What to Pack in Your Leave-Right-Now Camping Box

Having just about everything you need in one box takes all the stress out of a weekend camping trip. Halfpoint/Shutterstock

My wife and I like to head out every so often for a weekend of car camping. We just pull up to a campsite along a lake or in the redwoods and relax for the weekend, hiking during the day and sitting around a campfire at night. It's a quick getaway to recharge. What we don't want to do for these trips is spend a lot of time planning or packing. We just want to throw a couple things in the car and go — yet we don't want to forget all the little things that make camping comfortable, such as sunscreen or soap.

To make spontaneous weekend camping trips as easy as possible, we have a "go box" for our camping supplies. Everything we could need is in one place, ready to go, so it's easy to dash out the door for a weekend away. Thanks to this box, we are unlikely to forget any of the little necessities or niceties, yet we spend almost no time actually packing.

In one large container — specifically, a clear plastic 30-gallon bin with a lid — I've loaded up everything we might need from first aid to cookware all the way down to a few games to play. Everything fits with room to spare.

To make it easy to find various items, I've packed boxes within the box — a box for the cookware, another for the games, another for the rarely-needed-but-just-in-case items, and so on. You can use this list to create your own grab-n-go camping box.

Your list of contents will be specific to you. We are a family of two, plus a dog, who like to have a few comforts while camping. Maybe you have a larger family with kids, or perhaps you like to head out into the wilderness with just the bare basics. This supply list is simply a start; you can customize it to suit your specific needs.

For cooking and meal times:

  • Wire rack for a campfire grill
  • Wire brush and scraper for grill
  • Canister stove and fuel
  • Lighters and weatherproof matches
  • Firestarter sticks
  • Paper napkins
  • 2-person cook set including 2 plates, a pan, a pot and 2 mugs
  • Extra paper plates
  • Extra mugs and durable plastic cups
  • Forks, spoons and knives
  • A roll of aluminum foil
  • Ziploc bags
  • Extra plastic and paper bags just in case
  • Extra-long tongs
  • Metal water bottle
  • A large Tupperware container (stores the dishes as well as doubles as a sink for washing up)

For keeping clean:

  • 2 dish towels
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge
  • 3 beach towels
  • Hand and body soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
leatherman multipurpose tool knife
A multipurpose tool can come in handy in the great outdoors. Fotos593/Shutterstock

All-purpose tools:

  • Sturdy pick-shovel
  • Leatherman or Swiss Army knife
  • Lantern
  • Headlamp
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra ropes and bungee cords
  • Tablecloth or tarp

For safety:

  • Fully stocked first aid kit, including Ace wrap, cold pack, aspirin and antibacterial ointment
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellant
  • Insect-bite ointment
  • Tick key or tick tweezers
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • ChapStick

For the dog:

  • A metal bowl for food and water
  • Extra leash and reflective collar with tag
  • Snap-on safety light

For fun & comfort:

  • Binoculars
  • Card games
  • Baseball gloves and ball
  • Inflatable mats for sleeping
  • Extra hats and bandanas

Other than the contents of this box, all that's needed is a cooler with food, ice and water (and beer and wine!), a sleeping bag and tent, a bag of clothes and some firewood — and you're ready to go!

Anything else you think is an absolute necessity for when you go camping? Let us know what more you would put in your go-box in the comments.