Organizing Ahead Makes Camping Easier

Hello and welcome to the blog today.  This post is intended to offer some food for thought… One of the things that sometimes makes me not want to go camping is the amount of packing and fiddling around with stuff prior to going. There have been occasions when it took a couple of hours to get packed, only to find that something critical was missed.  By keeping a few items ready at all times, getting the van loaded only takes a few minutes.

BagThis little zipperless bag is very helpful.  It holds a couple of blue ice packs, insulin, and a pill box (with the little flaps).  The Velcro closer makes access very easy!  Pockets on the side hold the diabetic testing kit, spare insulin needles, testing strips, etc.  There is also enough room for snacks such as Fiber One bars, little single serving cups of peanut butter, candy, etc.

The pill box on the left has a cloth pouch (not shown) that has been a huge  help – the fabric sleeve keeps the flaps from opening and provides a cushion in case of falls.  On a recent trip the old pill box fell, broke open, and pills went everywhere.  It was not the first time this has happened!  The cost for the little cooler was $10 at Walmart.  The pill box with the cloth sleeve was cheap – like $5 or so.  Both make organizing medications quick, easy, safe, and convenient.

Though I love to cook when camping, it can be a real pain in the arse to have to look in a drawer under the bed for a bottle of oil, between the front seats for a skillet, somewhere else for a can of propane, and then finding that the wooden spoon had fallen in the cat’s litter box, etc.  I’ve found something that works better in terms off having the cooking equipment in one place, saving time and frustration.

Shopping Basket 1Some years ago I was giving a friend a ride home and saw a treasure sitting next to the apartment complex’s trash dumpster.  It was a plastic shopping basket very similar to this one.  (You can find them on Ebay)  I now use the basket to pre-pack kitchen things needed for each trip including:  a skillet, two bottles of olive oil, paper plates, plastic silveware, a pancake turner, spices, a small electric hotplate, fish coating mix, freezer bags, a stick blender, utensils, etc.

At the moment, the basket is sitting in the kitchen at the home base – ready for the next outing.  Loading the van only takes a couple of minutes now.

This little device has become invaluable in recent months.  electric-hot-plate-h-001-365In the early days, I used to cook with charcoal or wood but have found it’s expensive and is too much work for  a simple meal.  Though it seems a little lazy, I love the convenience of a small hot plate burner.

When a person starts vandwelling, there is often a tendency to buy all kind of gadgets, grills, and all that stuff to drag along on camping trips.  I’ve tried most of the trendy things.  In fact, at times the van’s been so full of shi* that it’s made camping tedious.  I say resist the urge to buy stuff until the need is actually there.  Less is more!


No matter what type of camping or cooking a person does, the quality of the food and the experience of preparing it is so enjoyable and doesn’t matter how rich or poor one is.  It’s fun to tell people the story about watching a huge Greyhound type motorhome with will all the occupants gathering around to cook wieners.  On the other hand, I had rolled up in the van with primitive equipment and proceeded to pat out homemade, from-scratch tortillas and make steak fajitas.  The “neighbors” were fascinated watching all the work… and then smelling the food.  Just like the camping enclosure, budget doesn’t mean a thing!  It’s been said that it seems all I talk about is food… but most die hard campers will agree that some of the best meals are those made outdoors.  Having them planned and organized just adds to the joy of it all!

So what’s next?  Well, hopefully I’ve got the blog fixed after a possible hack.  With a little luck, the emails should be going out again.  Soon I’m going to visit buddy Johnnie for his 40th birthday.  After that it’s highly likely I’ll be camping somewhere next week, perhaps at a new place!  There will be some new food to enjoy sharing, too… all with a minimal amount of work and packing.

Take care and thanks for stopping by!  Have a great beginning to the summer and best wishes for safe and happy travels!

Brad and Jesse James
Jones County, Iowa


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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

8 Responses to Organizing Ahead Makes Camping Easier

  1. Jo says:

    I am now going through this packing process and it is tiresome. I have tried to cut back on so much and there is still to much. But being organized is a big part of packing. I use totes for the kitchen goods and other things. Since I have a mid sized truck I don’t have much room. But I will make it work. Almost all packed to head out Sunday.

  2. Bethers says:

    I was surprised you could use the hotplate with the solar panel. I thought the watts would be too high. I actually
    picked up one of those little manual tortilla presses a while back as I wasn’t so talented with the hand patting. With the masa, its a great way to make flat bread without the hassle of spoilage.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hello and good morning. That’s a good point about the hot plate. I need to tweak the post a bit. I cannot use the hot plate with the battery / solar panel combination due to the high current consumption. I only use it when near a park with a pavilion or a campground where I can use some electricity. Thanks for the note. 🙂

  3. Rod Duell says:

    Another great post Brad! Your helpful sharing and positive outlook are always a joy to find in my inbox. Have a great week!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks Rod! It’s good to have the blog and emails function correctly again. Have a great day and thanks for commenting. Have a terrific day! 🙂 I’m headed to the next town over on another mission to see if I can “shake the bushes” a bit. More about that later. Have a good one! 🙂 VT

  4. my_vantasy says:

    Right now I’m a car camper, so my gear is stored in my trunk. Like Jo, my kitchen stuff is in one tote. When it’s time to go camping, all I have to do is pack my clothes, pack the cooler, and grab the little dog! Her stuff is already packed in her own camping bag (dishes, water, food in Tupperware to keep it fresh, leash, tether, extra toys). I know, she’s spoiled. Hey, maybe Jesse Kitty needs his own camping bag! :0)

    • VanTrekker says:

      Cool idea! I might just have to do that… otherwise it’s digging around for cans of catfood and other stuff for the little guy. All I need is a tote with a few bottles of water, some cat litter, a scoop, cans of catfood, toys, etc. It would make Jesse’s stuff better organized. Thanks for the idea! It seems like with time these little techniques sure make the outdoors a lot more fun! Take care and thanks for stopping by! — VT