How to Organize Your Camping Gear

Get-It-Done Guy has a genius system for packing that will save you time and effort (and even help you survive a bear attack) while camping.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #210

Camping! I just love camping. No, I don't. I hate camping. People say, "Nature is so wonderful!" Of course, it is, from a distance. That's why we invented concrete, so we wouldn't actually have to touch nature. And nature is full of dirt. My mom used to make me wash if I got dirt under my fingernails. When you go camping, you get dirt under your fingernails and on top of them. My friends say "a little dirt can't kill you." Oh, yeah? Then why are people so scared of being buried alive!?

Sadly, they win. We go camping. When camping, you need to cram everything into a small space before traveling to your campsite. Then you put your stuff in a 4-person tent, which is marketing speak for "1-and-a-half-person tent." You need to be able to get to stuff by opening the fewest containers as possible. Here are 7 tips for effective camping packing:

Tip #1: Ziploc Bags Are Your Friends

Ziploc bags come in every possible size—even super-big—and are watertight and waterproof. You put your stuff in a Ziploc bag and you can be confident it won't get ruined when the flash flood pours through your campground at 3 a.m. after a freakishly unseasonable rainstorm. Furthermore, plastic can't be digested, so if a bear chows down on your headlamp, just wait a couple of days and you'll be able to recover it in perfect shape inside its protective Ziploc container.

Tip #2: Pack Clothes by Weather

Packing for camping is different from packing for other kinds of travel. When you're traveling to a five-star hotel, you can neatly put all your socks in one drawer, your T-shirts in another, and hang your Cuddly Bear, Spider Man, Incredible Hulk, and Perfect-Abs MuscleMan adult-size footed pajamas neatly in the closet. When it's time to get dressed, you assemble the combination you need.

Camping, sadly, has weather. Weather is this thing in nature designed to make planning your fashion as difficult as possible.

When you're camping, you want to open as few bags as possible so group clothing together by outfit, according to weather. If it might rain, pack rain pants, rain shirt, rain underwear, and rain footed pajamas together in one big Ziploc. If it rains, you grab one bag and you're ready to go. You can get out your rain clothes without getting water on any of your other stuff.

Tip #3: Pack Toiletries Together

Put your toothbrush and toothpaste together in one bag. When it's time to brush, you have everything you need in one convenient package. If you expect twilight to bring mosquitos, put your bug spray, citronella candles, and ultrasonic bug zapper together in one bag.

Tip #4: Pack Meals Together

Cooking? All the ingredients for a meal go together in one bag. Yes, the bacon, marshmallows, and Twinkies. Since it's sealed, you can store the bag in an ice cooler.

Eating? Pack a full set of utensils and a plate together. If there are two of you, pack each set separately. Then when one of you gets kidnapped to the land of Faerie for 100 years, the other can still make dinner without making two persons' worth of mess.

Tip #5: Pack Daytime and Night Time Together

Depending when and where you camp, you may need your it's-nighttime-and-its-freezing-and-why-did-I-leave-my-central-heating? outfit. Pack your nighttime outfits together so you can change once, at twilight, and be set for the night. You can even put a piece of glow-in-the-dark tape on the Ziploc so you won’t be fumbling in the dark.

Of course, no nighttime ensemble would be complete without a complementary what-do-you-mean-there's-no-shade? daytime outfit. Keep your sun clothes together. Ditto for your it's-time-to-go-swimming ensemble (that Ziploc will be empty. You're camping—Mother Nature doesn't wear a bathing suit).

I often go camping to festivals. Depending on the festival, you may be expected to bring pirate costumes, or fire-spinning material, or yoga clothes and mats. If you're attending a festival, put each set of festival materials together in a separate bag.

Tip #6: Label Ziplocs for Repacking

When you put stuff in a plastic bag, label the bag with a description of its contents. I usually bring a couple of duffel bags, each of which has lots of the small plastic bags within. When taking something out of its Ziploc, put the bag back inside the duffel bag it came from. The Ziploc bag becomes a placeholder for where those items should be repacked when it's time to go. You only need to figure out the packing once—at the start of the trip—and the handy Ziplocs tell you how to repack the same way on the way home.

Tip #7: Let Ziplocs Help You Pack Next Time

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and a vacation frolicking in the mud with bugs, tics, and Lyme disease is no exception. When you're done with your trip, you'll have to unpack, wash stuff, and so on.

Leave things you'll use again—like your little headlamps or your citronella candles—in their bags, and they'll be ready for next year. When you unpack other things, like your rain gear, fold the Ziploc bag and put it back in the duffel bag where it had been living. Next time, when you start packing, each duffel bag will already have the Ziplocs neatly labeled with what goes in that bag. The system itself will tell you how to pack.

Camping is an experience no modern person should be forced to endure, but if you're one of those "outdoorsy" people (and you're probably also a morning person), at least take the work out of camping. Use Ziplocs to protect your stuff from the elements, group together rain-, dry-, night-, day-, cold-, and heat-related clothes. And keep the Ziplocs labeled so you can pack once, and then let the system tell you how to repack next time. Then send me a picture of you in nature so I can live vicariously through you, wearing my comfy footed pajamas, sipping my fruit flavored beverage in the comfort of my apartment, which is climate-controlled. Jealous?

I’m Stever Robbins. I mentor successful people in building exceptional businesses, by helping them use research-proven entrepreneurial thinking to approach new situation. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Camping gear image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.