What to Do When You Get To Your Cabin—The Complete Checklist

We all already have a checklist for what to do every time we leave the cabin.  And if you don’t, click here for the complete guide to creating one.  But what about when you arrive at the cabin?  Are there things you need to make sure you do every time?

I have a list of tasks that need to be done every time I arrive at the cabin.  And if I do those tasks in order, I can get it warmed or cooled and all the food unpacked pretty fast and move on to the fun and relaxation that the cabin brings.  So here we have it, this is my start to what will eventually be an exhaustive list of all the things you should consider adding to your list of things to do when you get to the cabin.

This is a living article.  I regularly add more to this list when I think of new things I need to remember whenever I leave the cabin.  If you notice something missing from this list that you think really should be here, please share it in the comments.  My goal is to eventually make this list exhaustive of everything you should do when you leave your cabin.

Turn on the Refrigerator

If you have a refrigerator, the first thing I would do after arriving is turn it on.  Now, this won’t apply if you use your cabin regularly and just leave it on while you’re gone.  But if you do turn your refrigerator off between visits, go right inside and turn it on.

I do this first because it takes quite a while to cool down and I want to be able to get my cold foot into the refrigerator pretty soon.  In fact, it takes a full 24 hours for most refrigerators to get into a good on/off cycle.  You definitely don’t need to wait that long to unpack your cold food.  Just know that the refrigerator is likely to be warm at first, and then get cold spots as it runs almost constantly trying to get down to temperature.

Get the Heating or Cooling Turned On

Whether it’s the summer or winter, you probably don’t want to keep your cabin at the same temperature as outside.  If it’s hot outside and you have some kind of air conditioning, get it turned on.  If you don’t have air conditioning and you rely on air movement to keep it cool, get some windows opened and the fans turning.

Likewise, if it’s cold outside and you have a furnace or gas fireplace, turn it right on and get the cabin warming up.  That way everyone will be able to take their coats off and get comfortable as soon as possible.  If you rely on actual fire, either via a fireplace or a wood burning stove, then don’t light the fire quite yet.  Open the damper for the chimney and even open the door to the wood burning stove and let it sit for a bit.  We’ll come back to it soon.

If you want to know why I recommend not lighting a fire yet, check out my article on starting fires in fireplaces and wood burning stoves.

Check All Pest Traps

Now, before unpacking stuff, I would go through the cabin and check any pest traps that you have.  Did you catch any mice or bugs?  If so, take care of it now before kids start messing around with them.  Likewise, make a quick check of the rooms.  Are there rodent dropping around? If so, you’ll want to vacuum those up right away before kids get into them.

It’s not uncommon if you have rodents in or around your cabin to find droppings in obvious places like on top of beds.  Vacuum it up and if you can clean it with a disinfecting cleaner.  Then check out my article on how to prevent and deal with pests at your cabin so you can avoid this in the future.

Bring Your Stuff In

Now that you’ve done all that, hopefully pretty quickly, you’re ready to bring your stuff inside.  I would go unload everything from the car.  Bags, coolers, etc.  Bring it all inside.

Then, I like to take off shoes (to keep the cabin relatively clean) and start taking bags and items to the rooms where they go.  Bags/Luggage goes to the bedrooms, coolers and food go to the kitchen, and other supplies go wherever they go.  I don’t go through all of my unpacking at this point, but family and visitors certainly can.  I’m going to go back to the fireplace now and get the heat going.

Start a Fire if Applicable

If you need to start a fire to heat your cabin, now’s the time.  The fireplace and chimney have had adequate time to get balanced and now you can light a fire without having a bad downdraft cause you to get smoked out of your cabin.  Go through the steps to get a fire going so you can get your cabin warming.

If you need some tips for how to get that fire going quickly (without smoking out the cabin) you can read all about it here.

If you don’t have a fireplace, you can obviously move right on to the next items on the checklist.

Unpack Room-Temperature Food and Supplies

Next, I’m going to unpack all the room-temperature food and supplies.  I’ll put food in the cabinets and other supplies like paper plates, toilet paper, paper towel, etc. will go wherever I store them in my cabin.

I like to keep a reasonable amount of storage of these kinds of items at the cabin so I don’t have to bring everything up every time.  The best way to keep track of what to bring is to make an inventory list.  Then, whenever you leave the cabin you just mark off the items that are good and place a different mark next to items that you need to replenish next time.

Unpack Cold Food

Now that the refrigerator has had some time to get cool, I like to go ahead and unpack my cold food from the cooler.  I don’t like to leave stuff in the cooler too long if I can avoid it because using ice to keep food cool can spoil some items.  Lettuce, for example, doesn’t like being right on the ice and will get wilty pretty fast if you don’t keep it separated from the ice.

So I place a hand towel on top of the ice and other items in the cooler to set things like lettuce and other fresh product on.  There are also lots of items that get ruined from the moisture in a cooler with melting ice.  So that’s why I like to empty the cooler into the refrigerator as soon as it’s cool enough if I have that option.

Get Settled

Now that everything is inside and the group stuff is unpacked, it’s a good time to unpack any of your personal items in your room and then settle in for a relaxing, fun stay at the cabin.  I like to have unpacking of personal stuff on my checklist because I like to make sure I get all of the arrival stuff done so there’s nothing to worry about later.  I don’t like having to interrupt an evening at the cabin all because I haven’t unpacked my stuff yet.

Make Your List

The idea here is that you’ll take these ideas and go make your own checklist.  This article isn’t the list.  It’s a starting point.  Our cabins are different and we have different needs.  But we can both take these ideas and make a nice thorough checklist that will apply to our cabin.

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