Build your grab-and-go car camping kit

I’d been shuffling through plastic bins in the back of the van for 45 minutes when I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I’d forgotten the sporks. Or any utensil, for that matter.

In hindsight, grabbing those plastic spoons at the gas station we passed an hour ago was a good idea.

car camping

Taking a last-minute camping trip is easy when your essentials are packed and ready to go. Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

When you decide to try car camping, no one tells you how much gear you’re going to forget the first few times.

RELATED: A complete guide to car camping on the cheap

Between the tent, the headlamps, the cooking equipment, the cooler, the hiking gear, the fire starters, the road snacks and the car keys, something inevitably gets left behind — leaving you scrambling to invent something or make it to Walmart before it closes for the night.

Be prepared for every spontaneous tent adventure, beach trip and music festival by building your grab-and-go car camping kit in advance. A little prep work will save you time, money and from having to use your fingers to eat chili.

Just grab a few big plastic bins and fill them with these essentials.

Camping gear

camping gear

A camp stove, a sleeping bag and a fire starter can get you far on a camping trip. Photo: Johnie Gall

• Dry wood (if necessary, you can also pick this up on the way)

• Fire starter like matches or a lighter

• Small axe

• Camp chairs or pads to sit on

• Cash to reserve a camping spot with

• Toilet paper and a micro-fiber towel

• Camp shoes, like flip-flops

• Rain jacket

• Portable lantern

• Basic first-aid kit

Tent and sleeping gear

This is kind of the important bit, especially if weather comes calling. Photo: Pexels

• Tent, poles and stakes

• Tent footprint (this is the layer between you and the ground)

• Spare tarp

• Sleeping pad (store this loosely folded with some air in it)

• Sleeping bag (keep this stored in a loose cotton bag or hanging in a closet so it doesn’t lose its loft.)

• Camp pillow

• Lantern or headlamp

• Lightweight hammock

Cooking equipment

Whatever your version of a camp stove looks like, keep it at the ready. Photo: Pexels

• Cooler and plastic bags for storing loose food in

• Knife

• Oil for cooking

• Spatula

• Set of sporks

• Can opener

RELATED: Simple tips for eating healthier in the outdoors

• Mugs, cups, bowls and plates (you can buy these in lightweight camping sets)

• Liter bottles for fresh water

• Camp stove and fuel

• Dish soap and trash bags

• Bear canister (you can leave this at home if your campground has bear boxes)

• Dry spices, cereals and instant drink and sauce powder mixes