Curated For a Life of Adventure

Prepping for a camping trip in 5 simple steps

Random Outdoor, Travel, Trip PlanningJohanna Stein
Gear Layout


Camping season is just beginning here in Northern California. We just got back from our first local excursion. This was the first time we took out our full kit in 2016 as our last trip was more of a hybrid camping-luxury-hotel-culture excursion. Getting your gear in order and planning for a trip especially the first time during a season has a few special quirks, but I think there is a pretty standard 5 step process to get ready.

The 5 Trip Prep Steps

  1. Confirm your destination and any local activities (hiking, swimming, biking, climbing) 
  2. Decide who is going and understand any special restrictions they might have
  3. Plan a rough sketch of what you might do when over your trip 
  4. Lay out all of your gear (mentally or even better physically)
  5. Shop for required consumables or additional gear you might need

Once you've completed those five steps pack your car with everything and GO outside and play!! Let's break these steps down a little as there are a few tricks to each one.

Confirming your destination and any local activities 

This is likely either the easiest or the most complex part of your trip planning. If you are going someplace you've been before it is more of just making sure the spot is free when you want to use it. But if you are looking to explore a new destination then you need to learn about the local terrain and find your perfect camping spot. Our friends over at Roadtreking have a podcast all about this topic. Here is a quick run-down of our favorite planning resources.


A few quick side notes you maybe planning a trip to take part in a particular activity it might be going swimming, boating, attending a music festival or event, maybe even meeting friends in a spot that is convenient for you both. Understanding this restraint helps you narrow down where to search and eventually what to pack. But you could also flip this step and search by a particular spot like a natural wonder say maybe a National Park or a historic landmark. And then use that to restrict things and then find adventures that are nearby. 

Location Scouting Resources

Figure out who is going and their quirks

Knowing who is going on your trip is extremely important as it can create some great guideposts for both successful planning and a fantastic trip. What sorts of things are important to note. 

  1. How many people are going to attend
  2. Are they full grown humans or somewhere in the formative stages 
  3. Do they have dietary restrictions (veggie, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, kosher...)
  4. What is their emotional baggage (hanger, allergies to bees, aversion to bugs...)

Once you've got an idea of those quirks you can then effectively finalize your spot, start mapping out meals and activities as well as make sure any emergency preparedness needs will be met. In my case, that is making sure we have plenty of snacks to stave off my hangry-monster self. In the case of my husband, it is making sure we have enough reading time during our adventure. The man gets testy if he doesn't get in at least a good couple hours of reading during a weekend.

Once you figure out your groups you'll be better for it.

Sketch out the trip

Trip Plan

I think this might be my favorite part is it gets my day dreaming juices going. Meal planning is also kind of my jam. That might be why I started CampEats. So if you don't want to deal with that get a Provisions Pack. But if it is also something you are into check out our FREE printable tools. You can map out your meals and fun.

Things to think about

  1. How active do you want your day to be?
  2. Are you going to want to deal with complex cooking or just eat and go?
  3. Is clean up something that you can deal with?
  4. How dark or light will it be outside?
  5. What is the weather going to be like?
  6. Will you be setting up or breaking down your camp this day?
  7. Is there a special event or sight that you want to focus on during a particular time?
  8. Are there little people and when do they need to rest? (can also apply to full-size humans)
  9. What kind of gear do you have or will you need to get/rent some?
  10. What will bring the group the most joy?

Lay everything out 

Like many experienced campers we've got what we call our "gear box". It has all of the things we typically take camping in one spot. That box lives in our storage closet out of site.

Gear Box

Before each trip, I take it out and use my CampEats Packing List and pull things out of the box and from around the house to make sure I have everything we need. I'll also put everything in one spot typically it is our living room. It doesn't look like one of those OCD minimalist packing photos from Pinterest but it works for me.

On a side note after each trip, I make sure everything is clean take a mental inventory of what is in there and for the most part replace anything we've used up during the adventure. But I am by no means perfect so sometimes I've got to run to REI or order stuff from online to make sure I have the right consumables.

Tips and Tricks

  1. Use a pre-form packing list or make your own (here is mine)
  2. Lay stuff out in one spot
  3. Write down what you are missing so you actually get it before you go
  4. Think about any activities you are going to do so you pack your -- dog lifejackets, banjo, pie iron, scuba mask, golf clubs, climbing gear, dancing shoes, or whatever you need. 

Shop so you are prepared

Now that you've laid out what you have and made a list of what you need it is time to go out and get that stuff. I've got an adventure dispatch post about borrowing and renting gear and soon I'll my list of faves done. But generally just make sure you have what you need for your trip.

I also mention this step isn't really about buying a new tent or a camp stove. It is about that stuff you need to get that you'll use up on the trip. Things like food, fire starters, drinks, trash bags, dish soap and my personal favorite coffee.

Use your trip plan to create a shopping list and then tick down the list and get the things you need. So you can avoid what bothers me most is when I have to buy some really expensive random thing that I may already have because I didn't buy it before the trip. I am thinking of you three bottles of crappy olive oil in my pantry.

The most important thing is to have a list or you'll end up with tons of stuff you didn't know you needed or don't actually need or want. That is why we put one in the CampEats Provisions Packs.

My typical resupply stops

  • REI or other outdoor store - fuel, firestarters, biodegradable soap and refills for our first aide kit  
  • CampEats - Specialized camp sized food 
  • Target or other big box - trashbags, tp, paper towels, zipper bags, tinfoil, sunscreen, bug spray, wipes other misc items depending on the trip
  • Costco or other grocery store - fresh food items, wine, beer, meat (use your list or you'll end up with 100 pack of something you'll never eat)

Now that you've got some food for thought get planning. We'd love to hear about all of your travels and or see your photos. Just tag us #campeats on your favorite social media channel.