Minimizing breakdown time for camp

swhme

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Dec 19, 2020
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New Mexico and Maine
Hey guys, I’ve done about a dozen trips with my land cruiser over the past 15 months, and I love it, but my biggest headache is breaking down camp. If I have everything set up and I’m in a spot for 2+ days, my break down takes 2+ hours. (I’m usually camping with my 5-year-old and a couple of friends/family who have their own vehicle/tent, but I tend to provide most of the core shared commodities-- cooking gear, toilets, etc)

My core setup:
  • iKamper 2.0 RTT (this is pretty quick to break down)
  • roll up large table, used as the primary kitchen table
  • Tembo Tusk Skottle
  • Camp Chef 2-burner stove
  • Camp chairs
  • I have two plastic bins— one of which contains a camp toilet and accessories, the other contains all my misc cooking supplies— pans, plates, bowls, etc
  • Dobinsons drawers
  • Dometic CFX fridge/freezer
When we arrive, I set up the table, skottle, stove, etc. Then, somehow, by the time I finish cooking the first dinner the inside of my land cruiser has exploded with stuff, and it just keeps getting worse until it’s time to leave and I spend hours getting things back in order.

It feels like most of the time to pack up is spent around re-organizing the kitchen gear and getting it packed back in. I’m thinking about upgrading my drawer to something like the TrekboxX System Alpha so I can try to keep things in a more permanent packed position rather than having these boxes that get unpacked. Also thinking about swapping the 2-burner stove and the skottle for a Camp Chef expedition 16, so it’s one unit that’s freestanding (not eating up space on my prep table which makes it harder to keep things organized)

What tricks have you learned that have helped streamline set up and break down?
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2004
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I have had the same feelings and trouble, after 20 years I can get ALOT in my 40. Roof top bag and years of pairing it down, pack most the night before I leave, like take down easy up, stage all the crap like RC cars, bows/arrows, most kitchen stuff, lights, etc... leave out stuff for coffee and simple breakfast or make a trail breakfast the night before, make lunch for leave trip as well, pack said lunch, breakfast, drinks on top of cooler/fridge, that 1 hour of prep the night before makes the morning much better. 2.5 with a family and a good set up isn;t all that bad. Don't pack random, everything goes where it goes makes it easier too,-.
 
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The hard part is getting everyone out of tent, pack their gear, roll backs, deflate pads, fold cots, stack all that somewhere, pack tent, load fest begins......
I leave a table out to roll bags, stuff easy up, stuff tent, and stage stuff on while I load. Stavking sucks, after years of no lunch or not being able to get something without unpacking stuff I have learned that custom shelves built so you can access the food box, recovery gear, first aid, etc makes life much better, I have a 40 and no drawers so its a bit more of a challenge.
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
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Sacramento
Just like in a house, stay on top of it. It's easy to use something and not put it away, but that's what causes the issues. I've noticed this with some friends that take a long time to get packed up.
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2016
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Palo Alto, California & Squamish, British Columbia
Carry less stuff is the secret. I just re-use mostly my backpacking equipment. I don't use my backpacking tent (takes too long to set up).

My camp setup and breakdown is about 15-30 minutes. I have a pop-up tent that I bought from frontrunner for $100. I unroll and throw in my 2" air mattress, sleepin bag, and pillow. Set up my tailgator table, and single burner back-packing stove. Set up camp chair. Break out a beer and enjoy.

Break-down is in reverse.

Sometimes I don't bother with the tent. Just throw the air mattress on the ground and the sleeping bag on top. If I do that I think it's 10 minutes set-up.

If I want to cook a fancier meal, I break out the coleman white gas dual burner. That maybe adds another 5 minutes.
 
Joined
Jan 3, 2014
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279
Location
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
I'll share my experience.

For years, we've been doing multi week trips here in Saudi. 14 days+ type trips. We are moving almost everyday seeing this beautiful country. So that means you have to setup and break down every day.

Less "things" means more time/energy for you.
Less "things" means less wear and tear on the vehicle.
Less "things" means better range and fuel economy.


