Every year I take some sort of “camping newbie” on one of my well planned camping trips. This is always secretly an attempt to convert them over to my side of the world. Last year it resulted in one of my favorite families of 6 loving our camping time so much that they bought a travel trailer. It also could have been the fear of having to tent with 4 children again for a week. We will never know the truth.
In every group camping trip, I am the go to trailer. “Do you have a bandaid?” “I forgot a can opener” – “Do you know what kind of plant caused this rash” I can almost ALWAYS deliver my fellow camper’s needs.
I have been asked on numerous occasions to provide tip sheets, packing lists, hints and hacks. 2016 is the year! So here it is.
My 2016 top 10 list of “things you wouldn’t think of” but make some camping trips much easier.
- 1 large rubbermaid bin. When my kids were little and before we had a trailer, hook ups and all that fancy jazz, I packed 1 large rubbermaid. Along with that I packed a very large pot. At dinner time I would fill the pot with lake/river water. Once boiled I would dump it and another 2 equal size pots of river/lake water into the rubbermaid. Complete with something to make bubbles. Then, next to the warm fire, my kids would happily slosh around in the “bathtub” until they were squeeky clean and ready for a good night’s sleep.
- Meal lists. I found this PDF years ago. It comes in very handy for long trips – 4+ nights. Of course I always meal plan ahead of time. Then once prep work is complete and packed into the trailer, I fill out these cute little meal lists and hang them daily on the trailer. My kids LOVE coming in and out to check what’s cooking every day. It also helps keep me organized. Especially when the coolers and fridge are jam packed full and I can’t dig around. This is my favorite one! camping meal lists for kids
- Separate toothbrushes/paste. This is a trailer hack for the most part. Every year at the gateway to camping season, I hit up the dollar store to re-stock the trailer. One of the things I buy is brand new color coded toothbrushes for every member of the family. I also stock up on a few tubes of paste. There is nothing worse than forgetting your toothbrush on a trip. These designated toothbrushes stay in our trailer until the end of camping season every year.
- Cooler Organization. Again, especially on long trips. This goes hand in hand with #2. Once I know what meals I have planned this is easy. The last thing I do before I leave is layer my cooler according to each days menu. Especially meat! IE: on a 5 day trip I would put the frozen meat on the bottom for day 5, day 4 on top, day 3 on top of that etc. You get the picture. Trailers never have enough freezer space. I also use empty milk jugs filled with water and salt and freeze ahead of times. 1 litre jugs are best for space saving. As the days go by and you clear fridge space, you can move some of these defrosting meats into the fridge for a slower re-frost period. Marinated frozen steak, smokies, bacon and frozen ground beef typically stay on the bottom (all in ziplock bags to keep from cross contamination) and chicken and fish above that. It’s all about the organization!
- Pre-scramble those eggs. We eat a LOT of omelets and scrambled eggs when camping. I don’t know about you but 18 eggs barely gets us through 3 days camping. Egg cartons take up a ton of space and if they are cardboard cartons, they get soaked and soggy in the bottom of the cooler. So instead we crack all of the eggs we need into a water bottle (or 2 or 3). This makes transport so much easier. Also a big space saver.
- Activities for kids. Children using their imagination is probably my absolute favorite thing about camping. We have a no electronics rule while camping. This forces my kids to play board games, hours and hours of card games and to explore. My 2 favorite kids camping activites: rock painting and scavenger hunts! During my dollar store trip at the beginning of the season, I purchase cheap acrylic paints and brushes. I pack them all up in the trailer for those “I’m bored” moments. Then I send them to collect their most favorite rocks. I set up the paint station and watch the creativity flow. Then the kids place them around the campground and when we return next year, the kids look to see if their rocks are still there. Scavenger hunts are a fun way to pass some time. Give them each a list and a brown lunch bag. Send them on their way. I always keep prizes in my trailer for the winners. Bubbles, stickers and glow sticks. We make our own scavenger hunts. Here is a good place to start. I like to add “something alive” to the list. ha!
- A pudgey pie/sandwich maker. I finally purchased one last season. I can’t believe I went without this wonderful invention for so long! Use non-stick cooking spray and coat the inside of the cooker. Then make your sandwich up like you would a grilled cheese. You can literally put ANYTHING in the middle of those 2 pieces of bread. Close it up and lightly cook over the fire – turning frequently. Once it is ready – open it up and voila. The best looking grilled sandwich you will ever lay eyes on! There are endless recipes on the internet.
- Nutella. This is the KEY to s’mores. I don’t think anyone I know has ever had a melted piece of chocolate inside their s’mores. It’s usually a hard chunk – never melted by the marshmallow. Enter – Nutella. Spread on your cracker. Add roasted marshmellow. Voila. No broken cracker and no hard chunk of chocolate. Yum.
- Electric Blankets. Tenting in a full hookups campground? An electric blanket and a small extension cord. Your sleep with be heaven.
- Book holder. If you are a seasoned traveling camper like me, you will have a large collection of backroad books, fishing guides, maps and brochures. Add to that books to read, crossword puzzles, coloring books and the local newspaper. All of this and NOT enough drawer space in my trailer. I found a fabric scholastic magazine rack and had the more handy half install it on a bare wall within the trailer. Ta-da! Organized and good utilization of wasted space! This one is not mine but it was my inspiration!
Do you have any “must haves” or “must do” that you can share with us?