Revised: What to Put in Camping Bins

A reader recently requested via my Facebook page (go like it now!) that I write a post about how to stay organized for camping. Thank you! I love hearing your ideas!

My family usually tent camps a couple times a year … the hard part is, our trips fall back-to-back, which can be overwhelming. (… VERY overwhelming.)

I learned a couple years ago that camping must be planned. Today, as I psyche myself up for two back-to-back camping trips, I wanted to share my revised Simple Camping Strategies. Here’s the original post, if you care to read it:

Now, the revised list!

Assemble camping bins. This eliminates a lot of the packing pain from camping. I’ve used this method for years, and recently minimized the bins to only carry what we truly use.

Inside Bin #1: Food Prep

food prep

  • Disposable plates, bowls, cups, utensils. Someone else can save the planet that weekend.
  • Wine opener
  • Can opener
  • Kettle
  • Bag clips (clothes pins work)
  • Propane fuel
  • Salt & pepper
  • Aluminum foil
  • Roasting sticks
  • Pocket knife
  • Wash cloths & towels
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap (use it for everything when camping!)
  • French press coffee maker

Inside Bin #2: Like-To-Haves

like to haves

  • Camp stove (we only need a single burner)
  • Small first aid kit (which I used this weekend … on my daughter’s cut from shaving her legs.)
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Matches
  • Garbage bags
  • Flashlight & lantern
  • Toilet paper
  • Deck of cards
  • Rope (for clothes line)
  • Fly swatter
  • Small umbrella
  • Rain ponchos
  • Medication buffet (pain relief, allergy, upset stomach)
  • Tweezers (for slivers)
  • Newspapers (to start the fire)
  • Hatchet
  • Mirror
  • Small broom & pan
New must-haves: Two, clear bins for food
  • One for breakfast
  • One for lunch, dinner and snacks

Make your own ice. A few days before, dump ice into a plastic bag that seals shut. 

Buy ice from the grocery store.

New must-have: Plan an EASY menu. Think portable with bananas and apples. Go to the deli for pre-cut fruit and veggies, already packaged. Wrap whole potatoes in foil and cook in the fire. Corn on the cob. Hot dogs. Brats. Pudgy pies. Hobo dinners. (I vote you simplify these further by using frozen potatoes and baby carrots.)

Clothing: simple and functional. Camping is dirty, so plan for it. I’ve often packed too minimalist for camping and regretted it later. If it rains, the pants and sweatshirts get muddy. Have a spare. Don’t forget the functional accessories like headbands, hats and sunglasses.

Let everyone own a towel. A variety of colors of patterns keeps towel waste minimal – one towel per family member.

Finally, don’t forget to pack the:

  • Tent
  • Cooler
  • Refillable water jug
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Camp chairs
  • Rugs (for shedding shoes outside the tent)
  • Duffel bags
  • Toiletries
  • Books
  • Camera
  • Bikes

Please share your own simplified camping tips below!

Photo by finchlake2000Except the bins. Those are my real camping bins.

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.


1 Sarah July 10, 2013 at 11:29 am

I love this post! I grew up camping all the time and the photos of the bins reminds me of how my parents used to organize our camping things!

We haven’t gotten our camping gear together in some time, so I love the reminder to keep it easy, simple, and organized!

2 Melissa July 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

I come from a family with six kids, so camping was one of the few affordable vacations we could take. We loved every minute!

One of the reasons I pack simply is because we have a small-ish vehicle for our trips … I seriously pack the car like a puzzle. But by keeping it simple, somehow, it all fits.

Happy camping memories!

3 Stef July 10, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I’ve learned that when camping with kids to always bring at least one pair of extra shoes for each of them- and quiet activities for down time at the camp site like coloring books or dry erase boards. Can’t wait to camp with you guys at the end of the month!

4 Melissa July 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

Great call on the shoes and quiet activities. Another great quiet activity would be to find a chapter book the kids would like and read a chapter or two each night by the fire. Mr. Right still reads to the kids even now that they are teenagers. His father’s day gift was a book they all wanted to read, and he’s been reading it aloud as time allows. This is a cool way to entertain them and wind down at the same time.

See you soon! Looking forward to it!

5 Lynn July 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm

thanks for making my list for me!

6 Melissa July 11, 2013 at 11:17 am

Ha! Sure! 🙂

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