Who says you have to rough it when you're on the road or camping out under the stars? Once you've got your basics covered--tent, sleeping bags, camp chairs, cooking utensils, and first aid kit, you'll want to have these luxuries tucked in amongst your gear.
To get you started off on the right foot for your roadtrip adventures, here are the must have essentials we can't live without. I've also noted which essentials work if you're tent camping versus staying in a cabin or traveling in an RV.
Last year was the first year we really began "roadtripping" and camping with Gates. (We actually started the year prior with Mighty Earthling at Camp Navarro when Gates was 18 months old followed by camping overnight at a friend's wedding.) After a few mishaps (complete with spoilt food and forgotten bedding), we fully committed in 2015 with an event at Saratoga Springs Retreat Center in Upper Lake, CA (staying in a cabin), a second year of Mighty Earthling this time at Yokayo Ranch (two nights in a tent), and a weekend camping with friends at Limekiln State Park (two nights in a tent).
So far this year, we've gone on three road trips (cabin, rudimentary lodge room, and friend's ranch) and are about to go on another two, one in an RV and one in a tent. You could say we really like traveling with Gates. Thankfully, with our essentials dialed in (and a checklist) it gets a little easier each time.
Whether you're camping in a tent or a cabin, be sure you're stocked up on these items:
- Cottonelle Toilet Paper, 1-ply (*affiliate link). Never assume there will be stocked porta potties or toilets. This applies even if you're staying in a cabin or a lodge room as there may be no maid service which means no restocking. Also be sure you go with 1-ply or septic friendly options.
- Biodegradable hand soap such as Mrs. Meyer's Hand Soap Lemon Verbena(*affiliate link). During events, cabins and lodge rooms often don't have maid service. Rather than chance having no soap or a soap that you might be allergic to, come prepared with your own.
- Petzl - TIKKA+ Headlamp 160 Lumens, Black(*affiliate link). For setting up your camp at night, you'll want hands-free lighting. The first time I went camping we got a late start and arrived after dark. It was a primitive campsite--there was no lighting and no moon. We aimed the car as best we could and set up camp using the car's headlights. We inadvertently pitched our tent on top of a bunch of gopher holes. In the middle of the night, one tried to exit its burrow right under my sleeping bag. My screaming woke up the entire camp. Trust me you don't want this to happen to you.
- Duracell AAA Batteries Coppertop MN2400 - 20 Pack(*affiliate link). Before you head out on your adventure, you should always start with fresh batteries (and you should remove the batteries from all your devices when you return). Bring additional batteries just in case because you never want to be stumbling around in the dark.
- Collapsible Portable Waterproof Camping Lantern(*affiliate link). You can never have enough light and these collapsible, lightweight lanterns are great. You can hang one from the top of your tent and have enough light to read by. Too much and you can collapse the lantern until you have the amount of light you want. (Also, not that I'd recommend it, but if they land in a pool of water, simply remove the batteries and let them dry out. When they're dry, replace the batteries and voila! light.)
- Duracell Coppertop AA Batteries 24 Count(*affiliate link).
- Biodegradable shower gel such as Kiss My Face Bath and Shower Gel Anti-stress Woodland Pine and Ginseng(*affiliate link). If you want to cut down on the number of items you're bringing, especially if you're tight on space, skip the hand soap and use the shower gel for both washing your hands and showering.
- Biodegradable dish soap such as Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Dish Soap Lemon Verbena(*affiliate link). Even if you're eating food straight out of containers (like Tasty Bites or Chef Boyardee Ravioli Cups), you're still going to need to clean your silverware--unless you're using baby wipes which I don't recommend unless you're in a pinch. This soap does a great job at getting dishes squeaky clean.
If you're car camping or traveling in an RV, don't forget the following additional items:
- Height adjustable folding camping table such as Finether Aluminum Picnic Folding Table(*affiliate link). This versatile table is perfect for an activity table for kids or a table for your wine and cheese happy hour--lowest height is the perfect height for a coffee table for your camp chairs. Raise it to the mid-height and it's a great dining table. Set it to the tallest height and you have a surface for preparing food and cleaning up.
- 1 to 2 collapsible dish pan such as Prepworks by Progressive Collapsible Dish Tub(*affiliate link). Fill the first dish pan with soapy water and the second with clean water for rinsing your dishes. Be sure to scrape your dishes first and wash any that are oily last to conserve water.
- Collapsible dish rack such as Better Houseware Large Folding Dish Rack, Black(*affiliate link).
- Outdoor french press with unbreakable beaker such as GSI Outdoors Javapress French Press Coffee, 50 fl. oz.(*affiliate link). I'll be the first to admit that I have trouble functioning without my morning coffee. We've taken the older version of this coffee press with us on almost every trip (including out to Burning Man) for the past six years (it's handle broke off on our last trip when it fell out of a cabinet in the RV). To simplify prep when camping, we grind our beans and pre-measure into ziplock bags. After we brew the coffee, we use the empty ziplock bag to hold the used grounds. Be sure not to wash your coffee grounds down the sink in your RV--it can clog the system and you don't want that.
- An insulated carafe such as Emsa Samba, 34 fl. oz. Quick Press Insulated Server, Translucent Orange(*affiliate link). This carafe is the perfect size for pouring two cups immediately and saving the rest for later. We've found that putting hot coffee into the carafe keeps for longer than 6 hours. We've made coffee in the evening and have had steaming coffee the next morning.
- Collapsible unbreakable coffee cups such as Jerrybox 12 fl. oz., Silicone Coffee Cup(*affiliate link). If you're short on space, these are dual purpose--for coffee and for water. Best feature? Less spills!
- Set of unbreakable wine glasses such as Michley 100% Tritan Shatterproof, BPA-free Wine Glasses, Set of 4(*affiliate link). Why not drink and dine in style? These wine glasses look like glass (and photograph like glass), but eliminate the hassle of cleaning up broken glass if dropped. Because who wants to worry about broken glass when they're on vacation?
- Set of unbreakable water glasses such as Michley 100% Tritan Shatterproof, BPA-free, Stemless Wine Glasses, Set of 4(*affiliate link). If you're short on space, these are dual purpose--for water and for wine.
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