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Did you ever pack your car full of tent camping supplies, only to set up at your campsite and realize you forgot essential items?
This frustrating scenario happens all too often! The best thing is to have a plan that includes a packing list and affordable camping organisation ideas to avoid issues like finding out you forget rain jackets as you spot stormy skies heading your way.
When you plan, you can pack more efficiently and master car camping organisation so you can bring all your gear and still have legroom!
Tent camping organisation ideas include a packing checklist and purchasing specific totes and bins to hold all your supplies and gear. Next up are ways to simplify car camping organisation.
How do I organise my car for camping?
Car camping organization is a two-part process. The first is to take a good look at the space available in your vehicle for camping gear.
Without being realistic about your restrictions, you can’t formulate the best plan to pack essential camping gear while keeping it neat.
Spend some time taking a mental walk-through of all your previous camping trips. Make of list of all the items you need to make your campsite comfortable and functional.
Print out this list and laminate it. You can use it as a checklist for future trips to ensure you don’t forget important items.
Want to pack items not on the list? Avoid it, unless it was something critical you forgot to add (remake that list!) as it will only add to the chaos in the car but not add camping value.
Packing the Car
Pack your car in the reverse order of how you set up your campsite. If you set the tent up first, make sure it and all the corresponding accessories go into the car last, making it easily accessible.
You’ll only cause stress when you arrive if you must unload everything to reach your tent stakes and have to step around bins trying to set up the rest of your camp.
Avoid these Car Camping Mistakes
People make the most significant mistake when car camping by not maximizing space and just piling in gear willy-nilly.
The right storage options can streamline an otherwise jumbled mess of camping gear, so you know where to locate every item.
Floor well dimensions, seat width, and trunk depth and height will help you find the right size bins and coolers that fit perfectly, so no space is wasted.
Your bins should fill to the top, without a bunch of air space above the items. If there is extra room, use shorter-height containers to keep supplies from bumping around during travel and allow you to stack another bin or two on top.
Is it safe to car camp?
Car camping is safe when you use common sense in choosing your locations.
You want to avoid:
- Being shooed off by security in a no-overnight parking lot because you didn’t see the sign
- Harassment or theft from surly locals
- Dangerous wildlife
- Staying in a place your gut-instinct tells you to leave, as you’ll not get any sleep
Car camping is much safer with a partner or with a group, as more eyes and ears will detect problems faster.
Blocking off windows at night is another tip to avoid prying eyes if you are sleeping in the vehicle. A sizeable reflective window shade is excellent for front and back windows, while side windows are a good place for window clings that block views looking in but still allow you to see out.
What should you not bring camping?
Camping gear organisation ideas include knowing which items you should not bring along.
A big car camping no-no is bringing unnecessary items “just in case.” Unless you are camping way off-grid, you’ll never be far from a store where you can pick up more bug spray or quart of milk if you run out.
One towel is plenty, and it’s perfectly fine to wear clothing more than once. You can always pop into a laundromat during long car camping trips.
Inexpensive Ways to Organise Camping Gear
How to organise camping gear inexpensively depends on your vehicle and if you plan to empty all your gear at each campsite.
To store supplies you plan to always leave in your car, opt for stacking drawer units. These work best in SUVs or vehicles with a hatchback door or leave it sitting on the back seat.
Drawer units are much easier to access supplies in tight spaces than pulling out and opening large bins.
The best camping storage solution for clothes and personal items is compressible packing cubes made of waterproof material. Cubes come in many sizes and stack neatly for travel.
One large cube can hold several days’ worth of clothing and a towel. The filled cubes can double as a pillow or cushion at the campsite.
Designate one color per person, so no one is searching for their items.
As you wear clothes, consolidate the contents and use an empty cube to hold dirty items.
Camping gear like tents, tarps, hatchets, and camp stoves are necessary for most campers.
Tents are wonderfully compact during storage, which helps you tuck them along the tops of your supply bins holding your rope, tiedown stakes, ground covers, bivy sacks, and rain jackets.
