Researching, planning, and booking a camping trip can be a time consuming task. You read reviews, check prices, scroll through hundreds of photos, solidify your dates, and finally are ready to hit that “place order” button. You’ve found your campsite, it’s smooth sailing from here, right? Not yet!
The next step is switching gears to what to pack. If you’re car camping, this isn’t too treacherous a thought because you can basically throw everything you might need into the trunk, without much concern for space. But what if you’re flying to your destination? The constraints on space may cause some to fret, and ponder how in the world they’ll fit everything they need into a suitcase.
It doesn’t have to be so difficult! Check out our tips for an easy, stress-free packing plan for the next time you find yourself flying to your next camping destination.
DO: Research what’s included at your campsite & campground
Depending on your accommodation of choice, there are a variety of items that might be included at your campsite and will save you space in your luggage. Campgrounds also differ widely in amenities and may offer conveniences such as laundry, a well-stocked camp store, or Wi-Fi.
- Tent: Does your site have electricity? A charcoal grill? How about outdoor path lighting? Knowing the answer to questions like these will assist in forming your packing list and make you rethink if you really need that extra flashlight or not.
- RV: If you’re flying to your destination, it’s safe to assume you’ll be renting an RV (unless you’re prepared to be hit with one heck of an overweight baggage fee). Sites like RVShare and Outdoorsy are great for finding an RV rental that fits your family’s needs. Since every RV is a little different, it’s important to research all that’s included. Towels, a deck of cards, DVD player, coffee pot, and more are all things to look for when packing your suitcase.
- Cabin: While we all can picture what a “cabin” is when we hear the word, cabin camping can take on many different forms. They range from rustic cabins that are four walls, a roof, and the basics, to luxurious lodges with a hot tub, AC, and smart TV. However you prefer to cabin camp, be sure to check if your unit supplies necessities like linens and pillows, and if there are more luxurious amenities like laundry units, an oven, and more.
Don’t have room in your suitcase for the necessities? No problem! Many campgrounds have linen rentals available – just check out their page on Campspot.
DO: Pack multipurpose items
Over the years, the outdoor industry has really honed in on products which make traveling easier and more accessible. A trend which started first with tools like the swiss army knife, has now turned into entire companies like VSSL and Buff. By eliminating redundant gear, you’ll be able to save room and pack lighter. Simplify your trip with these double duty items.
- Dr. Bronners All-One Soap: This 18-in-1 soap will leave your toiletry bag near empty and will suffice for practically any cleaning task. Clean your dishes, wash your face, even brush your teeth – all with one item.
- Crazy Creek Chair: Easy to roll, light to pack, and a necessity around the fire. Crazy Creek chairs double up as a chair and a sleeping mat, and is perfect for every tent camper.
- Swiss Army Knife: A trusted tool for adventurers around the world. It’s much more than a knife, and you’ll find yourself pulling it out for the most unexpected tasks like opening a wine bottle or getting something out of your teeth.
- Buff: It might be the lightest item in your pack, but it may also be the most functional. This multifunctional headwear can be used in 12+ ways. From face covering to headband, and balaclava to beanie, Buff’s got you covered.
- VSSL: The ultimate multipurpose item. VSSL combines everything you might need on a camping trip into one small, water-bottle-sized container. Check out their different variations like a first aid, java, camp supplies, or even build your own.
- Rumpl’s Stuffable Pillowcase: Waterproof material on the outside, fuzzy blanket material on the inside. Pack this bag with smaller clothing items and use it as a travel bag by day, then flip it inside out, repack, and use it as a pillow by night.
DO: Buy when you arrive
We all hate spending money when it’s unnecessary, but cramming that half eaten box of granola bars, beef jerky, and almonds into your overflowing suitcase isn’t going to be worth it in the long run. You’ll have to make a grocery store pit-stop regardless, and it’s always more fun to start fresh and stock up for the days ahead of you. Need some meal plan inspo? Check out our recipes for Bourbon Apple Pancakes, Black Beans & Rice with Fried Plantains, or Campfire Nachos & Mexican Street Corn.
A little tip: to save money and time, plan your meals and make a grocery list ahead of time. That way you won’t have to spend too much time wandering an unfamiliar grocery store, plus, your meals will be more thought out with less waste.
DO: Know what isn’t allowed on a flight
It only takes being stopped by security or having them rifle through your bag one time before you make it a point to double check all your items before arriving at the airport. Here’s a quick list of popular camping items that are NOT allowed while flying. Have a specific item you’re curious about? Check out the TSA’s full list here.
Not allowed in checked luggage:
- Bear spray
- Cooking fuel
- Power charger
Not allowed in a carry on:
- Bear spray
- Cooking fuel
- Hiking poles
- Liquids or gels more than 3.4 oz/100ml
- Multipurpose tools
DON’T: Pack last minute
We’ve all been there. One hour before you have to leave for the airport, and you’re frantically shoving everything within arms’ reach into your suitcase and crossing your fingers it’s not over the weight limit. Although it takes extra planning and coordination, we recommend packing a couple days before flying, and then revisiting what’s in your bag each day prior to your trip.
This way, you’ll be able to remove unnecessary items, add in things you forgot, and think critically about each piece you’re planning to take. Also, if the person you’re traveling with has extra space in their bag, this is an excellent time to toss some items their way that might not fit in yours.
DON’T: Expect to bring everything you want
If you’re listening to our advice and packing a couple days ahead of time, be sure you ask yourself these three questions about each of your items as you revisit day-to-day.
- Do I really need it?
- What will happen if I don’t have it?
- Am I already packing something that would do the same job?
These apply particularly with clothing items. While it may sound like a good idea to bring five different tops to choose from at the time. You’re probably only going to reach for the same three items. If you know you will be able to have the same enjoyment of your trip without it, you probably don’t need it. Just be sure to check the weather forecast before you leave – layering is always your best bet when flying!
DON’T: Be afraid to rent
Renting seems like a silly idea when you own the gear you need. But checking extra bags on the plane, or packing larger items like skis, tents, or bear canisters, might actually cost more money in the long run.
There are tons of great online services to rent from like Outdoors Geek, Xscape Pod, and Arrive Outdoors if you are flying for your camping trip. These can be shipped straight to your campsite (just be sure to let the park know ahead of time). Also depending on the area you’re in, there are usually great brick and mortar stores to rent gear from as well.
DO: Give it your best shot
There’s no such thing as packing perfectly – particularly when you’re flying on an airplane to your camping destination. On every trip (especially on camping trips) things happen that you cannot plan for. Maybe one day it’s pouring rain even though the forecast said clear skies. Maybe your kid forgets their baseball hat on the plane. Or maybe the hiking poles you bought break on the first day. Whatever happens, it’s best to remember that trips like these are supposed to be fun and relaxing – a time to spend with those you’re closest to.
So, do your research ahead of packing, take some extra time to think through what you need and what is unnecessary, and go with the flow! The most important components of a great trip – your friends, family, and a good attitude – can’t be packed anyway.