Staying organized while camping can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you have multiple people to pack for.
Over the years I’ve found some ways to stay organized and thought I’d share my tips with our readers, especially if you are traveling with a family or pets!
1. Pack Less Clothes:
It’s definitely important to bring the right type of clothes for camping – but the more clothes you bring the less space you have!
I am also a big believer in bringing clothes for all weather, since even the forecast can be cooler or warmer than you thought! But, the less you pack the more space you’ll have – so rather than pack an entire week’s clothes for 5 people I instead pack 3 days worth, a spare, and warm weather/cool weather clothes.
Then I bring laundry detergent and quarters – especially if the campground we are staying at has a washer and dryer or laundromat nearby.
If you are roughing it while camping, you can still 100% wash your own clothes.
2. Keep Camping Supplies Packed and Ready to Go:
I always keep in a few totes ready to go at a moment\’s notice (especially since we tend to go on a lot of last minute spontaneous camping trips) all of our supplies.
Yes, this means having two of everything, but it saves a ton of time, and doesn’t really take up that much space in the garage. This way, I don’t have to spend a lot of time packing things, I just grab the totes. You can usually get cheap versions of things (like a can opener, spatula, etc.) at yard sales and dollar stores.
3. Use Foldable/Soft Sided Totes:
My husband has something against the big bulky plastic hard-sided totes, especially since they can often times end up being emptied during a trip. This is especially true when packing consumable goods and things you’ll use up like foods or paper plates. When those totes are empty, it can be very hard to fit them into the car.
Soft sided totes and zippered bags work much better for this, because when not in use they can fold up and not take up valuable space when no longer needed. They are also easy to wash and generally lighter to carry. Even younger kids can carry a smaller tote that has lightweight items like towels in it.
4. Give Each Person Their Own Bag:
It’s really helpful for each person to have a backpack, fanny pack, or sports bag that they can keep for personal belongings. This is great for things like watches, wallets, medications, toys, etc. etc. Each person gets their own bag, and by keeping everything in it they’ll know exactly where their stuff is, and you won’t have a mess of things all over your camping picnic table! This is also good if you have younger kids who might need stuff during the car trip to your destination, such as a change of clothes or brings toys along.
5. Use Travel Sized Items:
Travel Sized food packages (ie: condiments) and toiletries can be huge space savers, especially when camping in a tent or you have a small car. You can also pack travel sized games or bring a deck of cards for entertainment. Think small when camping!
6. Create a Bath Caddy:
They sell bath caddy totes at most pharmacy and retail stores (especially in the summer as they are popular among college students) – and stocking it up to take for trips to the shower while camping can be really helpful.
7. Pack Your Cooler the Smart Way:
There are plenty of ways to pack a cooler, but some ways are definitely more efficient AND will help your food stay fresh and cold.
My favorite method so far is to freeze two gallon jugs of water and place inside the cooler – this way you do not have ice leaking all over everything! If you are camping for more than a few days, you can also fill these jugs with ice cubes. If you get an ice machine you don’t even have to buy ice.
Another thing that helps cut down on the mess is to keep all of your food in separated plastic bags. This can help prevent things like hot dog juice leaking into yogurt, cheese, or other foods in the cooler.
Here’s another big tip that will help you stay organized AND help your ice go farther longer: Keep separate coolers for food and beverages, as the beverage coolers will likely be opened more often.
8. The Essentials Should Be Easy to Reach At All Times:
When you first get to a camp site, the last thing you want to do is to be searching for where you packed the items you need urgently. Things like bug spray, an umbrella or a flashlight should be easy to reach at all times.
Bug spray should be available to you the minute you get out of the car – not buried deep in the car. You’ll also want rain gear, flashlights, and other things like that available pretty easily so when you arrive at your campground you’re ready for anything.
I actually keep bug spray, sunscreen, medications, and a flashlight all in the front door of my car – even when not camping all the time. You never know what you might need or when you might need something.
10. Always Keep Items in the Same Place:
This is hard with 5 people in our family, but it’s important that you always keep something in the same place each time you use it.
Keeping everything in the same, designated place while camping will help make sure that everybody knows exactly where to find the things they need when they need it!
11. Clean Up As You Go:
This is important because if you don’t clean up as you go, you can have a huge overwhelming mess to pick up later. Make beds when you wake up in the morning, process dirty clothes, do dishes after eating, etc.
Taking just 5-10 minutes to clean up while camping will make sure you have a much more fun and relaxing trip.
12. Keep All Food in Air Tight Containers:
Animals are attracted to the smell of food, and they can do a lot of damage to your campsite or put you in danger in some instances if they smell food. Air Tight containers will help reduce food scents that will attract animals to your campsite.
If you are using a cooler, you will want to make sure that you either get a bear-proof cooler or are able to put the cooler safely locked in the car each night.
13. Reduce Trash and Bring Your Own Trash Bags:
Some campgrounds supply trash and recycling bags, but many do not. Be sure to bring them with you. Coffee cans work great for storing them! You may also want to bring grocery store plastic bags for smaller trash.
Another thing to think about is just how much trash the average family can generate while camping. There are many ways to generate less trash while camping. It’s not only less of a mess for you to worry about cleaning up – it’s much more environmentally friendly as well!
14. Pack a Dedicated Bag for Swimming Items:
Having a bag specifically for all swim wear, swim goggles, etc. is a huge time saver when the kids are in a hurry to get the pool or the lake but you’re still trying to setup the camp.
If you’re camping near a beach, it’s also handy to have to just grab and go and know you have everything you need in one bag. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
15. Organize Pet Items:
When packing for your pet, be sure to give your pet his or her own bag also. You can store anything you might need for your pet: extra blankets, shampoo and brush, collars, leashes, medications or vitamins, pet first aid items and important vaccination information in the bag.
I hope this list of ways to stay organized while camping is helpful for you!
Is there anything you do that has made camping easier and more fun for your family? I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient and I would love to hear your tips and ideas for ways to organizing camping supplies in the comments section below!