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How to Pack for a Last Minute Camping Trip

Updated on April 28, 2012
No camping trip is complete without S'mores.
No camping trip is complete without S'mores. | Source

While we might not call ourselves campers at heart, our three boys love it so much that we have have grown quite fond of it ourselves. And with time, we have learned that it does not nearly need to be as complicated as we once believed. You absolutely don't have to be a pro to get it right.

All it takes is a few essential gadgets to make the experience enjoyable (and unforgettable). And, rather than starting from scratch every time, we have assembled camping boxes which we keep stocked and ready to go. If and when we decide to camp, all it takes is grabbing the boxes, adding clothes and food, and we are out the door.

Selecting Your Camping Destination

We also used to think that it took the perfect camp site in far away camping land to make the experience worthwhile. In the meantime, we believe quite the opposite. We like to think of it more like an extended outing. The closer to home, the better. First, this allows all of us to be more spontaneous. Second, it reduces the time we spend in the car and maximizes the time we have to camp. Third, it allows us to explore beautiful areas close to home which we would have otherwise missed as travel usually takes us on planes to far away places.

Camping Sites Near Half Moon Bay, CA

show route and directions
A markerButano State Park, CA -
Butano State Park, California 94060, USA
get directions

B markerBig Basin Redwoods State Park, CA -
Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Boulder Creek, CA 95006, USA
get directions

C markerMemorial County Park, CA -
Memorial County Park, Pescadero, CA 94060, USA
get directions

Our Camping Essentials In-A-Box

The last time we went camping we were literally at our campsite within 40 minutes after leaving home. We checked a week in advance for availability at the surrounding state parks, and completed the reservation for our camp site online. It could not have been easier.

The process of packing up and getting on the road was as simple as climbing up into our attic and bringing down our camping essentials in-a-box. These boxes are full of our 'must-haves', and because all items are non-perishable, they can easily be stored again for later use. It's a huge time saver and, I think you will agree, allows you to concentrate mostly on what food and drinks to bring which is what camping is all about anyways.

Contents of Camping Box #1:

  1. sleeping bags
  2. sleeping pads
  3. air mattress (plus car charger)
  4. tent
  5. travel pillows

Contents of Camping Box #2:

  1. First-aid kit
  2. Lantern(s)
  3. Flashlight(s)/headlamp
  4. Extra batteries
  5. Quarters (for the shower)
  6. Citronella candle(s)
  7. Matches/lighter
  8. Plates, cups and bowls
  9. Utensils
  10. French Press (for a fresh cup of coffee)
  11. Small cutting board
  12. Stove & fuel
  13. Multi-tool
  14. Grilling utensils
  15. Plastic container, sponge, biodegradeable soap
  16. Sticks for marshmallows
  17. Salt & Pepper shaker
  18. Sunscreen
  19. Bug spray
  20. Trash bags
  21. Toilet paper
  22. Paper towel
  23. Towels
  24. Wipes/Wet Ones
  25. Dustpan and brush

A few additional items you should consider packing, which are difficult to store in a box either due to size or every day usage, are:

  1. Small backpack
  2. Camping chairs
  3. Swimsuits
  4. Rainboots
  5. Flip flops
  6. Extra blankets
  7. Fire wood (or Duraflame logs)

Breakfast time - mmm mmm good.  Are we eating better while camping than we would be at home?
Breakfast time - mmm mmm good. Are we eating better while camping than we would be at home? | Source

Easy Camping Meals

Just because you might want to keep the cooking simple does not mean you cannot eat well. Following is a short list of meal ideas we have tried and enjoyed on our camping adventures. The key is to pre-make as much as you can and freeze it, or buy meals which are pre-cooked and just need to be re-heated.

Breakfast: egg sandwich with ham and cheese on a croissant; pre-made quiche; bacon & eggs; pre-cooked breakfast sausages; pancakes from a mix; cereal with milk; instant oatmeal; fruit

Lunch: cold cut sandwiches; peanut butter & jelly sandwiches; fruit; chips

Dinner: chili (pre-made & frozen) with instant rice; quesadillas; sloppy joe's; grilled (cheese/ meat) sandwiches; angel hair pasta with spaghetti sauce & precooked meatballs; Trader Joe's precooked BBQ pork on buns; Trader Joe's precooked baby back ribs; corn bread (pre-made); hot dogs; macaroni & cheese

No camping trip would be complete with a night (or two) with S'mores. So don't forget to pack your graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey's chocolate. Or, if you are the adventurous type, exchange the Hershey's for a York Peppermint Patty. Our kids love it!

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