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Camping Tips & Tricks

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You may have noticed that we like to camp…A LOT! It is so fun, but it’s a ton of work  and I was not okay with how much work it was! I’ve devised a system to make it more doable and the key is to only do it once. I do all my work when we get home from our trip, so when we want to go again – we are already ready. All we have to grab is our clothes, toiletries, and perishable food.

This is a little easier now because we have a pop up trailer, but it wasn’t always like that. When we first were married we had two big Tupperwares that we kept all of our camping gear in. When we wanted to go camping all we had to do was grab those two Tupperware, food, clothes and we were out the door. We had everything in there. Our tent, sleeping bags, camping stove, lantern, tarp, dishes…  When we would come home from camping I would wash it all and then pack it back up so it was ready to go.

I do this with our food too. Every spring before our first trip I get our picnic basket out and stock it. Hot cocoa packets, marshmallows, chocolate, cobbler fixings, new lighters, baby wipes, glow sticks, syrup,and paper goods.

I also buy a new little mustard, A-1, ketchup, and mayo. I keep these in the back of my fridge until its time to camp and then I throw them in our cooler. When I get home from camping I replenish them from our main bottles and put them back into the back. Its so easy and we may not use them every time but I am always prepared. This is what our basket looked like on our first trip:

I’ve left the paper goods in the trailer (you could use your Tupperware if you don’t have a trailer) and now when I get home I just replenish what we have used right away and then tuck our basket in our laundry room all ready to go again. Here is what it looks like now:

I am already ready for hot cocoa, lemonade, s’mores, cobbler, and pancakes. No last minute gathering. We don’t always use everything in the basket and I only have to replenish what we have used.

I also wash the dishes we have used really well in our dishwasher and then wash any linens we have. When they are all washed I pop the trailer back up, add them all back in, mop and wipe it down, refill our wood Tupperware and lint, then close it back up. I do this right after we get home when I’m still doing all of the other work and laundry from our trip. This way I know I’m already ready to go. No last minute packing and I forget a lot less things now than I use to! It is a little more work when we get home but I would rather just do it once.

One other thing I pack with the wood is laundry lint!

Do you think I’m crazy??? I’m promise, I’m not! This is the best fire starter out there! I keep a little pot on the shelf by our dryer and anytime I clean the lint tray I just add it to the pot. Then when I am packing the wood back up, I refill our lint bag. Its such great fire starter!

Do you feel overwhelmed with where to start with gear? Just take it slow and be resourceful and soon you will be fully equip to camp! First you have to have a tent, or other sleeping accommodations. We found our tent at a yard sale for $5. You also have to have bedding. Sleeping bags are not always necessary. We didn’t have enough at one point and we just used blankets.

Most of our other camping gear at one point was just leftover household items. We got a new set of pans, so my old ones became my camping pans. Same with measuring spoons and cups. Once I got new ones I put the old ones in our camping gear. I’ve also done this with linens like blankets, towels, and washcloths. If you are going to get rid of something, first think if you could use it in your camping gear. You can also go to garage sales to find most of what you would need to camp.

Other things that can be easy to forget: wood, a lighter, something to start your fire with, a hammer for staking your tent, a good pair of work gloves, camping chairs if you have them, a shovel, baby wipes, depending on where you are going you might need to bring water, and always bring a spare roll of toilet paper 🙂

Here is a list of some of my favorite camping gear. Don’t let this list intimidate you. You don’t have to have all of this gear. These are just things we have collected over the years that we really love.

