Camping should be a fun adventure, but it can also be stressful and chaotic if you are not prepared. In addition, tent camping makes organization even more challenging due to lack of space.
Camping by yourself or a college buddy isn’t as difficult to organize as camping with your family. To ease some stress and ensure a more relaxing trip, you need a list of tent camping storage ideas.
In this article, we will help you develop a camping organization system that should bring you peace of mind. We have gathered up our top 21 camping storage hacks, so let’s get to it.
Contents (Clickable) --->
- 1 Clear bins
- 2 Personal clear bins
- 3 Backpacks
- 4 Tarp for vestibule
- 5 Dirty laundry bag
- 6 Use a shoe organizer
- 7 Plastic jug of water for washing
- 8 Color-coded camp towels
- 9 Camping shovel
- 10 First aid kit
- 11 Keep essential items close by at night
- 12 Packing your cooler
- 13 Pre-make some meals
- 14 Color-coded plates and cups
- 15 Bring a Sharpie
- 16 Bring a tablecloth
- 17 Pop up garbage can
- 18 Make a camping clothesline
- 19 Duct tape, cord, etc.
- 20 Tent gear loft
- 21 Update your camping lists
- 22 Final thoughts
Clear bins are a game-changer. They are one of the best tent camping storage solutions out there. Clear bins in all sizes can be purchased affordably at any big box store.
We have bins for basically everything we take camping. We have a kitchen bin that carries all our kitchen items. These include pans, utensils, drying rack, tablecloth, aluminum foil, ziplock baggies, chopping block, knives, coffee mugs, and more.
Everything in this bin is listed on the outside of the bin. That way, you don’t need to dig through it; if it’s not on the list, it’s not in there. Nice and simple.
Since we keep our camping gear in the attic, items can dry out and be unusable over time. Therefore, these items are listed on the bottom of this list as ‘things to add last-minute.’ These items include dish soap, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes.
Paper plates, napkins, and paper towels can be in the bin all year but need to be replenished as used. On the master list are also these items that ‘need to be added’ to the bin. I replenish the kitchen bin with these things before putting the bin back in the attic.
The kitchen bin is always ready for the next outing by doing this. You only need to add the ‘last minute’ items.
We also have bins for our dry food. I separate the food within the bin by little stacking shelves. This way, bread doesn’t get crushed, and it is easier to find things. I also organize it by food type.
Snacks and goodies in one area, lunch stuff in another, dinner ingredients in yet another area. You can consolidate the food down to one bin as the food gets eaten (since we usually have two bins for our family). Then you can stack the bins inside each other.
Be sure to buy bins that all stack with each other. When a bin is empty, you stack them together and create more space.
We also have a bin for toys and games. Even the coloring books and crayons go in the ‘fun bin.’ The kids make fun of my ‘fun bin’ because I tell them, if it doesn’t fit in the bin, it doesn’t get to go.
Everything goes back in the ‘fun bin’ with the lid on at night. This keeps balls from rolling away in the wind and dew off the coloring books.
We have a ‘garage’ bin too. This has our hammer, nails, camping saw, extra propane, batteries, lantern, cord, duct tape, clamps, and carabiners. It also houses our greasy camp stove.
Again, all these bins have a big sticker on the outside stating what type of bin they are and then a list of the items included. It just makes family camping so much easier and avoids the confusion of where things are.
Personal clear bins
Each family member gets their very own clear bin for clothes. We had the kids decorate their own bins when they were little, and they loved it. They love independence and the freedom to decorate the bin.
The only rule is to use the provided list as to what items need to be inside. They get to choose whatever t-shirts they want, as long as it is 4 t-shirts (or whatever amount is needed for that trip).
It is so much easier than a duffel bag, where you cannot see everything, and it is all shoved in a bag. And again, the bin being transparent is the key.
Kids love to be self-reliant and have their very own property. The personal bins provide this as they can help themselves to what is needed.
I also provide a simple list of the toiletries needed to fit in the personal bins. Again, each kid is responsible for bringing their toothbrush, paste, hairbrush, camp towels, and other items on the list. Also, remember chapstick; crusty lips are the worst.
Toiletries go in the personal bins for traveling but have a better organizational home when we set up camp. I’ll chat about that later.
Each family member should also have their own backpack. Even if you aren’t a backpacking camper, you surely will take some day hikes and walks.
Everyone can pack whatever drink, snacks, and toys might be needed. And best of all, they all have to carry it themselves! So get the kids special backpacks just for camping. They don’t need to be expensive, and they can decorate them however they want.
Tarp for vestibule
Regardless of whether your tent has a vestibule or not, put a tarp or groundsheet outside the entrance of your tent.
Shoes get filthy dirty while camping, and you don’t want that coming into your sleeping quarters. It might sound fussy, but it is helpful to keep the inside of the tent as clean as reasonably possible.
Just like the pile of shoes by the front door of your home, do the same camping. Even if it is super cold outside, bring along a couple of slides that fit everyone. It is ok if they are too big to usually wear.
