Car Camping Made Easy

Home & Family, Outdoors
on July 20, 2003

On a nice Saturday morning, you say to your spouse, family, or a friend, “Great weekend for camping. Grab the tent and sleeping bags, and let’s get into the car and go!”

The reality of it is, by the time you’ve assembled the gear for the outing, it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and a wonderful opportunity to engage with the great outdoors is history.

But if you want the thought to be the father of the action, be prepared.

Assembling a portable camping box, and keeping it filled with the essentials for a successful campout, provide the key. Build it or buy it (an old trunk can be put into service), but of critical importance is size, making sure it fits neatly into the car trunk or the back of your RV or SUV—a 24-hour “on standby alert” box. Think of it as an already-packed, camping “suitcase.”

Start with the basics: flashlight, batteries, matches, first-aid kit—and toilet paper. Pack the mandatory cooking gear, including pots, cutlery, utensils (spatula, tongs, etc.), paper plates, cups, charcoal, canned food, snacks and condiments that won’t spoil over time, soap (dish and bath), paper towels, resealable baggies, aluminum foil, and a pair of hot pads.

Other useful items include a compass, a whistle (in case you get lost on a hike), and binoculars. Water purification tablets aren’t a bad idea, and sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, and bug repellent will assure a more enjoyable time on hikes or around the campfire. If there’s room, you can put in ground pads, sleeping bags, and your tent, but because of bulk, you may want to store these separately (but near to hand).

It’s also entirely likely that the weather may turn inclement during your adventure, so you’ll be thankful you packed a poncho or other rain gear. If you’re going to be at a campsite for very long, you might stick in a deck of cards, some games or other surprises for the kids, and possibly a battery-operated radio.

Some unglamorous necessities that should make the traveling squad include a goodly length of clothes line, a basic tool kit, extra tent stakes, a battery-operated clock, trash bags, towels, and that savior against airborne nuisances—a flyswatter (for use inside the tent).

If you’ve packed well, all you need to do is lift the box into the trunk, check that you have plenty of food, and you’re on your way.