This week's post is an update to our Simple Packing section of the Camping page. It has been updated to include our tips for unpacking and some clarification to packing. Here are our tips on unpacking:
As we have optimized our car camping system over the years, more and more I think the key to fast packing and unpacking is carefully picking what you bring with you. This means being honest with yourself about what you actually will use and understanding how many comfort items you need to still have a good time, without going overboard. This means that you do have to spend some time thinking about this ahead of time and occasionally reconsidering your packing list, as most of us can get sucked into camping lifestyle inflation over time.
One philosophy that has helped me with this is minimalism. This doesn’t mean to bring the bare minimum for survival, it just means to be intentional about each item that you bring with you and don’t toss in a ton of extra stuff that you likely won’t use or won’t use very much. For more reading on the idea, I suggest the blog Becoming Minimalist.
This philosophy is especially important if you’re only staying a night or two, but if you’re staying longer it can be worth it to indulge in bringing more stuff if you’re more likely to use the items or it might be worth it to you to bring items that make camping more comfortable for you.
The other key technique for us is to develop systems that support fast packing and unpacking. This means:
Note on the dishwashing system: When we have to wash the dishes at home, often those dishes sit around in the kitchen for a while before we get around to putting them away in the camp kitchen, or the kids use them again and then they stick around even longer while you wash them, or the special camping spatula ends up in the regular kitchen stuff so when we go camping there’s no spatula!
Finally, get home with enough time to unpack the vehicle. If you have a fast system, unpacking isn’t much of a burden so you don’t have to get home much earlier. Additionally, unpacking the next day is never fun when you’re all back to work and school, especially if you forget and leave stuff in the cooler and it goes bad.
This is our fast unpacking system:
We can unpack in 30 min with this plan and with good teamwork.
Just like most of you, we love to go on short weekend camping trips between busy work weeks, especially when we can get out with other families. But nothing ruins a short weekend of camping more than starting it off leaving late Friday night because packing takes too long. Then you can end up getting stressed out, yelling at your kids, and fighting with your spouse. Which never happens to us....
What follows are our recommendations for avoiding that.
Our high level recommendations:
Our packing list:
The packing is divided into 3 sections:
Using these tips, we can usually pack for a weekend trip in less than 1 hr ahead of time plus 30 min the day of and then unpack in less than 1 hr.
One final note: when you're packing for a short trip, don't spend too much time ensuring you have every single item on your packing list (except of course for any especially critical or life-saving items). The extra time required to go from 95% correct to 100% correct can be 1-2 hours which isn't often worth it for a short trip. If you do forget something, use it as a teaching opportunity for the kids to learn how to live without having everything. We have a long list of items we have forgotten on trips and it makes for good stories. (Like when our daughter had only climbing shoes instead of regular shoes for an entire weekend, or when we forgot the fuel last weekend.)
Two Silicon Valley engineers who have had a love of the outdoors since childhood. Parents of two small kids, spending our free time exploring the outdoors with them.