You packed up the truck, checked over your gear, and headed out into the outdoors for a great weekend or week of camping. Then it hits you: was it the lantern? The fishing tackle? Your favorite hunting knife? What was the one thing that you forgot? It doesnt seem to be a question of whether you forgot something but rather what it was that was left behind and the relative importance of it. Maybe you have twenty different flashlights from twenty different trips, and you didnt remember to put one of them in your truck. Whatever that one thing is, it may surely get left behind unless you plan ahead.

One of the most basic and most helpful things you can do to save yourself some aggravation and some trouble is to make a trip list. Write down every little thing that you think you will need on your trip, from matches to underwear, and write it early! Trying to make a list the night before you head out will mean enduring the same mental scramble that you would go through in the morning. Instead, begin making your list as soon as you decide to go on the trip and add the things you need to it each time you think of something. You will be so on top of the contents of your pack that you may even know the number of raisins included in your trail mix!

The second part of this plan is implementation. This means reading and following the list when you are packing your car or backpack. Flashlight? Check. Pack it, then cross it off or highlight it or whatever works for you. It is key that you dont erase anything though. You can use this master list again when you are preparing for your next outdoor experience. In fact, as soon as you get back add anything that it would have been nice to have so that you will indeed have “it” next time. For instance, did you fall in the creek and have just enough socks for the weekend? Make a note to bring extra socks on the next trip.

There is a third hint that goes along with the list idea and that is to pack before the night before or morning of your trip. This will help to ensure that you are not running around in a panic trying to get through the list before your ride comes to pick you up or it gets too dark to head out. Start piling up your camping equipment four or five days before your departure date so that you have time to remember where you stored the sleeping bags and cooler or to find out that you need to buy batteries for the flashlights.

The earlier you pack the better. If you can, it would be a good idea to start loading your vehicle early as well. However, dont leave things in your truck bed overnight unless you have a locked garage. Otherwise you may find your equipment missing in the morning. For added assurance, you may want to tape a note to your own windshield so that you will not forget to throw in your cooler, the table lantern, or the family tent. If you are going on an excursion where you will need to bring food, you should also make a grocery list and stash it in the car the week before you leave for your trip. This way you have the list with you when you stop at the grocery store on the way home from work. You will also have the list with you when you stop to pick up cooler items on the way out of town.

So you have made your list, checked it twice, and packed and re-packed your bags for the weekend. Pile them near the door or in one central location to minimize last minute stress and reduce loading time. Put the list in the glove compartment of the truck so that you can use it to re-pack the truck when you are heading home from your trip. You wouldnt want to leave with one less flashlight, again.