Summer is the perfect time of year to experience the Great Outdoors — but you already know that. By now, you have a major trip planned out, and your car might even be packed to bursting with necessities like a tent and clean water. However, even those with significant camping experience have been known to make mistakes. Here are a few oft-forgotten items that you should toss in your trunk before you head off on your next grand adventure:
A Way to Wash Dishes
Shorter, smaller camping trips — ones that encompass all of two days with three or fewer campers — might warrant paper plates and (biodegradable) disposable sporks, but when you have a large camping group and a long time in the Great Outdoors, you shouldn’t be so wasteful. However, you don’t want to eat off grimy, used plates and flatware for your entire trip, which means you need a way to wash your dishes.
The simplest way to do this is to bring along a couple cheap, stackable buckets or tubs. One of them should have holes drilled in the bottom, so water can drain but dishes won’t fall through. Then, you can wash the dishes in the tubs stacked and pull out the perforated one to serve as a rinsing and drying rack. Plus, the tubs can store the clean dishes while you travel, meaning they won’t waste any space.
A Place to Store Leftovers
It’s impossible to make the perfect amount of food. Either you cook too little, leaving some people a bit hungry, or you cook too much. When you’re camping, you need a way to handle the latter outcome without producing too much food waste. The Great Outdoors doesn’t provide many opportunities for quick, easy food, so saving leftovers is economical and efficient.
At the very least, you should carry a couple boxes of zip-top bags, which will preserve most types of food and won’t take up the same amount of space as plastic containers. Experts say that cooked food should be kept at 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) to prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria, so you’ll also need something like Yeti coolers and accessories to keep your leftovers at a safe temperature.
Something to Cut on
You might sense a theme: Food preparation and storage isn’t easy in the wild, so you need to think out every step. While you can prepare your meals ahead of time and reheat them on the fire, not everyone has this luxury of forethought. It’s much easier to bring along the tools you’ll need to prepare your meals on-site — which means you’ll need something clean and safe to cut on.
A durable tablecloth can do the trick in a pinch, if you don’t have much space to spare. However, a better option is a pack of thin, plastic cutting boards. Plastic is easier to wash than wood — making it safer in a dirty environment like a campground — and you can pack several to avoid cross-contaminating raw veggies and uncooked meat juice.
Something to Cut With
Of course, a cutting board isn’t going to do you much good if you’re sawing away at a chicken breast with a butter knife. You need a good blade — in fact, it’s best if you bring along several. Having a few different kinds of kitchen knives as well as cutting tools like a can opener, a hunting knife, a camping saw and a hatchet will ensure that you always have the right tool on hand for whatever you need to cut, be it ears of corn, a can of beans or firewood.
A Place to Put Your Trash
As a camper, you must remember that phrase, “Leave only footprints.” However, if you don’t have any pre-planned way to collect your trash, you could end up leaving behind quite a bit more than footprints. Litter is a significant problem in natural areas; even major national parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon suffer from an overabundance of human trash, like diapers, cigarette butts, food wrappers and more. Not only is it incredibly rude to leave your waste behind, but it has a disastrous effect on the environment, too. A roll of garbage bags doesn’t take up much space in your car, and bringing one along could actually save lives.
If you want to enjoy your big summer camping trip, you can’t overlook any detail. By packing the essentials — as well as the non-essentials, like a pack of cards and a case of brews — you will take home a wealth of memories from every camping trip to come.