Besides that, try to keep the things you have to have mounted on the vehicle and easy access. I know, it's not easy to do but get creative.

Like you, I also haul gear that is for a group. So I switched to pulling a trailer because of the group size. Not ideal but it's the fastest way for us to setup and breakdown camp.

If that's not an option. I would encourage you to use wolfpacks from Front Runner. They are really really really amazing for organizing and are easy to move in and out of a vehicle.

For water, I have a built-in tank with outlets under the rear bumper and out the sides.

Sleeping, I have two setups. RTT on the trailer and Swag if i'm not pulling a trailer. Both are super easy to setup and pack away in under 2 minutes.

For food, we always eat in groups. So we usually share supplies and fridge space. But for cooking. I like to use the tire grill from front runner. It takes no space and super fast to setup and pack away. Or we use those single cartridge propane stoves. That are super small. also take pressure cookers and we pack them with all the things related to cooking with them.

There are things like tools that you typically don't need to access immediately. I usually keep these type of things hiding in the car somewhere. Like the tools in my 60 are behind the drawer. I can get to it, but it requires a little effort. But as I mentioned, I typically don't need these tools every day. Instead, I have a Leatherman that I keep close to me so It takes care of most little things we need to work out.

the type of trip and size of group and who will bring what really dictates what you should bring.

Wolf packs have been amazing for me. I wish I used them a long time ago. It has really changed my setup recently. You can stack them and they lock on to each other. Just really really neat solution. Even at home, I store them with the gear that I need to carry with me.

Divide the chores between the group. Someone or you can organize this.

If you took things with you and you never used them or anyone from your group. Chances are, you wont need it in the future. There are exceptions to this, like emergency items.
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
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Sacramento
I have found the more elaborate the menu is the more crap I feel like I need to bring. Sometimes simplified meals creates less stuff. Also, I do most prep at home.
Prep at home is a huge help. I think it also depends on the type of trip. I can and do do anything from bringing a smoker to the essentials. Different trips means different expectations for clean up time.
 

surfpig

The Anti-Tech
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Jan 14, 2005
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Here. Now.
Keeping it simple is key, as other's have said. A couple hours with all that isn't too bad. I tend to pack up incrementally. Stuff I won't need, I begin to pack it up and stage it the evening before. In the morning I twiddle around and begin casually packing things, like sleeping bags, etc, while I'm having coffee. Stuff all gets staged and ready to go for a final push to get it all in/on the truck. If it's just me, I almost pack as if I'm backpacking. If its with mrs surfpig, there's a bit more involved, but not all that much.
 

SNLC

OCD
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A lot of years now for me of camping out of the truck. Three five month trips to Panama and back included plus a few more to Baja and then all the shorter weekend to week or two trips.

I have done a 2004 Taco all set up and now 3 or 4 Cruisers for myself. Taco went to Panama and back twice, 100-series went once, 80-series been to Baja a few times, rest of the trips were in same Cruisers or 60-series.

Done everything from full on way to heavy of a build to what I do today. To heavy was 20gals onboard pressurized water system, tons of spare parts and tools and just way to much packable gear. It is always just me to worry about or me and the dog, if I go with somebody else, they got to setup their own camp or help with the communal stuff. 90+% of the time I sleep in the back of the Cruiser. So that makes no tent quick and easy. I have also had several setups where I hang a hammock off the side of the Cruiser, this takes under 5 minutes to setup. I have slept in the hammock for over five weeks straight with no worries. I like a fridge but it has to be on a slide. Currently I am running a cooler but just bought a 2nd hand fridge last week. I use white water and backpacking gear for the most part. Table is white water roll up, chair is a FrontRunner, stove is a camp chef two burner, spare tire FrontRunner grill gets most the use for cooking, water in an MSR bota bag, folding PVC coated Outback sink, plastic cutting board and bowls/plates, Kershaw knife kit, solid shovel which doubles as an axe, sleeping pad, couple bags (light and warm, I carry both), trusty cast iron skillet, small bag of clothes, folding toilet, 3gal propane tank if I take the stove, food and beers. That covers most my kit most of the time. I strap the cooler down and a large tote down full of the gear in the back of the Cruiser. I just carry limited tools and not really any spares, my Cruiser is dialed and doesn't break down. I don't carry fluids either, it doesn't leak. I have had fancy awnings, I don't really care for them, plain old ARB works fine for me. On long trips for showering, a RoadShower works well but it doesn't hold a lot of water. I tend to wash up with the bota bag and baby wipes and try to keep showers to a minimum.

