Planning a Car Camping Weekend

tent pace bend

There’s no better way to refresh from a stressful work week than to take an impromptu weekend camping trip. Most of us don’t have a ton of vacation days to cut out for week-long or even three day weekend camping trips. That’s why it’s nice to cram a camping trip into an average weekend. This past weekend Jessamine and I planned to do just that. The logistics of getting the most out of a weekend trip can seem a bit challenging, so we decided to document our planning process.

Step 1

The first step is obviously finding a weekend that is open and works with your schedule and picking a camping location. We didn’t have any obligations last weekend and I didn’t foresee myself needing to do any weekend work, so that was settled. Next we decided to go to our favorite car-camping location near Austin: Pace Bend Park. Pace Bend is about an hour drive from our house, which is a good distance for a weekend trip. You could drive a bit farther and we have (see Steeped in Lost Maples), but I think it’s ideal to keep the drive under one hour if possible for such a short trip. If you don’t have a place in mind, just search for campgrounds near your city. I like to read Yelp reviews to get an idea of what to expect. Once you’ve picked a location, map out the drive-time so you know how long the drive will take. If you are not familiar with the campground it’s probably a good idea to give them a call and ask if reservations are needed or if they expect the grounds to fill up (especially important for summer and holiday weekends).

Step 2

Breakfast tacos!

Breakfast tacos!

Decide when you plan to leave and make a meal and supply list. Do you want to leave Friday after work or Saturday morning? Friday is nice because you get an extra night of camping, but you’ll likely have to pay for that extra night. Depending on the popularity of your campground, Friday will likely give you a better choice of campsites as most people will come on Saturday. If money is tight (or an extra night just doesn’t seem worth it), you can leave Saturday morning and still have a nice weekend camping experience.

Cooking at camp!

Cooking at camp!

Now that you know how many days and nights you will be staying you can plan your meal list. This is one of my favorite parts of camping! Car camping is great because you can bring a lot of gear and make some really tasty meals. Don’t forget to plan to bring snacks for between meals and your favorite beverages (including lots of water). We always brings lots of ice-cold beer and the ingredients to make gourmet s’mores (we use fancy chocolate – that’s gourmet right?).

After planning all meals and snacks, make a grocery list of everything that you don’t already have at home. Don’t forget to add other supplies you might need to bring such as trash bags, Ziploc bags, toilet paper, etc. Now is a good time to go over our car camping checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything!

Next, go over the checklist and make sure that you have all the gear that you need. If not, find a friend to borrow from, rent some gear, or purchase some to add to your camping gear collection.

Step 3

Shop for food and gather all necessary gear. Ideally you’ll be able to make it to the grocery store prior to the day you plan to leave. This will give you time to have everything packed up and ready to go ahead of time. After you get home from the store, do any food prep that may need to be done before you leave (such as marinating a steak or making a killer batch of guacamole).

Our pile of gear.

Our pile of gear.

 

Step 4

Pack. The day before you leave pack everything that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. You obviously don’t have to do this prior to the day that you leave, but it will make everything go more smoothly and allow you to get to camp much faster!

Step 5

Gear loaded up into the car.

Gear loaded up into the car.

The day of the trip! The weekend has finally arrived and you are ready to hit the road! You just have a few more things to do before taking off. Now is the time to pack up all the food that needed to be refrigerated. Load it into a cooler. If you need ice, you can pick some up on your way to the campground. Load all of your gear into your car and you are ready to go! Since you will be car-camping you don’t need to worry too much about packing your gear into backpacks. We like to throw our gear into reusable grocery bags and then just stuff everything in the car. Don’t forget to pick up some cash if the campground doesn’t take credit cards. And that’s it. Enjoy your weekend camping excursion.

If you have any tips to pull off a great weekend trip please let us know in the comments below! Do you have a great recipe, tips to get a campfire started, anything else we should know? Please share!