The first time I went camping with my wife and some of her family back when we were dating in college, I quickly learned that there was a bit of stuff I would have forgotten about when packing. Luckily, they had their camping tote ready to go. It seemed that whenever you thought about needing something, it was already there in the tote. A couple years ago for my wife’s birthday I put together a camping tote for when we go camping. Here are some of the things that are in the tote.
The first thing many people think about when camping is the campfire. A small hatchet to break down larger pieces of wood into kindling is very handy. There is a pack of waterproof matches and some newspaper inside of a gallon-size plastic bag. Some metal marshmallow holders for making s’mores can’t be forgotten. For after putting the fire out, there are a few flashlights and headlamps for navigating in the dark. Another important thing to have is water. So, a collapsible water container/jug is in the tote that holds a few gallons of water, to keep you from going to get more after a short time.
Meal preparation can be easily overlooked so there is a small cutting board and a small knife set with blade covers. There also is a stock pot with lid, a saucepan, and a frying pan. With these, there are cooking utensils such as a pancake flipper and slotted spoon. A couple of small potholders for setting hot pots and pans down on tables. A 4-person plate set that fits inside a plastic tub (sold in the camping section at retail stores) has plates, bowls, and cups. For silverware, we have a couple of plastic sporks. A baggy with old silverware would also work. Seasonings for cooking are extremely easy to forget so there are small containers of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a few other spices we like to use when cooking.
After cooking comes the dreaded cleaning of the dishes. The tub that the dishes fit in works well as a soaking/washing container. A small bottle of dish soap and a few dishrags for scrubbing dishes clean are all you need. Use your stock pot to heat up water, then add the soap and water to the tub to wash the dishes in. Save some water or make more to rinse clean before putting on the rack to dry. If camping in a large group, a dish towel may be needed to dry dishes once the rack fills up.
If planning to use a picnic table where you are camping, pack a small tarp, or make a person sized tarp cutout, to put on the seat in case it is wet when you want to sit down. A length of rope suitable for a clothesline and some clothespins let you hang up your towels and dishrags to let them dry. Also, a tablecloth to cover a dirty table is very handy.
There likely are things that I am forgetting to list but you get the idea. A well-stocked camping tote can keep you from having to drive into town to buy something that you could have brought in the first place. They can be useful at other times as well. My wife and I used our camp tote a bunch when we bought our house and were painting before moving. That way we had a few pots and pans to cook with plus plates and cups and the stuff to wash the dishes.