Posts Tagged ‘checklist’

Pitch Your Tent: Spring Pre-Camping Checklist

Spring Camping Maintanence

Yeah! I am so excited it’s FINALLY spring. It’s been a long LONG winter here in Chino Valley. To make matters worse, spring teased us several times by getting warm and then snowing. Getting warm and then having knock-you-down wind that dropped the temperatures back into sweatshirt weather.

But it’s spring. For real. (And if it’s NOT for real, I’m here to tell winter to take a hike!)

That means that it’s time to do a pre-season shakedown of all your camping gear and head out!

Stoves and table top BBQs: Wipe them down from any residual grease or food particles. Yes, you should have done this in the fall, but a winter of storage will usually attract dust (and other more unsavory things!) to any spots you missed.


Dirty campstove

Fuel: Check your stove’s fuel source to make sure you have enough and that it didn’t leak away over the winter. (Scary!) It is a good time to take the stove or BBQ outside and fire it up to make sure that all the hoses and connections are still in good shape. Replace anything that you’re worried about.

propane fuel

Lanterns: take a look at the mantels to make sure they don’t need to be replaced. Make sure you have a stock of replacements on hand. (And yes, I use a propane lantern like the one pictured below. BUT, I also carry a battery powered one as well!)


Propane lantern

Ice Chests: Check for mold, mildew, sour smells and left-over bologna sandwiches. A little chlorine bleach and mild detergent should clean them up sufficiently. I’m also a big fan of letting them sit opened in the sun for a while; UV rays kill a lot of icky things. Just be sure to properly store the ice chests away from UV rays since they’ll deteriorate the plastic and shorten the life of the ice chest.

Ice Chests

Ice Chest

Water Containers: You DID completely empty them and allow the inside to fully dry, right? If you grew mold in your water container over the winter, you might want to consider replacing the container; you’ll probably always have a funny taste. Make sure all the seals still work and that the inside is clean, dry and critter (bugs or mold) free.

Aqua-Tainer (this is the brand I use personally!)

Water Container

First aid kit: Make sure that you replenished any supplies you used last year. I recommend opening a bandage and making sure the adhesive hasn’t turned into a sticky mess. (Be sure to replace it!) Discard any outdated medicines. If any ointments look or smell funny, replace them as well.

First aid kit. Get a pre-made one and then customize it to your family.

First aid kit

Sleeping bags and pads: open and fluff! Look for any smells (mold or mildew are possible!), check zippers, drawstrings, etc. Now’s the time to repair any holes, rips or tears in your bag as well. Be sure to inflate your sleeping pads and check for leaks.

Sleeping bags

sleeping bags


See my article on sleeping bag maintenance.

Tents: set it up and make sure that all the zippers still work, the seams are in good condition, and all poles are still in good shape. Now’s the time to make sure you still have all the tent stakes and guy lines as well. Before your first camping adventure is the perfect time to apply seam-seal (if recommended by the tent manufacturer) and repair any rips in the walls or floor. Don’t forget to check the rain fly!




Other gear: go over your camping checklists to make sure that all your favorite camping gear is still in working order.

If you discover anything broken, you can repair it yourself, find a professional repair service, or set about replacing it. And it’s better to do that while it’s still a bit cold and windy rather than when you’re heading out for your first camping adventure of 2011!

To make your life easier, I included a link after every category to I’m more and more impressed with that company and use it to get a LOT of my gear! Those are affiliate links, FYI.


Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you fix your gear in the fall or spring?
  • If you had a tear in a sleeping bag or tent, do you fix it or buy a new one?
  • What’s you must-do activity before heading out for the first camping trip of the season?

Pitch Your Tent: Trip Planning

Camping Trip Planning From The Ground Up

I’ve published several articles about checking your gear after you get home from a camping trip. But ESP Boss & I have a trip planned for October 16-17 that made me realize there’s a whole OTHER dimension to planning a trip:


For our trip, ESP Boss & I will be kayaking the Colorado River from Hoover Dam to Willow beach. Now, that can be done as a day trip, but we’ll be doing it as an overnighter. Packing for an overnight kayaking trip is a lot like packing for a backpacking trip. Since I’ve never been backpacking (it’s on my list of things to do!) I’m pretty much a newbie to it all.

