A lot of trips involve moving camp each day. Those trips require a bit more planning when you’re a part of a group. It’s critical that you organize your gear and coordinate your activities so that you’re ready to go when the rest of the group is. Doing so ensures your day goes according to plan, and that everyone arrives in camp that night as scheduled.
In an earlier column, Respect Your Teammates. Arrive Prepared , I discussed the importance of being a team player while off road. A key component of that entails packing your vehicle so that setting up and breaking down camp proceed as efficiently as possible. Because everyone’s situation is unique, I can’t offer specifics on what and how to pack. That comes from experience. But we can review some important concepts.
My first bit of advice is, bring less stuff. It always amazes me how much people try to pack in and on their vehicles. Many items are rarely used and seem to be more creature comforts. Gear and other items that have multiple uses are more valuable than a single-use item. Focus on them.
Pack your gear in reverse order. Items you’ll need first should be packed LAST. Plus, organize your vehicle so everything goes in the same place each time. Once you develop a pattern, you’re less likely to forget something, and packing goes much faster. That’s important when you’re breaking camp in the morning.
Organize your gear by frequency of use. Recovery gear, winch, and other stuff that doesn’t get used much can be boxed together and tucked away. Don’t put your hatchet in there, because you’re likely to need it.
Water jugs are always cumbersome. You need water to douse your campfire, so store at least one jug where you can get to it after packing your vehicle. A good place is just inside the back hatch. Since hygiene is very important when camping, having the water jug right there also encourages more frequent hand washing. The rest of your water jugs should be packed to distribute the weight.
After arriving, set up your camp with an eye toward a fast departure in the morning. You may have only an hour or two to break camp. The more efficiently you pack, and the faster you move in the morning, the less likely you are to hold up the group. That shows respect.
Here are some additional tips:
- Multitask. Roll up a sleeping bag while waiting for the coffee to brew, for example.
- Take out of the vehicle only the items you need to use. And put ‘em back right away when you’re done.
- Don’t leave anything outside over night. First, the item is already packed, and second, it doesn’t get wet, lost, or damaged. Plus, you won’t be (or shouldn’t be) bothered by coyotes, burros, or vagrants.
- Complete some tasks at night, such as fueling up and cutting veggies for omelets.
- Prioritize your morning tasks: packing, eating breakfast, checking oil, and taking care of bathroom duties.
- Lastly, put the group’s need to depart on time ahead of your desires. Roll up the tent wet, for example, instead of making everyone wait for it to dry. (But remember to dry it later!)
- With a little practice you’ll develop a pattern for packing your vehicle and coordinating your activities. The result is a more enjoyable camp and off-road experience for all.