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An Organized Camp and Car

An Organized Camp and Car

The more we camp, the more we learn... 

One thing we learned quickly is that staying organized in the car and at the campsite is worth some extra effort. When we first started camping, the car was full of duffel bags, backpacks, and grocery bags and it was always a game trying to find what we were looking for.

While cruising down a California highway, digging around for a bag of chips can be really unsafe. Setting up camp in a clumsy, messy way with no sense of order, unable to find the tent stakes, is just not fun. Looking for your spork while your food gets cold is super not fun. Or discovering you left those must-have items at home! At night, we would just toss everything in the car so the animals and elements couldn't get to it, but good luck finding a flashlight in that mess in the dark. 

This is certainly one way to camp... and still tends to happen to us every now and then. But, we've also learned from some frustrating moments and tried to make a "system". Not only does it help keep things organized and together in storage at home, but also when we get to a campsite. Some simple changes made a big difference for us! Here’s a little breakdown of how we organize:

Storage Bin

  • We use a 15 gallon "tough" tub (purchased at Target) to keep our gear organized in storage, but it also fits perfectly in the rear cargo in our Subaru Crosstrek. This bin holds almost all of our gear - eating, cooking, and fire supplies, and some random stuff we "need" for fun, like card games. And, of course, toilet paper! The benefit of this specific style is that the lid keeps rain from getting in, and has a hole for securing the lid to the tub, if needed. It latches tightly, and we can add zip ties to the corners, so we aren't concerned about leaving it out at night - although, not in bear country.

  • We don't unpack this tub when we get home, it just goes into storage and is ready for our next trip.

  • If you needed more than one, the bins also stack nicely. We have a second bin that stays at home to store "overflow" gear.

Smaller Storage Bins

  • We got these smaller tubs (also at Target) that nest perfectly inside of the big tub. Each small tub has a designated set of contents - kitchen stuff, lighting, miscellaneous. This helps when we need to get dinner ready before it gets too dark, but makes it easier to find stuff if we do end up in the dark. It also gives contained storage of dirty utensils and smaller items that tend to get lost in the bottom of a bigger tub.

Food Bins

  • We use these Hefty bins (from Home Depot) for all of our food. Typically the larger one is big enough to hold our food/snacks. This is great for keeping things secure at the campsite when birds and squirrels get nosy. The latching lid is more durable against little critters than a simple pop-off lid. A bonus of these tubs - the lids are raised so if you over fill a bit, you have bonus room on top.

  • The smaller tubs are great for shorter trips, when you need less storage. Sometimes we only use one, sometimes all three - it just depends on the trip.

  • The taller tub is perfect height as a beer table for the REI Flex Lite chair, too! It tucks in behind the seat, in the floor board, and also makes snack easy to access while on the road. The tubs also come in handy when we convert our Subaru Crosstrek into a bed - they fill the floorboard perfectly to extend the space.

A Clothing Duffel

  • We have a basic sports duffel bag that holds all of our clothes and hygiene items. This makes it easy to toss the bag in the tent in the morning for changing clothes, and easy to find a jacket or beanie in the dark. We use the end pockets for things like face wipes, toothbrushes, contact solution. The other end holds items like beanies and gloves. It's big enough to hold everything, but small enough that it can go in the tent at night and not get in the way.

A Housing Duffel

  • As the funny name indicates, this duffel literally holds our home for camping. This super durable REI Large duffel holds our tent, fly, footprint, tarp, rope, stakes, poles, mallet, and our inflatable pillows and sleeping pads. When it's time to pitch the tent, just grab the big red bag... no digging for stakes or a tarp from some random bag. It’s all there, and always together - we store this bag packed and ready to go. We also keep our tent repair items, guy line, extra stakes, and a couple of trash bags (just in case we end up packing a wet tent) in this bag.

The Cooler

  • A cooler is always a good thing to take along... cold beer and cold food storage! We use a rolling Igloo that is just about the right size for most of our trips. The cooler doubles as a table, with easy beer access!

Water Jug

  • It is always a good idea to take more water than you think you'll need. This jug is big and heavy when we fill it full, but it’s better than having five single gallon jugs rolling around in the car. This is a basic water jug from Amazon. It was inexpensive and holds five gallons with a dispenser to use at a campsite. We tend to leave this out at night, and let the cool air chill the water a bit.

An Empty Tub

  • If we plan to have a fire, we always take along an empty, cheap tub. We use this tub for firewood that we purchase close to where we’ll be camping,. We aren't fans of having firewood tossed in the car without protection, so this tub keeps the car clean and wood away from our gear. It also doubles as a table for around the fire. At the end of the trip, after the wood is burned and it is empty, the cooler nests in it for saving space in the car. It has also come in handy on a couple of rainy camping trips for keeping our fire wood dry in a downpour so we could still burn it for breakfast.

The Extra Stuff

Typically, our extra stuff is a blanket. We like to take along a falsa blanket or Rumpl blanket, and use it to cover everything in the back of the car while we're driving or stopped in random towns. Sleeping bags can tuck in between things to keep rattles at a minimum. We usually cram our soft items into the backseat floor board. The blanket is also good for extra warmth at night, and for privacy in the car during the day.

While we try to keep things organized, we also like to make "camp" a little comfortable. We have a tablecloth, which is just an old cut of fabric, that brightens up the cooking and eating. We also have a set of ENO Twilights (LED string lights, battery operated!) to add a little twinkle to our site. Little touches like that can make things feel just a little more fun and cozy!

What a difference some designated storage has made. Not only does it make the actual camping scene more organized and easy to maneuver, but it also makes storing things easier at home. We live in a multilevel apartment, so climbing upstairs with a dozen bags to reorganize after every trip was a pain. With this system, we just unload right into our storage space with things already in order when we get back home.

Everyone tends to have their own style when it comes to organization and camping, so tell us a little about your system!

Any tips or unique things you do to stay sane when trying to find your spork?

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