Packing the car for a camping trip. What could be difficult about that? Well, it's probably the most stressful part. Car packing can be quite stressful. Tempers can fray. Opinions by others watching the person packing the car are not always welcomed. Helpful comments are not always appreciated. The trip away may not always have a happy start. But that's okay! We are here to help you figure out the best way to go about it to try and make this process as easy as it can be.
Put the items you need last, in firstThink about what you will need to use first when you get to the campsite. It will probably be your shelter as that is most people's first priority chore once they have a campsite. So everything you need to set up your shelter needs to be accessible.
Planning on reaching the campsite late?Then make sure the lighting is one of the most accessible items in the boot.
Bad weather?Then think about your tarp and how easily you can get it. Or you wet weather gear. You may have to work very quickly in the rain, and you want that sort of gear handy when you pull up at the campsite.
Heavy items on the bottom
Pack the big heavy tubs, etc. in first and on the bottom. It is giving a good foundation for building up the gear in the boot of the car.
If you can tie down any of these large items to cargo clips, do so.
The heavy gear is to be placed in the center of the vehicle boot, which helps with the handling of the car. If the car is stopped suddenly, being low and centred and secured, prevents thrust and momentum.
Put the heavy gear up against secured components of the vehicle - push the heavy gear against the rear of the seats, or up against the rear of your boot.
Remember: all heavy items down low in the car.
Suitcases are not ideal things to bring camping. If you need clothes bags, bring soft-sided duffel bags/backpacks. We have even used the supermarket fabric shopping bags to put clothes in – they squash really nicely into nooks & crannies in the boot. See the next tip on why these shopping bags are handy...
Plug the holesEven with all your tub placing, there will be holes between the gear, and that is great. You fill these spaces with all the other non-tub items. It might be a sleeping bag, or a kettle, or hiking boots, or any bits of camping gear that doesn't have a tub of its own. No space will be wasted.
The clothes stored in fabric shopping bags have been used to plug holes.
Awkward ItemsYou might have awkward items, such as fishing poles, and camping chairs. They never fit very well in the pack of the car. They are just odd shapes. If you can, a roof rack is invaluable for these items. Pack that sort of gear on top of your car if that is a possibility.
If you can't, then this awkward gear will need to plug holes within the boot. There isn't a really easy option.
On topIf you are a regular camper (or want to be one), investing in a roof rack, or carrier (like Thule) can be wonderful way to have extra gear come along with you.
To get some tips on how to choose a roof luggage box here.
A lot can be placed up on top of your vehicle but it must be done safely. The importance of securing the gear correctly cannot be underestimated.
You don't put the heavy items on top of the car. It's for the bulky but light items, and the awkward items.
Note: Use of roof rack/carrier will increase air resistance and fuel consumption, up to 20% at higher speeds.
Grab your smartphone, and take a quick photo of how it looks. It could be a reference for the homeward bound journey, so you know roughly what it looks like.
You may be able to improve on the next attempt!
Your first attempt may not be successful. You could have excess gear still waiting to be packed and no room left. That's a bit concerning when it happens, so you might have to pull out a lot of gear, and start over again. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to sort all of this out.
Many articles might suggest downsizing to fit all of your gear (and this might be a good moment to ask yourself, do you really need the item?), while that is fine advice, like we said, your first trip should be fun and comfortable so just do your best to pack it all up!