Camping is a gear-intensive pursuit, so it comes as no surprise that many of us are on the lookout for ways to stay organized.
Thankfully, there are plenty of great camping gear storage ideas out there that you can use to keep your equipment neat and tidy while outside. From boxes and bins to totes and stuff sacks, here are our favorite backpacking and car camping organization ideas to try out on your next outdoor adventure.
1. Start With Stuff Sacks
For a quick and easy camping organization solution that works whether you’re car camping or backpacking, try stuff sacks. Stuff sacks allow you to arrange your gear in whichever way you choose to simplify your packing and unpacking process while outside.
For example, you can pack all of your spare clothes into one stuff sack and your toiletries into another. If you want to take things a step further, you can even color code your stuff sacks so you always know what’s inside your bag before you open it.
Many stuff sacks, like the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks, also come in a whole host of different shapes and sizes. This model from Sea to Summit is also fully waterproof for hiking in wet locales.
2. Assemble A Pre-Made Camping Kit
If you’ve spent enough time camping, at some point, you’ll experience that sinking feeling in your stomach when you arrive at your campsite, only to realize that you left an important piece of gear behind.
On a short camping trip, you might be able to get by without this piece of gear. But, on a long expedition far from home, this could spell trouble.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to assemble a pre-made camping kit at home with all the basic gear you need to get outside at a moment’s notice. You can organize all your essential gear in a duffle bag, tote bag, or plastic bin and simply supplement your kit based on the conditions you’ll face on your upcoming trip. Do not forget any gear by having a camping checklist.
3. Pack Wisely
For backpacking trips, one of the best ways to stay organized is to know how to store your gear properly inside your pack. That means dialing down your backpack packing system so that you always know where your gear is inside your backpack when you arrive at camp.
To do so, you’ll want to learn how to pack a pack wisely using what we call the ABCs of pack packing. Check out this video from the National Outdoor Leadership School to learn more:
4. Make The Most Of Plastic Bins
For car camping storage and at-home outdoor gear storage, plastic bins should be your go-to choice.
By storing all your gear in large plastic bins at home, you can keep your gear clean, organized, and very accessible when you’re trying to pack for a trip. Conversely, organizing your gear in bins while car camping makes it easier to find that one pair of pants you’re looking for amongst all of your personal belongings.
To ensure that your kitchen stays organized and that your gear is all accessible, consider using hanging shoe organizers, like the KIMBORA Mesh Shoe Organizer, while at camp.
These organizers are particularly awesome because they have large pockets for storing your serving utensils, silverware, and other bits and bobs. Plus, you can hang them up in a tree, on a clothesline, or just over the side of a picnic table for maximum accessibility.
6. Make Sure Your Bowl Has A Lid
Okay, this tip is directed more toward the backpackers among us, but, if you find that you like to head into more remote locales, you should definitely make sure that your bowl has a lid.
Sounds like a fairly random tip, right? Well, having a bowl with a lid, such as the Sea to Summit X-Seal & Go Collapsible Container, can make it way easier to pack snacks and leftovers when you are camping. Pack more camping snacks that don’t require cooking and a fridge if you are not fond of cooking, and bringing lots of cooking gear.
Having a lid and a collapsible bowl like this allows you to more easily pack your lunch each morning without the need to search for a Ziploc bag to store it in. Plus, by eating your leftovers, you reduce your overall food waste, which means less trash, and an easier time packing your pack each morning.
7. Get A Kitchen Organizing Table
For the car campers among us, a kitchen organizing table, such as the Camp Chef Sherpa Camp Table & Organizer, is a solid choice.
While most campsites come with a picnic table, finding a place to easily store and organize all your kitchen supplies is no easy feat. The Sherpa Camp Table, and other similar models, however, help you store all your essential gear right under your stove so you can whip up gourmet meals while in camp.
8. Organize Your Gear By Purpose
Whether you’re car camping or backpacking, having an organization system that divvies up your gear by purpose is essential.
Having a stuff sack, duffle bag, or plastic bin that’s dedicated to specific “areas” of camp, such as your kitchen, tent, or outdoor living space can make it easier to find the gear you need when you need it.
