“We should go camping this weekend,” your friend says and it sounds like a great last minute idea, but you have a busy week and the thought of getting away on Friday seems impossible because you have not camped in a while and it will take several days to find gear, make a run to the store and pack it in the car. Here’s how to get organized so your gear is always ready and last minute trips only require a map.
Plastic storage totes are your friend. I have a tote labeled “kitchen”. Inside is everything but the kitchen sink, essentials for campsite cooking whether I am backing the tailgate up to the campfire or hiking into the backcountry. If I only need a few things to throw in the backpack, I know they are in this box! I can sort through the box in minutes or just load the whole thing in the truck and sort it out later. Either way, I am ready to go at the drop of a hat and in case of an emergency, I have a mobile kitchen I can throw in the vehicle.
Inside the kitchen box is plastic utensils, old utensils I stole from mom or bought legitimately at the thrift store. A thrift store is the perfect place to load up on camp supplies. Little old ladies give away great stuff because it doesn’t match their other utensils, so go to your community or church second hand store this Saturday and for a few bucks, you’ll have a great collection of cooking utensils. I keep paper plates, plastic storage bags, garbage bags, lighters, matches, seasoning, staple foods like cream of mushroom soup, beans or other canned food with extended or no expiration date and of course, Spam. I have aluminum foil, tongs, a pot, oven mitt, a skillet, soup spoons, cups, coffee pot, coffee singles, a jet boil with propane cylinders and a single burner camp stove. The idea is that I can pick out a few things for a back pack trip or live out of this box for a week at elk camp. Over the years I have made a good habit of re-stocking the camp box. Regardless of my other immature shortcomings of responsibility, I always keep the box well provisioned. This has made me to be a hero at camp on several occasions.
I do the same thing with another long locker style storage box for clothes. Although I can be found attending parties and dinner dates wearing Columbia shirts and North Face cargo shorts, I have a few such articles of clothing that stay in the clothing camp box. Wool socks, boots, a pair of Keens, rain jacket and zip off pants are always to be found here. I remember to put them back in the camp box each time so they are ready because the camp boxes are in a storage area beside the washer and dryer. If I were married they would be in the garage or across town in a storage unit. Don’t worry, you will find your own system for replenishing the camp box.
My sleeping bag, camp pillow, stocking cap for cold mountain nights, poncho, lanterns, headlamps, batteries and air mattress are in another camp box simply labeled “gear.” My backpack will even fit inside. The pack is left empty so I always know what I am packing. I used to leave a pack ready to go, but found that eventually I had five headlamps and no roll of toilet paper, so by using these plastic totes I always have supplies to toss in the pack and I keep the mice out of my freeze dried food and sleeping bag. Although I do not mind a mouse sharing my bag, I hate when they get to my food before I do.
I have found these storage totes work better than having a designated closet or even neatly organized shelves. Buy the same style of storage boxes that can be stacked and save even more space. With a little work, you can even go as far as having camp boxes for vehicle camping and camp boxes for backpacking, further organizing your gear into a “bug-out” box or two. Without sounding like I work for the Department of Homeland Security let me say that these boxes are a good idea anyway to be prepared in case of storms, earthquakes or natural disaster. They will stack out of the way yet be convenient and reorganizing them after a trip can be done quickly. So, the next time someone invites you to go on a last minute camping trip, you can bet your camp boxes you’ll be ready.