Posted on May-27-2017 at 3:17 pmShare on

The Top 6 Packing Tips for Car Camping

It’s Memorial Day Weekend! And that means it’s the unofficial start of camping season. It’s time to load up  and go car camping! But what’s exactly the best way to go about that? How will you make everything fit (especially with kids and a dog!)?

Well, the REI Blog recently came out with a post on how to most efficiently pack your car. That got us thinking here at Find Your Campsite – what are our time proven strategies for packing a vehicle the right way?

Here’s our top 6 tips!


                            What are the things you need to have a great camping trip?  (photo credit:


Tip #1: Keep a Continuous Packing List

This is our top tip and will make your camping trips so much better in the future. If you don’t have one already, start a “camping list” note on your phone (so you’ll always have it nearby). Each time you think of something that you need while on your next camping trip just write it down! Did you forget a wine opener? Need to purchase a headlamp for the next trip? Just make a note in your phone. Over the last couple of years our list has grown, and now each time we’re packing for a trip, the first thing we do is consult our camping list.

Tip #2: Only Bring What You Need

I’m often surprised at how little you need to have a great time camping. Examine your gear and ask yourself: is this a want item or a need item? Tent, pad, and a sleeping bag? Of course that’s a need. Your laptop and those 5 magazines you’ve been meaning to read? I’m not so sure. Place the “want” items to the side and see if you’ll have room near the end.

Tip #3: Lay Everything Out

Photo Credit:

If you have a garage or driveway, this is an excellent place to sort your items. A living room or even a kitchen would work fine too. Lay out all your gear. This will help you with Tip #2 and will also assist in visualizing how you’ll pack your car, truck, or SUV (that’s why a garage or driveway is the best spot for this).

Tip #4: Work Backwards

Similar to REI, we agree that it’s crucial to pack your most important items last. With early season weather, you may be arriving in the rain, snow, or even extreme heat (hello Phoenix, hello Las Vegas). Take a mental or written note of the items you’ll need first when you get to your camping site. Most likely this will be a combination of your tent, food, flashlights, canopy or specific clothing items (rain gear? jackets?).

Tip #5: Use Labeled Bins

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Once we started labeling bins our whole camping experience changed for the better. There was no more: Where the heck is the salt? What’d you do with the flashlight? Every item had a place where it stayed unless it was being used. Additionally, it is way easier to pack your car (and carry things!) with smooth, flat bins. Get a bunch in all types of sizes, label them with a sticky note (such as: outdoor gear, for the tent, cooking, etc. ) and you definitely won’t regret it.

Tip #6: Bring a Whisk Broom and Trash Bags

There’s nothing worse than returning home from a great camping trip and knowing you have to clean up a huge mess. Yes, you’ll always have to unpack at some point, but let’s not make it worse than it needs to be. Make sure to bring a small broom so dirt and bugs and whatever else doesn’t share the trip home with you. Likewise, trash bags can be a lifesaver. Not only do they help contain and sort your waste from camping, but they can also serve as waterproof bags to quickly stuff your tent and any other wet items into at the end of a trip.

These are our top 6 packing tips for car camping — got any other ones you’d like to share? Comment below!

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