Hoover Dam

We'll be going south of the river towards Willow Beach.

I figure I’ve been camping all my life but I’ve never backpacked or done an overnight kayaking trip. This means that YOU get a really interesting experience where I can write some articles from the window of a beginner:


Here is what I’ve learned so far: (and I think most of this will apply to all beginners going on a first camping trip)

Do Research About Where To Go.

ESP Boss knew that we could kayak the Colorado River but he did some serious research about which stretches of the river are the best. We were looking for something really specific: steady current, not too rapid, not too much boat traffic but not too remote either. Turns out, the section that we’ll be doing is motor-prohibited on Sundays and Mondays. Perfect for our trip!

In case you didn’t realize it, my website has GREAT information about public camping areas. It covers all the western states and is free.

Find Out If You Need Any Special Permits or Permissions.

There are actually a lot of areas across the USA that require a special access permit. Often times if you’re going to a Wilderness area you’ll need to get a permit to be there. When the “Royal” Family attended a big geocaching event/campout last March there was a special permit we needed to get.

The Outdoor Princess & ESP Boss at Blue Ridge Reservoir

We'll need a special permit to kayak the river.

Most of the time, special permits aren’t expensive or hard to get. But what IS expensive is getting fined for NOT having a permit. Call the governing body of where you’re planning on going and ask if am access or use permit is required. I recommend CALLING as opposed to looking on line since sometimes the permit requirements aren’t clearly published.

Decide If You Need Special Gear.

If you’re camping in a campground, chances are good that you can make your gear list as easy as falling off a log. Place to stay? Check! Way to cook? Check! Sleeping bag? Check! Food? Check!

But for this trip, we needed some gear for above and beyond: a water filtration system.

The need for specialized gear can be really daunting for a lot of beginners. But don’t let anything get in the way of having a great outdoor adventure! I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about this topic in this post; it needs more than a paragraph or two. Just keep it in mind and then check back next week for my thoughts on it.

Create A Budget.

Yes, camping can be a “cheap” vacation. But sometimes I think that’s only in comparison to, say, a week at Disneyland! You’ll need to have a budget for gear, fees, gas, and food. Once you know where you’re going and if you need a permit or gear, then a budget will help you decide if you can actually take THIS trip or if you need to re-think your plans.

Trust me, it’s better to think about the money-side of adventures before you’re committed to a trip that gets more expensive by the minute.

Buy The Gear. Test It Out.

You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, right? Or a pair of shoes without trying them on and walking around the store either. So why people go straight from the store to the campsite is beyond me!

Before you head to the woods (or in this case, the river) test out the stove. Make sure all the parts work and you know how to use it. Open the sleeping bag and lay it out. Does the zipper work? Are all the seams intact?


For the geocaching event in March, we broke a cardinal rule! We didn't set the tent up until we got to camp. We were really lucky and all the tent pieces were in the box!

And the big one: Set up the tent! Partly so you know how to do it, but also because if you’re missing a part, if the tent wall is torn, or if a pole is broken, etc, you can fix it BEFORE you head out.

I wish I had a picture, but last week, I set up our backpacking tent INSIDE the house! It was crammed into the spare room at my folk’s and looked completely ridiculous. But, I figured out how everything went together AND I made sure that it all worked. ESP Boss will be testing our new backpacking stove this weekend.

Make Some Lists.

Anybody who regularly reads my articles knows I’m really big on checklists. Just because you might not have a ready-to-print checklist doesn’t mean you can’t make lists of your own!

Good list topics are:

  • Food
  • General “big” gear (stove, tent, sleeping bags)
  • Specific “little” gear (camera, GPS, flashlight)
  • Clothing (be specific!)
  • Medicines/Toiletries
  • Maps and manuals

When I’m making lists, I start with generalities to brainstorm what I’m thinking of (like the list above) and then I make a specific list for each topic. Trust me, after one packing list that said “Toiletries” and then a trip where I didn’t bring my allergy medicine, toothbrush, or bug spray I go ahead and get specific!

Readers Weigh In:

  • If you were giving advice to a person who was planning their very first camping trip, what would you tell them?
  • What pre-planning steps do YOU do?
  • What are your must-do steps to get ready for a camping trip?