When you need to do the middle of the night shuffle to the bathroom, it is much easier to slip into some slides just outside the entrance. It’s a pain in the butt to have to put on snug lace-up sneakers just to walk to the potty.
Dirty laundry bag
Another tent camping storage idea is using a dirty laundry bag. It is simple for everyone if you have a designated mesh laundry bag.
You don’t want to put stinky socks back into your bin of clean clothes. A garbage bag will eventually tear with the weight of wet and muddy clothes.
A breathable mesh laundry bag can be purchased at any big box store. They usually come with a hook or a loop to hang by, so you can put it anywhere that is convenient.
Use a shoe organizer
If you are looking for a quick and dirty tent camping storage idea, a hanging shoe organizer is a great way to separate kitchen items and or toiletries. They are really affordable and can be purchased at any big box store.
You can hang it from a tree or on a clothesline. Then, it can be quickly and efficiently taken down and put in your car at night if needed.
Any small items can be stored in them, such as deodorant, wipes, hairbrush, just about anything that fits.
For the kitchen area, you could put napkins, utensils, silverware, and a pair of scissors in it. A shoe organizer is perfect for any items you will use frequently and want easy access to.
Plastic jug of water for washing
Have a designated area just for washing up. We have an eight-gallon jug that we fill with water specifically for washing and not drinking. We find a tree stump or something elevated away from the eating area to set it on.
Get a jug with a spout that can turn on and stay on for washing. The push-button spout is fine for getting drinking water but not convenient when trying to wash your face or hands.
Have a camp towel nearby on a hook of some sort or a clothesline. Also, have a bar of soap in a nylon sock. The nylon sock keeps the soap from slipping out of your hands and falling into the dirt.
Bar soap washes off quicker and easier than pump soap, so I prefer this for camping. If you have an extra bowl or anything that can catch the dirty water, you can use this to put out your campfire at night.
We also like to keep our toothbrushes and paste in a small clear bin next to the washing station. It is nice to have a lid for these items so the bugs don’t sit on your toothbrush.
Then it is easy to put this little bit (don’t forget the soap) into your car at night. Bears and other critters may want to get into your nice minty paste, don’t encourage them.
Color-coded camp towels
Camp towels are so much better than regular terrycloth towels. Camp towels are incredibly soft, super quick-drying, lightweight and come in many colors and sizes.
They usually come with a loop for hanging and also come in washcloth size. Each family member can have their own unique camp towel. They need to hang it up and be responsible. Again they will enjoy their own personal towel and independence.
I cannot stress how quickly camp towels dry, which is essential while camping. A regular terry cloth towel will take days to dry and will feel like a loofah if it ever does dry. So if you want to exfoliate the entire camping trip, be my guest.
We also have camp towels in our kitchen area; they dry dishes and hands quickly. In addition, the loops make it easy to hang them anywhere conveniently.
A camping shovel is something we always keep in our garage bin. An actual camping shovel is designed just for the outdoors and is much better than any old shovel from your toolshed.
A camping shovel collapses down for travel and frequently has a serrated side of the blade to dig in tough ground. They are very durable and can handle being out in the elements camping.
We put a roll of toilet paper right on the handle, so you can just quietly grab it and go. Literally. We usually keep it on the edge of our camping area, near the washing station if possible. Poop is gross, but even grosser if not buried.
First aid kit
Pack a designated first aid kit that is separate from the rest of your toiletries. Go with a clear bin that is shoebox size and label it clearly, so every camper knows what it is.
Have the essentials like bandaids, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, anti-itch cream, pain meds, and cough syrup. Cough syrup, you say? Yes. Have you ever been camping and been awake all night to the sounds of a cough-a-thon? I have; it’s not fun.
Be sure that everyone knows where the first aid kit is, not just Mom.
Keep essential items close by at night
If your tent comes with little pockets on the inside, use this for keeping your car keys, cell phone, wallet, earplugs, and chapstick close by. These are items you want to have near you while you are sleeping.
You also want to find things quickly when it is dark or the first person awake in the morning. You don’t want to have to rummage around for these things in the morning and wake everyone up.
If your tent doesn’t come with this storage pouch, you can just put your items in a ziplock bag. But, again, keep them close by and easy to reach. Then, if you are quiet and don’t wake the rest of the campers, you can have some alone time. It’s my favorite time of the day, just me, my coffee, and a book.
Packing your cooler
Packing your cooler with a plan will significantly improve keeping your food cold for longer. One of the first things you need to do is make packaged items as small as possible.
A block of ice will last longer than crushed ice. Also, frozen water bottles work great and can be drunk when thawed out. If you think you may want crushed ice for your drinks, put some in a large ziplock bag.
Instead of taking a jug of juice, take small juice containers. When you take something big out of a cooler, it is almost impossible to get it back in. Even better, if you can take a separate cooler for only drinks, that is a bonus.