  • Propane Lantern– I use to be afraid of it, but now its my favorite! I will never go back to batteries!
  • Camping Commode – Laugh at me now, thank me later!
  • Tent Fan
  • 3-Piece Cast Iron Skillet Set  – I inherited these from my parents and love them!
  • Adjustable Marshmallow Roasting Sticks – They are more expensive but so worth the extra money to keep kiddos farther from the fire.
  • Hot Cocoa Mugs –  My splurge this year! We eat pretty much every meal out of them now as well as Hot Cocoa.
  • Plastic Mesh Scrubber  – These are so versatile for cleaning anything and everything, and they last forever!
  • Dutch Oven  – the best!!!
  • MAGLITE Mini Flashlight – Ive stopped wasting money on other flashlights. The maglites we have, have lasted us forever!
  • Tri-Fold Shovel – Folds up so small! A shovel is always handy either to level the area you are going to put your tent, or for digging a fire pit, and for getting coals out of the fire to cook under and on top of your dutch oven.
  • Uno  – we also bring playing cards and they keep us busy for hours!
  • Propane Stove – These are nice to have and we really like ours. It really isn’t necessary though- you can cook completely over a fire
  • 7 Gallon Rigid Water Container – This is a great water container. The lid unscrews to turn around and becomes a spigot.

Camping gear I am crushing on:


Previous author of Over the Big Moon. I shared my passion for home and family life! I love graphic design, DIY projects, cooking, and working in my garden! My favorite role is taking care of my husband and our 3 amazing and busy boys!

Comments (44)

  • I do as you do, but I also typed up a list of all that we need. My list includes, clothes to take, batteries, books, games, toiletries, magazines, and anything else we may want to take. Just so that we don’t forget. Also important are medications!!

  • We always take nonperishables in nesting laundry baskets. When you get there, you can unload the food, and use the basket (with a bag) for trash. Then at the end of the trip, fill them with dirty linens.

  • Hi, We camp alot and my favorite splurge that we can’t live without now is my coleman coffee maker!  Nothing is better than a REAL good cup of coffee first thing in the morning by the lake!  Some good ideas we use are using an old ketchup or large Mayo container for making premixed pancake batter. It’s great! We also make our own fire starters from dryer lint.  A new one we like too is getting Mc Donald or 711 straws (the wide ones) and stuffing them with dryer lint (or cottonballs) that have been saturated in vaseline.  Use a wooden skewer to stuff the fill in and fill any air pockets. Then cut off the very ends (about 1/2 “) and fold the ends of the straws up.  Slide the cut off parts back onto hold the fold from opening. Thanks for sharing your tips too!

  • Very useful information.  We have a tub we keep all our camping stuff in but it has never occurred to me to restock it as soon as we get home, and I always realize I am missing something when we go camping again.  Duh.

    But where did you get your picnic basket?  I’ve looked everywhere for one like that.  Love it.  Thanks!

  • Keep your condiments in a 6-pack-bottle beer box, in your fridge. When you go to grabbed them they will all be there, no hunting around for things that get moved, and no forgetting the ketchup! 🙂

  • Sarah @ Pretty Providence

    Love this!! It’s so smart I don’t know why I haven’t thought of stocking up in advance, especially since up north where I’m at it’s so hard to know when camping will work and when it won’t because of the weather! My fave camping essential is a little thing called BATTER BLASTER. It’s pancake batter in an aerosol can. You just shake it up and spray it on the griddle, tastes great and no mess! Oh & it’s organic, if that’s what you’re into!

  • We have had our camper for 6 summers now. I was such a light sleeper, so tent sleeping was torture! Some other staples i love is ramen noodles- so easy to make with seasonings included! Flour tortillas can be used for breakfast burritos, sandwich wraps, fish tacos, even mexican smores! I too have recycled the old utensils, blankets, towels(use dark colors to hide the dirt). We also invested in a pop-up leaf bag holder that we use for our garbage can, use some close-pins to hold it in and its lightweight and folds down to save space! Enjoy you family time-priceless!

    • I take along a bag full of office clips. They come in large, medium and small. They are great for clothes lines, holding up trash bags, clipping table cloths and closing chip bags!