Pitch Your Tent: Checklist

After Camping Checklist

An Internet search will turn up a million and one checklists about what to take with you when you GO camping. What I’ve found, however, is that people have little problem bringing everything they need with them, but where they fall apart is knowing what to do with it all when they get home!

Who hasn’t just left a suitcase full of unworn clothes, dirty clothes, and toiletries languishing in the corner for a few days (or longer) after a trip? NOT a good idea for your camping gear, since there’s been considerable expense over the years to gather all your equipment. Unpacking later, rather than sooner, can ruin many different items.

When I got back from my camping trip with Nicole last weekend, I was hot, tired, and dirty. But I knew I shouldn’t leave the gear just sitting there (especially in the back of my truck!) So after a quick lunch, I got right to the business of unpacking all my gear.

Unpacking Checklist

Do you RV? The very first thing you need to do is dump your holding tanks of grey and black water. If you can, dump the tanks at the campground, since many provide RV dumps. If you camp a lot, and if it’s feasible at your house, consider having a sewer connection near where you park your RV.

We usually dump at the campground and then make sure the holding tanks are really clean when we get home.

The “Royal” Family (okay, so it was all ESP Boss!) had a level concrete pad poured where we park the RV. Right there we have a sewer dump, fresh water connection, and power.

Return any leftover foods to the refrigerator or pantry, as necessary, and discard any foods that may have spoiled. Do this sooner rather than later. Some items on the put-away checklist can be done the next day, but food needs to be unpacked and returned to the refrigerator or pantry right away.

Rinse the ice chest and allow to dry. Sprinkle some baking soda in the ice chest to keep it odor-free and fresh until the next time you use it. This is a great time to make sure the valve to let out water is still working and that there are no cracks or bows in the chest. If anything is damaged, replace the ice chest.

Gather up and dispose of any remaining trash.

As you unpack, take inventory of your gear. Did you leave anything behind? Identify any items that are damaged, broken, or consumed (like matches). Be sure to count your tent stakes to make sure you’ll have enough for the next trip. Then, make a list of what needs repair or replacement. Pay special attention to items in your first aid kit.

When we get home from a camping trip, we also make sure to restock on any paper products we’ve used: toilet paper, paper plates, paper towels, plastic silverware, and make sure that the replacements get back into the trailer or camping box.

Separate all clothes and bedding items that may need laundering. Don’t wait to start doing the laundry; wash whatever you can, as soon as you can, to remove outdoor smells that can come from campfires, or from lakes, streams, and beaches, or from dirt, mud, and sand, etc.

Set up your tent to air it out, especially if it got wet while camping, and give it a good sweeping before stowing it. Be sure to air out any other camping gear, which may have gotten wet on the trip, to avoid possible mold and mildew. If your RV has slide-outs or anything tent-like (awnings, tent trailer sides, fold out beds, etc.) be sure to open all of these when you get home and make sure they are dry.

The dew had fallen the last morning in camp so I had to set up the tent at home too!

(If you are in an area that gets morning dew, make sure that all the gear is stowed before the dew falls, or you’ll have to wait for everything to dry out again!)

Clean all kitchen utensils, cookware, dishes, glasses, and silverware – if you can, run everything through the dishwasher. Return kitchen items to where they belong, and store all camping specific cooking items together.

Open your camping stove and wipe off any grease or food particles. You also might need to wash any cooking surfaces.

I wiped my stove down before I packed it up in camp. It WAS greasy!

Make sure that any camping stoves and lanterns are turned off and that all fuel containers are properly stored.

My new lantern is battery powered: I removed the batteries when I got home. It can't turn on in storage AND the batteries can't leak.

Empty any water containers and allow to dry. You’ll want to keep a close eye on it however, so as soon as the inside is dry, you put the lid on tightly. There is nothing worse that filling up your potable water container and having a big dead spider looking up at you from the bottom! Or peering inside to see dust, cat hairs, dead bugs, LIVE bugs… You get the picture!

Take good care of your camping gear since it was an investment and you will want to use it for many years to come.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you have other items on YOUR unpacking checklist?

Find Your Geocache

Geocaching Supplies Checklist

Two weeks ago, I posted about my geocaching tool kit; these are tools that I take with me to actually FIND and RETRIEVE the cache. I got so many comments on that post about what people have in their kits, I though I’d better do a follow-up article!

