OK...so in the last 2 months, we've camped and climbed about 20 days. Pretty good, all done with a 18 month old. And I'll tell ya....we've come a long way when it comes to car camping. For instance, before Elizabeth, we used to sleep in the back of our 4Runner on a raised sleeping deck I built with gear storage below.
Then Elizabeth came along...and sleeping in the truck seemed tough. So we started camping in our alpine climbing tent (a two man 4 season tent). And that worked pretty well for over a year.
But she got bigger...more mobile...and something needed to change
and so a few months ago...we went crazy and did something we had always talked about:
we got DA SET UP
here's how we roll
trust us folks...it's the key to getting out a lot:
Tip #1: Keep your gear organized in bins. We have 3 bins, 2 cots and a portable crib, 3 chairs, 1 stove + cooking utensils, 3 sleeping bags and pillows, a bag of clothes, and climbing gear. It takes 5 minutes to pack the car and I don't have to think about what to bring. Just throw the bins, chairs, cots, stove, bag of clothes and climbing gear into the car...and wala....we're mostly there.
Now...inside the bins are many different types of items (like tarps, axes, fuel, lanterns, etc). I won't list them all but only tell you the AMAZING gear items that we highly recommend to make your life easy:
We got the GSI Outdoor 11 Piece Kitchen set. It has everything you need. No need to bring anything from your kitchen (we did throw in an beer/wine opener and a sharp knife).
For cooking...get a Coleman-type stove. One that has a burner on one side and a grill on the other. Super handy. For the pots and pans....a SUPER GOOD OPTION is the GSI Pinnacle Camper. A bit pricy....but worth it. It's compact and has everything (insulated cups, plates, bowls, pots, pans, and a wash sink).
Then....comes the tent. It's pricy...but there's no way around it...and if you take care of it, it can last a long time. We LOVE this tent. The key for me is to be able to stand up straight. I was tired of putting on my pants lying down. I still SIU (suck it up) on alpine climbing summit days...but seriously, car camping....go easy on yourself. This tent fit the bill. I am 6'5" and I can stand up straight. It's the Mountain Hardware Corners 4 Tent.
So Tip #2: Here's what to look for with a car camping tent: easy set up (this one takes 5 minutes), extra guy line attachment points (to secure it in moderate to heavy wind), and waterproofness (material quality). This one fit the bill.
Next: and this is the secret camping weapon for the entire shabang (I learned this from a buddy on a very cold hunting trip I went on once). Tip #3: COTS. Not any cots. Don't buy the crappy walmart ones. Get big ones - military ones - the ones those army guys and gals sleep on 923.67 days a year. And the only way to go is with this: the Maine Military Cot . The key for a good cot is no shake and durable material. WAY more comfortable than air beds and you're off the ground (warmer). It's the way to go.
and so I'll bet you're wondering, "but what about Elizabeth?"....well, ta da:
It's the same bed she's grown up sleeping in her entire life (we don't have a crib at home...we have this...and she has only ever slept in that). It fits right between us and she sleeps just like she does at home!
Then there are the cheap chairs. We'll eventually upgrade these when we are in our 40's and our backs begin to hurt. Until then...it's the 8 dollar Walmart ones for us :)
and so Elizabeth says: "So what's the problem...get out there and get camping!"