Camping 101: Knowing What to Pack
This is the second of a three-part series on camping by Tammie Dooley. If you enjoy it, be sure to subscribe to stay updated.
More and more baby boomers are retiring and heading back to nature after decades of material excess. We‘re no longer interested in crawling in and out of a small tent, sleeping on the ground, scrounging up a meal over a 3 inch burner, and deploying the grunge look for that week in the wilderness. But camping has an irresistible nostalgic allure, is a very affordable means of travel and unfortunately, still has many women digging in their 3-inch heels against it.
Baby boomer or not, female or male, this article is for all of you who want to camp, but can’t (or don’t want to) hack the roughing-it part.
The Camper’s Packing List
The first article in this series on camping covered camping tips and tricks to help ensure you get a good night’s sleep while camping. Eventually though you have to step outside the tent. Listed below are the things you should bring along to make that experience as pleasant as your good night’s sleep.
- A 10 ft x 10 ft EZ Up canopy. It’s a $140 roof for your campsite. Place them over your picnic table area for taking meals out of the sun, cooking, playing card games, etc. They’ll make your camping area look like a Saharan caravan. They come in a heavy duty carrying case, and are a breeze to erect and store. Tip: you can find them at Academy or similar sporting goods’ stores for less than online. But the online site is helpful for seeing what’s available. The website is below.
- Two burner camp stove. These run the gamut from the basic table top model to fancier ones that are free-standing. For our general camping trips, we still use the table top model placed on the end of a picnic table; plenty of propane bottles for the stove; striker to light the stove.
- One cast iron skillet or non stick skillet. A pan for heating water. A camp coffee pot. Coffee (the only food item I’ve listed and the only one I can’t live without). Insulated cups for coffee, tea or soup. Utensils. Heating pads/gloves. Kitchen towels. Paper towels. Salt & Pepper (Grinders makes a pair of small, plastic shakers perfect for camping). Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap (comes in other scents but the peppermint smells so clean). It’s concentrated so a little goes a long way even in cold water. You can use it for everything, even bathing, and it’s easy on the environment (completely biodegradable). Scrub pad for clean-up. Spray cleaner, plastic tub for transport of dishes. Foil. Spray oil. One cookie sheet (multi-purpose).
- One multi-tool. No household should be without one of these, much less a camp site! Otherwise: bottle opener, screw driver, scissors, knife, pliers, tweezers, toothpicks, file, wire cutter.
- Cork screw, bottle stopper.
- Camp lantern. BATTERIES.
- Toilet paper and handi-wipes. Put them in an open weave mesh cinch sack and tack them to a tree.
- Bag chairs for everyone. Preferably with the drink holders in the arm.
- A large rubber mat for your tent’s exterior door mat. You can find these at kitchen supply stores.
- Small camp/bag/lawn chair to be kept outside your tent door for putting on shoes, etc.
- A small card table. Metal works great here since it’s easy to clean, the weather won’t affect it, and they’re lightweight. This table is indispensable in the camp cooking area or as a place to sit the kids to work on a puzzle, play games, or take their meals.
- Marine cooler with plenty of block ice; ice pick. Makes a great bench.
- Separate cooler for drinks and food.
- Vinyl tablecloths to cover the picnic table and the small extra table for the camp kitchen.
- You know when it rains or there’s been heavy dew and you have to sit at the picnic table? To alleviate this issue I pack a couple of what I call “gardener’s knee squares”. They’re a square piece of closed cell foam, fit most behinds perfectly, serve as a shield from the dampness, and provide some cushioning!
- An assortment of bungee cords (different lengths), large “S” hooks, clothes’ pins, various sized carabineers, etc. for an plethora of needs. The clothes pins can be used to close food packages, a use I overlooked for years.
- Plenty of nylon parachute cord. Besides making a great clothes line, it’ll come in handy numerous other unfathomable ways. Throw in a few nails. They come in handy for nailing the trash sack to a tree or making a place to hang the mesh bag for TP and handiwipes.
- A package of wood wedges for leveling things in the tent and around camp. Makes life oh so much more pleasant.
- Several packages of Extra large Wet-ones for tent bathing, kitchen clean-up, etc.
- Hand pump of sanitizer to keep in camp kitchen.
- A small hand ax. Many campgrounds provide fire rings and while you can purchase firewood and bring it with you, it’s fun to take a little walk in the woods and gather it yourself (watch out for poison ivy, snakes, etc. – know what the dangers are in your area). Make sure your campground allows this. And I’m not talking about felling any trees. Rather picking up fallen limbs, sticks, etc.
- Fire starters. There are several types available. My favorites are “Magic Fire Starters”. You can get them at Cabelas.com.
- Once you establish whether or not you can have a camp fire which will be dependent on the camp grounds and weather conditions, choose the appropriate “paper” ware. If I know we’ll have a campfire, I prefer paper cups, plates, etc. and then carefully burn them in the fire ring. If not, then you’re stuck with plastic, but with those you can wash and re-use them to an extent.
- A black Sharpie for marking drinking glasses, etc. Attach it to a cord and keep it in the camp kitchen. Anyone removing it and not replacing it gets a pop of the dish towel.
- I’m getting greener and so purchased a Lexan fork/spoon/knife set that I wash and re-use for every meal.
- A large heavy duty trash sack. I’m in the market this year for a folding trash can (in which I’ll put the trash sack instead of tacking it to a tree). Actually they’re sold as pool side accessories, but they work great for camping and fold down to take up only a tiny amount of room when storing. I think Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, among others sell them.
- Being outside all day chaps my lips. They sting at night, which experience has taught me interferes with my sleep, as in miserably interferes with it. SO I bought a long lanyard and attached to it a tube of Eco Lips “Face Stick” a small stick of 30 SPF sunscreen that can be used on face or lips (website information below), a tube of Burt’s Bees replenishing lip balm for nighttime use, and a whistle. The whistle is great for calling kids (my son is grown now but I’ve got just under 20 nieces and nephews), calling out in the wilderness if you need help or to find other’s in your party, etc. I get up every morning and put the lanyard and headlamp around my neck. I never have to look for sunscreen or chapstick and I never get caught at night without some light to guide my way back to the tent.
Whew! I’ll leave the food and drink items up to you.
Once you’ve got these things assembled, you’ll need a way to organize and transport. I recommend the large, clear storage boxes now available everywhere. The lids snap down with handles on both ends.
One Final Suggestion
Last summer after many camping outings, my husband and I sat down to eat the wonderful one skillet breakfast he’d prepared of eggs, sausage, peppers, hash browns, and cheese only to discover I forgot to pack forks or spoons. When it comes to camping, improvisational skills are vital! We ate our meal by alternating the spatula he’d used to cook the meal. The thing was so big we could only use the corner of it – a very memorable meal!
So my last suggestion is this: Make a list and put it in the permanent camp box. Add to it as needed. Then follow it.
Here’s a list of websites that will get your camp stocked in no time.
- Sierra Trading Post
- Eco Lips
- Burt’s Bees
- EZ Up Direct
- Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps