How Not To Pack Your Camping Gear

Back when I was 17 or so my aunt and uncle invited me to join their family on a week’s vacation to the St. Louis area. That event was my first lesson on the right way to arrange camping gear for a trip.

Or rather how not to pack your equipment.

We got to the campground and started setting up our site. Next to us was a mother with her teenage daughter and younger son. We noticed that they seemed kind of at a loss over how to proceed as they broke camp, and tried to load their car.

It seemed strange to us that they had four (or more. Hard to remember now.) tents for just the three of them. And all the other equipment at their camp site like , pots and pans, and several sleeping bags seemed like way more than they needed too.

As we watched they filled up the car, and still had what looked like enough to fill another vehicle. It was clear that they had no idea how to get all their stuff in the car.

After watching a while we started talking with them and asked if we could help.

Turned out they lived in St. Louis and planned to camp for the week themselves. The husband was working days and commuting to the campground each evening. They originally used two cars to transport all that to the site. An older son drove the other vehicle and helped set up camp.

Somewhere along the way, an argument started between the mother and her oldest boy. I guess it got rather heated because the boy jumped into his car, and took off – leaving them to fend for themselves.

The mother was so angry over the incident that she decided to give up on the outing.

My uncle and I decided to help them out.

The first thing we did was to completely unload the car, get all that equipment laid around on the ground so we could get an idea of how we might load it so it all fit one vehicle.

And we had to do it in a way that the car would also carry the three of them.

With a fresh vision of all the camp stuff, we started reloading. We compacted what we could as tight as we could, and stuffed here and there, forcing things into any space we found. We had that back seat so full that things hung out the windows.

Then we started tying stuff on top.

We ran rope (good thing plenty of that was available) through the rear windows, and started with the biggest items, tying each one at a time to make sure we had a secure foundation. Then we stacked the smaller things on top, still tying as we went.

We did get everything in, and on, that car.

When we finished loading the car looked so top heavy that I figured a tight curve would make it roll over. The whole thing was so heavy that the springs collapsed until the frame almost dragged the ground.

Then we warned them to drive very carefully, especially when they made any turns, and waved goodbye.

I have no way of knowing if they ever made it home, or if that load held that long. It was a dangerous way to pack their camping gear, but they weren’t about to make two trips so we did the best we could for them.