Staying Organized with a Camping Binder

When you camp the way we do, weekend warrior style snatching trips here and there, you want to always stay organized so you can jump on last-minute opportunities. This is not my superpower, so I’ve tried all sorts of tips and tricks over the years and let me tell you that I finally have a system that works for us. Enter…our Camping Binder!

red camping binder with cover on brown surface

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This simple three ring binder has saved us so much time and energy I only wish we had created it earlier. It is full of all the details that some people can keep in their brains, but we are not them. We need lists. Lots and lots of lists. And then we need a place to keep those lists so that we don’t lose the lists. And if we must store the lists, why not make it pretty and practical? Thus, the camping binder was born!


My first section is where I keep a current calendar. With a son who is extremely active in sports and has a more active social calendar than both of his parents combined…I like to keep a copy of our calendar handy. We do use a digital calendar for everyday life, but I still enjoy seeing everything written out which helps me visualize when we might be able to sneak in a camping trip. And I use it when I’m checking campsite availability in either a favorite location we’d like to revisit or at a new location we’d like to try. I do put everything down in pencil because his schedule has been known to change. I keep this in the pocket in the front of my camping binder, along with any current reservation info so we have it handy when we pull up to check in.

camping reservations sheet on brown surface


We organize physical supplies via the tote method. We love our totes because they make packing the car much easier. So, our next section has the master list of what lives in our various totes. We have the kitchen tote(s), the living tote, the sleeping tote(s), the hiking tote, the play tote, and the safety/set up tote.

Each tote or totes has the master list of what is kept inside it, along with a space for notes. I do a quick eyeball before putting them in the car and a deep check of them when we get home, replacing any items that we are getting low on, before putting them back on their shelves. This way they are always ready to go at a moment’s notice!

Last Minute Additions

Plus, I have a list of last-minute grabs for items such as our backpacks, the camera, and our electronic chargers as well as a list of items to purchase upon arrival such as firewood and ice. Did you hear about the time we headed off camping only to get to our site to find out that none of the local places for buying firewood had any left (we “Buy it where we burn it”) and we had no way to start a campfire? Luckily for us a neighbor camper came to our rescue! But that reminded us to add to our supply list all the items needed to cook on charcoal instead of wood…just in case.

While I’d love to claim I have perfected this system, it would be only be honest of me to admit that this is always a work in progress. Not because it is a bad system, but because we have to acknowledge that as our life changes…our needs change. Especially as we both tent and rv camp! I also go back and forth between keeping my lists in a word or a spreadsheet format.


The third section is all about food. I like to keep a hard copy of our standard recipes in the camping binder, along with any new ones we might want to try. This helps if I need to quickly verify any details as we get ready to cook as service is not always reliable when we are at the campsite. I also keep our master food list in here so that I can make sure to pack all of the requisite items (salt, pepper, coffee, cream, beer*, wine*, etc.). Plus, I have my menu pages available for planning. If we don’t actually list out what we are going to eat each day and when, I’m scared we’re going to end up eating hot dogs at every meal and since my favorite part of camping is the food…well that would just be tragic in my eyes.

menu planning sheet and recipes on brown surface

*Not all campsites allow alcohol on premises. We do obey all rules and regulations and only pack alcohol at locations which allow for it. Although, in the case of visiting a Tennessee State Park, we usually pack a growler instead and purchase some State Park Blonde Ale. While a blonde ale is not my favorite beer to drink, I’m more than happy to support the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy.


I also like to keep maps of the places we’ve been along with a review of sorts. This review reminds me of how we felt about the spot we stayed in, our impression of other sites at that campground for future possible visits, how clean the bathrooms were, how easy it was to acquire firewood, if it had a decent playground, etc. Some places we have stayed blur together in our mind and it helps to have those reminders, especially if someone is asking for recommendations. I love being able to share what we liked/didn’t like about any campgrounds we’ve stayed in with other campers.

adult campground review and kid campground memory sheet on brown surface


Then I have a section for activities. While we don’t structure too much of our time while out camping, I do like to have some ideas of things we can do if the weather does not cooperate. I might be happy reading and doing puzzles for hours on end. Our child? Not so much. So, I keep a bunch of printable activities that I can share with other parents we meet at the campground. This includes things like scavenger hunts, would you rather games, and charades. As a children’s librarian I have quite a few screen-free activities in my back pocket. And while our son is aging out of many of them, somehow, I’m always making friends with younger kids who are happy to play along with me.

kids camping activities on brown surface

Interested in other games to play at the campsite? We have some favorite card games and favorite dice games to play with kids!

We hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek into our Camping Binder, and it has inspired you to find your own way to stay organized. If you have any questions about how anything works, please reach out and ask! And, if you have any suggestions of things I’m missing, please let me know.

Last, but not least, if anyone is curious both my binder and my dividers come from Staples and are part of their “Better” brand. These are not affiliate links, it is just that I have been pleased with the durability so far!

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