Fam of 6 takes too much stuff camping. Help us please!

MNTCamper

Super Active Member
Jun 14, 2014
1,332
MN
Just to give you some background here, I have seven kids and we have camped with all of them and the dog for two weeks. Will be out this summer with four of the kids(and dog) for 23 days towing with the minivan. What I have found very helpful is using the spreadsheet approach. I make a packing list for everyone that includes a clothing list and their own personal toiletries. For those things that can be shared (shampoo..... we bring one, or at most two (boys and girls). They can only pack what is on the list, making some leeway for things like books and so on. Basically, you only pack what you need.

In regards to food - again, use the spreadsheet. We have a meal plan for each day of the trip and we plan ahead and bring what is on the list as well as out staple condiments that we pack in appropriate sizes. Depending upon where we are going, we may pack from 3-6 days of food and will restock as needed. I'm confused on the cooler thing, because I can pack 7 days of food in an 80 qt cooler along with our small camper fridge for 9 people and we eat unbelievably well when we camp. For some folks, all of this type of upfront planning probably sounds very anal, but in reality it makes the vacation very stress free, you know what you are eating, where you are going, approx when you are doing laundry and so on. You just execute the plan and have fun.

So, my advice would be lots of pre-planning and then only bring what you need. Works very well for our clan.
 

infernisdiem

Member
Mar 24, 2017
58
I usually pack enough under clothing and shirts for every day that I am out, a few pairs of shorts, and a couple pairs of pants. Another space saving idea is to use extra large slide ziplock bags, put your clothes in it, roll it up to press out all the air, and seal. I packed 2 weeks of clothes and had a bunch of room left over in my suit case. Try a trial run in your yard, and do a shakedown from there.
 

Jenkamus

Active Member
Oct 17, 2015
246
Surprise, AZ
Thinking like a backpacker is not a bad idea, I don't think he meant it with bad intentions. If you research how ultralight backpackers do it you will understand the concept of minimalism and space conservation. To me it was fascinating. (You probably won't need to go as far as they do to cut their hair and nails before your trip to cut some weight lol).

If you can go down to travel size anything, do it. Shampoos and conditioners, tooth paste, etc. you're camping and don't need to shower everyday, baby wipes make a good wipe down option on non shower days.

Food, I do pre-meal plan and prep as much as possible before and everything is vacuum sealed and frozen before the trip. Get smaller condiment sizes or packets to save space. Plan out your meals to the last detail and only pack what is needed.

If your PUP will close with the bedding on, try that. Or opt for lighter warmer blankets, use stuff sacks when you can to compress and save space. What about air inflated pillows? Hardly any space taken during travel (my husband takes a ton of pillows just for him, it's so much extra space needed for those). Thicker space blankets are good to use as extra warmth and take up no space compared to extra blankets. There some thicker stretchier ones that hold up and can be reused (instead if the disposable Mylar ones) we've used them on tent camping trips and they worked great.

Clothes can be reworn so take a few sets (and extra underware), one clean set for going into town or sightseeing. Take a few sets of clothes and try looking into small squishable clothes washer, soap and a little water is all that is needed, make a clothesline under your bunk to try towels/clothes.

Dishes, reuse what you already have there, cups, utensils, plates, one for each person and one or two extra if needed to pull food off the grill. Dishes get washed in a small tote, placed on a lid of another tote, then rinsed and left to dry. There are collapsible dish bins and drying racks to conserve space.

Have you looked at your PUP to see of ways to make it warmer so you pack less blankets, sleeping clothes?, popup gizmos, reflectix. What about hidden or bad storage in there you might be able to make better use of with a couple of tweaks.

Lastly, what came to my mind with a loaded up trailer and loaded up can with people and stuff, have you looked at your weight capacity of your van and trailer and are you still under your capacity weight with all your stuff? That is a huge safety issue and for me is part of my every decision that goes into packing up.
 

Laney A

My crew: Me, hubby and our 3 K9's.
Oct 28, 2015
79
Midwest
My suggestion is to get your family involved and talk about what is essential to the experience you all wish to have. Keep in mind that all involved should consider mutiple alternate uses for the things you're planning to take. Adjustments to everthing having a dedicated place can be good but don't sweat the small stuff. You're getting away to have fun. Best Wishes!
 

