We’re two days out from our camping trip and today we’re putting all the finishing touches on packing. Thursday morning we’ll be filling up our coffee mugs, loading up and heading out. This big annual trip actually takes place on an island (in the Thousand Islands along the St. Lawrence River) so while we have the ability to get to and from the mainland by boat, we try to make sure we don’t forget any of our essentials because running out for supplies is a kind of a pain. At the same time, we don’t like to pack too much because we have to shuttle everything to the island by boat so we also can’t just pack stuff for the sake of packing stuff. Over the last few years of going on this trip, I’ve broken our packing process down into a method that seems to keep us pretty organized so today I’m sharing my must-have camping supplies as well as a few tips for packing!
First up, a few things I can’t live without while camping! A percolator for making coffee over the fire and a couple of good mugs. (I love enamel camp mugs, but your favorite mug will be fine!) There’s nothing I love more than waking up early in the woods and sipping coffee while the day wakes up. Folding chairs (these ones are adorable but any basic folding chair or camp chair will do) are essential for lounging while sipping said coffee or chilling by a fire in the evenings. A cast iron skillet for cooking up grub over the fire (see 10 awesome camping recipes to get inspired), a high quality water bottle for staying hydrated and a stash of notebooks for the brainstorms and ideas that inevitably occur once I’m happy and relaxed. Oh, and bonfire forks! You can use them for everything from marshmallows to hot dogs and I never leave home to go camping without them.
Click through for my camping packing tips!
TIP 1: For longer camping trips or those in remote locations (such as our trip this week), I like to start creating my packing list approximately 1 month out. Begin by taking pen to paper and just brainstorming a list of everything you think you might need. Be sure to think about cooking, sleeping, toiletries, clothing and those must-have things like bug repellant, sunscreen, a first aid kit and toothpaste. Once I have a master list, I split the list into three categories – things we already have, things we need to purchase and food we need to purchase. As things are acquired and packed, I check each item off the list until it’s all done and we’re ready to camp!
TIP 2: Three to four weeks out, begin shopping for anything you may need to purchase, including food. We generally try to chip away at things like food a little bit each week leading up to the trip to help absorb the added cost, stashing things like veggie burgers and hot dog rolls in the freezer. Cases of water, beer and juice get stacked in the mudroom so they’re not in the fridge where we would definitely drink them beforehand otherwise. By the time camping week rolls around, we usually have little to nothing left to purchase.
TIP 3: Two to three weeks out, revisit your list of things you already own and begin organizing them and placing them into plastic bins and totes for easy transport. For me this includes things like coolers, sleeping bags, tents, camp chairs, our tent fan, bonfire forks, etc. I do things like check that batteries are still working and that anything that might need to be wiped down from our last trip is cleaned up before we go. I organize the plastic totes as we go, separating items by cooking, sleeping, etc. When we go to set up camp we can easily find the things we need. While camping, the totes become the perfect place to stash food, coffee filters and snacks.
TIP 4: One week out, take a couple of hours and set up your tent(s) in the backyard and blow up your air mattresses. I like to sweep out the tents, wipe them down and then allow them to air out for a day before taking it down, rolling it up and repacking it for our trip. I stick the air mattresses (and, yes, we definitely go camping with air mattresses) in a bedroom, blow them up and then allow them to sit overnight to determine if they’re still holding air because we often only use them a few times a year. If they need patching or replacing I take care of that before we go. This is also when I scrub down and clean out our coolers to make sure they’re all ready to go.
TIP 5: The last thing I do, once everything is packed, is make sure we haven’t forgotten anything. The first year we went on this annual camping trip, there were only three coffee mugs on an island of fifteen or more coffee drinkers. Nearly all of us forgot a mug…but we had coffee and filters for days. Go figure! (Needless to say we spent a lot of time washing and sharing those three mugs that week.) So with about 24 hours to go, I try to think of anything we might have forgotten on the original list. Things like chargers, playing cards, water shoes, can koozies and, um, coffee mugs. Also be sure to remember any prescription meds, towels for swimming and bathing and toothpaste. (Which makes this the second time I’ve mentioned toothpaste.)
And that’s that, friends! I hope this is helpful for any of you who might be embarking on a camping trip. I considered creating a printable packing list for you, but in looking at my list it’s really quite specific to this trip, but let me know if you think it would be helpful anyway and I’d be happy to put one together for you. Oh, and two sleeps until we go camping! I can’t wait. Seriously. Dying over here.Percolator | 2: Enamel mugs | 3: Folding chairs | 4: Cast iron skillet | 5: S’well water bottle | 6: Little notebooks | 7: Bonfire forks.]
This post includes affiliate links. Read more about our editorial policies.