Whether you tent camp, tent trailer camp, or full on trailer camp, there are some simple systems you can put in place to make getting on the road as easy as possible without the “shoot, I forgot the . . . .”
I grew up in a family of campers, my mom taught me how to camp, just like her mom taught her. Just like housework, mid-century camping prep fell largely on the women and it still does a lot of the time. I find that figuring out how to feed my family and be prepared for a variety of unfortunate circumstances takes up the bulk of my time getting ready to camp. Otherwise, it’s pretty much a normal family trip. I have a three-pronged approach to camping with ease and, my friends, I’m going to share all the nitty gritty details with you today.
The Camp Chest
The Camp Chest is the central and most important component of any camping trip for our family. If you find yourself raiding your kitchen for cooking utensils before you leave and then kicking yourself for forgetting your can opener, listen up! The camp chest includes all your items for cooking and serving food at camp as well as a few other camping essentials. This set up is completely independent of your everyday cookware and dishes. These items are exclusively for camping use and never get removed from the camp chest for other purposes.
I would wait to purchase your actual camp chest until you’ve gathered together all your items so you have a sense of how big of a camp chest you will need. My camp chest is a Sterilite Footlocker with two galvanized steel latches and wheels on one end that make it easy to pull around. You don’t need the exact same one I have but you do want something that is rugged and will stand up to bad weather. My camp chest is pretty full when it has everything on my list packed up but there’s still a little wiggle room.
I’ve included a comprehensive list of everything that’s in my camp chest. Please don’t break the bank trying to make this happen. Most everything can be purchased at the Dollar Store or second hand. Camping isn’t about having everything perfect or matchy-matchy so glean things where you can. In fact, my husband and I just have a box we throw things in we’re downsizing from the house that we think might be good for camping. Next time I pull out the camp chest, I just go through it and swap out anything that might be better quality or in better condition.
Quick aside for my trailer camping friends.
You need to start this process by thinking about how you cook when camping. We have a tent trailer but we never cook inside. We were both raised as tent campers so we prefer to cook outside, it just feels more like camping to us. Having this camp chest that can keep all your cooking gear at hand is perfect for outdoor camp cooks. If you truly cook exclusively inside your camper, then you just want to make sure your cupboards are stocked with all the items listed.
My Camp Cook Kit
The back bone of my camp chest (and the most expensive item in it) is my camp cook kit. My mom had one of these, so did her mom. When I started camping on my own, it was a greatly appreciated birthday gift from her. I have the Open Country Weekender kit which consists of three pots with lids, two different sized frying pans, a coffee perk and cups (that double as measuring cups) and plates for six people. All of these items nest inside each other to make the best use of space in my camp chest. The cookware is quality and made for camping, I wouldn’t want to use it everyday at home but it’s great for its intended purpose.
The Clipboard and Master List
The second prong of my approach is my master list which I’ve also included for you. All of these lists are straight up, unfancified Excel spreadsheets. That was an intentional choice. I could have made these into super cute little printables but I want them to be truly useful. Everyone’s master list is going to be a little different and I wanted you to be able to add and delete things from the list to make it your own living document. You can download it from Google Docs and modify to make it your own!
Several days before we go camping, I sit down and update the master list with the specific needs for this trip taking into account length of trip, weather, activities, meal needs, everything. A little bit of intentional preplanning with save you a world of stress in the last few hours before you hit the road. When I finish updating the list, I print out all the sheets and keep it on a clipboard so its easy to keep track of and update. My list has several different sections including:
- Camp Chest: A comprehensive list of everything in the camp chest. I use this to double check the chest before each trip. This step allows me to refill some of the disposable elements like paper plates, aluminum foil, etc.
- Additional Camping Gear: This section is for camping staples that don’t fit in the camp chest (like camp chairs, flashlights, lanterns, etc.) Or items that are unique to this trip like hiking gear or boating gear.
- Kid Gear: This is a long one! It includes all the kids clothing, toiletries and sleeping stuff as well as any kids activities we’re bringing. I’m going to do a whole blog post on activities to bring camping with your kids so stay tuned for that!
- Mom and Dad Gear: Basically same as the kid gear section, this is how we make sure we’ve thought through how much warm and cool clothing to bring and ensure we don’t forget our sunscreen or the camera!
- Food: I break my food list into refrigerated and shelf stable categories. That way, I can gather up the lion’s share of the food well before we leave so the last minute scramble is only the frozen and refrigerated stuff.
The final step with the checklist is to bring the list with you camping. That way, if you identify something you forgot this trip or run out of something you usually have on hand, you can make a note for your next trip!
The Catch All Box
The last step to making this all run a lot smoother is having a dedicated camping catch all box. I move this box into my kitchen around the same time I get my list going. In this box, I pack all my shelf stable food but it also gives me a place to toss things as I think of them throughout the week leading up to camping. There is nothing worse than having an epiphany of something you should take camping and then forgetting it by the time you’re actually packing. This makes it easy to corral things in one place so they aren’t forgotten but they also aren’t cluttering up your kitchen counter.
There you have it! My three pronged attack: Camp Chest, Master List and Catch All Box. What do you think? Have any of you been using this approach already? Do you have any tips that have made getting ready to camp easier? I’d love to hear it! Comment below!