  • My family used to camp all the time as a kid, but I married someone who hates it, so we have NEVER been together (and we’ve been married for almost 11 years!) I just told him last week I am planning a trip and just this morning made reservations at an awesome camp site. I am super excited to plan my first camping trip, but a little scared- I will admit! I’ve never had to plan a campout before, so this post could not have come at a better time! Thank you thank you!!!!

  • Thanks for this post!! We actually just bought a pop up camper this week. My husband is active duty military and we’re having to move from Virginia to California this summer. We decided it could either be a painful week of hoteling it and living out of a suitcase, or we could turn it into a road trip across the country that we get paid to take! Im still trying to figure out what all to pack in a pop up. We’ve tent camped for years but the camper adds a whole new dimension! If anyone has any camper packing suggestions- please share!

    • My husband and I camped in a pop up for a few years. We used two plastic totes one for food items (bread, buns, snacks etc.) and the other for utensils, tin foil, flashlights. As you know there’s limited storage inside but in the few cupboards we had I kept toilet paper, plastic baggies, larger cook pots, hand soap and sanitizer, and dish soap. If the totes aren’t too tall, once you’ve folded the camper down they can slide right inside the door. We also would slip our fold up chairs inside there too. We’ve since upgraded to a travel trailer – I won’t miss pulling everything out and folding the camper up but it was better than tenting. Have fun!

    • We have a pop up! We use every bit of it! We keep all the sheets in the trailer. When we get home from camping, I wash them and put them right back in! Also, We have one set of dishes that stay in the trailer. They aren’t nice ones but they are great for camping! Walmart sells like 4 forks for $1.00. I feel better about not always throwing away plastic ware and it is nice that if I need to stir stuff, my plastic ware won’t melt! I try to not throw away as much as possible. We store this in a drawer plastic tote! Anything I know I will use I try to keep in there to not forget! Dollar store items work well. Spatulas wisks, ect!

  • thanks so much for this post! we are going camping this weekend and hope to go lots more this summer. i never really camped much growing up so this is all kinda new to me and your tips and lists were so helpful!

  • Thanks for the 11:30 p.m. Urge to clean and organize our tent trailer:). I would also recommend a little first aid kit. My kids seem to get a cold or fever while we are camping. Now I have ibuprofen and cold meds in the tent trailer.

  • Wow I totally didn’t know that lint is a good fire-starter! Thanks a lot for the tips. I’m sure they are going to come in handy on my next trip. There are two things that I would definitely recommend taking on a camping trip. I would suggest solar panels and the Tailgater. I had invested in getting solar panels on the RV a few years ago, and they have pretty much paid for themselves, especially with how much I run the Tailgater when we camp. There have been times when I’ve ran the Tailgater and HDTV for hours just watching ESPN with the guys. It was nice not having to worry about using gas or the RV’s battery power.

    • As a side note, one other thing I would recommend would be the EZ Grill. It’s a recyclable and it cheap. A few Dish co-workers and I used one last year, and it’s something we all would recommend!

    • I do my lint in egg cartons. shove lint into a section & put candle wax over it, it hold it together and then when ready to build the fire, just tear that egg section off and light it.

  • My family use to camp all the time when my children were growing up – the best vacations ever! Much better than staying in an expensive hotel. We started out tent camping, but soon graduated to a pull-behind travel trailer. I do have a suggestion about where to get gear when just starting out – yard or garage sales! I live in the south, and we have a plethora of sales every weekend. I bought a set of melamine dishes, mis-matched stainless utensils, pots, pans, even toys for the kids. All those things stayed in the trailer, so we never had to re-stock every time we went camping. Eventually, my 3 kids grew older & wanted to take friends along, and we outgrew the trailer. Now they are all married, and I have 6 grandchildren, so instead of camping, we rent a big house in the mountains for our vacations. While still fun having everyone together, I miss those camping days. We met the best people at the campgrounds (mostly state parks), and there was always something to do. I’m glad young people are still sharing those experiences with their young ones! Thanks for bringing back precious memories.

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