With any camping experience (backpacking or base camp style), you’ll want to practice good preparation, organization, and smart habits — including the 7 Leave No Trace Center Principles. Follow our tips below and read through our gear guide for the perfect camping setup.
Preparation: Make sure you have all the necessary gear for camping and that the gear is ready for use. You don’t want to find out that your tent has holes in it when you’re already out in the wilderness — be proactive.
The basic categories for your camping setup include gear for shelter, kitchen, fire, and security, but you’ll also want to make sure you have the right clothing, personal items, and any necessary camp furniture. REI has an extensive car camping checklist — check it out here.
Organization: Have all of your gear in place, ready to grab and go! A well-stocked camp crate (plastic bin) is the best way to stay organized. If all of your gear can’t fit into one crate, you may need to use more and labeling is never a bad idea!
If any of your gear can be multi-purposeful, save yourself the space and leave luxury items at home. For example, you may be able to turn your storage bin upside down and use it as a table then even use it as a wash basin when dinner is over! Consolidation is key to an organized, stress-free camping set up.
Smart Habits: The more you camp, the more you’ll learn how to be efficient, practical, and mindful. A few smart habits include keeping clean, having essentials on hand, carrying water in water containers, keeping an eye on food at all times (and use food cache systems to keep the animals out of camp), bringing the right tools, and making sure your camp buds know the campsite location and are involved in setup so they know where everything is in camp.
Let’s go into the necessary gear needed for an awesome car-camping set up.
For some awesome camp meal recipes, check out our blog on The Best Camping Meals.
Camp furniture may not be necessary, but it always adds comfort to your camp setup. Consider foldable chairs and tables, hammocks, and more.
Other necessities include (but are not limited to): a stocked first-aid kit, lighting (lanterns, flashlights, headlamps), wood, maps, personal items, games, proper clothing and footwear, extra batteries, and your campsite reservation.
While everyone adds their own twist to their camp setup, these guidelines should be enough to get you started! Also, keep in mind: if you are planning on backpacking in the backcountry, your camp gear will differ in weight and amount, and require even more consolidation.