Packing for Camping

What Should We Take Camping?

camp trailer What shall I pack to wear? What should we take along? What if I forget something important?

Packing for camping is quite different than for any other vacation. You will wear clothes more than once and get awfully dirty and it is really difficult to get used to the first time! (or the second time or the…..) What you need is layers of clothing in the event of temperature changes and not a variety of outfits. And….don't take light colored, new, expensive clothing - especially for the children). Camping for 3-5 days seems to be perfect for us. We have plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors and are excited to get back to the comforts of home. Many families are quite content to camp for 1-2 weeks at a time but it is probably a good idea to start small and work up to a longer trip.

Here is my packing list for a 3-5 day camping trip to the mountains, beach or desert:
Jeans (1)
Shorts (2)
# of socks and underwear for # of days
# of T shirts for # of days
Wick long underwear (1 set)
Bathing suits (2)
Aqua socks
Flip flops
Long sleeved T shirt
X tra tennis shoes or hiking boots

Pack for each person in their own tote bag clearly marked….different colors is even better for kids and keep all food and toiletries separate. No food in tent or car!!!

I take a tote of toiletries that can be easily stored in the bear box that includes a big zip lock for each person to take to the bathroom. I have found that not everyone goes at the same time and boys and girls go in different bathrooms so individual personal sized toothpastes etc…are really worth the expense and effort.

In each personal (labeled) zip I include:
Soap in a dish
Washcloth in a small zip

In addition I add to the family tote things like:
Prescription medication
Bandages (all sizes)
Aloe gel for sunburns
Extra perscription glasses for Joe
Bug spray
Nail clippers
Cream Rinse

And anything else your family might need while you are away from home. I pay attention to the things I reach for the week before we go camping and stick that into the tote when I pack.

We were in Alaska for a couple of weeks and in the RV almost 10 days so I took along zip locks of pre-measured laundry detergent and plenty of quarters. (I thought it was plenty but at $6.00 per load I ran out rather quickly)

It is important not to use toiletries in the tent in bear country - take them to the bathroom and use them there. Bears, other animals and bugs (especially mosquitoes) are attracted by scent and you will be sorry!

What else should we take? Many of the things you take along are specific to where you are going.

I always take along:
Camera, batteries and plenty of 'memory stick' or film - you just cannot have enough!
Flashlights for every person and at least one extra
Cash and change (in case there are no ATMs) Batteries
Bug Repellant
Sun Screen
Beach towels
Towels and wash clothes
Toilet paper
Tool kit (screwdrivers, hammer (and nails), pliers, etc)
Extra set of car and housekeys
Trash bags
Wipes and plenty of em
Paper plates, cups, napkins, towels and plastic utensils
Zip locks of all sizes
Water, water, water…. All sizes and plenty of it!
Games and cards
Jack knives for older kids….they love to whittle
Toys for the dirt/sand
Pillows - every one bring their own pillow!
Couple of blankets for the car
Water/sports items such as boogie boards, wet suits, swim fins, snorkels, masks
Fishing gear

I have each kid pack a backpack with their things - electronic, toys whatever and then we have it to empty and take along on a hike if we need them! And…the kids have something to do in the car and during 'down time' in camp! I try to add some new items that will be entertaining for each child before we leave!

I pack a snack bag with waters, Capri suns, chips, cookies, fruit and candy for the car trip and add napkins and wipes. I also make a thermos of coffee and Joe and I enjoy refills along the way.

We also make sure we have the invertor and adaptors for the kids electronic devices for the car and our phone and camera chargers packed for the trip.

dodge caravan Leave room for the passengers!

Remember the golden rule of car packing….first in…last out! Do not pack the tent and ground cover first or you will have to unpack the entire car to get to them!! We have a Dodge Caravan and we can just barely pack everything we need for a 5 day camping trip and fit the 3 of us in the car! Good Luck! Our friends have 3 kids so they got a cargo holder for the top of their car and it is still tight. Sometimes we take one of their kids or we split up boys in one car and girls in the other which is really fun!

Now that we have cots it is even more critical to think ahead and I find that staging everything in the garage in a pile that replicates the back of the van works for me. We remove the back seat, and have room for 4 or 5 depending on which seat we keep in the car. The mound of stuff always fits in the car but will little room left over! If there is any room at all we start looking for extra things to take that we might like to have…a surf board, wave board or maybe a skate board?

I believe one of the biggest problems of camping is that once you take a tent out of the carrying case when you buy it….it never fits back in that case with all the pieces….poles, tarps that fit over the top etc. You put the extra stuff in a trash bag so you can repack it 'later' and then you end up on your next trip with something missing. No one wants to go through the motions of setting up a tent at home but you absolutely have to take it out and make sure you have everything you will need unless it just came from the factory! Believe me, it has happened to us and it can totally ruin your vacation. Make sure you have all the parts before you set out. Note: we have solved this issue once and for all by purchasing a duffle bag that holds the poles, tarp, stakes and tent cover. Now, we have the tent bag and the "other" tent bag and everything fits into the 2 bags!!! YEAH!!!

We have two camping storage bins in the garage that hold our supplies. I always go through the stuff to make sure we have matches, ax, shovel, clothesline, work gloves, tools etc. etc. etc. that we will need to make a nice camp site and build a fire. I always forget a newspaper which makes starting a fire SO much easier!!! We don't take a newspaper so I have to go steal one from the neighbors and you have to get the timing just right!!

I pack the car the night before so that when it is time to leave we add the ice chests, thermos of coffee, pillows and people and hit the road! We ALWAYS leave early before it is even light because vacations are FUN and we are excited to get started!

Traveling with a dog….omg….this reminds me of when I was a child and I would go camping with my grandparents. Their dog, Rowdy, used to get car sick and throw up in the car after about an hour on the road. So, I do not travel with animals. We have a wonderful lady who comes twice a day and takes care of our pets and plants in their own home. That works for us. You need to make arrangements that work for you and your pets. If you plan to travel with a dog you MUST be sure you understand the rules and regulations of the campground before you go. Many camps do not allow animals and some do but have leash and other regulations that you must follow. It is especially critical in bear country that you understand the safety issues connected with traveling with pets.

Traveling with babies is wonderful and rewarding but requires a lot of planning to ensure you have what you need with you as you might not find diapers, formula etc. readily available. Campgrounds with bears also have special awareness information available for families traveling with very small children.

Remember that the trip to camping is part of your trip and should be FUN! Stop along the way and smell the roses, take a picture of a beautiful view or go through an interesting shop. (Joe loves old hardware stores….go figure) We normally buy lunch along the way. If we don't think that is going to work…I have lunch made in the snack bag or in a small, separate cooler so that it is easy and manageable and I don't have to unpack the car. I also pack swim gear for the family (separate) as we love water and always look for an opportunity to jump in a river, lake or the ocean and want to be ready without (again) unpacking the car. Throw a couple of large zip locks into the bag for wet suits!

Keep the camera handy - you will absolutely need it!

Our car has big, wide windows, which is great, but it gets really hot when the sun is shinning down on your side of the car. We have some screens that stick up on the windows that we keep handy under the seat. And, I always pack the tire chains under the seat unless we are going to the beach!

Make sure you have maps, reservation confirmations etc. in the glove box along with extra glasses for anyone who needs them. I keep several pairs of sunglasses in mine and someone is always glad I do!

Fill up with gas and check the fluids the day before and you should be good to hit the road! Get a good night's sleep - you will need it on your restful vacation - C A M P I N G!!!

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