For example, you can make a kitchen bag, like the GSI Destination Kitchen Set, which has all your kitchen supplies neatly arranged for when you need it. You can also put all your day hiking gear, like your backpack, trekking poles, and hydration systems in one duffle bag so your morning packing is more of a grab-and-go event.
9. Keep All Your Scented Items & Food In One Place
Depending on where you plan to camp, you may need to store your food and scented items, such as toiletries, in a bear-proof container or in a bear hang.
For camping trips to bear habitat, organizing your gear so that all your scented items and food are in one place from the get-go can make your life a whole lot easier when bedtime rolls around.
By storing all your food in your bear canister, such as the heavy-duty and reliable Backpacker’s Cache, you can avoid having to rustle through your backpack to find that one chocolate bar that fell to the bottom during the day. Additionally, you can keep all your toiletries in a small stuff sack so that you can easily place them inside the bear canister or bear box before you go to bed.
10. Like To Journal? Use A Storage Clipboard
For folks who like to journal, watercolor, or doodle, a storage clipboard, like the Dexas Slimcase Storage Clipboard, is a solid choice.
These nifty clipboards are made from a durable plastic polymer, which protects and stores your journal and arts supply while you’re in the mountains. They also provide an excellent writing surface, which can be hard to come by while outside.
Although they’re not waterproof, you can easily slide one of these clipboards into a 20L dry sack for waterproof stationary storage on the go.
11. Color Code A Duffle For Each Child
If camping with kids, consider packing each child’s gear into color-coded duffle bags. For example, one of your children can have red duffle bags, while the other gets blue or green bags for all their gear.
Color coding your children’s duffles will help ensure that you know whose bag is whose, which can help reduce snafus down the line. It can also be a helpful way to give older children more responsibility over their belongings.
12. Get A Tent With A Vestibule
A straightforward, yet often overlooked way to store gear while camping, particularly if you’re backpacking, is to get a tent with a vestibule.
Many modern backpacking tents, such as the über-popular MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2, come with large vestibules, which are essentially covered entryways. With the Hubba Hubba, in particular, you get 2 vestibules, which means each camper has their own personal sheltered storage area for all their gear, even on rainy nights in the mountains.
13. Choose Clear Plastic Storage Bins
We’ve talked a bit about using plastic storage bins for camping gear organization as they’re wonderful tools for keeping your gear protected and accessible while outdoors.
To simplify things even further, clear plastic storage bins, like the IRIS USA Stack & Pull Boxes, which come in a pack of 6, are a great choice. With clear plastic bins like these, you can more easily see the gear that you’ve packed, speeding up the process if you’re searching for a specific item while in camp.
14. Keep A Separate Emergency Kit
Storing your gear by purpose is a helpful way to stay organized while camping. However, even if you choose not to organize your gear in this way, there’s one piece of gear that you should definitely keep separate: your emergency kit.
Get a stuff sack, duffle, or plastic bin and fill it with your first aid kit, gear repair kit, and emergency contact info. Place it in an easily accessible location in your campsite each day so that everyone in your group can find it if something goes awry.
In a true emergency, having that gear readily available and not at the bottom of a random backpack can make a big difference.
15. Don’t Forget About Trash
Trash isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite topic, though it’s an important thing to consider before you go camping.
Try to repack your food into multi-purpose containers, like Ziploc bags before you go camping, or simply remove any excess packaging before your trip to minimize waste.
Then, pack spare ziplocs in an empty lysol wipe container or plan to reuse plastic bags from your food to help you organize and store your trash while you camp.
You could also try a Cohlan’s Pop-Up Trash Can for car camping, which can help you keep all your trash stored while in camp, even if you’re far from the nearest campground dump station.
16. Pack A Tent Bag
There are some pieces of gear, like your pajamas, sleeping bag, earplugs, and nighttime reading, that just never leave your tent.
So, when you’re packing your gear for your upcoming trip, consider creating a separate “tent bag” that contains only these items. That way, you can bring your tent bag to your tent at the start of your trip and leave it there until it’s time to head home.
