I love camping, but hate the endless pile of containers and gear and bags and gewgaws that I have to take with me in addition to my son and all his crap (a bike, toys, endless snacks and a different helmet for every hour of the day…). Last year I was looking at this gear tote with integrated camp table that REI made. I didn’t get it at the time, but last month I finally broke down and picked it up.
For a while I’ve been using plastic bins with lids to tote around all my food and kitchen gear for car camping. These are good for one thing and one thing only. Specifcally, keeping your stuff together, and keeping other stuff from mixing in. They suck for loading and unloading and for storing pots and pans because they have rigid sides that usually taper to the bottom and they have rigid lids that don’t let you overstuff them.
The Pack-N-Prep is a twofold solution to this problem with a couple other solutions thrown in as well. First, it is soft sided with a zip top so if you need to you can shove stuff in that doesn’t quite fit and it’ll still fit. Second, it has pockets, and cubbies for all your stuff so it stays organized and in place so you can get stuff out easily. I have mine set up with big utensils in the main compartment, silverware in the front flap compartment, and dish soap and a sponge in the side wet compartment. The mesh pockets inside hold cups, mugs, food, cooking spray and cans of Red Bull. The outside mesh pockets are the right size for two cans of propane.
The storage cubes are pretty nice as well. there are two small ones and one large one with dividers. I use the large one for snacks and bars and LCDs (little chocolate donuts). The others I have stuffed with dishes and other food items. It’s pretty nice to be able to pack one of those with stuff and just grab it and go for a day trip somewhere. There is a semi rigid divider in the center and the storage cubes will fit vertically or stacked horizontally on either side. I put pots and other big things like my french press on the other side. The divider has mesh pockets on both sides making it another organizational tool.
The main compartment’s divider comes out and has loops so you can hang it from the table and use it as a caddy for spoons and other stuff. Potentially you could put beer in it, but it might be better to stash snacks and bright shinny objects that you can throw at your kid to keep them occupied while you make mac-n-cheese for the 7th night in a week.
When you un pack it, the bars on the side flip up and you unroll the table top and snap it on and you have a really nice sturdy table that is just the right height for cooking or cooking prep. If you have a picnic table, this is a great second surface. If not, you can use it on it’s own. There is even a paper towel roll holder!
There is a wet storage pocket with a removable kitchen sink. It’s not quite big enough to be of much use, but you can put a wet sponge in there and not worry about it getting everything nasty.
When we got back from it’s maiden camping trip voyage, I brought it inside, unloaded the food, cleaned everything reloaded it and now it’s ready for the next trip. It’s pretty nice.
This thing is well put together. It has good zippers, and seems to be well sewn. The metal is all aluminum, so if you’re looking for a portable base jumping platform, this probably won’t work for you. The aluminum table top is really nice extruded aluminum and is plenty sturdy for a coleman stove and several cases of PBR.
So click over and get one. I got mine on sale and used my dividend, but even at $129.00 it’s a good deal. Super useful! REI does free shipping on orders over $50, so you don’t even have to be near a store.
More Camping Gear
I’m always on the lookout for camping gear that makes the things easier to store, pack and transport. So stay tuned for more. What is your favorite Dad Gear for camping?