Ahhhh, the art of packing a car... or a suitcase, backpack, cooler, roof rack, camel, what have you. Dad had it down back in the day but you somehow never seemed to inherit this particular skillset, taking his attention to organization for granted and opting instead to focus on any number of more pressing matters—from what’s for lunch to are we there (even though we haven’t even left) yet. 

Don't beat yourself up. Strategic packing is often overlooked and underestimated, but no less important, as it not only brings efficiency and enjoyment to every excursion, but also adds a degree of safety. Just take it from an REI packing expert who compiled this handy list. Happy camping!

1. Basic tip—start out with a good foundation with flat sides (i.e. cooler, stove, etc.), then just build up.

2. When packing up the car, make sure all the items you'll need throughout the journey are accessible; turn bags so you can get to the zippers without having to pull everything out, and leave lighting toward the top in case of nighttime arrival at the campsite, etc. 

3. Leave gaps/holes when building your foundation to allow space for on-demand provisions like camp chairs for a roadside pit-stop lunch.

4. Unrolling sleeping bags provides flexibility when packing and can also be used to hold things together.

5. All heavy/hard objects should be packed below the highest point of your rear seat for safety. You don’t need a camp stove hitting the back of your head when a raccoon suddenly crosses the road.

6. Place everything outside the car before you start packing so you know what needs to go in versus throwing bags into the car in whatever order you hauled it over. This reduces the chances of having to repack when your last load suddenly happens to be a giant bag of whoknowswhat.

7. After packing, take a quick phone pic of the job well done so it will be easier to recreate on the return trip home.