The first trip to Panama in 2009 I had way to much junk. It was a pain to get certain things out of the Taco. I have redefined each build since and am getting it really dialed for myself and how I like to travel/camp. Currently that is in an 80-series and I still have a lot to do. Last build was a 100-series.

Last trip to Baja camp would take upwards of two hours to break down, we would camp sometimes for a week though. We also had folding kayaks that had to be washed with fresh water before being put away as well as other gear we had to wash salt water off. That added most of the time. Plus we were just carrying so much gear, stuff for; rock climbing, spear fishing, shore fishing, kayaking, backpacking, lots of camera gear, surfing gear, kite gear, x3 tents & x4 camp chairs (had gear for four people) on top of some tools and some spares and the normal camping gear. A lot of gear on the RR and that had to be packaged a certain way and strapped down too. For that trip though I slept in the hammock which means I didn't have to gut the Cruiser for the sleeping spot.

I was just out over last weekend. Takes me about 15-20 minutes to make or break down camp, more if their are dishes to do ect.

Cheers
 
Joined
May 24, 2009
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I do a lot of winter camping while snowboarding. I need to get up early and pack up quick coz its bloody freezing!

My best tips are do as much food preparation at home before you leave. I have all my fruit and veggies all pre cut up and in Tupperware containers.
Don't cook a hot breakfast as it takes too long and you then have to pack up the cooker. If you must have a coffee than boil a Thermos of hot water the night before.

And like others have said pack up as much as you can the night before and don't get lazy. It's super easy to drink a heap of beers and think ill worry bout it tomorrow.

All I have left out to pack in the morning is my swag and my awning. For brekky I'll eat 2 hard-boiled eggs that I cooked at home. A protein bar that I eat as I drive and a smoothie I made at home to drink. That gives me more then enough energy and keeps me full till lunch.

With no mucking around I can be out in half an hour.
 
Joined
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It depends on the goal of your camping trips. If it is fine cuisine and sitting around a campsite with all the conveniences, then setup/breakdown will take considerable time.

I take a folding camp chair and use the tailgate as my 'table' for cooking. Single burner stove works just fine, though a two burner coleman is a pretty small footprint. I take dehydrated meals and then fresh onions/potatoes to bulk things up. Small cans of peas/corns/carrots etc. The dehydrated meals form the 'starter' and gets you the meal 'taste'. Take fruit along (apples and similar have good shelf life). You have a fridge, so easy to take along more 'perishable' food items.

Last few trips I've take Dehydrated Camping Meals & Backpacking Food | Good To-Go - https://goodto-go.com/ product with me. Pretty healthy in terms of sodium content etc. Very tasty.

You're camping and should be out hiking/wandering around/doing stuff. Fresh air and exercise and you'll be hungry - food tastes better when you are hungry, don't need fine cuisine :)

I've been camping for decades and have refined what needs to be taken for a few week trip, versus tossing in everything that comes to mind. Stop and just come up with a list.

Something to sleep in/on, something to keep you warm at night if it's cold. Something to keep the rain off if it comes. Something to sit on.

What and how to cook and eat, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Snacks/dessert. What you will be drinking. Nothing wrong with water and since you've got a young kid, soda/sugar should not be on the list (for camping or at home).

Stuff to wear, day, night, warm, cold, wet. What to do in camp if it is rainy or the wind is howling.

