America’s long time love affair with camping goes back to the days of Thomas Edison. He headed out with Henry Ford and a group of like-minded friends in tents to explore as “The Vagabonds”. The American public has been fascinated with the idea of camping under the stars ever since. However – getting ready for that big outdoor adventure can leave any family rattled. Did we pack enough? Did we plan on bringing so much we can’t fit it all in? Then there are weight limits for cars or trailers. Here are a few camping tips on packing to help you plan for that greatest of summer vacations, the camping trip.
Camping Tip #1 – Lists, lists, lists!
I will admit that I love the use of lists for preparation for anything. But when it comes to getting set to go camping, these lists are absolutely life savers. Start on your preparation list weeks ahead, jotting down items as they occur to you. If you keep the list on your computer then you can always print it out every time you go. This will allow you to adjust it as you decide that old list had too many items or the wrong ones. Create categories such as food, equipment, cooking stuff, clothes, first aid and of course fun games. I have friends who always bring a board game for playing after supper. Seasonal items can be noted separately if you plan to camp at different times of the year. Not sure how to get started? Check out Real Simple’s sample list to get you going.
Camping Tip #2 – Pack Smart
It is so easy to let “packing creep” send your carefully ordered list out of control. For experienced campers it can be as simple as adding that little item or two each year. For beginners it may be just bringing more than you need period. Really look at what you plan to bring, and then start eliminating anything that is “just to be safe.” No we don’t mean eliminate the First Aid Kit, but maybe that third pair of jeans can stay home. There are Laundromats at most camp sites these days, so plan on doing a load if you stay longer than a week. And packing modular, in those plastic boxes you see at hardware stores, can help keep your camping gear collected between seasons. It is so much easier to check off “camping gear box” than each individual piece.
Camping Tip #3 – Practice Makes Perfect
If you just picked up a new tent, setting up for the first time away from home is not the smartest option. I can speak from experience, having set up a new tent in the pouring rain one year, running back to the car to read the instruction manual while my Dad and I struggled with a tent twice our normal size. Even if you plan to camp in an RV, setting it up the first time in the comfort of your backyard is your best bet. It will also give you a chance to see if you have all the equipment you need and if tenting you can apply a seam-sealer that will make your tent more water tight. Knowing which valves do what on that RV might be easier to figure out at home then in the middle of your first night out.
Camping Tip #4 – Essentials Make The Difference
There are four items you want to take on every camping excursion, no matter the time of year or where you are heading. These are:
- Tarps – You can’t have too many of them and there are a 100 uses for them.
- Rope – Same as above and it helps if you know a few essential knots too.
- Garbage Bags – These are so versatile and take next to no room.
- Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda – If you have pets or inquisitive children, this is essential in case of wandering skunks. You do not want to be riding home with a skunked kid or dog.
So don’t put off that camping trip another summer. Put your list together, gather your essential items and head out to the great outdoors with the whole family. From pouty teens to excited toddlers, it will still be a holiday to remember. And don’t forget the camera for your memory books!