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Next to meal planning, packing for a camping trip can be the most stressful aspect of a trip. Everyone is excited to get to the campground, set up, and set out to explore, but there’s a great deal of prep work involved to make the trip run smoothly. While you can find a packing list on almost every outdoor website, they don’t always provide advice on how to pack it all in. That being said, here are some tips on the how-to of packing for a camping trip. 

Create a Checklist

It’s easy to forget things when you don’t make a list, so start by creating a list of all the items you’ll want to have on your trip. If you wish, you can consult the numerous packing lists available online to ensure you don’t miss any essential items. Keep in mind that any packing list can be modified to fit the needs of your group. Once you have a master list, break the list down into trip components such as cooking gear, food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, etc. Pack like items, or items that are used together in the same containers, so they’re easy to find when you need them. As you pack each item, check it off your list. You’ll want to begin assembling your gear and packing well in advance of the day you intend to leave. If you start a week in advance, not only will you feel less stressed, you’ll have a chance to look over your gear and make sure everything is in good condition. 

Packing the Car

The primary rule to follow when packing the car is to pack things in “last in, first out” order. This means, pack the things you’ll need first during your trip into the car last. So if the first thing you’ll be doing is setting up your tent, then pack your tent and tarps last so that they’re easy to access when you arrive at your site. 


To save space in your duffle bag or backpack, roll your clothing instead of folding. Rolling is more compact and can help you locate needed items more quickly. Clothing is often an area you can trim down if the need arises. If you’re going to overpack any one clothing item, make it socks. Clean, dry socks can help you stay warm and make you feel comfortable even when you’re roughing it in the wilderness. 


No one wants to deal with shampoo that has leaked out all over their clothes, so pack all of your toiletry items in plastic bags. This can minimize the mess and also make things easier to locate. If you are using communal showering facilities, make sure you pack flip flops or shower shoes. 

Cooking Gear

When it comes to cooking gear, the saying “everything but the kitchen sink” does not apply. It’s important to remember that the majority of the cooking items available aren’t necessary. There are essentials, and then there are the nice-to-haves; depending on the type of camping trip you’re taking, certain items may become more cumbersome than they’re worth. 

It’s a good idea to pack kitchen items in a clear plastic tote. It keeps the items together, and you’ll be able to locate items you need more quickly. A tarp to keep the rain off while you’re cooking can be a bonus. Pack heavier items such as pots and pans toward the bottom of the tote. Use ziplock bags to keep utensils together and use those smaller items to fill in the remainder of the space in your clear tote.

Incorporating these tips into your routine can make your packing experience more efficient. Once you get the hang of packing for your camping trips, it will be much easier and less stressful.