How to Build the Perfect Car Camping Food Bin System

When it comes to camping organization, having a good food bin (or pantry bin as I call it) is the way to go! In other blog posts, I’ve talked about my camp organization tips and storage ideas, but this post dives deeper into the food bin. Specifically, why I have one and what’s inside.

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At camp using the car camping food organization bin system.

After years of camping, I’ve learned that staying organized is everything!

Being unorganized and having gear scattered all over the place or not storing food properly is the quickest way to ruin a camping trip.

When camping, you want to have fun and relax around the campfire, right? That’s where the camping pantry bin comes in. This will makes things so much easier (and more organized) at camp!

What is a Camping Pantry Bin?

The pantry bin is simply where I put all of my camping food that doesn’t need to go in the cooler.

This ensures that I don’t have food scattered around in different bags in the car and at the campsite.

When I go camping, I only have food in two places, the pantry bin and the cooler, that’s it.

Here’s why this system is so awesome:

3 Benefits to Having a “Pantry Bin”

Inside my car camping food bin

1) You know exactly where to find things

You always know where to look if you want a quick snack or an ingredient for a camping meal.

Trust me, it gets very frustrating looking all around for some trail mix or that one ingredient that you need for dinner.

Having one food bin keeps you organized and knowing exactly where to find things.

I also prefer a clear bin because it’s really easy to see where things are.

Gear Spotlight:

Sterilite 54 Qt Gasket Box Clear with Blue Latches

Sterilite Gasket Box

This is the storage box that I use. I have a 54 Qt. size, but there are bigger and smaller options as well. I use the same bin for my car camping kitchen gear. It’s really sturdy, has a tight seal, and is clear so I can easily see what’s inside.

2) Setting up camp is way easier

When you’re at camp, you can simply take this one bin out and have all your ingredients and snacks and supplies at the picnic table in one trip, instead of going back and forth a million times to grab multiple bags from the car.

3) Keep out small rodents, insects, and birds

This is probably one of the most important benefits of this camping food bin system.

If you get a good quality bin that clips shut, it will help keep out small rodents, birds, and insects. This specific bin is pest and rodent “resistant”.

I’ve had animals try to get my food at campgrounds even when I’m sitting right there next to it.

Having the bin makes it easier to protect my food.

>> Note: The bin I use is not designed to be bearproof. Always check local food storage regulations for the area that you’re camping because additional food storage precautions might need to be taken.

I use my bin primarily to stay organized and keep out rodents. At night, I clip the bin shut and lock it in my car. I’ve never had any issues with small rodents using these bins.

Mice can definitely get into your car, even when it’s closed and locked, so again, having a bin that is durable and prevents them from getting your food is important.

get my free

Camp Cooking Starter Kit

Printable camping recipes, a gear checklist, and a camping meal planner so you can go camping with confidence (and good food!)

What’s Inside my Camp Pantry Bin?

So now let’s talk about what exactly is inside my pantry bin.

Snacks and Recipe Ingredients:

This bin is where I put snacks and ingredients that I need for the camping meals that I’m planning to make on the trip.

For example, I’ll put trail mix, apples, granola, chips, crackers, and any other snacks/ingredients that don’t need to be kept in the cooler.

I also pack ingredients such as onions, peppers, and spices that I might be needed for a specific recipe.

Pre-made Indian food packets with rice make a really quick and easy camping meal

Pantry Staples for Quick Meals

I also have pantry items in the bin for quick meals and snacks. These are non-perishable items that I usually just leave in the pantry bin.

For example, I always have ramen packets, boxes of mac and cheese, pancake mix, and packets of Indian Food and rice.

These are all staples in my camping pantry bin because they have a really long shelf-life, and they make quick camp meals.

If you have to stay out longer than expected, there are unexpected fire restrictions, or you just don’t feel like cooking for whatever reason, it’s nice to have these simple go-to meals ready.

Spices and seasonings that I keep in the camping food bin

Spices and Seasonings

In addition to this, I also always have a little spice bin within the bin.

This is where I store salt, pepper, oil, honey, basic spices, and smaller snacks like protein bars and nut butter packets.

I use small durable to-go tubes for storing smaller servings of oil for cooking.

Smaller items floating around get lost quickly, so having everything in a little bin makes it easy to find and take out what you need without rummaging through the entire bin.

How I Store the Bin At Home

When I get home from a camping trip, I go through the bin and take out all of the ingredients and snacks that are perishable or opened.

I leave everything else that is unopened and shelf-stable in the bin so that it’s ready for my next trip.

I go through the bin every once in a while to do a deeper clean on the inside and make sure things haven’t expired.

This system makes it really easy to grab the bin and go camping!

tent and car in the forest

In the End…

A car camping pantry bin will help you stay organized and make cooking more relaxing at camp.

If you’ve tried this method or have any questions, make sure to comment below!

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  1. I’m currently using your approach to camping organization. I love it! Now, when backpacking, I always use bear proof containers. However, I’ve always been a bit murky on how to handle the pantry in black bear country when car camping. My bins are very similar to yours. If you were car camping in an area shared by black bears, would you feel comfortable just leaving all of your sealed plastic bins–including the pantry–locked in your car?

  2. I am excited to create a bin like this that makes it easier to head out on a trip. I always have so much more stuff, though, I think I would need three bins! Would you share how you eat on your camping trips? It might help me (and others) come up with a more efficient camping eating style. Thank you!