Unpacking After the Camping Trip–Making it Easier

packed car
The unpacking feels worse than the packing

Unpacking after a camping trip is the very last thing I want to do when I come home. Once that car is turned off, all I can think about is a shower and a glass of wine. In my defense, it’s usually because it’s at the end of a very long drive. Do you feel that way? Is unpacking the car something you dread?  Here are some self-defense strategies I’ve developed over the years.

primary unpacking–get your gear out of the car.

I know it’s the last thing you want to do, but get your gear in the door. You don’t have to put it away; just get it out of the car and in a safe place. That way, if you don’t put it away no one’s going to come along and steal it, but it will be out of the car.  You can survive a cluttered house for a day or two until you get to it all.

Once the gear is unloaded, take a load off yourself.

I mean it.  Get your feet up and have that cup of tea or coffee or glass of wine or beer. Take time to breathe. You’re not back in the real world yet; don’t let its demands drag you there early.  Take a half hour for yourself and just relax out in the yard or in your living room.

Have a bath or shower.

This is the third thing you should do, after you have relaxed for a half hour. Draw a bubble bath or take a nice, long shower.  Towel off and dress in clean, casual clothes, head to toe.  Don’t get back into your driving clothes.  This will mark a mental transition from camping to your daily life.

empty your coolers of leftovers.

Get those leftovers in the fridge. Then run some water in the sink, and add some bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Wring out a cloth and wipe the inside of the cooler thoroughly to disinfect and deodorize. Wipe the outside, too, to clean the smoke and dust and stuff off it.  Dry it inside, then leave the lid open to thoroughly air dry. Your coolers will smell great the next time you use them.

Briefly touch base with those you need to.

It’s tempting to jump right in with secular catch-up or involve yourself in family members’ and friends’ lives, but don’t do that today.  Let them know you’re home, safe and sound, if you have to.  Make it brief.  Then go back to spending important transition time with yourself. If you have campers that came back with you and live with you, get together and talk about the trip, how tired you are, what you’re going to do tomorrow.  But relax.

Make your next step an easy one.

After your visit or alone time, your next step will be the first real one in your day-to-day. Make lunch or dinner, depending when you got back. Or get your clothes ready for the next day.  If you feel like you have the energy, start prepping and putting away your camping gear.

A couple more hints and tips.

  • Don’t make it your job to do everything if the family went camping with you.  Everyone should pitch in and help put stuff away.  Even little ones can help unload little stuff or put their own clothes from the trip in the wash.
  • Make your first meal home a super easy one on you.  Order in, or use the leftovers from camp.  If you absolutely have to make dinner, make a quick soup or stew; that way you just have to throw everything into the pot and cook it till it’s done.
  • Get to bed early the first day you’re back.  The packing up and the trip home, coupled with the unpacking, is a full day’s work.  This will help you wake up feeling far more refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
  • Don’t forget to get those pictures developed or printed out online.  Wait a day or two if you have a busy schedule to dive back into, but get it done within the week. It’s going to remind you of the great time you had, and perk you up even more.
  • Take the time to check over your kitchen bins and first aid kit.  Replace anything that broke, went missing, or got used up. Do this before you put the bins and kit away, and you’ll be ready to pack and go your next camping trip.
  • If you had to pack up in the rain, don’t put your gear (tent included) away until you’ve had a chance to dry it out.  Your gear (tent included) will mildew quickly if it’s packed away wet. That’s not healthy for you, and besides, it stinks when you next try to use it. Blech!

So there you have it, folks–some hints and tips that will help your unpacking go better for you.  Do you have any suggestions that you use when you camp? Let us know! Everyone will thank you. I know I will.


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