Updated 8/9 from a post originally published 4/8/2014.
There are various camping ideas and hacks to make an outdoor adventure more fun. But how about making your trip more efficient and less messy? By preparing a little in advance, it’s possible to save yourself a lot of time and headache in the long run.
Poorly stored camp gear smells funky, deteriorates quickly, and becomes virtually unusable much faster than properly stored equipment. Unorganized camp sites are messy and create more work than necessary. These camping hacks will help keep everything in good shape before, during, and after your trip.
1. Use Clear Storage Bins for Camping Gear
When packing for a camping trip, it can be tempting to throw everything inside a duffle bag and call it a day. If space allows, pack all your gear inside clear stackable bins that will fit comfortably in the back of your car. Plastic bins are weather resistant, durable, and will help you keep everything organized
Save your duffle bags for clothing and personal items only. If children are coming along, give each child a different color duffle bag. Let them bring along a few choice belongings. Then, remind them to return all their toys and belongings to their duffle bag at the end of each day during the trip. This way, you don’t have to keep track of children’s items on top of everything else.
2. Have Extra Items That are For Camping Only
If you go camping more than a couple of times a year, it’s ideal to have items like utensils and paper plates already packed away. Instead of running around the house and borrowing essentials, create a “trip-ready” tote well in advance with a list of contents. This way, when your next trip rolls around, a good chunk of the packing will already be complete.
Some items you might want to include in your tote:
- Coffee mugs
- Paper products
- Dish rags
- Hand soap
3. Pack Items Intentionally to Save Space and Time
Space is at a premium when camping, so it’s important to be mindful about what you bring. You want to be comfortable at the campsite, but you also don’t necessarily need an excess of clothing and bulky items you won’t use.
Streamline your trip by considering the following:
- For clothing, roll it instead of fold it. This technique makes clothing easier to find, and it saves a ton of space.
- As you load the car, make sure items like the tent, flashlights, and necessary toiletries like bug repellant and sunscreen are easily accessible.
4. Keep the Camp Kitchen Organized
The best way to stay organized while camping is to make sure everything has a spot and that everyone at camp knows to put things back where they belong. One of the hardest areas to keep tidy is the camp kitchen because it contains a lot of miscellaneous items.
Here are some camping ideas to help with food prep:
- Use a plastic shoe organizer or fabric tool belt to organize utensils, dish rags, and everything else you’ll need to prepare a meal.
- Have two different coolers, one for food and one for drinks.
- For the food cooler, create a barrier between melting ice and food using cooling racks. To do this, pack ice at the bottom of the cooler then line with cooling racks and place food on top.
5. Repurpose Everyday Items for Practical Camping Hacks
There are many ways you can make your life easier while camping by using what you already have in your recycling bin.
Here are some camping hacks that will save you time and money:
- Keep toilet paper in an old coffee can so it doesn’t get wet or dropped on the ground.
- Hang up a roll of paper towels using a wire clothes hanger.
- Use an old ketchup bottle for pre-mixed pancake batter.
- Keep dry snacks in old Coffee-mate containers.
6. Dry Your Tent Thoroughly Before Storing
If weather permits, set up your tent up when you arrive home and let it dry completely. If you put your tent into storage while it’s still wet, be prepared to deal with mold, mildew and rot.
Once the tent is dry, clean away any dirt or sand. Do the same for the tent stakes and poles. It may seem silly to rigorously clean equipment meant to be outside — but doing so ensures you won’t track mud, dust or bugs inside your storage space. A clean, well-kept tent also makes sure your next camping adventure gets off to a fresh start.
7. Air Out Sleeping Bags Before Washing
Shake sleeping bags to release loose items from the inside folds. Next, air out each bag after a camping trip by placing it on a hanger or laying it flat. Try not to hang the sleeping bag in direct sunlight, as UV rays can damage the nylon.
Machine-washing your sleeping bag is preferable — but only in a front-loading machine.
A good tip for drying your sleeping bag is to place terry-cloth towels and two tennis balls inside the dryer. The cloth minimizes static electricity and speeds up drying time, while the tennis balls fluff the fill.
Once the sleeping bag is dry and repacked inside its sack, remember to remove the bag and shake it out from time to time. Sitting inside a bag for long intervals can alter the insulation.
8. Remove All Batteries from Camping Electronics
Always remove batteries from any flashlights, headlamps, GPS devices, or other electronic equipment before placing the items in storage. Taking this extra step ensures that you won’t have to deal with corrosion or leakage.
Store all batteries in a sealed plastic bag that you keep close to the camping equipment, so they are easily found when needed.
9. Scrub Cookware Then Keep in Resealable Bags
Always scrub and clean pots, pans, utensils and camp stoves before placing them into plastic resealable bags. A good cleaning upon returning home rids your gear of stray food drippings and crumbs that could attract insects and bacteria, while the plastic bags ensure no grime or dust infiltrates your cookery.
10. Keep All Camping Items in a Cool, Dry Place
Storing all camping items together in one spot is ideal. Make sure the storage space you choose is cool, dry, and away from any direct UV light. If space in your home is limited, consider renting a self storage unit — even if it’s small, it will keep all of your gear safe, dry, and out of your way.
Having specific systems in place while camping will give you more time to enjoy the great outdoors. What camping ideas do you have that help keep your family organized? Share in the comments below.