There you are, surrounded by 12 hungry campers in various stages of sweaty, cranky exhaustion after a day of hiking through the woods, all eagerly awaiting the famous Goulash on a Stick that you’ve been promising to flambé over a roaring campfire all day.
The food has been prepped, the plates and utensils sit on a checkered tablecloth ready for action. And you would fire up a grill or a stove or some wood, if only…you hadn’t forgotten to pack the lighter. Or some matches. Or something, anything that would ignite and turn your culinary creation into something edible.
It’s another reminder that pack lists are the bomb, although they certainly aren’t a guarantee. Proof: a trip to a ritzy resort area where one of my daughters confessed just before we headed to the swimming pool that she’d forgotten her bathing suit, even though, as I pointed out repeatedly as we traipsed all afternoon from store to store, that she had checked it off her list as packed.
That was a costly one, because it was so far into the summer that the only place selling them had one her tiny size for…gulp…$80. What were we going to do? The swimming pools had a strict “no street clothes” policy, and we had a whole week to go.
So, after chatting with some other serious camping folks about this issue, here are the top items that seemed to come up over and over. And I’d like to say we’ll never forget a bathing suit again, but we all know that’s not true.
What are some of yours?
1. Sunscreen. Thank heavens most places have this on hand, especially in convenience and campground stores. Still, sometimes all you can get is the tiny tube, for twice what you would pay for a big bottle.
2. Bug spray. A recent trek to Moab found us so surrounded by mosquitoes it felt like we were in a stinging snowstorm. Some folks on the trip had spray, some not, and we quickly ran out. We wound up needing citronella candles, too.
3. Flashlight. Or headlamp. Without something at night to light the way, things go bump.
4. Maps. There’s always someone in the car or on the trail who refuses to ask for directions, and there’s nothing worse than being completely lost in an unfamiliar area. We keep ours in Ziploc bags so they don’t get wet or covered in food goo, and store them in files labeled by state.
5. Lighter/matches. We try to bring both, in case the lighter winds up running out of fluid and/or the matches get wet. It’s always good to have a back-up.
6. Containers for leftovers. A Ziploc full of a variety of sizes of Ziplocs is a great thing to have on hand for any kind of leftovers, but it’s also nice, if you have room, to have a few plastic containers for whatever winds up needing to be stored. It seems as though there’s always a little bit of something that we’re reluctant to just pitch. And the baggies are good for the inevitable rock, shell and leaf collections, as well.
7. Band-Aids. Even when we remember them, they seem to disappear faster than you can say “owie!” So we buy the super big box.
8. Sunglasses. Yeah, they’re going to get lost anyway, so go with the $5 pair. And bring a spare.
9. Paper towels. They can be used for spills, as napkins, as ground cloths, bundled as oven mitts or potholders, wrapped around “owies,” called into service as dishcloths or towels...and so much more.
10. Bathing suit. Not only have we forgotten to bring one on a trip, but I confess to having left mine hanging to dry on the back of a hotel bathroom door, and I almost did it again very recently on another trip. They’re just not an everyday item.
The roadtripster is the handle of a longtime Coloradan who travels the country by any means possible, sometimes in an RV, sometimes car camping or in the backcountry, with kids and without.