April 15, 2010 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Help me write my summer camping packing list. Looking for the best practical, luxury or fun items that can fit in one car for a short trip (under a week).
posted by greensalsa to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
French Press for coffee

Lawn chairs (often forgotten at home)

Binoculars, a telescope if you have one

Where are you going/what kind of camping are you going to do? A lot of advice could be region specific.
posted by Think_Long at 2:36 PM on April 15, 2010

A nice bottle of whiskey for sipping at sunset.
posted by saladin at 2:38 PM on April 15, 2010

Seconding whiskey. Additionally: rod & tackle, decent novel, first aid kit with scissors and self-adhesive moleskin for blisters, dutch oven & ingredients to be placed therein, firestarters, poncho, EXTRA SOCKS (warm ones), insect repellant (with DEET-- you're not trying to be environmental here, you're trying to keep those tiny jerks the hell away from you), self-inflating mattress pad, rope, fresh bread, dried meats, hard cheeses.
posted by The White Hat at 2:45 PM on April 15, 2010

a decent sized roll out rug for outside my tent door. It's nice to take my shoes off and step in with no dirt or pine needles getting tracked in.

Also fresh peaches to grill for dessert.
posted by beccaj at 2:53 PM on April 15, 2010

I always keep a small whiskbroom in my Action Packer. Ever so helpful for tidying up dusty picnic tables.

If you're going to cook onside, bring a big plastic cutting board. It makes a nice clean "counter" for prepping, even if you're not chopping anything, and they're flat and not too heavy so they're not inconvenient to lug along. And I love my collapsible sink.

We have a French Press and a Moka pot in our gear, but one set of friends we camped with had a percolator, and the coffee was always better (and less messy) when we camped with them.

Dr. Bronner's is our soap of choice for camping. We use it on everything--dishes, bodies.
posted by padraigin at 2:57 PM on April 15, 2010

I always bring my hammock.
posted by smithygreg at 3:13 PM on April 15, 2010

Bananas, slit open, stuff with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Wrap in foil, put in hot coals. Devour.

Bring n+1 camp chairs where n is the number of people in your party. You can break a chair or have unexpected company to share your whiskey!

Freeze chicken or whatever in marinade, to act as ice, and cook on the second night. This saves room in your cooler.

Duct tape is great for blisters, it reduces the friction on the area about to form an ouchy.

Tweezers and chapstick for ticks. The chapstick, applied liberally, makes it hard for a tick to breathe with it's head buried in you, so it'll back itself out. Do not try to pull a tick off yourself while it's head is in you. Use the tweezers to get it off your skin though.

Headlamps. Great for peeing in the woods. Or walking to the toilets.

Cards are not much fun on a windy night, but Uno can be great with a group. Cards are good if you get stuck in a tent or rec area during a rainstorm.

I might swing back into this thread if I have any more ideas.
posted by bilabial at 3:32 PM on April 15, 2010

Yes to headlamps, good whiskey, and French presses!
It's also a good idea to bring a few fun things that can be used inside the tent or under a tarp in case of rainy days. I like to bring a few episodes of This American Life in your media format of choice and a dumb boardgame like Cranium. Risk is also great for this!
posted by troublewithwolves at 3:41 PM on April 15, 2010

A lantern. Ghost stories. Glow in the dark thingies. My favorite campfire food (besides Smore's!) is grilled corn, which I prefer to roast while still in a few layers of husk, silk and all. It protects the kernels so they steam perfectly but still taste smokey.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 3:53 PM on April 15, 2010

a comfy chair
a good book
a ball or frisbee for catch
some syrah or tempranillo to sip from plastic cups around the fire (don't forget the corkscrew)
TWO pillows because it's way more comfortable, and it's not like your car is ever too full for one more pillow
books to help you ID birds, trees, plants, and/or constellations
seconding the headlamp, it's the very very best thing for camping ever
posted by vytae at 4:41 PM on April 15, 2010

For me, it's always been the surprise OH MY GOD food moments - like the time I surprised a friend for a birthday camping trip with a slab of prime rib and giant shrimp for a magnificently sinful feast that night. Everyone was expecting boring hot dogs and hamburgers, but the surf and turf meal that we cooked over the fire made it all the more special. We still talk about that meal and it's been years.
posted by HeyAllie at 5:31 PM on April 15, 2010

Tarps have not been mentioned yet. We string great big tarps thru the trees over the picnic tables and never get stuck in out tents when it rains.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:02 PM on April 15, 2010

Nthing whisky. Also, real ceramic mugs. Coffee and tea taste so much better in the real thing...
Headlamps are awesome, as are the little lights one can attach to a hat.
If you eat meat, there is nothing like meat cooked over a fire. Plan meals accordingly.
A musical instrument.
posted by pentagoet at 7:05 PM on April 15, 2010

You're car camping? Get one of those hefty Maglites that take 4 D batteries and store it on the floor just to the left of the driver's seat. It's awesome for all those times a headlamp doesn't have enough power, like for scanning a landscape to find a campsite. Also good for finding your headlamp!
posted by salvia at 7:26 PM on April 15, 2010

I really love to bring a big egg crate mattress to sleep on when car camping. So comfy and luxurious.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:52 PM on April 15, 2010

Solar showers, because hiking or camping in a wilderness area shouldn't make you give up a nice warm shower at the end of the day. They roll up and take very little space and you just fill and lay on the grass (or the car, actually) in the sun. Doesn't get easier than that.
posted by ninazer0 at 9:05 PM on April 15, 2010

Nthing a headlamp. I have two Petzls and never go camping without them. The Zipka is my favorite.
posted by youngergirl44 at 9:35 PM on April 15, 2010

Headlamps, absolutely. Two-way radios. A tripod for your camera – assuming that yours is decent (when else will you have a chance to photograph the night sky?).
posted by halogen at 11:09 PM on April 15, 2010

Wet wipes for general cleaning up and if necesssary, the old "glastonbury shower" in-tent cleaning experience. Pack of cards, pen, paper. Playing cards in a tent when it rains is one of life's great pleasures - particularly if you've also remembered the whiskey.

Sharp knife. Matches. Cigarette lighter incase the matches get wet.

Lighting - head torches are useful, ordinary torches are useful, and if you've got the kind of tent where you can stand up, or you're doing the tarp-under-trees thing, a gas lamp is super cool. You can get gas lamps that take the standard camping-gaz cylinders and they give off an interesting light. Candles, the long kind, are also nice. You can make a wind shield by cutting the top quarter or so from a 1.5 litre water bottle, inverting it, and forcing it into the base of the bottle like this:
|             |
|      I      |
|     | |     |
|     | |     |
|\    | |    /|
| \   | |   / |
|   \ | | /   |
|    || ||    |

posted by handee at 2:34 AM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To answer the first posts' question, we are camping in the Sierra's around Lake Tahoe in CA.

These suggestions are great! I'm buying a headlamp. Thank you everyone.
posted by greensalsa at 11:58 AM on April 16, 2010

I live at Lake Tahoe so one more hint - you're going to be in the mountains, where it gets surprising cool at night, even in the summer. It can snow in June. So pack extra warm socks and maybe even a hat and a nice blanket to throw around you as you sit around the campfire. You might not need it, but it sure beats freezing to death if you're unprepared.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:55 AM on April 17, 2010

The other best thing for car camping that nobody has mentioned yet are those quick dry ultra-compressible towels, ideally in one of the larger sizes (like 18"x24"). You don't want your towel hanging out damp in your car, but you definitely don't want to drip dry or be scamming paper towels from the campsite restroom.
posted by salvia at 10:17 AM on April 17, 2010

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