Wild, wild (mid)West 2.0: The Packing

33 days in a Toyota Highlander with 5-8 nights of camping. How do you pack for that?

When we did our last out West road trip in 2018, we flew to Las Vegas and rented an SUV. We put all of our car camping gear in four (free) checked bags, evenly distributed so we had 50 lbs of gear per bag. Our clothes and toiletries were in our carry-ons. Once we get to Vegas, we were upgraded to an Audi Q7 and that was the car we used for the whole trip. We actually found it quite comfortable and had everything we needed for lots of car camping. The Q7 is actually the same size as our Toyota Highlander, so I knew I could make the same thing work this time.

All the gear. Semi-thorough list below!

Of course now I had the luxury of packing up the car at home. I have watched some youtube videos on Van and SUV conversions, and I got some good ideas. For example I got these cheap plastic drawers from Target and put them in the trunk so we could have easier access to a lot of our smaller supplies. I put the drawers towards the trunk door, and added two thin, plastic bins from the dollar bin at Target on the sides. I also added our trusty Trader Joe’s cooler bag. This served as our cooler for our last out West trip, and it worked great!

Organization is exciting!

Each drawer is organized thematically. Drawer one has general supplies such as first aid, headlamps, laundry supplies, batteries, and mosquito repellant lanterns. Below that, drawer two that has stuff you will want in the tent: a broom, pillows, small lanterns, and also propane for stoves. Drawer three has plates, bowls, cutlery, and reusable plastic bags, and drawer four has our camping pots and pans, a one-burner stove, and some camping food such as ramen and pasta. Between the drawers are snacks, paper towels, and paper plates. To the left is a bin with sunscreen, bug spray, and a spot for umbrellas. To the right is a large frying pan, an axe, and some other random things.

Behind the drawers is a significant amount of space. We were were able to fit a 2 burner Coleman stove (we couldn’t find ours that we have had for at least 16 years 😢 so we borrowed one from a friend) and our sleeping bags. We also put a large tote that has all of our clothes in packing cubes. Each person gets their own color. There is also a packing cube with towels and a couple reusable shopping bags. On top of that are our camelbacks, and to the side is a bag with our shoes. Trekking poles are under the seat.

Finally, in the backseat we have a plug-in cooler (it has both an AC and car adapter), and a Jackery power bank that is fully charged and so will be back up power. I also bought seat back organizers for the kids and made sure to clip in extra USB ports for their devices. On top of the car we did add our soft-top carrier, where we stored our tents, air mattresses, camp chairs, and a tarp. I have no idea how we got all this stuff in the trunk of the Q7 last time!

So there you have it! For reference sake, here is a list of the things we have with us in the Highlander:

  • 2 tents
  • 4 air mattresses
  • 4 sleeping bags
  • 4 camping chairs
  • tarp
  • 2 burner Coleman stove
  • 1 burner propane stove
  • 2 small propane tanks
  • french press
  • camping pots and pans
  • camping plates, bowls, and cutlery
  • plug in cooler
  • soft cooler
  • camp pillows
  • small LED lanterns
  • Jackery power source
  • 3 sets of trekking poles
  • 4 camel backs
  • water bottles
  • collapsible water jug
  • paper towels
  • paper plates
  • non-perishable food
  • snack food
  • bug spray
  • sunscreen
  • laundry line
  • laundry detergent strips
  • fabric softener
  • headlamps
  • mosquito lamps
  • rain ponchos
  • clothing
  • hiking shoes and sandals
  • step stool
  • hammock
  • Various charging cords
  • Toiletries
  • Yeti coffee cups
  • Probably some other stuff I am forgetting!

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