17. Try A Clothesline For Your Gear
A campsite can seem like a fairly hectic place when you have gear strewn about. That’s why a gear clothesline, like the Nite Ize GearLine can make a big difference when it comes to campsite organization.
You can hang up this gear clothesline in your tent or between 2 trees. Then, you can securely attach your water bottle, sandals, hat, or other smaller items when you’re not using them for added peace of mind and organization in camp.
18. Mini Nalgene Containers Are Your Friends
Whether it’s spices, toiletries, or what have you, Mini Nalgene Containers are a must for staying organized while camping. These durable plastic containers come in a whole host of sizes, which makes them awesome for organizing your kitchen or personal toiletries set.
The best part? You can label each one using a waterproof permanent marker so you know what’s inside. They’re also reusable and easily washable so you can take them on all your future camping trips.
19. Opt For A Backpack With A Top Lid
While backpacking, having a pack that has a top lid, or a “brain,” depending on who you ask, is essential for organization.
This top lid is your go-to place for storing those smaller items, like your compass or GPS that need to be accessible but that also get easily lost inside your backpack. Investing in a pack with a top lid is a great way to reduce frustration down the line.
20. Have A Food Organization System
Longer camping trips can require a whole lot of food, which can make organization feel like an insurmountable task.
When it comes to food, you have two main options for organization. You can either organize by mealtime (e.g., breakfast, lunch, dinner) or by specific dishes based on a pre-set menu.
For example, you can pack all of your breakfast foods into a single cooler or plastic bin and all of your dinner items into a separate one. Or, if you’re camping with a lot of people, you can have separate bins for each meal, such as one for your barbecue night and one for your burrito night, to help you stay organized.
21. Pack Plastic Drawers For Car Camping
Those small plastic drawer sets that many of us have at home for organizing our little office knick knacks can also be very useful for car camping or vanlife.
You can breathe fresh life into those plastic drawers by using them for kitchen organization or for storing smaller bits of gear in your RV. Alternatively, you can use plastic drawers for camping organization in your trunk while car camping so your gear stays visible and accessible at all times.
22. Bring A Nesting Tupperware Set
Car camping meals often result in leftovers, which can go to waste if you don’t have anywhere to store that extra food. Bringing a set of nesting tupperware containers, such as the fan-favorite Rubbermaid Easy Find Food Storage Containers can alleviate this problem.
Rubbermaid’s containers are particularly popular because they’re made from a durable plastic polymer and because they come in an assortment of sizes. Additionally, they’re durable enough to be used for storing other small bits of gear, like spare batteries, lighters, or even for making a first aid kit while car camping.
23. Get A Tent Gear Loft
For gear organization inside your tent, consider investing in a gear loft. A gear loft is essentially a mesh net that attaches to the ceiling of your tent, sort of like a hammock for your smaller bits of gear, like your headlamp or journal.
Most companies make their own gear lofts for their specific tents, such as the Big Agnes Gear Loft. Therefore, it’s best to get a model that is suitable for your specific tent to ensure that there are no compatibility issues down the line.
24. Create A Toilet Go Bag
The last thing that anyone wants to do when they urgently have to answer nature’s call is to rummage around through their gear to find a trowel and some toilet paper. To remedy this situation, you can create a toilet “go bag” which has your toilet paper, trowel, soap, hand sanitizer, and other necessities for going to the loo while outside.
Your toilet go bag can be a simple ziploc bag or stuff sack. Or you can repurpose an old coffee can as a toilet paper holder to prevent it from getting mucky and gross while outside.
25. Label Your Duffels & Stuff Sacks
Many campers find that they just have so many duffel bags and stuff sacks that it’s hard to know where their gear actually is.
Thankfully, you can quickly solve this issue just by labeling your stuff sacks and duffel bags to give you a better idea of their contents. For labeling, you can try using luggage tags or you can simply write a label on a piece of duct tape that you affix to the outside of the bag for easy identification.
26. Go Lightweight
Finally, consider going lightweight with your camping gear. By whittling your gear list down to the bare minimum and by simply having less gear to carry around, you’ll have substantially less stuff to store and organize.
Not only can this make your camping experience more enjoyable, but it can save you time each day when it comes to packing your bags and organizing your gear. What’s not to love?