To Retrieve The Cache

  • Walking stick. This is a must for Arizona where all manner of creatures (usually that bite, sting, are poisonous or all three!) like to live around caches. So a walking stick is perfect for jamming into a likely crevasse or flipping over rocks.
  • Gloves. My garden gloves do double duty in my caching kit. This is nice when I’ve got my fingernails painted a la filming for The Outdoor Princess Productions. Or when locating the cache requires me to move plants with thorns.
  • Small mirror. I finally got tired of sticking my head under cattle guards looking for micros! Now, I just angle the mirror under so I can see BEFORE I stick my head into anything!
  • Needle nose pliers. For when you can SEE the cache, but you can’t get your fingers in there! Pliers are tough and portable!
  • Forceps. Yep, I carry BOTH. Sometimes the pliers are too big to extract the log sheet from a nano. And the forceps can be too delicate for leveraging a good-sized cache container out of the hiding spot.
  • Flashlight. Sometimes shining a light into a likely spot will show the cache reflecting back at you. And sometimes it shows the eyes of whatever critter is living in the hole!
  • Magnet on a string. Sometimes, you can fish a cache out with that! Just make sure the magnet is tied on tight! (Thanks to GC Addicted)

You might also want to consider:

  • A metal coat hanger with a hook bent into the end.
  • A fishing hook on a string. (Not sure I recommend this because of how easy it is to get caught on the barb, but it was suggested several time!)

This is just a sample of what I carry with me.

Safety Gear

  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Sun Glasses
  • Safety glasses were suggested by james.bednar. He pointed out that trees (branches, thorns, and leaves) can REALLY damage and eye when you run into it. I never would have thought of this since I’m ALWAYS wearing glasses.
  • Extra batteries for the GPS
  • Quality road atlas (make sure it is a GOOD one that shows back roads, not just the main highways!)
  • First aid kit
  • Poison oak/ivy spray (suggested by Garrett.) Neither is much of a problem in Arizona so I’d never even THOUGHT about it!
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Plenty of water and snacks
  • Hiking boots or good shoes

Kim Scornavacco posted such a good comment that I think it needs to be repeated in its entirety:

I always carry a bandana with me. I can cover my head to ward off the heat, I dunk it in cold water and tie it around my neck to keep cool, I wrap it around my mouth and nose in cold weather, I have used it as a band-aid, used it to clean off mud and in an emergency, you can use it as a sling.

Here are some other items that I typically carry in my car:

  • Emergency poncho
  • Emergency space blanket
  • Whistle
  • Matches
  • LOTS of paper towel
  • Cell phone charger

Several people commented on also bringing extra log sheets and plastic baggies to caches. I LOVE the idea of people doing impromptu cache maintenance and just helping out the owner. I have several caches that are hours away from my house so it isn’t really feasible for me to trot over there after work to replace a log book!

Other items suggested were:

  • GPS
  • Swag
  • Pen AND a pencil
  • Duct tape (always handy)

One of the biggest issues I’ve always had with a list like this is that if I carried EVERYTHING my pack would be so heavy I could hardly walk! I recommend that you take notes (mental or otherwise) about what YOU decide YOU can’t live without.

On my “Can’t Go Caching Without It” list?

My camera and tripod!

Readers Weigh In:

  • I’ve been thinking about making up a printable .pdf checklist of supplies. Do you think that would help ne w cachers get started on the right foot?

Pitch Your Tent: Camp Cooking

Camp Cooking Utensil Checklist

Now that you’ve read up on camp stoves and have some basic fire-making ideas, I wanted to share with you my checklist for camping cooking utensils. I’m not covering what I recommend you take for food, but what I recommend that you take for supplies.

Like all checklists, this isn’t the be-all, end-all list. You need to be sure to bring the items that make YOUR life easier. And, by the same token, you can leave things at home that you never use.

The best way to use a checklist is to print it out and not only use it, but take it WITH you. Then, when you think of something that you wish you had, you can put it on the list right away. When you get home, evaluate what you took and decide if each item has its place.

I am not a huge fan of made-for-camping utensils. I prefer to use regular kitchen gadgets. Of course, when the “Royal” family camps, we take a huge RV so space isn’t much of an issue. If I’m car or tent camping, then I do think about what can do double duty.

Don't skimp on the can opener -- get a quality one.