Redbird934

Member
Mar 5, 2017
73
We have a Thule soft carrier, bought at Canadian Tire when it was 70% off. In it goes life jackets, pillows, water shoes, any light items.

I got bags from dollarama, plastic but with a zipper and each kid (5) gets one. Hubby and I share one. They and our folding table go in the trunk of the van. We find that our trailer, also a sea pine, can hold a lot. We can fit all our kitchenware in the kitchen. We have a plastic washing up bin that holds all our dishes and a second one stacked under it for washing up. Everyone washes and dries their own. I can store all our canned food plus most things we need, tool kit, first aid, a few games etc in the camper.
We fill the cooler last and are able to fit it in the trailer door.
I precook and freeze food.
We have two mesh bags each on a lanyard, boys and girls with soap, shampoo , puffs, toothbrushes and toothpaste. They go in the trunk, they take not much space and make showering easy.
 

equilibrium

Member
Jul 29, 2013
61
First off I want to say how cool it is that you take your wonderful family outdoors to make some memories.

I would suggest making three lists of things. First list has the things that are truly needed. Second list are things you want to have. Third list is made up of things that would cool to have along but wouldn't ruin the trip if they were left at home. This will help you see what you need, want and would like to have along. I would suggest you do this with kitchen gear, personal clothing, camp toys, and even menu items.

Have a great season!


Looking forward to doing this! This will be a great technique to teach our 11/14 year olds as well! Thank you so much.
 

equilibrium

Member
Jul 29, 2013
61
Sounds busy! In your minivan, do your middle row seats fold down? If so, you can use the hole in the floor that the seat folds down in to for storage. We do this on long roadtrips sometimes.

Also you could store stuff under the dinette table if it's always folded down. We stick the dog bed under there during the day and slide it out for her at night.

Yes we do! We tried using it for canned food, etc once hahaha Last time we stored our towels etc in them. They are fantastic the stow n go things! Yes, the dinette is always folded down and I dont' recall what we kept under it. I think we will do that for the doggie bed, thanks!!! :)
 

DesertRed

Member
Mar 28, 2017
90
We are a family of 6 as well ranging from a 9 month old to 11 years and we take our 40 lb Queensland Heeler. We just did our maiden pop up voyage this weekend but have been tent campers a long time. A few things we've learned to do:

We use and share bar shampoo (JR Liggets). I have long curly hair and it works great for mine as well (though honestly-I don't wash it much while camping. It is usually up and in a hat anyway!). We do condiment packets-single use-no refrigeration needed-I keep these in a zip lock bag. No need for putting in a cooler this way. Foaming baby wash works great as a double for body wash and hand wash. We all share the bottle.

I use this something similar to this for cookware. Mine is a hand-me-down from a great uncle. You may find something better at an Army/Navy surplus but this is similar. It cuts down a TON on space for cookware: https://www.amazon.com/Winterial-Ca...oor-recreation&ie=UTF8&qid=1493610585&sr=1-23
We use something like this for knives/spatulas etc: https://www.amazon.com/GSI-Outdoors...rd_wg=eOj38&psc=1&refRID=CDRFTX3J1DFBDXJYSQ3E

We have a set like this (we bought individual pieces at Walmart) for plates and utensils...which we pack into a small Stearlite locking tub-not big-about the size of a dishpan-and we use this as an outdoor dishpan (a hold over from tentcamping but still works now with the PUP as an extra option). https://www.amazon.com/Stansport-En...rd_wg=IiWij&psc=1&refRID=P86B0W1BE3H46A86MGNE

I do one small RED colored bag for medical. We have no specific medical needs but having been raised by first responders I always keep benedryl, tylenol, bandages, antibacterial, thermometer-anything we might need for little ones while we are out.

I have a tendency to overpack our clothing but have begun a habit of assessing what went unworn and make notes when we get back so we pack only what we actually need while out. We have mostly culled it to sticking to a small duffel/army style pack for each of us. A pair of pants, a pair of shorts, a short sleeve, a long sleeve (if it's going to be cooler weather), a light jacket, a hat, appropriate undergarments, bathing suits if we are going where we can use them. That's it. If it gets dirty we wash it out and hang it dry.