Take half gallons of milk instead of a one-gallon jug. Put heavy items like meat on the bottom. Freeze any items you can before placing them in the cooler. They will act as a cold pack and also keep the food safe.
If your food is still frozen when you want to eat it, just put it out in the morning to thaw. Be sure to put meat in a sealed container, so it doesn’t drip meaty juice all over if it thaws.
Elevated wire racks work great to separate food and create layers in the cooler. This will help food from getting smashed and make it easier to access frequently eaten food.
You also can use shallow trays for small items like cheese and lunchmeat. Take the lunch meat out of the plastic container to save space.
Most important, remind your kids not to constantly open the cooler. You can’t stand in front of your fridge with the doors wide open, hoping a cake is going to magically appear.
Pre-make some meals
Before you head out, there are several things you can do to make cooking easier and more efficient. First, prepare foil packet meals at home. Everyone can put whatever they want in the foil packets. These can be cooked over the campfire, making meals tasty and fun.
If you plan on having scrambled eggs, crack them at home and put them in a container with a good twist lid. A mason jar or an old spaghetti sauce jar works nicely.
The same goes for pancake batter. Make the batter at home, put it in an old coffee creamer container. It will be lightweight and easy to pour.
If all your condiments are in family-sized bottles, buy little bottles or put them in smaller containers. The dollar stores are a great place to find cheap little containers.
Color-coded plates and cups
It is fun for the kids to have specific camping dishes and cups, not just ones from home. Several mess kits come with color-coded plates and cups. You also can look at big box stores for cheap plastic plates and cups.
Having designated cups is really helpful since they get used all day long. Nobody wants to hear kids arguing about who’s cup is who’s. Individual cups also ensure nobody will drink my grown-up beverage.
If you are super classy, you can put everyone’s name on the cups with a sharpie pen. The kids wrote all over their cups; it was pretty cute.
Bring a Sharpie
I love my Sharpies. I have every color of Sharpie there is; they make me happy. That being said, just bring a boring black Sharpie to label stuff.
It is super helpful to have a name on the sandwich bag, especially if there are several sandwiches. Sharpie pens also can write on foil and plastic, super useful.
Bring a tablecloth
Picnic tables at a campsite are disgusting. They are covered with bird poop and other people’s smears of food. Raccoons and squirrels dance all over these picnic tables when humans aren’t watching.
A table cloth is cheap and easy to pack and instantly gives you a clean surface. If you don’t have some clamps on the edges, though, it will fly up in the wind.
Pop up garbage can
Get yourself a pop-up garbage can; it is so much better than a plastic bag hanging from a tree. Now, plastic garbage bags do have their purpose.
Line your pop-up can with a garbage bag to keep it clean. Be sure to have a separate bag for recycling. I use bags with drawstring handles specifically for recycling because we just hang this bag.
Hanging a bag for garbage is not practical because the opening is not wide open. It is much easier to toss icky things into an open garbage bag.
Make a camping clothesline
Take some cord and tie it off between two trees. Use this for anything lightweight that can be hung by a carabiner. You can also hang anything that needs to dry. Use clothespins or clamps so items don’t blow away.
Be sure to put this out of the way, so nobody loses their head. Seriously though, put it away from the busy part of the camp, and you may want to take it down at night.
Duct tape, cord, etc.
Some of the garage-type items we always bring are duct tape, cord or rope, plastic clamps, carabiners, a lighter (or fire starter), scissors, and extra propane.
It is easy to overlook these things when you have so much to remember. However, you definitely will need all of the above, so be sure to add them to your list. Even better, just put them all in your ‘garage bin’ for camping, and you won’t have to worry about forgetting them.
You are limited with table or counter space while camping, so hanging items up is ideal. However, these items do not take up much space, so it is best to be on the safe side and always bring them.
Tent gear loft
If your tent has a gear loft, you are set. If not, you may want to invest in one and add it to the inside of your tent.
Gear lofts are super handy; they are mesh to see what is in them and get small items off the tent’s floor. You can put gloves, hats, eyeglasses, earplugs, or whatever is lightweight in them.
Update your camping lists
Changing and updating your camping list as needed will save you time and stress. Everyone’s needs change over the years, and your camping lists need to reflect this.
It is helpful to make copies of all your lists and take these with you. This way, if you realize you don’t have napkins on your kitchen list, you can add this to the list right away.
Remember when you get home to update all the lists that are taped to your camping storage containers. We change or add something to our lists almost every time we go.
Sometimes the list items alter depending on which campsite you are at. For example, you might need water shoes when camping next to a river, but not in the deep forest.
Having updated and thorough checklists are the key to family camping organization. It may seem like a ton of work to get all these lists together, but it is worth it.
We hope these tent camping storage ideas will come in handy. The next time you go tent camping, you will be less stressed, with your camping gear ready to go.
After all, camping should be relaxing and fun for the whole family, not just the kids. So get those checklists on those bins and get out there, and always remember to camp s’more worry less.