Your campground might be a pleasant base camp that takes some comforts—and organizational tricks—of home to the outdoors, or it can just be a spot to catch some zzz’s.

The correct equipment, a little additional forethought, and some thoughtful camping organization practices can make all the difference. It’s important to know the principles of a well-organized base camp and adding clever, easy touches to make it more comfortable, whether you’re setting up a tent outside for the first time or trying to improve your current approach.

Here are a few of my favorite methods to zhuzh up a cozy location in the woods while also making camp life easier.

Organizing Camp Gear at Home

Check Your Gear

Examine any equipment that has been sitting in storage for a while. If you already have a camping setup, it’s better to find any missing items while you’re still at home. Example: Is it possible to find the pegs within the tent stuff sack? Is your kitchen tool collection complete? Have you restocked the first-aid supplies you used on your previous trip?

Work With a List

A checklist will be integral to your camping organization, and to prevent expensive equipment from getting lost. As you pack something, add it to the list. If you are a first time camper, and are not really sure what to bring KOA, who operate a slew of campsites across North America, provide a great, very comprehensive list here.

Get the Kids Involved

Do you have children? Include them in the preparation process. Give each of them a duffle bag to keep them from over packing (in a different color per child). Make a checklist for your children, give it to them with their duffle, and ask them to gather and pack their belongings a day or two before your departure date. Set a motivating example by completing some preliminary work at the same time. Not only will this help everyone get more organized but it will ramp up the excitement about the trip too!

Organize Your Camping Gear By ‘Room’

Create a camp box exclusively for the kitchen, for example, and organize your gear by “rooms.” Take the large storage sack that comes with most sleeping bags and use it to transport your sleeping bag (after stuffing it), a pillow, your pad or mattress, and, if there’s room, your clothes to the bedroom. Bring some dry storage goods, such as plastic bags, for damp stuff. They’ll come in super handy on the way back, too.

Organize Your Packing Strategically

The tent, rainwear, insulation, and insect repellent should not be packed too deep inside your camping stuff. Packing these things in a location where you can immediately access them keeps you prepared in the event of a surprise.

Planning and Organizing at Your Campsite

Your campsite is part gear storage, part activity launchpad, part watering hole. You can get the most out of it when you design and organize it with all those functions in mind:

Campsite Layout and Shelter

It’s not just about being practical when it comes to setting up a smart campsite; it’s also about making the most of your social time and the beauty of your surroundings. Here are some important actions to take: Prepare a common space, consider the weather, and position your tent to take in the best views.

Where you set up will also be determined by where you can find the flattest, un-vegetated terrain. Bring along a portable shelter, such as a canopy, to make your shared space more comfortable in the heat and rain. A tent footprint or tarp can also keep your possessions dry (from weather or just condensation).

Organize Camping Essentials to Keep Them Handy

As soon as you arrive at camp, put a headlamp or flashlight in your pocket. You’ll want to know where to find them quickly if you need them. Place important items such as cutlery, rainwear, and bug repellant in designated areas. Remind your fellow campers to always return things to their designated areas so that others can find them.

To avoid losing keys or being locked out of your car by accident, one adult should always be in charge of the vehicle keys. If there is more than one adult with you, bring an extra set of keys so that everyone has access to the vehicle. Keep your keys in a safe place, so they don’t get lost in the tent or sink to the bottom of your backpack.

Make Sure Everyone’s Illuminated

Make sure everyone in camp has a headlamp—even it’s better if they’re all various colors. When children have their own light source, they feel more in control, and they are less likely to lose headlamps if they wear them as a necklace when not in use.

How to Keep Your Campsite Organized AND Enjoyable

Stay Tidy

Sweep debris out of your tent whenever the opportunity arises. Start clean, stay clean, feel clean. Doing so also minimizes abrasion on your tent floor.

Make Eating and Drinking Easier

Use separate coolers for beverages and food, since one will likely get opened more often. Keep coolers away from anything absorbent, too. You just never know when that spigot on the cooler will twist open, or “old trusty” will blow a leak.

Add Some Home Touches

Set a piece of artificial grass or indoor-outdoor mat in front of the tent door. Ask people to remove shoes before entering the tent to keep dirt out. At night keep a pair of flip-flops for each camper by the tent door for late-night restroom breaks. Don’t forget to tuck a flashlight into the pocket closest to the tent door, too.

Make Sure Everyone Knows Where They Are

Make sure your crew—particularly kids—remember your campsite’s location. Help everyone memorize the site number or point out landmarks (“We’re four sites from the amphitheater”) to help them recall its location. Write the number down on cards and hand them to everyone. Adding the location to cell phones is a good idea too, but as service can be spotty when camping, these old-fashioned cards are still a must.

Pack With Your List

When it’s time to pack up and head home, pack with your list. Check off each item as you pack it to ensure that nothing gets left behind. And don’t forget to leave things the way you found them, ensuring that you leave no litter behind.

Adapt Cheerfully. 

Your surroundings are new, and your routines are scrambled: The bathroom is no longer just a few steps away like it is at home; it’s six campsites down on Loop A. Hey, it gets cold fast at night. It’s sure dark out here. Stay positive: Living life on nature’s terms is part of the allure of camping. Everything gets easier after the first night. Know that your advance camping organization and preparation will pay dividends.

Just Organized By Taya
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