Organized Camping | Giftie Etcetera: Organized Camping

Monday, June 18, 2012

Organized Camping

I took my family camping last weekend.  I'm pretty sure we brought home a frog.  I don't ACTUALLY SEE a frog, but my unpacked bags keep, well, CROAKING.  I think I might let hubby unpack.

Instead (of accidentally touching frog slime - gross), let's focus on packing and camping!  Yes, you can be organized at the camp ground.  And yes, it does make life easier.

About a week before you list, create a packing list.  It should include your normal packing list (so you don't forget to bring your meds or socks), plus anything special you need for camping.  Since we hadn't been camping in years, I googled a ton of camping packing lists and culled what I needed from those lists.  As you buy and pack items, cross them off.  But only cross items off with a single line and keep the list.  After the trip, go through and decide what worked, what you actually needed, and what you didn't even use.  Then type up a new Master Camping Packing list, using your crossed out list as a guideline, that works for your family.

In the Tent:

As soon as we arrived, we set up the tent.  Each person's sleeping bag and pillow went into the tent, lined up as if they were beds.  
Once you put up the tent, either put your suitcase with all the clothes in the trunk of the car (if you are parking near the camp site and walking to a public rest area to change clothes) or at the foot of each person's sleeping bag in the tent (if changing in the tent).  I like a separate small bag for each of us, since the kids are old enough to pick out their clothes.  We happen to all have tote bags, but if you don't, cheap reusable grocery tote bags or garbage bags are good for packing camp clothes.

For our trip, I thought we would use more clothes than usual (because we would be hot and dirty), but, in reality, we used less clothes than usual.  The thing about camping is that you are going to get dirty and stinky anyway, so why change clothes?  (Maybe the people staying with us at the campsite would disagree?  ;))  Also, we never changed into jammies.  We just slept in whatever we were wearing.  So, instead of doing the VERY STUPID THING I DID and packing two outfits per day, try packing one layered outfit per day and one single extra outfit for each family member.  The advantage of layers (we are in the Deep South, so for us it meant a tank, a t-shirt, and shorts with sandals) is that you can wear just the lightest layer when it's really hot or to sleep in and the extra layer (our t-shirts) in the cooler weather of the early morning or if it rains.  If you are like us, there will be a day when you don't wear the t-shirt, leaving you a spare top if something gets really dirty and you need to change.  In addition, I would add one extra outfit each person (for when you get caught in a thunder storm or fall into the lake).  No sleepwear is necessary since you are just wearing your clothes to sleep.  We would have had much more room in the car without the sleepwear.

Don't forget a dirty clothes' bag!  Tuck it in the corner of the tent and be diligent about clothes going INTO the bag.

We also brought a tent bag, containing sun screen, bug spray, matches in a ziploc, fire starters (cotton balls and petroleum jelly) in a ziploc, the tent light (a NECESSITY), the tent fan (we didn't use it), and the mallet for putting the tent up.  We SHOULD HAVE brought a small shovel for the fire, but didn't.
Specialty Gear:

If you are going to leave the immediate camping area for any reason, put everything that is leaving with you in one place.  We don't fish or take long hikes, but since we do go swimming, bathing suits and floaties/life jackets go in a backpack.  (A backpack is good for portability.)

Consider how you will use the toiletries.  I like to brush my teeth at the tent (because I do it so often during the day), so my toothbrush and hair brush went with my clothes at the foot of my sleeping bag.  But the kids do much better at the public rest area (complete with bathrooms and simple showers).  So from now on, minimal toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, soap that can double as shampoo, one ziplocked wash cloth per person, flip flops) go in ONE bag and we ALL take the trip to the showers at the same time. 

Assigned Camp Chairs/Spots:

When we arrived at the campground, we assigned each person a spot - a soft folding chair with those little cup holders on the arms.  This trick solved a lot of problems.  (Bonus: they serve as a time out spot!)  If you don't bring chairs (say, on a hiking trip), draw a circle in the sand or ground for each person.  In front of the chairs, write your names in the ground/leaves/sand/rocks.
Towels can do double or triple duty.  They make a decent pillow in a pinch.  They work for swimming and for showering.  The trick is to get each family member to keep their towel clean, dry, and reasonably easy to find. If you drape the towel over the assigned chair, it can dry out and be ready the next time you need it.  

We also assigned each person a water bottle or thermos.  Keeping the water bottle in the cup holder whenever it wasn't in use (and rinsing it with water to keep it clean) meant no need for disposables or lots of drinks.

Each person got a flashlight, and, you guessed it, had to keep it in their chairs when not in use.

Books went in ziplocs under the chairs, as did any personal toys (we brought almost nothing for this short trip) and sticks for roasting marshmallows and weenies!

A tupperware container filled with silverware can also be placed under the chair for use when eating.  That way, each person only needs one set of eating utensils and can use this container as a plate or bowl (rinsing it between uses, of course).

Food and Drink:

Next time, I'm learning from my mistake (over packed food and didn't prep it).  I am prepping food in advance.  Steaks will be frozen in their marinade and veggies will be pre-chopped.  (They will defrost in the ice chest.)  Peanut butter sandwiches will be made and put in containers.  Breakfast will be simple and pre-rinsed (fruit) and pre-measured (cereal).  I will plan a menu, instead of just bringing a bunch of food.

We did better with water.  A gallon a day for every two people was plenty to drink and to rinse eating containers.  Empty gallons can be filled at the stream for putting out the fire at night.  For the kids, as a treat, we brought single serving packets of sugar-free koolaid mixes.  They loved making their own drinks!

Each person can pick ONE snack food and bring it to share. One can of pringles, one bag of cookies, one container of fruit, and one box of crackers would have been plenty, even if we stayed two more days. We don't do much junk food at home, so I went a little crazy this time and brought too much.

I put all the dry food in a clothes basket:

And I covered it with a changing table cover, which doubles as a food prep area at the campsite:

Finally, don't be STUPID LIKE ME and forget all the alcohol on the kitchen counter.  On the plus side, I can now drink the alcohol until the frog hiding in the luggage doesn't bother me anymore!


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