Tent Camping – Packing List & Organization

It’s finally started to get warmer here in the Atlanta area (much later than usual), and we wanted to get out and enjoy some of the beautiful Spring weather last weekend, so we went out for our first camping trip of the season. Camping is one of our favorite weekend activities here in the Spring and Fall. (Summer in Georgia is too hot for me to go camping.)

For the past few years, we’ve gone at least a few times a year, and I feel like we’ve finally really got a system down. I’ve honed our packing list down to what we really need without leaving anything out, and I’ve even figured out how to keep all our supplies organized while we’re home, so I thought I’d share my system with you all in case it was helpful to anyone else.

First off, I keep all our camping supplies in the basement, all on one shelving unit. Most things are stored in bins, plus there are things stored in their own bags, like tents, sleeping bags, camping chairs, and air mattresses (we camp in comfort). I love having all the camping stuff together in one place, separate from the other stuff we store in the basement.

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When it’s time to pack for a camping trip, the first thing I do is empty the contents of the camping shelves into the garage. Then I go through each bin to make sure everything is there. I have a master list, organized by bin, that I keep a sheet protector, so I can easily refer to it when packing or at the camp site. Each bin is also labeled with a two-sided label that has the name of the bin on the front and the contents of the bin on the back. This makes it really easy to double-check that we’ve got everything, and that nothing is missing (like stuff we used up on a previous trip, or something we had to borrow from camping supplies for another purpose).

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View of label from the inside of the “Play” bin

As you might imagine, the Play bin is my daughter’s favorite, and it’s one of the first things to come out of the van when we get to the camp site.

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My favorite bin for camping is actually not a bin at all, but a 4-drawer shelving unit I bought a couple years back, specifically to organize our camping supplies. I love that it’s dark green so it doesn’t seem out of place at the camp site, since it stays out the whole time we’re camping. And the drawers make it really easy to access a lot of loose items so I’m not digging through a huge bin every time I want something small like a clothespin. I refer to this as the “kitchen” while we’re camping because it holds all the plates, bowls, cutlery, etc. The rest of the kitchen stuff in is a large bin in the same dark green that holds the bigger cooking supplies and a lot of the food. It often stays in the van while we’re camping to keep animals away from the food.

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Inside one of the kitchen drawers is one of my other favorite camping organizers – my cutlery roll! When we first started camping, the sound of silverware rattling around in the back of the car on the way to and from the campsite would drive me crazy! I’m not much with a sewing machine, but I had an idea to make a fabric roll I could use to store the silverware all together. My mom is a quilter, so I enlisted her help to bring my (ridiculously simple) design to reality. We used a heavy-weight white cloth napkin (like the ones found in restaurants), laid it out, and folded the bottom part up part way. Then I divided it up into equal vertical sections and marked it, and my mom se
wed the lines to create each section. Then she sewed a piece of grosgrain ribbon on the outside to hold it together when it’s rolled up. This makes it so easy to transport our camping silverware and keep it handy when it’s time to eat!

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And in case it would help anyone, I’ve decided to share my master camping packing list, along with a template for the labels you can modify to make your own two-sided bin labels. Click here to download it as a Microsoft Word document that you can edit, or click here to download it as a PDF if you just want to view/print it.

I’m linking this up to the weekly One Project at a Time link party hosted by A Bowl Full of Lemons!

Thanks for reading my blog. Time to take on the rest of my day!

37 thoughts on “Tent Camping – Packing List & Organization

  1. This post is great! Our family has NEVER been camping. I really want to go, but don’t even know where to begin planning a trip…until now, that is! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Glad I could help! We were never into camping before we had our daughter, but now we love it. She has so much fun and we really like taking a break from our normally hectic weekends. For our first camping trip or two, I search all over the web looking for packing lists and tips, but none of them really fit for the kind of easy camping we’d be doing with our family at local state parks and federal campgrounds, where we’re in a tent, but there’s electricity and water and convenient bathrooms. I’ve just been tweaking my list with every camping trip and this last time we camped, it was so easy to get packed and ready that I knew I’d finally managed to build a really solid system.

      • Yes! I also have been searching the web for an organization system for easy local & modern camping and until right now every post had come up short. Thank you! I am an organisation crazy, but didn’t have the time to figure out a system on my own 🙂

        • I’m glad my post helped you get organized for camping. It makes such a difference when you have a thorough packing list and a plan for how to organize it all. Have fun camping!

          • Question… how on earth do you fit everything into a vehicle? All the supplies, tent, lawn chairs, suitcases, cooler(s), sleeping bags, and so on. Overwhelming. And also, I can’t believe I spelled organization wrong in my initial post!

  2. What a FABULOUS list! 🙂
    our camping season started again last week…..I was pretty organised last year (after spending almost every weekend in the tent!) but we got to the site this past weekend with no stove or fuel!
    …..It was an expensive trip because we had to go and buy new – annoying when I had it all….sitting at home on the garage shelf!

    I shall take some of these ideas for my set up! Thanks!

    • Thank you! We don’t bring a stove or fuel, because we just cook over the campfire, so if you use my list, make sure to add that! 🙂 That stinks that you had to go buy something you already had at home. Having a list like this has completely saved my sanity. Before I got everything so organized, I would be stressing all the way to the campsite wondering what I might have forgotten. Now I can just relax and enjoy the drive.

      • hi Kelly, I can’t seem to find your master packing list for tent camping that everyone raves about. Can you please send it to me or the link, or post the link again. thanks.