One of the best car camping storage ideas for camping gear is to use durable, weather-resistant bins made for outdoor use. These cubes have hinge-top lids and can handle the weight of an adult.
Items you don’t want or need inside your tent, such as extra bug spray, ropes, and tarps, fit perfectly in these bins, which can be left outside. The bins double as convenient campfire seating, so you don’t need to bring along camp chairs.
Press-out vacuum-seal bags are the best solution for the compact packing of sleeping items such as pillows and sleeping bags.
You can roll up sleeping bags, tuck them into a large vacuum bag, seal off the top, and press out all the air through the resealable valve.
Once you remove the air from the sleeping gear, the bags are thin and flat, making it a breeze to place on top of bins or stack on the backseat.
Most sleeping bags for camping come in compressible bags that cinch down once it’s inside. These bags are also a good option, but the final result is bulkier and takes up more space in the car.
Keep a separate bin that holds your propane tanks, camp stove, pots, utensils, cooking spices, and oils. Add in a plastic dishpan full of dish soap, sponges, paper towels, and trash bags.
Having all your cooking and cleanup supplies in one bin makes it simple to pull out for meals and tuck out of the way when not in use.
If possible, string a rope near your cooking and cleanup area.
Use S-hooks to hang pots, pans, and large grilling utensils, so they stay out of the way when not in use and can air dry after washing. Use a mesh bag to hold eating utensils.
For dry goods, use a large, lidded plastic bin. Reduce packaging size by removing snacks from pouches or boxes and placing them in ziplock bags.
Place canned goods at the bottom and place lighter items on top, like chips and bread.
Packing one large cooler is not the smartest move, as it can be heavy and bulky. Instead, consider two or three smaller coolers that are much easier to pack into the car.
Line the cooler bottom with pre-frozen water bottles (you can drink as they thaw), and place perishable foods on top. You can separate items, such as drinks, meats, or veggies, to make it easier to grab what you want without rummaging through one large cooler.
Having smaller coolers also allows you to take one along on a hike or keep one in the tent for quick access to a late-night beverage. Once one is empty, you can use it to hold recyclables until you get home.
Handling trash at remote campsites with no waste collection facilities entails a smart solution.
I find the best way to streamline trash is to dual-purpose a plastic tote with a lockable lid.
Start by filling the bin with items you will unload at the campsite, such as your packing cubes full of clothes or firestarters and firewood.
At the campsite, unload, then line the bin with a large bag, and use it for trash. The locking lid will keep critters out and odors in.
Once you’re ready to leave, tie up the inner bag, close the lid, and pack it back in the car.
At home, dispose of the trash, wash the bin with a disinfectant solution, and use it to store camping gear until next time.
The best camping organisation solution for random small items, such as phone or USB cords, mp3 players, or portable battery chargers, is to stash them in a roll-up toiletry travel bag. You can hang it from the interior of your car, so they will stay safe from the elements and won’t be getting lost inside your tent.
Another great storage solution is to hang a mesh shelf inside your tent. You can place bulky items like pillows up off the floor during the day or spread out damp clothes so they can dry overnight.
For long and sharp roasting forks, use a shipping tube with plastic pop-on ends. The slim design makes it simple to pack in the car while protecting your belongings from pokes or tears from the pointy ends.
Create a bathroom or shower tote bag you label for easy identification. Place TP, wipes, shampoo, soap, or other essentials in baggies inside a weather-proof zippered tote that you can hang in the tent or from a tree so you can grab and go.
Break down fishing poles and put them in cinch-top nylon bags with a carrying strap so the line or hooks won’t catch on other items while in the car. The bag also makes it easier to carry down to the river or lake.
Being organised while camping lessens stress by allowing everyone to keep track of their personal belongings and find supplies quickly.
Using the camping organisation ideas above will help you pack easier, keep your campsite tidy, and most importantly, never let you forget essential items ever again!