Kimberly Mueller is the “me” over at bugaboo, mini, mr & me, a blog that highlights her creative endeavors. She especially likes to share kid crafts, sewing attempts, recipes, upcycled projects, photography and free printable gift tags/cards. When she’s not enjoying being married to her best friend, chasing after the natives (AKA her three kids) and attempting to keep the house in one piece, you can find her with a glue gun in one hand and spray paint in the other. Aside from DIY pursuits, she also enjoys writing, reading, music, singing (mostly in the shower) and the color yellow. Kimberly recently published a craft book entitled Modern Mod Podge. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest,Bloglovin’ and Instagram. Email her at: bugabooblog(at)yahoo.com