Organization: The Camper Edition

So how do we use a camper as a large family?

Well, first of all, if you love to tent camp or head out into the wilderness with a backpack and sleeping bag while toting children, STOP reading this blog immediately! It will not be for you!

I don’t consider myself a weakling. When it comes to camping and vacations, I want us all to enjoy it. I love the outdoors and I have no problem with dirt or germs. (Really? A germaphobe with ten kids? Is that a thing?) If my husband and I were planning a tent camping trip, I would be excited to go and consider it an adventure. Even taking my older kids would be fun. But I have ten and no nanny, so this is how we roll. It’s truly the function and organization that make it worthwhile for me.

I have learned over the years, just as in my house, to maximize storage in every way I can get it.

My #1 go-to is 3M Command Hooks. I put them everywhere! 

My children are always amazed at how many places I can find to put one, and how many I can use in a small space. I hang them all over my house, too. And in case you’re worried about them being truly damage free, I removed every single one from our previous camper without so much as a scratch and they’d been there over 6 years. No one would have known they were ever there!


I use them for coat hangers, towels, washrags, plastic bags, brooms, and flyswatters. Anything I can get off the floor or counter and save space! Note: you have to be careful you are not putting them where a slide out will run into them when it’s closed up, or, if the hooks are ok, check that something hanging on it isn’t in the way of a slide out.

There are lots of Pinterest boards and blogs dedicated to organizing storage in your camper. Every camper is different, but look for ideas that can work for you! Sometimes I walk the aisles of Dollar General and try to picture new ways to use things for storage. You can come up with some great ideas specific to your needs just by getting creative!

When it comes to food, we’ve tried many different plans. Typically you want to assess the trip itself for two things. One, how far am I going and how much extra weight should we carry. And two, what are we going to be doing on this trip and how much will we eat at the camper. Our last trip was to VA so we knew we didn’t want to carry a lot of extra weight that far, and also we had family events happening and a couple of days of fun planned so we played it more by ear. We usually pack about half of our food beforehand, and do one stock up trip when we get to our destination. It’s sometimes impossible to take all the food we’ll need while we’re there, although I have done it.

My kids each get a small space designated for their clothes. Most of them pack a duffel bag and they are expected to keep everything in it and put away, not spilling all over the floor. There is a lot of storage room in this camper and everyone’s bags easily fit in a cabinet.

We also plan on doing laundry. I know most people go on vacation to get away from such chores, but it’s not likely for us to get away from this one. Although this camper does have an awesome laundry chute, so that we can keep a laundry basket in the underneath storage and collect the dirty clothes, there’s just too many of us to let it pile up. I’m sure we could make it if we had to, but we’ve been fortunate that the campgrounds we’ve been to have nice laundry facilities so we do it a couple of times. That also means we can pack less clothes.

There is a large storage compartment under our master bed, bigger than our last one. I experimented and found I could fit tubs in it so I was able to use this for extra towels, swim gear, and books! I’m a homeschool mom, books are required wherever we go! (I love to purchase Sonlight’s summer readers. They have selections for girls and boys and are split by grade level. I buy a few packages and leave them out, and inevitably they get gobbled up over the summer.)



Since we were lucky enough to find this camper that still had four bunks with floor space, sleeping arrangements are easy. We have a foam mattress topper from our old camper that fits perfectly on the floor. And two of these bunks are actual twin beds, not the smaller camper twins! A big kid and little one can easily sleep together on one if they have to. We also put the littlest one in a pack-n-play because he has not reached trustworthy status. So rather than worry that he is up walking around and getting into things, he is caged. 🙂 And during the day, we roll the foam topper up and put it on a bunk so that the pack-n-play can go in the back bedroom with the door closed for nap time. It really is too good to be true!


No, the beds are not made like this all the time…or ever 🙂

Another time saver in this camper is the “teens can get ready” space in the bedroom. I found some stick on mirrors at Walmart and placed them in the cubby meant for a tv. With the cabinets and extra counter, they are able to store all their toiletries, straighteners, and curling irons. Anything that doesn’t require a sink they do! Life saver!

The living area itself is amazing. With a slide out on each side of the camper, it is so open and roomy! The kids were able to play games while little ones colored on the floor!

And the kitchen is nice enough, my daughter was eager to make brownies! Score!


