Camping Must Haves You Totally Need & Probably Haven’t Thought Of
As I slowly pack, purchase, and plan for our annual family camping trip, I get to reflect back on years of camping and the lessons learned. We started going camping when our youngest was not yet 2, she is almost 6 now, and it has become a beloved family tradition. We started going camping because my parents took us up for the day to Allegany State Park to picnic. I hadn’t been in years, and my Hubby had never been there. But, I had so many fond memories of camping there as a kid. And, Kyle was in love the minute he saw the hiking trails and one of us made the mistake of telling him there were actual black bears roaming the mountains. (someday I promise to tell you the tale of my Hubby and the first time he saw a black bear.)
Our first year camping I used my Dad’s old what to bring list as well as some lists emailed to me by friends. Of course, while we were camping our first year we came up with several things we wish we had brought and didn’t. And, so began our (now rather tattered and stained) must bring list. If you are thinking about going camping I highly recommend you make your own list, but when you do consider these items you might not ever think to bring that are on our list, and we never go without:
- Glow Bracelets: Year one we gave each of our kids a flashlight and put a glow-stick on our daughter, so when she walked around outside in the evening, we could find her right away. We also learned kids burn through flashlight batteries super fast. Or, leave the flashlight in the bathroom. And, the lil one refused to keep the darn glow-stick on, I found it sitting in a variety of locations, generally no where near where she was at that moment. The second year I happened to be in Target and they had glow bracelets on clearance. I snagged them on a whim and ended up taking them camping. We put one on our daughter’s wrist ad one on her ankle. We used different colors for our friend’s kids who had come too. Not only did they keep them on, but we knew who was where with ease. Now these are on our list permanently.
- Baby Wipes: Once you have a baby you pretty much fall in love with baby wipes. They are definitely not just for a baby’s tushie. And, when you go camping and water is something you need to walk to get, baby wipes become super handy. When showers aren’t on a set schedule and mud and creeks are part of every day, those wipes are a major source of cleanliness. We bring 2-3 packages every year.
- Super Glue: We have almost never had to use this, thankfully. But, we always bring it. Why? Because, when I was a line cook I learned that in a pinch super glue can, and will, seal a nasty cut. Does it burn? YES. Is it safe? YES. And when you are camping and might have to drive a long way for medical help, having that super glue to seal a cut can be super handy.
- Bungee Cords: You know those cheap packages of a set of small bungee cords? Bring one, trust me. Over the years we have used these cords for a number of random things. The primary use is to ensure our cabin screen door can’t be open by the dog or kids when they go to bed. Or, by a bear when we are all inside. We have also used them to secure a tarp over our firewood when it rained, to hold down items on our cabin porch when it was windy, and to hang a lantern from our cabin ceiling for our kids. And of course, to wedge stuff semi-safely into the trunk of our car. One way or another they come in handy, and they take up almost no packing space.
- Paper Bags: We pack in our supplies in paper bags for a reason. Paper bags make for great fire starting material. Sure you won’t have those bags to pack things to bring home, but you should have an empty cooler or two to pack stuff in instead. You can buy bags, or just ask your local grocer to bag your camping groceries in them. We unpack our stuff at camp, and send the teen out to find kindling,which we keep (safe from rain) in a paper bag on our cabin porch.
- Freezer bags: The first year I wrapped all of our left overs (for breakfast hash or lunch) in foil. We bring a ridiculous amount of foil camping. However, foiled wrapped food in a cooler does not stay dry. Also, most meats that are not vacuum sealed tend to get gross and make your cooler gross pretty quick. Now, I bring a box or two of freezer bags to keep things dry and sanitary.
- Bottled water: Okay, I know, everyone brings water. But, do you freeze all your water? Ice is great in coolers, but it melts pretty quick and either it’s hard to come by in the wilderness (duh) so you have to drive far to buy some or the price is super high, because, well they know you will need it. Instead, freeze pretty much all the bottled water you plan to bring. It holds frozen far longer than plain old ice does. And, when you go for a hike pull it out frozen and it melts as you hike. Meaning you have lovely cold water to quench your thirst when you realize you have to hike all the way back! We also fill a large jug with water and freeze it for each of our coolers. We don’t drink that water, it is just to keep our cooler temp low, for as long as possible, it works!
- Portable Charger: Yes, of course no one is going to be on their phone the whole trip. Trust me we plan the same thing. And, for the most part it works out that way. But, we use our phones to take pictures, and the GPS on them can be handy, and sometimes getting to electricity can be a bit of a pain in the ass. So we pack a couple portable chargers, fully charged just in case the electronics we really need to use die on us (which they do every year). Also, this is way easier than using a car charger, because you definitely don’t want to kill your car battery, alone in the woods (that’s how campfire stories start).
- Contractor’s Bags: Instead of garbage bags we bring 3-10 contractor’s bags. Te fact is they are thicker and stronger and less likely to rip and spill garbage out all over your cabin, camp site, or car trunk. We also have used them to cover charcoal so it stayed dry and so it didn’t spill out in our car. Our little grill travels in one to keep our trunk clean (clean-ish but ashes everywhere is bunk).
- Zip Ties: These handy little things have no specific use. But, sooner or later they come in handy. Want to a fix a flashlight to your tent pole or the rafter of your cabin: zip tie. Chair break just a little: zip tie. Want to hold things together so you don’t lose them: zip tie. These are handy and take up almost no packing space, which when you are playing trunk-tetris before you leave for camping you really appreciate.
I could go on and on. I really want to. My go to camping list is a few pages long now. If you start going camping regularly yours will be too! Do you go camping? If so, what weird random items have become an integral part of your camping pack list? Please share, before I head out into the woods again!!