I love reading blog posts about family camping. I usually come away with a great organization tip, a neat campfire recipe or an idea for a fun activity. Because of that I decided to write my own blog post about how we organize, pack up the gear, and enjoy our camping trips in case I might have some ideas that help a reader or two on their next camping trip.
My husband and I have made many changes to the whole camping experience as our family has grown in size. Having six children makes camping more fun than ever, but it also adds a few challenges. Below I will share some ideas about how to deal with those challenges and capitalize on the fun.
For me it all starts with the planning, and the planning takes place in this well used binder! It's starting to look a bit sad, I'll admit. I've used it for 5 years now and it's very worn. My kids have decorated and redecorated it for me, and while I would like to start over with a nice clean binder, the stickers and finger smudges hold memories, so I'll refrain for now and show you a very real picture. This poor notebook has been tossed onto car seats, left in the rain on picnic tables, taken to sandy beaches and even stepped on.
What is in this binder? Everything that has to do with any of our camping trips or vacations, except pictures. It's not a scrapbook of memories about our trips, it's a planner. That being said, each time I pull it out I do a quick review of past trips and it brings back great memories.
I use a dividing page for each trip. Behind that I put the itinerary, menus, shopping lists, phone number of the camp ground, reservation confirmations and, once a arrive, I include one of the pamplets that the state parks usually have a available to visitors. On this pamphlet, which often contains a map, I mark where our site is, and I note which sites look really good incase we return for another trip. This has really come in handy!
Elsewhere in the binder I have sections for our camping gear check lists, notes regarding fun menu ideas, and notes about great gear or packing ideas that I see other campers using.
Finally, I have a page with important phone numbers and addresses: the kennel where the dog might be staying (although she usually comes with us), trusted neighbors in case we suddenly remember we left the iron on (lol), and the addresses of people we might want to send post cards to.
Once I get everything organized on paper it's time to get it physically organized. I have four systems that help with this. When we camp the first time each season, I go through everything with my checklist and make sure it's all ready to go. Then, I just replenish used up food or items that need to be replaced for any additional trips we want to take. I can pack this group of 8 campers and dog up pretty quick because it's all organized and ready.
My four systems are:
1 - Sterilite stacking drawers.
2 - The giant, bear proof cooler.
3 - Food pantry bin.
4 - Duffle bags.
Starting from the bottom of the list and working up, the duffle bags are used for clothing (obviously). Below is a picture of some of them that are waiting to be packed into the van. We have two colors - army green and black. No one has their own. When it's time to pack up, everyone gets a bag with a different colored bandana tied to the end. That person simply remembers his or her bandana color for the trip. These bags were big enough for our two week trip out west, but since they can be folded up they also work for weekends.
This past fall when we camped every weekend for 6 weeks in a row, I literally washed the clothes and put them directly back into the bags for each person. Easy peasy.
We have one extra bag that stays packed all the time. This is our emergency weather bag. In this very important bag we have for each person:
Rain gear - pants and jackets with hoods. No ponchos. Little kids can't play in ponchos and if they fall in the mud their pants are soaked. Rain pants keep them dry and are easily hosed off when muddy. (Believe me, I know! :)
For little people I also include ultra warm footed sleepers.
protein powder for my son with Celiac, pancake mix, etc. I have a list of items to keep in this bin that I've taped to the lid. That way I don't forget important things like coffee!
And finally, there are the Sterilite drawers. Here they are under our camp table. I love these things. They hold everything we need for camping and we keep them loaded, all the time. When we get back from a trip, they go directly into the closet where they live until the next trip. In these drawers are everything from clothes lines to cast iron pans. The smaller, 3 drawer unit is on top of the table. This is where we keep things that we use a lot, like flash lights, bug spray and one of them holds the silverware. Once again, this stays packed all the time. It goes directly to the camping closet at home and it's ready to go when we need to pull it out for the next trip.
So that's how I organize. I will admit, the first time I got all this gear together it was a huge task. But I can say it was worth it. It is so easy now to get everything together to camp. Going to the grocery store to buy the food is probably the biggest ordeal. Everything else is ready to go, and we don't forget things like camp stoves and matches. It's all right there. Next time I'll give you a tour of one of our camp set ups.