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Make Room for a Tent in Your Suitcase


If the thought of parking your fanny on the sand and sitting in the same spot all day long sends shivers of boredom down your spine, an adventure vacation may be more your speed. Whether you fly to Grand Tortugas National Park and spend your days kayaking between islands or jet to Denver and hike the Colorado Trail until your feet are blistered, one thing is for certain: You’ll be sleeping at a campsite, like any other self-respecting adrenaline junkie.

And therein lies the challenge – when you’re flying to your destination, how do you pack a tent and camping gear in your suitcase?

Even if your suitcase is absurdly large, you’re still going to need to be strategic when it comes to packing for camping in a far away locale. Here’s how to pack like a pro on your next adventure vacation:

Travel light: literally

When you’re boarding a plane before reaching your campsite, there’s obviously no room for those nice-to-have extras you regularly tote along on local trips (we hate to break it to you, but your stainless steel quesadilla grilling basket is not an essential piece of camping equipment).

In addition to foregoing unnecessary and absurd camping supplies, you’ll also want to pay attention to the materials you pack so you don’t end up with a hernia. Look for tents and tarps composed of uber-lightweight fabrics like sinylon and Cuben Fiber, or Dyneema®. These synthetic materials are engineered to be light as a feather, and are durable and waterproof to boot.

Cut out the clothes

You’re in a tent, not on a catwalk, so fashion shouldn’t factor into the equation when selecting clothing for your camping trip. Pack the bare minimum of climate-appropriate clothes and plan to wash and reuse items to save on space. We recommend a multi-purpose soap that works on fabrics, you, your gear and your cooking supplies.

If hiking or climbing is on the itinerary, wear your boots on the plane as opposed to stuffing them in your suitcase and lugging the extra weight around the airport.

Make meals a one-pot shop

Bulky cooking gear will weigh you down, monopolize prime luggage real estate and zap your lifeblood. Okay, maybe we’re being a bit overdramatic on that last point, but you get the idea. When you’re flying to your campsite, one-pot cooking is the way to go. Some pots are designed with nesting add-ons if you want to play Emeril Lagasse out in the woods.

As for serving ware and utensils, paper and plastic are always an option, however you’ll want to ensure there are garbage and recycling cans on site. Certain campgrounds require you to take out what you bring in, and the last thing you want to trek around with is a heap of dirty plates and sporks.

Consider what you carry on

The TSA forbids airline travelers to carry on liquids measuring more than 3.4 ounces. The same goes for sharp objects such as camping multi-tools. If you’d like to bring any essential liquids on the plane with you, purchase them in travel size bottles or transfer them into TSA-approved containers. Otherwise, you’ll need to stow larger bottles in your checked luggage, along with your Swiss Army Knife.

Although it’s not technically a liquid, toothpaste falls into the liquid category, so be sure to plan ahead unless you want to scare away the bears, as well as your vacation companions, with your less than fresh breath.

Remember you can rent

Depending on your destination, you might be able to rent camping gear so that you don’t have to carry it along at all. From tents to sleeping bags to cooking equipment, some campgrounds offer all the creature comforts you crave. This will obviously drive up the price of your trip, but it can be worth it in terms of eliminating stress at check-in.

When deciding what to bring for a camping trip, your packing list is dictated by your destination. If you’re staying close by, you can throw the entire contents of your living room into the back of your truck and set it back up when you arrive at your campsite. If you’re boarding a plane, you should probably leave the sofa at home. But that’s just us.


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