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It is always exciting to go camping but bringing the right things is critical to having fun. Camping comes in a lot of different styles. There is the minimalist with everything in a backpack on your back. I can’t share too many thoughts on that – since I would bring the kitchen sink with me, if I could. Then, there is the traditional camper hauling the tent in your vehicle to the campsite. And finally, there is the RV’er.

All three styles have one thing in common – you have to have the essentials. If you have never camped before – start with a list of what you want to do and then refine the list.

Are you planning to fish? Mountain bike? Kayak? Or stay close to camp and relax? Grab your note pad – it is time to create some lists so nothing is forgotten! The lists will double as a check list when you load.

Whatever your hobby, create the list. If you plan to Kayak while camping and relaxing – create a list.

Activities List

Create a list devoted to the kayaking part of the trip, if that’s the activity you’re choosing to do. You’ll need the kayak, the paddle, the dry bag, seat, life jacket, hat, suntan lotion, beverages (ice chest or camel Pak) – keep expanding the list until you’ve listed everything you would need for a successful Kayak trip: Including how to transport the kayaks. Do you need rope, bungees, step stool to reach the rack on top of your vehicle? Write it all down.

Campsite List

Another list is devoted to relaxing at camp. Are you bringing games for the kids? Board games in case it rains? Outdoor toys? Hats/sun tan lotion to protect from the sun? Something to soothe a sunburn? Bug protection? Shade? Chairs? Table? Sunglasses? Hats? A light source for the evening? Glow sticks for the kids to play with, hat lights for the adults? Flashlight for the after dark potty run?

Sleeping List

You’ll need another list for the tent/sleeping quarters. Air mattress or foam mat? Sleeping bag/bedding/pillow, sleepwear, some sort of flashlight to use inside the tent? A bag for dirty clothes to keep things organized?

Personalized Lists

Then, write a list of personal items for each camper. Toothpaste, tooth brushes, floss stick/toothpick, container for the retainer? Dental guard? Contact lens supplies? Hair brush/comb, deodorant, change of clothes for the next day and clothing layers to add and subtract as the temperature fluctuates during the day. Do you need to start the day with a light jacket? Will you need swim wear mid-day? Depending how long you are gone, do you need body soap, shampoo, towels for a trip to the showers? When camping – plan to use items that do not have a scent. You don’t want your hair to smell like Jasmine and your deodorant to smell like lavender unless you want bees and other creatures near you. So the morning you leave to go camping – go easy on the fragrances.

Food List

Food! This is an always important feature of the outdoors.

The backpacker is probably carrying dehydrated items, water purification tablets, granola and things that are light. The other campers? You are only limited by space and creativity. Start with a menu of what you want to eat.

For example: If you say you are eating hot dogs with chili dog sauce, potato chips/dip, write it down then think of each item and steps you would take to create it at home.

Obviously the hot dog, the bun, chili dog sauce, chips and dip.

Now add the condiments, ketchup/mustard, can opener for the chili dog sauce, a spoon to dip out the chip dip onto the plate, (Did you get plates on your list), and now you need a napkin for your fingers, (By the way that might be fuel for you camp fire later.)

A way to close the chip bag (chip clip).

How did you plan to heat the chili dog sauce?

How to cook the hot dog?

Do you have the grill?

Hot dog cooking sticks for over the fire?

A way to open and handle a hot can of chili?

Repeat the process for every meal.

As you mentally imagine the meal – list it all, plates, plastic silverware, cooking items, can openers, paper towels, serving spoons?

Once you have your meal plan – think about preparing the meal. What is involved? Do the hot dogs need diced onions? Maybe the burger needs sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce? Maybe some nice cold watermelon in reasonable sized pieces? Perhaps you wanted a nice salad? The hamburgers need to be put into a patty shape? Do all these tasks at home and then slide the items into storage bags or reusable small plastic food storage containers. You can create individual sized tossed salads, just add dressing at the camp site. This allows you to have fun with everyone else instead of spending time doing food prep. Also saves hauling knives, cutting boards etc. to go camping.

If you aren’t fond of doing dishes, camp frequently for short trips, and don’t want to create a lot of waste but you can accommodate a bit more storage. Consider reusable items. We have a tote that snaps shut tightly. We place a large trash bag inside the tote (to keep the interior of the tote clean) and when we are done with plastic “silverware”, Skillets, tongs and other items – they go into the trash bag inside the tote.

When we get home, it all goes into the dishwasher then reload into the camping kit for the next outing. This means you spend time having fun with the family instead of washing dishes or feeling wasteful throwing away utensils. If you opt for the reusable plastic food storage containers, don’t forget to put them in that dedicated “trash bag” to get washed when you get home after you empty the contents.

Building a fire? Bring Firewood, and something to light it with. Will you be bringing premade logs that light easy like Duraflame type products? Only cook over real wood, the premade logs should not be used for cooking. Using a grill? Bring your briquettes, something to start the fire, and tongs for managing the food. Some places have restrictions on fire. Can you use your charcoal grill? Do you need to bring a propane cook stove? Is a campfire legal? This might affect your cooking and entertainment. Make sure to check on that ahead of time before you head out.

The internet is loaded with recipes for camping. YouTube has tons of videos on camping. Find out what is most valuable to you on your camping trip such as watching the sunset –bring a camera; Taking pictures at night of the sky? Bring your tripod; Maybe hiking? Bring your boots, extra socks and a walking stick. Write down what excites you, then, make a list of everything you need.

If you camp frequently, create an index card for meal choices. These cards list different breakfast options. Each card has one meal on it and everything that you need to pack/pre-slice to prepare the meal with minimal fuss at the campsite. Thinking of scrambled eggs? Scramble them at home and store the scrambled eggs in a Ziploc bag. When you get to the campsite just pour the pre-scrambled egg into the skillet – now that is quick and easy at the campsite. Thinking of crumbled sausage in a sausage, egg and onion burrito? Precook the sausage at home and now it is heat and eat. Some folks love to cook and prep while camping – some of us just like to relax and focus on the view from camp. Camp your way and have fun!

-Jennifer
Manager – Storage West Surprise

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