If you’re planning on using paper plates and bowls, and plastic eating utensils be sure to bring ENOUGH. I went on a camping trip with a friend who counted exactly how many meals we would eat and then only brought that many plastic forks. The problem was that no COOKING forks were brought. Needless to say we were out of forks about three meals early and had to go to town for more!

Plastic, washable plates and metal silverware is a plus since they hold up better and you can wash them if you run out. Of course, then you have to wash them!

I always recommend setting up a big plastic container with a snap-on lid for your kitchen supplies. It keeps everything clean and together. If at all possible, I recommend having this kitchen kit separate from your house’s kitchen. That means that you’re not robbing your kitchen drawers for a can opener; there’s a camping can opener that just stays in the kit.

The Queen Mother did this with her RV kitchen over the course of several years. During that time, she refined what camp cooking tools and utensils she wanted AND she didn’t break the bank as she acquired them!

We have a set that never leaves the RV.

  • Big spoon for stirring and or serving (you might want more than one!)
  • Bottle opener
  • Bottled water – both individual bottles and large jugs of potable water for cooking
  • Bowls (eating and mixing)
  • Can opener
  • Clothes pins (for closing bags of chips, holding down tablecloths, etc)
  • Coffee supplies (pot, filters, cups) and/or a tea kettle
  • Cold-drink cups
  • Collapsible dish drain
  • Containers for food storage that have lids
  • Corkscrew
  • Cutting board
  • Cutting knife for food prep
  • Cutting knives for eating (like steak knives)
  • Dish pan
  • Dish rags and towels
  • Dish soap
  • Forks, spoons, and knives
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil
  • Ice chests
  • Large pot with a lid
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Mugs
  • Napkins
  • Paper plates / cups (we always bring both paper and plastic plates and cups)
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic silverware
  • Plastic tablecloth
  • Potato Peeler
  • Potholders
  • Scrub pad
  • Skillet
  • Small pot with a lid
  • Strike-anywhere matches
  • Tea kettle
  • Thermos (so you can take the coffee with you!)
  • Tongs (plastic tips can melt!)
  • Trash bags
  • Utility lighter
  • Ziplock bags in a variety of sizes

I know this is a pretty big list. But, let me explain a few of my choices:

A big pot with a lid AND a smaller pot with a lid – there’s nothing worse than boiling water to wash dishes and not having enough hot water at a time. I recommend a BIG pot with a lid so you can heat quite a bit of water. Just remember, it will take longer to heat the water than it does at home!

The smaller pot is for cooking. If you can, get pots with two stubby handles on each side rather than one long handle. That way, they can nest inside of each other and save space!

The Queen Mother LOVES her coffeemaker!

Coffee pot AND a tea kettle – if you are serious about coffee, then I recommend this coffee maker from Coleman. It sits on a propane stove and does a fantastic job! If you’re like me though, I don’t want my water for tea or hot chocolate tasting like coffee so I bring a separate tea kettle.

That tea kettle can also be used to heat water for washing up.

Strike-anywhere matches AND a utility fire lighter – if matches get wet, you’re stuck. The utility lighter can get damp and still work. By the same token, a utility lighter can run out of fuel and matches can’t. The other reason I recommend both is the reach of the lighter is farther. My camp stove doesn’t have a self-ignition so I have to turn on the gas and then light it. I prefer NOT to do that with a match since I have singed my fingers before!

Plastic silverware AND real silverware – have you ever tried to eat steak with a plastic fork and knife? I bring both types since plastic is perfect for snacks and real flatware is better for meals.

Paper plates AND plastic plates – same reasoning as the silverware. Paper is perfect for snacks but I prefer a real plate when I’m eating a meal. Now, when I say plastic, I don’t mean plastic disposable, but plastic washable.

If you're going to use disposable, be sure to bring enough!

Some other things I like to take:

  • Colander (if you’re making pasta, this is a must!)
  • Griddle (pancakes just taste better when cooked outside)
  • Basting brush (we were making shrimp on the barbeque and had to make a basting brush out of pine needles!)
  • Fish basket
  • Marshmallow toasting forks

Give Me Your Feedback:

What are the must-have camp cooking tools that your family takes? What can you just not live without?

Want a .pdf download of this checklist?

Click here. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat to open the checklist.

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