        Julie

        • Julie,

          I think you just missed the links in my post above. There are a downloadable PDF and Word document versions of my camping packing list toward the bottom of the post – between the photo of the silverware roll and the Bowl Full of Lemons graphic. I bolded the part with the links to help others find them as well. I hope that helps!

    • A dining fly is any kind of overhead canopy for above the picnic table / dining area. There are lots of options – you can just hang a tarp over the table with poles and ropes, or there are pop-up canopies you can buy, or more tent-line screen houses. It’s not necessary, but we like it because it gives you a place to be outside but protected from sun/rain.

  3. I love this list and the way you have it all in separate bins. Do you know what size bins you used? The green drawer one I can guesstimate better than the others.

    Thanks!

  4. Oh my goodness, I love this!!! I just got back from a camping trip where all we did was move sh–um, stuff around! It was the first time with our 2nd little one, and we have another on the way! We’ve always loved to camp– except for this one– but I’m sure you’ve saved this hobby for us! Thank you!!!

    • Somehow I just saw your comment. Sorry for the late reply! I hope these tips help you. Getting a system with labeled bins and logical organization has definitely made camping so much easier for us.

  5. This is an awesome post! Thank you so much for sharing and even including the printable labels and packing list for the bins. I don’t know why it took me so long to decide to store all the camping gear in one spot. For years we have spent a week preparing to go and the 2 days before were so hectic to gather everything up from every hiding space all over the house closets, garage and shed.

    • So glad you enjoyed it! Having everything all in one place and a custom printed packing list that we use for every trip has made things SO much easier. I hope it helps you as well.

    • Thank you! When I saw them in the store, it just immediately clicked that they would be PERFECT for camping. They were one of the first things I did to be more organized when camping, and it has really helped!

    • Thank you! I got them several years ago at Walmart, so unfortunately I don’t know that you could find them anywhere now. That dark green color does fit in well when camping, but you may be able to find something else fairly neutral, like the other bins I have that are clear with tan lids.

  6. This is an amazingly organized and all inclusive list! I grew up camping and now have started taking my kids camping. I had forgotten some of the necessary packing items when we went last week. This list is going to help us have a great camping season next year as well as the rest of this year! Thanks!

    • I’m glad you found it helpful! I had no clue what to pack the first time we went camping, so I downloaded every list I could find and then started narrowing it down from there, and then eventually adding to that once we had a few trips under our belt. Having a good list makes packing so easy now!

  7. Do your containers hold up well to rain? We go camping in the NC mountains and it rains almost every day at some point? Where do you store your bins at the campsite? Any other advice for rain? Thanks!!!

    • We keep most of the containers in the car while we’re at the campsite, and the ones that we leave outside are kept under our dining fly, so they are protected from the rain. Last time we camped our drawer unit was close to the edge of the dining fly and got rained on during a heavy rain storm where the rain was blowing in at an angle, and everything inside it stayed dry, even a roll of paper towels was fine. So while I do tend to keep them protected from the elements, I’d say they do hold up well to water.

  8. Of all the camping posts on pinterest, and blogs, I have found this post to be the MOST helpful!!

    Thank you so much!

  9. Great list! I LOVE that you gave it to us in Word. So many times I have to recreate the wheel to adjust the lists to how we use them. I so need to do this. We have all the “supplies” piled into one bin up in the attic, air mattress and tents in different areas. I would love us to take random weekend camping trips when its nice out but hubby hates that because I go into frantic mode trying to get everything ready. Thanks for this!

  10. Hi! I know this post is older, but I’m hoping you’ll still see this! I love, love, LOVE the drawers. I want to do this but am struggling with what best to put in them, and where! Can you send pictures of each drawer? I’m so tired of my kitchen bin being emptied every time I need something! You have posted the organizing tips I wanted, but would just like more guidance on the drawers, if you could help me out. :). Love the cutlery roll too. Genius. Thank you!
    Becky

    • Ok, I apologize, I see the list breaks apart the individual drawers. But pics would still be awesome. So very very helpful regardless. 🙂

  11. Thank you!!! We used this list and it helped us tremenduously! Even as an experienced camper, I wouldn’t have thought about this organization system or things to pack. Your blog has been most helpful in making our camping trip smoother and more enjoyable with our two little ones.

  12. Been surfing the web for so long almost gave up, but I absolutely LOVE your post. I always feel disorganized when we go camping. I’m going to try your system when we go this weekend. Thanks so much for caring to share.

  13. Great list and system! My husband and I have been camping with our two children for years now. I have created a master list as well that is tweaked as needed. I labeled bins, but I love your content checklist on each bin! I am moving toward a chuckbox/drawer system for the kitchen. I despise stacking the kitchen gear into a too deep tote. I want to reach and lay my hand on what I need near instantaneously. Also, we want to do destination camping. I am obsessively designing a framework to fit in the back of our minivan to better use the vertical space and eliminate the need to unpack everything to get to items at the bottom. Go down the rabbit hole of vanlife, Jeep Expidition Portal, truck drawers drawers, and Australian campers….people come up with such amazing ideas. But I want an inexpensive execution of those ideas. Thanks again, & happy camping!

  14. This is a great list and a wonderful starting point for new campers! Thank you! One question though… what do you cook while you’re camping?

    • You’re welcome! Great question. We have eaten all kinds of things, but we have a few staples we always include – basics like hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, corn on the cob, etc. For breakfast, we often enjoy pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, hashbrowns, etc. Maybe I will write another blog post about our favorite camping meals.

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