We do not crate our dog. She is well trained and if outside of the camper on a leash with me at all times.

We use a Yakima Skybox. We got it years ago for military moves and it was worth every penny. We got it at REI. I purchased their lifetime membership and ended up with a 10% discount on it at the time since it wasn't cheap but I broke 2 soft side carriers and they were not nearly as easy to use-so it was worth the expense and we've now had and used it for 10 years (and at least 7 moves-though we are no longer military!) It is enormously helpful with any and all of our travels. We have a GMC Yukon XL and use the 3rd seat. We have plenty of room but the extra on top is a God-send.

I try to do less actual cooking while camping-and cook ahead as much as I am able. I put chili, stews, etc into a gallon sized ziplock. We stick to simple sandwiches a lot. I also precut simple sides like veggies and fruits so they are ready to go and can be tossed into a salad or just snacked on. We do simple nuts, dried fruit, yogurt and water. (And coffee-no way I'm going without coffee! It keeps me friendly and sane).

We take a single towel for each of us. They are small like the ones my husband had in the army. These do the trick and are easier to pack.

We also camp in bear country so we keep all food in the back of our vehicle as well. We park the TV so that our back end is close to the PUP and keep it open (lights off to not use up battery) and we hang an LED lantern so we can see and use it well in the dark. Ice chests and drygoods all stay in there like a chuckwagon.

Last but not least we do "many hands make light work" and this has helped our kids understand why we pack so light. It helps a great deal!

I don't know if this helps at all but it works for us and we keep a notebook for "Monday morning quarterbacking" what worked and didn't for each trip.
 

1380ken

Super Active Member
Nov 7, 2013
2,843
Mass
I have three kids and the wife does not pack light at all. We bring a ton of stuff. I pack everything inside the camper so there is lots of room in the TV. When we get to the campsite I also set up a 10 man tent that we use for storage and as a changing area. Inside the tent I have a small card table and a camp cot. All suit cases are in the tent. Everything is in the tent and the camper is clutter free.
 

inthedirt

Super Active Member
Aug 28, 2012
977
SW Montana
Well, now that I see that there are medical needs involved with some of the family members, I think I'll need to revise my previous post. I meant no harm by it, but thought that I'd suggest that by backpacking, you'd learn what is absolutely essential to get the job done. Not a lot of room for extras, though. With medical needs, that changes everything. I apologize.

When our kids were smaller, we towed our Coleman Sequoia with a minivan. It was crowded, but could be done. There was 5 of us, plus the family dog, kids bikes, and all the normal crap that we take with camping. By crap, I mean that we take basically everything known to the universe so that we can be comfortable, eat well, and not have to suffer like I did in my backpacking/Boy Scout days of my youth. I'm not sleeping on the ground anymore!

First, if you van isn't already equipped with air bags or some type of overload springs, I would HIGHLY suggest that you consider this if not upgrading to a truck or SUV soon. I know that $$ can be tight for families that want to play together, but putting safety first will make you TV more capable and last longer. Next, I haven't seen anything from you suggesting that you use a roof-rack carrier. If so, I must have missed it. With our van (2005 Kia Sedona), we'd place anything soft up there that didn't weigh a lot. Towels, blankets, pillows, and clothes can fit into all types of tight places, unlike luggage or pots and pans. Also, I'd start investing in a good solar setup so that you can utilize whatever medical devices are required for you family. I have 260w of panels and dual 6v Trojans on my Pup. This charges all of my electrical needs, including laptops and GoPro/cell phone devices. Having solar could also power electric coolers or Pup's fridge, using your propane for the furnace or buddy heater. Not sure what you currently have in your Pup.

