Do you need help to organize your tent? The first time I went camping, I had no problem with keeping an organized tent. I slept in one of those tiny, orange pup-tents that barely fit a twin-sized mattress and sleeping bag. All my clothing and toiletries fit into a backpack. The only shoes I had were the ones on my feet. It was high summer, so I didn’t take a jacket. There was a space at one end of the air mattress that the backpack fit into, with no room for anything else. Perfect.
Now, decades later, I sleep in an instant-up tent they say is made for ten but is merely comfortable for me. I have a queen-sized mattress and sleeping bag, a folding table and chair, and a Luggable Loo in one corner for the middle of the night. My tent has enough room for my iPad, my camera bag, my gym bag and my backpack, both full; it also has a place for me to put my shoes, hiking boots and laundry bag. With all this space, you would think staying organized wouldn’t be a problem. But it is, unless I follow these rules:
1. Contain, contain, contain.
Especially your clothes! When you’re out camping, it’s easy to just throw your stuff anywhere because you’re not sure where to put it or can’t be bothered to stuff it back in your duffle bag, but that is disastrous. I carry, now, a cheapo tote that has plastic grocery bags in it–the ones they pack your groceries in at the store. Don’t get a new tote or gym bag, even–go to the second-hand store and buy one with a working zipper that doesn’t look too beat up. Wet clothes goes in one plastic grocery bag, dirty clothes another, maybe muddy shoes in another. It all goes into the cheapo tote bag. This keeps your tent clear of clothing, and makes it easier to pack up when you’re ready to go home.
2. A side table.
Depending on the tent you’re in, this could be a folding storage box you brought camping supplies in, your folding chair if you don’t have room for a table and chair both, or an actual table. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as it’s a stable, flat surface to lay your glasses, reading material, camera, etc. on and that it’s about the same height as your sleeping area. If your tent has gear pockets use them too, but a side table will enable you to put small items within easy reach, and they won’t get lost, kicked aside or stepped on. You would be amazed how hard it can be to find your keys when they are mixed up in a sleeping bag/liner/deflating mattress (this is experience speaking here).
3. Organize by use.
Keep items organized by their use. Toiletries get packed in with towels, face cloth, mirror and makeup. Underwear, socks and long underwear are put together in the same spot in your tote. Depending on how long you are staying at the camp site, keep your jeans, tee shirts, over shirts, etc. packed and stacked together in your tote. Larger gym totes generally have outside pockets. Use these for extraneous gear–flashlight, small personal medicine kit (in case you need anti-heartburn liquid or analgesics at midnight), an unbreakable eyeglasses case, etc. If you like to write or text, you can keep your writing or electronic supplies there too. When you know all your stuff for a particular activity is in one place, you won’t tear your gear apart looking for it.
4. bags in bags in bags.
Ziploc bags, all sizes, is the best tip I can give you. Place your makeup in a ziploc bag and pack it. Place your toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash in a ziploc bag and pack it. Put your solar charger, phone and iPad in one. Your socks in one. Your hairbrush, comb, and hair accessories in one. Put your soap, shampoo, cloth and towel in one. Ad infinitum. If you have them packed like that, you can just reach in and grab a bag before you head for the river, lake or camp showers. Not only that, but if a wet disaster happens, like rain or flooding, your important stuff stays dry. And as was mentioned before, you’re not rummaging around in your bigger bags looking for certain items, and messing everything up in the process.
5. A couple of little tools make it easier.
Pack with your stuff the following things to stay organized:
- A small dustpan and whisk
- A damp, bleachy cleaning cloth in a (yes) ziploc bag, or wipes
- Extra grocery bags for garbage or miscellaneous things
- Some extra, smaller bungee cords (sometimes that tent or sleeping bag or air mattress just won’t fold up as tight as it should)
- A small emergency repair kit for your air mattress. Include duct tape for other emergencies.
one last list of tips to stay organized:
- A large mat outside your tent entrance helps to keep the dirt, leaves, pine needles etc. outside where they belong. Shake it out every day.
- If you have a luggable loo in your tent, carry all the supplies for it in the bucket part for transport. Pack toilet paper, hand sanitizer, biodegradable deoderizer that also helps break down sewage, and a small bottle of earth-friendly disinfectant for cleaning it out at the end of the trip. Place it all in the bucket. Take it out of the bucket when you set it up for use in your tent. If you put it all in a (yes again) large ziploc bag before stuffing it in the bucket, it will make it easier to take out and put in, and contain in the tent.
- Some people have found a hanging organizer to be handy for inside their tent; I never could see the sense in it. For me it was just one extra thing to pack. It never held what I wanted it to hold without it looking messy in and of itself. Depending on your gear and tent, though, it may be just the thing for you. You can get them at second-hand stores or dollar stores if you want to give them a try.
- Make your bed in the morning. Shocking how tidy this makes a tent, and how good you feel about going inside your tent when you do. Not kidding. Plus it is then a handy surface to lay things out on when you’re packing for a hike or whatever.
Any organization tips you have that you want to share for keeping your tent clear of clutter or mess? Share them in the comments below!