Ultimate Group Car Camping Checklist

Over the past 10 years I have fallen in love with camping — especially large group car camping. Whether it’s for a birthday or just for fun, it’s wonderful to spend an extended amount of time with friends and no cell service. Over our many trips we created & continue to refine a Google sheet template that covers the basic logistics that campers should consider:

Activities

The activities tab can be used to keep track of when everyone plans on arriving and/or leaving and a rough outline of what activities you would like to do each day. Campers arrival and departure is an important factor in how much food to buy for a certain meal. However, this tab is best used to gauge what people are interested in doing — is this a lazy day at the campsite or hiking a volcano trip? Especially with a large group (8+), having an idea ahead of time prevents hours of indecision.

Carpool

The carpool tab is used to keep track of number of cars, who is going in what car, who is getting picked up where (helpful for when not everyone knows each other), what time everyone plans on arriving and/or leaving, and the campsite numbers. Many campsites have restrictions on how many cars can be at a specific campsite.

We have discovered, through various failed attempts, that 4 campers who are all responsible for shared equipment will not fit in 1 car. Car sharing works when combining 3-4 campers who are not bringing most of the shared equipment -or- 2 campers who are & 2 campers who are not.

Meal Plan

The easiest way to delegate responsibility and cut down on food waste is to create a meal plan where 1–2 campers are responsible for purchasing & cooking a specific meal. Family style also helps reduce the amount of items being cooked at once, chefs in the “kitchen”, and brings the campsite together by all eating at the same time. By writing the meal plan out ahead of time, other campers can comment with food allergies or preferences.

When there aren’t enough campers to evenly split or fill the meals, we turn lunch into a BYO.

Shared Equipment

Car space is a commodity & you don’t need 5 cast iron skillets. This tab is a packing list of shared items that campers sign up to bring. By sharing the burden you can reduce unnessessary/unused duplicates and save you car space. The items are ranked by necessity for most camping trips:

  • 1 — Necessary: the bare bones to have an enjoyable camping trip. Assuming you are bringing your own sleeping arrangements & cooking at a fire.
  • 2 — Helpful: items that make tasks easier. For example, you could boil water for coffee in a pot or you could get a Jetboil and have coffee ready in 5 min.
  • 3 — Nice to Have: the reason why you’re car camping, not backpacking. Adding a sense of speed and/or luxury to your campsite.

If you’re new to camping, we have also included links to our favorite version / brand of items that you can purchase.

Bring Your Own

A packing list of items each camper should bring. Similar to the ‘Shared Equipment’ tab, they are grouped by activity, ranked by necessity, and link to our recommended version.


Car Camping Template

To use the car camping template: open the template (click the title above), click ‘File’, then ‘Make a copy…” Enjoy your trip!