Yes, the kitchen is a mess. I have low standards…

My kitchen is very used! I know a lot of people love cooking over fires, and we do some of that, but we have a traumatic fire ring incident in our family. That will be for another post, but I don’t love to have a fire going with little ones around so we utilize our kitchen most of the time. You’d probably be surprised to know we cook most of the same meals in our camper that we do at home, even when we had a smaller kitchen in our first camper. I don’t love a camper oven, but most meals we can modify a little and make without any problems. I also take along my crockpot and utilize that on days I know we’ll be heading out on an adventure and I want dinner waiting when we get back!

My greatest asset through our years of camping has always been my husband. He is a natural-born researcher. He will study and research something until he knows every in and out by heart. He knows how every bit of our camper works and he religiously maintains it all! He is usually able to buy parts and fix things himself (in every area of our lives) and what he doesn’t know or understand he asks someone to teach him. He’s amazing!

If you have a big or little family and you’re thinking of getting into camping, I say go for it! There will probably be a learning curve! (I’ve left one child’s clothes behind, we’ve had pipes break, and been evacuated because of storms!) But the memories and fun are more than worth the hiccups!

We can’t wait for our next adventure! Stay tuned!



Camping with a large group, I mean family…

So I mentioned before I have a large family.

I come from a large family. I have five brothers and two sisters myself. My husband has one brother.

One of us was eager for a big family. The other one had to birth them.

The 4th of July is here so I thought I’d share a bit of our camping journey. It may look a little different than camping with your smaller family, but the objective of bringing home fabulous memories is the same. Camping with our kids has been some of our most cherished times over the years.

My husband and I have camped from the beginning of our marriage. We started out tent camping alongside our church’s youth group and we borrowed a pop-up a time or two. We stopped tent camping after 3 kids, because I like myself too much to ever to do that again.

We bought our first camper in 2007. It was an old green and white hard side Wilderness.  It had a front dinette that turned into a bed, a small kitchen, four bunks in the middle and a small bathroom in the back. We thought it was the greatest thing we’d ever seen! We took that monster on several trips, even as far as Kentucky! We quickly fell in love with the pack-as-much-as-possible-and-close-the-door model that a hard side camper afforded compared to a pop-up. There was no going back.


After a few years with the green machine, we decided it was time to upgrade a little. Campers can be a little like vehicles. At a certain age you realize if you’re going to sink money in it just to keep it running, you might as well be putting your money into something nicer with less headache. So we sold our first family camper, and the next year bought a a bigger Cherokee. It was a bunkhouse again, only this time the kids had L shaped bunks in a separate room in the back. This camper had the awesome upgrade of a superslide! The couch and dinette were on a slide, opening up the living area so we didn’t feel as cramped. When you’re camping with a lot of kids, especially young ones, one rainy day stuck inside can make or break a vacation! By this time we had six kids under 10 so we were pretty happy to have the wiggle room!

The Cherokee took us on on some grand adventures just like the Wilderness had. We went all the way to St Louis with it! Unfortunately, that was the trip that a large storm came through and took the awning, but that, too, was a memory made! 🙂


This spring we came to another crossroads of camper ownership. Our family has now grown to 10 children, and mechanical things were getting older so my husband convinced me it was time to trade in. Our main objective was to find a camper with a second slide out in the bunk room. We wanted to be able to sleep kids in beds, but also have floor room so that more could sleep in the private rear space. Unfortunately, when we started our search we found that most camper companies that added that slide out took away a bunk and only left three bunks and storage in the room so that they could add the outside kitchen that has become popular. I’m not really sure why they thought that was a good idea, but they certainly didn’t have big families in mind when they did it!

Thankfully, we came across one camper that had not done this. We ended up trading in our Cherokee for a Keystone Cougar Xlite. (Click for a cool video tour.)

To say this camper was built for our family is an understatement! There are very few things I would change about it.


This camper has three slide outs! Not what we were looking for, but it’s great! It slept our whole family comfortably, without even taking down the dinette into a bed. (We only had 11 out of 12 family members on this trip, but I still think we can make it work with us all.) My husband loves the mechanical extras that came with it, like a self-leveling system. It makes set up even faster so we can be in the pool shortly after we arrive! 🙂 It’s very lightweight and pulled easily on our first trip through the mountains to Virginia.

Tomorrow I’ll share how we all fit and stay organized in this amazing thing! See you then!