Whether you’re packing for a weekend trip or extended travel, if you’re a singleton or a family, if you’re new to camping or a seasoned pro, this blog is for you. Checking many of these boxes myself, I’ve had to evolve my packing style and process quite a bit to fit different needs. Here’s what I’ve learned packing for every adventure.
When we had a house and didn’t live in our habitat full-time, packing was somewhat of a breeze. We kept our Mantis fully stocked with all of our camping essentials when it was stored and would only have to grab clothes, food, and anything that might be needed for that trip. If we were going to the river, we’d pack towels, water toys, swimsuits, etc. It took a little time to get Mantis to that point, mostly through trial-and-error of what we had forgotten, what we would get duplicates of, and what we didn’t need at all.
One thing we knew we didn’t want as a barrier was packing. The goal was that we could be Weekend Warriors with little prep needed. Grab a few crates, throw our clothes and food in, and away we’d go.
If you’re wanting to keep your habitat stocked in between trips, I’d recommend starting with some of the following:
- Dish soap, dish scrubber, and dish/hand towels
- Basic cookware, plates, bowls, cups, and utensils (salts, spices, and oils are also great to keep on hand!)
- Trash can and bags
- Multi-surface cleaning spray or wipes
- Shower bag with refillable travel bottles, razor(s), loofa, towels, & other hygiene items
- First-aid kit
- Any blankets, pillows, or bedding that you don’t use at home or can spare (we typically packed our pillows, but had blankets, Rumpls, and travel pillows in the habitat)
- Fire-starters (preferably multiple kinds, such as lighters, starter logs, matches, or if you’re hardcore: a Ferro rod)
- Light sources & batteries (again, preferably multiple kinds, like headlamps, flashlights, lanterns, etc)
- Camp furniture: chairs, outdoor table/side table, hammock, outdoor rug
Target & IKEA have super affordable options for these, you don’t have to spend a fortune doubling up on everything and you definitely don’t have to go all out at once. It took us several trips, many “could I borrow some insert item here” requests to neighbors and countless Target runs to get it where we wanted it.
Building on your “Base”
Once we had our essentials pre-loaded, we slowly built upon that base. With each trip, I’d make a note of something that would make it easier next time. Items like a collapsible dish rack, a laundry bag, little plastic organizers to put in crates/built-ins, food storage containers (although pricey, Stasher bags are great and take up very little space), magnetic hooks and carabiners to keep things up and out of the way.
For the items that we didn’t keep in Mantis, we made a simple checklist and used crates to make it easy to pack up at home and load in.
In our Mantis, we had 4 milk crates. Some models that we have traveled in had more, like the 2021 Mantis Overland with a whooping 9 crates (hello, organization heaven). Some had less, like the 2021 Cricket Overland had 3 (room for a 4th in the “kitchen area”, but I chose to use that space for a toilet and the space under the bed was used for larger items).
Regardless of how many milk crates we had or used, there were always 3 crates that never changed: dry food, dishes & cooking supplies, and clothes.
The dishes & cooking supplies crate was also pretty simple and stayed pre-stocked. It contained the items I listed above under “The Essentials”. Plates, bowls, utensils, our “cooking caddy” that was filled with spices, olive oil, meat thermometer, cooking utensils (spatula, tongs, lighter, that silicone thing that Ally uses for everything), and a camp deep-dish style pan. I found this cool modular organizer that kept everything in place.
The dry goods crate is pretty self-explanatory, it held food that could be kept at room temperature. Chips, snacks for the kids, canned foods, etc.
The clothes crate held (4) packing cubes, one for each family member. For shorter trips, this method worked beautifully. Everyone had their own cubes (complete with Star Wars name tag) and that was it. We’d pull out our cube in the morning, pick out our clothes, then return it back to the crate. Dirty clothes would go in the laundry bag and if we did it right, we’d return home with a milk crate only holding empty packing cubes. Pro-tip that I would have done differently: pick different colors for each cube instead of the tag method we did. While super on-brand for us, it would have been nicer to have more easily identifiable cubes.
For longer trips, fitting all of our clothes into (1) milk crate was impossible. While we are minimalists, different climates/weather, activities, and inconsistent access to laundry machines were big factors when trying to plan a month’s worth of clothes and it just wasn’t gonna fit. Instead, we workshopped a few different packing methods.
- Ally & I each get (1) milk crate each. It’s every woman for themselves as far as how we pack them and how much you want to bring. Boys share (1) milk crate. Smaller humans mean smaller clothing. Fitting their clothes together wasn’t much of a struggle other than a couple of oversized fleece pjs in the winter.
- Ally & I still get (1) milk crate each and the boys use underbed organizers that slide under the bunk/couch. This is the method we used when we living full-time in our Mantis and worked really well. Any oversized items like winter jackets, hoodies, etc would be rolled up and placed above the bed in cargo nets.
Family to Singleton
Late February/early March, I took a solo trip in the 2021 Cricket Overland for 3 weeks. After nearly a year of experience packing habitats for our family of 4, I was pretty confident that I could scale down all of my packing tricks into a smaller footprint with ease. I was somewhat right.
A little background: in late 2020, our family went from weekend warriors to full-timers in our Mantis. We downsized all of our belongings and with that, a lot of our duplicates and pre-packed essentials from our previous set up. I was back at square one.
Knowing that this type of trip wouldn’t be a regular occurrence, I was hesitant to re-purchase those same items once again, so I challenged myself to be resourceful and only get what I really needed. I started going through my checklist and grabbing all of the things I knew Ally & the boys wouldn’t need or use while I was gone. Items like my personal headlamp, extra lighter, some rolls of toilet paper, my shower bag, extra towels, etc. Once I had gone through everything we had to spare, I made a list of what I would likely need over the next 3 weeks, specifically, things that I couldn’t leave Ally without. Our one dish brush, dish soap, the Berkey, sound machine, etc. I made an Amazon order and accepted that we would once again have duplicates of some of these things and made peace with my credit card.
After I checked everything off my list, I deployed essentially the same tactics I had before when there were 4 of us. The crate system, the packing cubes, the plastic organizers to keep everything in place.
With it being just me in Cricket, I actually wasn’t able to “fill” it, even though I did bring extra items that we normally wouldn’t travel with, like a hammock stand, our new 1500x Goal Zero power station, and climbing gear. But because I’m always looking for new hacks, I was able to discover one really great alternative use for the berths that would normally be used for the boys. I used one berth for winter jackets and bulkier clothing and the other for my bed linens. I’d roll up my sheet, blanket, and pillow and slide them up into the berth so I could work from the table during the day.
Packing can be an extremely daunting task, but when you find the system that works best for you, it can make adventuring so much easier. I hope you found some tips and tricks to add to your own packing process and as always, feel free to reach out with any questions!