I keep a small box of pots/pans in the Pup for cooking and using as a wash basin, and a 6ft folding table always comes with us. I tow with either my Durango or 3/4T truck, and my new Pup has a dirt bike/ATV platform up front for more storage ability. My truck only has 3 seat belts and no AC, so my wife will follow along in her car with a couple of the kids or the dogs. I could go on about my setup, but in reality, it basically boils down to your needs and wants. Make room for medical needs and food/clothing first, then go from there. I would also have a very frank discussion with the fam and see what they can do without.
 

chambo

Active Member
Apr 27, 2015
358
Southern California
Cooking/kitchen stuff seems to take up the most room for me. I bought a set of three nesting pots which is usually enough to handle all the cooking needs. I also discovered that I was bringing too many cooking utensils... a spatula and a cooking spoon can multitask. The "one towel per person" is a space saver as well. For a longer trip I would plan on doing laundry half way through either at a laundry mat or in bucket. The tables you bring sound like extra work for not a lot of gain and I'd suggest using the picnic table. But you know better than I do if this is feasible. I am a big fan of using storage bins. One for pots/pans/cooking, one for plates/cups/utensils, one for food/snacks, etc, etc. I usually stack them outside under a bed during the day so they are accessible, and load into the car at night. Get bins that feel a little smaller than what you think you'll need and I bet you'll figure out a way to make them work. Maybe the bins (with lids on) could also be your dishwashing station. After three or four trips, look at what's in the very bottom of the bins and ask if those items are really needed.

Wheat thins.... every trip I go on I always buy a box of wheat thins. Never once have I eaten them while camping. They always come back home unopened. Same thing with honey roasted peanuts.

Happy camping!
 

Sneezer

Super Active Member
Aug 8, 2015
2,955
DFW, TX
I am just a family of 3, and when camping really just my son and I. However - I will be the first to admit that I haul along way too much stuff, although part of that is just learning what works vs. what doesn't.

Keep an eye out on craigslist for a used roof box. I got a Yakima Rocketbox a couple years back for $50, and it has been a life saver for us on scout trips and road trips. When hauling the pup I tend to put our dufflebags and bedding/soft goods in the pod. Mostly bulky gear that doesn't always pack well.

I don't pre-make meals as I enjoy cooking on a campout. However, it might be something to consider given the size of your brood.

I think you said you primarily camp without hookups. If it were me I would expand to other sites with electric. I personally find having hookups vastly improves my overall camping experience. Then again - we don't have any desire to boondock anyway - having a comfortable camper at the end of the day with AC is so nice!

I do use a two drawer plastic unit in the pup. We transfer our clothes to it when we get set up for extended camps. Shorter ones we live out of a duffel.

I do admit that we use paper plates now. Our cleaning is limited to utensils, cups and cooking gear. This has helped out for us in the cleaning department. Cleaning plates was always the part I dreaded the most.

My largest gear issue is cooking. I set up an entire kitchen outside the camper under the awning with stoves and grills, and all that equipment takes up space. I am gradually paring that down to what works and what doesn't, so it is a constantly evolving process for me.
 

nomorecoop

Active Member
Jan 8, 2012
454
Every year I gut the camper and take everything out and store the stuff in the basement. My winter project is to go through each item and determine how much it was used. If it's never used or used rarely, I take it out. Another tip for meals is to make your meal list by listing every ingredient needed to make each meal & only pack the required materials. For meals that use sugar/flour, I prepackage it in zip locks with the exact amount needed. Same thing for cooking supplied, minus my cast iron and DOs.
 

rocksncactus

Active Member
May 10, 2013
324
Cobb County, GA
You've gotten some really good advice. A few comments. As far as microfiber towels go, there are nubby types and smooth types. I personally hate the feel of the nubby ones. Our early microfiber towels were nubby. The last couple I've picked up at REI scratch-and-dent sales have been smooth. Much better, and they pack smaller. Besides packing small, microfiber towels dry a lot faster than cotton. Do a little searching on the Portal and find posts re under-bunk towel bars (or google the Popup Princess). After everyone uses their one towel, they then hang it on a bar to dry. Same goes for swim gear and any clothes that get washed out by hand as needed.

You don't have to have an REI nearby. You can shop online or look online for Sierra Outpost and such if you do ANY shopping for camping gear.

Besides dehydrating food -- something that works great for camping -- there are also vacuum sealers. We use both. Both save a lot of space. I agree that you could use a smaller cooler. Not everything has to be in a cooler. Canned goods, dehydrated, vacuum sealed, this all can be in a box or tub. The milk that is good on the shelf until opened is also a great idea.

