“This is the year, I will get to the sales and the winter clearance and get us organized…FINALLY” I announced after our friends started planning our annual group camping trip in December. We were not leaving until July, but no matter, planning started in the dead of winter.
You see, when you plan a large group camping trip, you have to start very early. We start the initial planning in December. It’s a great way to hang out with our friends that we usually only see online, and some of them we only get to see in person this way because they live in other states. Plus, for our family, it’s a great, inexpensive, fun vacation for all 6 of us. So, I’d like to share the logistical planning that happens to get us, not only geared up, but ready and organized so that packing is easy. I hate spending any extra money I don’t have to — so I search for sales, clearance, goodwill, yard sales… etc to find the absolute best deals on things we need.
Start with a list. Actually, start with a couple of lists:
We start with three lists (size of family doesn’t matter here):
– A list of what we own already.
– A list of what needs to be replaced or updated.
– A list of wishes. (things that we don’t need to replace or purchase but we really want).
– I also start/update my camping board over on Pinterest at this point too. My sister in law (Lindsey) and I share a group camping board for camping ideas and gear and we have a separate board for recipes
When you’re packing your family of any size, making a master list of what you need to pack is essential. This is why you see plenty of free lists on Pinterest this time of year (remind me to share mine with you later!) It’s easy to forget something that you may need. One year when I was a kid, I forgot my sandals…another my pillow (not my favorite years to say the least. The lack of pillow was not as bad as not having sandals the entire trip )
Purchase or “shop” your own belongings:
I have a love hate relationship with shopping. I like to shop and to find good deals, but I am also very mindful that I don’t actually need to consume more stuff. Camping, even the ‘car camping’ that we do, doesn’t need expensive or new products. That said, usually you can just ‘shop’ in your own kitchen and garage for things you can take with you.
Things I ended up using from what we already own:
- An older cutting board I meant to take to goodwill.
- A couple steak knives that were from a set that was given to us a decade ago. (Mr. Christensen had to sharpen them recently because they were so old and dull)
- My first camp plastic tote bin was a green tote that was filled with other crap. I ended up cleaning it out and donating the stuff inside.
- A copper bottom pot I had originally bought at a goodwill outlet for 25 cents.
- An egg pan that I earned for free while I was selling Pampered Chef
- A couple other older spatulas, a spreader, cooking fork and large spoons from various other sets and places.
- Old mismatched silverware that a roommate left behind.
- We didn’t buy sleeping bags for the adults we just used older blankets ( a least 2 for each adult)
We pack in clear bins:
OK, so, I’d like to reduce the amount of plastic we consume and though I think there are a lot of great uses for plastic (like the medical field) but it’s one of those materials that I think is utilized poorly. Plastic lasts forever….well not forever, but at least 400 years. That is a lot of time to decompose is a lot longer than we’ll be around for sure. Plastic, however, is used to create all sorts of disposable products instead. With a material like that, I’ve decided any plastic, if it has to be bought and used, has to be used for as long as I possibly can use it. No one time use plastics here!
That all said; we use clear plastic totes to store and transport our camping gear. The last set of totes we used lasted 10 years. I only retired them this year because the handles broke off and now they are inconvenient to haul heavy gear in so it’s now in the garage being used for things that are not moved around in the garage.
Clear totes are fantastic because they allow you to see the contents. I purchased mine this winter right after Christmas because the “Christmas colored” (i.e Green) totes are crazy cheap. I may have bought a few too many, but no worries I’ll find a reason to use them all. Best of all they have green lids — I like to color code and green for camping makes sense to me! As a large family that’s actually 2 smaller families that travel together for these things we keep our gear together, yet separate. Totes make this easy!
We keep our totes organized as such:
- Camp Kitchen Tote 1 and 2
- Camp gear (tarps, mattresses, tent stakes…etc) Tote 3, and 4
- Bedding (sleeping bags mostly) Tote 5 /6 (this tote doesn’t get packed in the car. We empty the sleeping things into the car. The plastic tote is for garage storage to keep out moisture and smells)
- Label your bins! It’s as simple as masking tape and a sharpie! When you need someone to grab a bin from their storage spot, telling them “grab bin #2” is better than “hey, grab that bin that has the orange-ish kitchen plates in it will ya?”
Other non tote things to pack:
- Cooler (or coolers in our case)
- Camp stove (if yours does not fit inside your kitchen tote)
- Cast iron pans (it’s not a great idea to weigh down your bins that much. I keep mine separate)
- First aid kit (if yours is large and again won’t fit in the camp gear bin (Totes 3/4). We have large tackle box that is our families first aid kit. It literally hold anything and everything)
- Tents (I’ve thought about putting ours in a tote.. but they just fit better in the car if they are not)
- Camp chairs.
- Kid’s backpacks (toys, books, whatnot)
- Clothing bag. (I could write a whole other article on what kind of clothing to take and how much per family member! Just remember, keep it simple. You don’t need nearly as much as you initially think you do.
You’ll need to figure out how your car needs to be packed. Totes make the unpacking and packing much quicker. When you pack up after the trip, just keep in mind that if you pack up carefully, you won’t have to repack for the next trip! Unpack the car when you’re home and you’re done! Well, except for laundry, you’ll need to get that going when you get home.