by Regina Wu
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When our family decided that we wanted to start car camping on a regular basis, the thought of packing and unpacking sounded exhausting! Our friends, expert car campers, suggested that we assemble permanent camping supplies that could be used for all of our adventures. Following their advice, we found it surprisingly stress-free as long as we followed the three 'Ps:' Plan, Prepare and Pack. Now, it's quick and easy to do on-the-fly camping trips with our simple pre-inventoried camping cache.Quick Guide to Car Camping

When planning what went into our permanent camping arsenal, we started with a good checklist of everything we wanted to have with us. Then, we divided the list into categories that would fit easily into individual bins. For example: Tent, Kitchen, Utilities, Dry Foods, etc? Next, we purchased large, clear sturdy, plastic containers with secure lids for our checklist items. By using clear containers, we can take a quick glance to know the contents of each one.  We made copies of the individual checklist and taped each one securely onto its respective container (Hint: You can also write the list directly onto the container with a permanent marker).

We stack the bins in one area of our garage and pull them out whenever we go camping. Since we have a good-size mini-van, we load the bins right into our vehicle. When we get home from our camping trips, we clean any dirty containers and take inventory to replenish all necessary items before storing the bins for our next adventure.

Here are some container ideas and suggested content that we find useful for car camping:

  • Kitchen: (2) Pots, (2) pans, cooking utensils, corkscrew, bottle opener, aluminum foil, plastic zip-top bags, plastic wrap, extra sealable containers
  • Mealtime: Paper towels, napkins, plates, bowls, mugs and cups, eating utensils, dishtowels, dish soap, sponges, scrubber, small dishwashing bin
  • Dry Food: Shelf life juices, milk, instant coffee, cocoa, snacks, cereal, all-in-one dried meals, sealed pouches of ready-to-eat-curries, beans, rice, quick noodles like Top Ramen, spices, individually wrapped mustard, mayonnaise, jelly, peanut butter, vinegar, vegetable oil and ketchup
  • Utility: Multipurpose tools, hatchet, hammer, knife, flashlights, lanterns, batteries, matches, candles, lighter, rope (or nylon cord), duct tape
  • Tent: Sleeping bags, mats (or air mattresses), tent, tent stakes, poles, tarps to lay in front of tent and as a ground cover underneath the tent
  • Extra Blankets and Towels
  • First Aid Bin/Toiletries: Antibiotic ointment, pain reliever, alcohol swabs, bandages, anti-itch cream (mint toothpaste will also do the trick!), sunscreen, antihistamine, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, toothbrushes, floss, washcloths, liquid soap, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner
  • Fun Bin: Toys, shovels, buckets, balls, sports equipment, board games, pack of cards
  • Miscellaneous: Tablecloths, clips for tablecloths, extra towels, strong trash bags, other needs for your specific trip

After deciding on our bins and making the checklists, we prepared to pack each container by collecting all the items we planned to include and laid them out next to the container.  When actually packing the bins, we made sure things we would need right away were on top. It would not do us any good to stuff the tent and poles at the bottom of the container underneath sleeping bags and mats!

In addition to the containers, we stash a couple of gallons of water, a cooler, camping stove, propane, stack of wood, and folding chairs with our camping supplies.

By keeping our camping arsenal organized and replenished, we have gone on dozens of car-camping adventures effortlessly and efficiently. We just pack our daily clothes and personal items, stack our bins and supplies in the mini-van, and off we go!

If you're starting from scratch with car camping, we highly recommend checking out our Car Camping Tent Buyer Guide as well as our Complete Camping Checklist.

by Regina Wu


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