Paolo Rosetti's guide to organising camping equipment to make sure you and the family actually enjoy the experience enough to want to repeat it.
Methodical approach is vital when packing camping essentials in SUV
One of the challenges in preparing successfully for a long camping trip, besides the difficulty of navigation and keeping the discomfort and boredom of the long drive to an acceptable level, is in carrying enough equipment to provide for comfort, convenience, nutrition and recreation.
It is certainly possible to take the view that camping is supposed to be a Spartan test of endurance in nature, and therefore take only the very bare minimum to survive. However, it is equally fair to want to make sure you and the family actually enjoy the experience enough to want to repeat it when the opportunity arises again.
Plus, since in this region we rely very much on a motorised vehicle to reach the camping area, with setting off on foot with a backpack often not a realistic option, we might as well make good use of the cargo area available.
We are a family of four and we manage without a roof rack, probably because we have elevated the task of packing the car to both an art form and scientific experiment.
The basic tenets that work for us are "first in, last out" and "light top, heavy bottom".
As we prepared for a five-night trip to see the turtles in Oman, knowing we were travelling to a very remote location, we prioritised food and water, including water for showering as well as drinking.
The heavy items we would use only at the destination went in first: tent, camping cots, gazebo for shade, foldable table, foldable camping kitchen, gas stove, barbecue, kitchen items, water in 20L cans, marine-grade cool-box and then camping chairs and sleeping bags on top.
Our recovery and emergency boxes also went down low, but towards the back door, for easy access along the route, if needed. These contain things such as tow straps, first aid kit, tyre changing tools, et cetera. This does not help with access to the spare tyre if it's neatly hidden under the cargo floor - a feature I hate. Put it on the rear!
Our clothes bags and pillows usually do not fit in the cargo area, so they go in the middle back seat, so the kids can also lean on them during the trip. Sometimes, they reach the roof, forming a central barrier, which is great because it also means that they can't bicker.
Other miscellaneous items, such as bodyboards and snorkelling gear, as well as camping mats and other soft, lightweight items are squeezed on top of the heavy items, filling the cargo area.
This also serves to keep the heavier items in place and to prevent them from easily flying forward in the event of a hard knock. A cargo barrier is a safety device I would highly recommend as well.
In the cabin we carry a picnic bag with our food for the drive, the camera bag and a "busy bag" with entertainment items such as iPods, CDs, binoculars, books, sketching pads and all sorts of diabolical bits and pieces to while away time during the trip.
We have found that with judicious planning and packing, a five-day trip to a remote location can be supported by enough camping paraphernalia to keep everyone happy and comfortable.