The roof box is a great idea. We snagged a Yakima at a scratch-and-dent sale at REi after breaking a cheapo on a trip. Don't go cheap in quality, just in price!

For spices, a good idea is Tic Tac boxes. If you use Tic Tacs or know someone who does -- do they sell them in Canada? :0) -- collect enough for your spices. They store small.

You can make do with one big pot and one smaller pot depending on your meal types. We make a lot of rice/beans/meat/peppers/onions types of dishes, which are one-pot meals. Then we'll usually have something else, like some other veggie in the other pot. Then we have fresh fruit sometimes. We never do elaborate meals. We come back to camp tired in the evening and couldn't care less about a fancy dinner. For lunch we take peanut butter sandwiches with Lance peanut butter crackers and similar for snacks. Breakfast is usually cold cereal, but sometimes we make scrambled eggs and bacon. That's rare, though.

I agree with the mid-trip laundry trip/grocery store run -- if you're within a reasonable distance to town. If you're in the middle of a national park, then hand washing of clothes can work. I've seen on the internet a hand washing machine made with a 5-gallon bucket and a new toilet plunger -- imagine an old-fashioned butter churn! But in the interests of saving space you could just use your dishpan. But first heed the advice about drastically cutting down the amount of clothing. You've got boys and boys tend to get dirty, but it won't hurt them to re-wear those shorts an extra day or so. You're camping. And if the shorts they are wearing are nylon or polyester and you have to hand wash them, they will dry overnight on the clothes bars.

I bought these dish pans, and I also got a mini dish rack that fits inside them. The tray that the rack sits on is also it's lid when not in use. This is my dish-washing station on the picnic table end. I have soapy water in one pan and rinse water in the other. I boil some water on the stove that is poured over the rinsed dishes to sterilize them. I've done this for 20 years and never had a problem. Then the dishes sit out at night to dry. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000TRBOK4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Do the spread sheet idea or find the list of lists on the Portal and make up your own. Print your list and then go through it and decide what can be removed. Then while you're out there keep a notebook and take notes on what gets used and doesn't.

Above all, it's about having fun as a family. You've got this! :0)
 

Sneezer

Super Active Member
Aug 8, 2015
2,955
DFW, TX
Forgot to mention - When I camp for a week I only bring enough food for the initial first couple days, and replenish as needed. I map out my meals, ingredients, utensils and cooking gear needed in advance, which helps me pack and then buy stuff once I am out there. I also use the on board fridge in addition to a thermoelectric cooler. This would not work for a boondocker as the cooler will suck a battery dry in a couple hours. I have a 110V adapter, so I just plug it in and run it outside the camper under my kitchen tables. It usually holds drinks and nothing else. For longer trips I also use a 110v/12v hybrid fridge that works similar to the camper fridge but also has a thermocouple with fan. This sits on my counter and holds milk/OJ and other items as needed. I no longer take a regular cooler as I can plug everything in during the week to pre-chill, then pre-load the day before. The thermo cooler and hybrid fridge travel in the back of my TV, hooked up to 12V to maintain their temp until we get set up.

Eventually I hope to get one of the 12V/110V fridge/freezer units, which sip power, but they are $400+.
 

DesertRed

Member
Mar 28, 2017
90
Check your Craigslist or local Facebook buy sale trade for a Yakima or Thule box. You might be surprised at how easy you can come by one.

Another thing I plan to try next trip out is pre-cooking a batch of chicken-then doing some simple hobo packets and also bbq chicken sandwiches with it. So I'm still "cooking" without having to do too much. Heat it up in foil. I'm trying to simplify as much as possible myself!
 

theoilman

Member
Mar 29, 2017
27
Florida
2, different ways to a solution:

1. When packing for international travel (by air) - for a week or longer: First lay out everything you want / think you need. Second, put half of it back away - you don't need it. Third, pack half of the last pile that was still left out. Keep only multiple use things, clothes that can be washed easily by hand and dry quickly, etc, etc, etc.