Tools/recovery gear/etc - whatever makes sense without bringing along an oxy set :)

First aid stuff. Toiletry stuff. Soap/toothpaste/brush, etc. Planning on showering? Solar shower and heat a few pots of water is super simple - don't need to plumb a hot water system into your vehicle. I like to pack soft stuff into water proof duffles - then I can just pull them out of the back of the vehicle (to make room to sleep) and toss them on the hood. Plastic totes to keep cooking gear. Easy to pull out, easy to find stuff, pack away and waterproof in case of rain.

I can make/break camp in 20 minutes. About the same to make camp. This means that moving camp is not a chore, so easier to explore and move on. It also means you don't have to find a campsite 3 hours before sunset.

When I would go camping with my two young sons, it was tent/air mattresses and sleeping bags. The boys would be assigned the duties they could do at their age. Eventually they would take care of putting up the tent, getting everything setup inside and taking it down when we moved. Parallel processing :)

When you are camped for a few days, if allowed, stuff will follow the path dictated by entropy. So, when you are done with something, pack it away again. If you need it the next day, fine, pull it back out. If not, then moving is less work. It also means that if for some reason (bad weather, injury etc) you have to leave before you planned you aren't faced with a 2 hour pack up task (or abandoning stuff).

A LWB vehicle has plenty of room for quite a few comforts - just because there's lots of room, doesn't mean you have to utilize it all :). A more minimalist camp can be fun - I certainly enjoy keeping things simple & functional.

Think of things that can double up. I'll use the plastic totes as low tables when eating. No need for a table since the tailgate takes care of that duty. I just use a piece of plywood as a base for the stove and cooking prep.

Camping with a group means that the breaking camp takes as long as the slowest camper...

cheers,
george.
 
Joined
Dec 4, 2004
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Tucson AZ
When my kids were your's age it also took me forever to get packed up. Then this weird thing happened and they got old enough and big enough to help. That was a huge time improvement.

The other advice about starting to pack up the night before is a great tip. Even if it is just organizing the inside so pack up will go more smoothly.
 

swhme

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Joined
Dec 19, 2020
Messages
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New Mexico and Maine
This is great advice, guys. Thank you!

My first steps are going to be:
  • Simplify menus and kitchen supplies. This is my biggest cleanup hurdle.
  • TrekboxX drawer system so everything can have a place (as opposed to the current dobinsons that I just pile crap on top of and can’t use the fridge without pulling it all the way out because it has stuff piled all around
  • Organize the food by day so I don’t have to root through all of it to make a specific meal
And we’ll see how it goes! Next trip isn’t until March, unfortunately, as my 100 is headed into TAC for the next stage of her build, but I’ll report back!
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
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Sacramento
Trick (which I have not mastered) is to get your partner to buy into "every thing has a place, every place has a thing" mentality. Tough to pull off when you only roll every 3months or so.
Drawers have helped a ton with that. Add some dividers and suddenly it’s impossible to not be organized. Again, depends on the quantity of stuff you take.
 
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Trick (which I have not mastered) is to get your partner to buy into "every thing has a place, every place has a thing" mentality. Tough to pull off when you only roll every 3months or so.
Well said and I can’t stress this enough. I lived on a 39’ sailboat for 16 months, my dad lived on it for 14 years. Everything has a place and there is a place for every thing.

My kids (14 and 16) run a “food truck” and art business but out of an ez-up tent and haul it all with my 200 series. The starting point was Commandeering our base camp gear…. They have two camp chef 3 burners, a pizza oven, solar w/battery/inverter, Dometic fridge/freezer, 4 fold out tables, running water with on demand hot water and tanks, commercial kitchen gear, 3 coolers, serving containers, cutlery, tee shirts, artwork, clothing rack,…. they can feed 200+ people a day without restocking and due to great organization of their stuff set up and take down is ~1 hr on each end with just the 2 of them, when I help we can get it to <45min.

No drawer system in my rig. They use very well labeled and organized bins and have the process nailed down.

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Joined
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Pretty cool set up the kids have, I got the solar & fridge, table, and I substitute a yard sprayer for the sink, nice to have pressurized water/potable on the trail.
Great thread.
 

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