2. I do week long Appalachian Trail hikes, when everything is on my back. If my starting weight in and on my pack is over 30 lbs, there is something I don't need. It MUST be under 30 lbs. starting weight. I frequently end a hike at well under 20, sometimes under 15. ALL food freeze dried or dehydrated. All clothes dry-weave fabrics.
 

bob barnes

Super Active Member
Mar 26, 2017
1,343
We are a family of 6 as well ranging from a 9 month old to 11 years and we take our 40 lb Queensland Heeler. We just did our maiden pop up voyage this weekend but have been tent campers a long time. A few things we've learned to do:

We use and share bar shampoo (JR Liggets). I have long curly hair and it works great for mine as well (though honestly-I don't wash it much while camping. It is usually up and in a hat anyway!). We do condiment packets-single use-no refrigeration needed-I keep these in a zip lock bag. No need for putting in a cooler this way. Foaming baby wash works great as a double for body wash and hand wash. We all share the bottle.

I use this something similar to this for cookware. Mine is a hand-me-down from a great uncle. You may find something better at an Army/Navy surplus but this is similar. It cuts down a TON on space for cookware: https://www.amazon.com/Winterial-Ca...oor-recreation&ie=UTF8&qid=1493610585&sr=1-23
We use something like this for knives/spatulas etc: https://www.amazon.com/GSI-Outdoors...rd_wg=eOj38&psc=1&refRID=CDRFTX3J1DFBDXJYSQ3E

We have a set like this (we bought individual pieces at Walmart) for plates and utensils...which we pack into a small Stearlite locking tub-not big-about the size of a dishpan-and we use this as an outdoor dishpan (a hold over from tentcamping but still works now with the PUP as an extra option). https://www.amazon.com/Stansport-En...rd_wg=IiWij&psc=1&refRID=P86B0W1BE3H46A86MGNE

I do one small RED colored bag for medical. We have no specific medical needs but having been raised by first responders I always keep benedryl, tylenol, bandages, antibacterial, thermometer-anything we might need for little ones while we are out.

I have a tendency to overpack our clothing but have begun a habit of assessing what went unworn and make notes when we get back so we pack only what we actually need while out. We have mostly culled it to sticking to a small duffel/army style pack for each of us. A pair of pants, a pair of shorts, a short sleeve, a long sleeve (if it's going to be cooler weather), a light jacket, a hat, appropriate undergarments, bathing suits if we are going where we can use them. That's it. If it gets dirty we wash it out and hang it dry.

We do not crate our dog. She is well trained and if outside of the camper on a leash with me at all times.

We use a Yakima Skybox. We got it years ago for military moves and it was worth every penny. We got it at REI. I purchased their lifetime membership and ended up with a 10% discount on it at the time since it wasn't cheap but I broke 2 soft side carriers and they were not nearly as easy to use-so it was worth the expense and we've now had and used it for 10 years (and at least 7 moves-though we are no longer military!) It is enormously helpful with any and all of our travels. We have a GMC Yukon XL and use the 3rd seat. We have plenty of room but the extra on top is a God-send.

I try to do less actual cooking while camping-and cook ahead as much as I am able. I put chili, stews, etc into a gallon sized ziplock. We stick to simple sandwiches a lot. I also precut simple sides like veggies and fruits so they are ready to go and can be tossed into a salad or just snacked on. We do simple nuts, dried fruit, yogurt and water. (And coffee-no way I'm going without coffee! It keeps me friendly and sane).

We take a single towel for each of us. They are small like the ones my husband had in the army. These do the trick and are easier to pack.

We also camp in bear country so we keep all food in the back of our vehicle as well. We park the TV so that our back end is close to the PUP and keep it open (lights off to not use up battery) and we hang an LED lantern so we can see and use it well in the dark. Ice chests and drygoods all stay in there like a chuckwagon.

Last but not least we do "many hands make light work" and this has helped our kids understand why we pack so light. It helps a great deal!

I don't know if this helps at all but it works for us and we keep a notebook for "Monday morning quarterbacking" what worked and didn't for each trip.
We have learned after 41 years of tenting that you don't have to be spotless clean who looks anyways. We can take a military shower less than 1 gal ea if need be. We now don't take many clothes a big space user our towels are used then hung up to dry for use again. Many many things can be done if you just think things through!!
 




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