Car camping conjures up images of toasted marshmallows and bonfires while you gaze at the stars. You can make your outdoor adventures even more enjoyable with the right car-camping gear. It's a great way for friends and family to get together while you explore the natural world and visit new places.
Car camping is for beginners. You drive your car to the campsite and not walk in. It can take one of two forms. Either you pitch your tent in the campground, or you can sleep in your car. While the former is the most common form of camping, the latter is becoming more popular with solo travelers and couples as a simpler form of camping.
Dana Cama is a professional wildlife photographer and loves to sleep in her car. "You can roll right up into a campsite without having to set up a tent. So if you drive all day or hike all day, your bed will be in the back," she tells SELF. Tent camping is a great way to travel more places and not get as tired. However, tent camping does require more setup but it is more comfortable. Camping tents that are spacious allow you to relax, spread out and stand up after a long day.
Camping is not just about sleeping. You'll need gear to eat, play and stay safe outdoors. We have compiled a list of top-quality camping gear from top brands such as Yeti, REI Co-Op and Therm-a-Rest, which you can purchase from Amazon and Backcountry. Continue reading to see our selections for camping gear and cooking gear.
A complete sleeping system can help you sleep in your car, tent or RV. Your sleeping system should include a mattress (or an air mattress) as well as an outdoor blanket or sleeping bag. You will need to include a tent if you are tent camping.
Car camping is a way to take heavier gear than backpacking. I, like many experts, prefer to bring blankets and pillows to create a cozy camp setting. You can use most of the gear in a car or tent. It's also designed to be outdoors so it won't get wet or dirty while camping.
A blanket is more comfortable than a sleeping bag when you are car camping. It provides the same comfort as your home bed. Therm-a-Rest's down quilt is warm and lofty, with queen-sized coverage.
The 2022 Outdoor Gear Awards awarded this inflatable sleeping pad the best all-around pad. It's lighter than an air mattress, but it's as comfortable as a bed. The double version is great for car camping, as you can carry it in your vehicle or tent.
Lauren Grijalava, The Wanderpreneurs, uses the water-resistant Voited camping cover because it "warms and cozy and can be snapped up to become a sleep bag!" We recommend it for warm climates where the low is near 60 degrees.
The three-season tent was awarded the best tent for families in 2022 SELF Outdoor Awards. It is large enough to accommodate six campers and has tall walls so that most campers can stand inside. Asia Bradford, founder of Black Girls Camp highly recommends the dividers that allow you to have privacy in your own "rooms".
Cooking at camp is a great way to enjoy your time. You'll need to have the right gear, such as a cooler, coffeemaker, cookware and utensils, whether you cook on a camp stove or bonfire.
Cama cooks a lot while on road trips and suggests that you invest in multi-purpose kitchen items to keep your gear from taking up too much space.
Because Coleman stoves are durable, they are very popular. Cama, a multiday tour guide for WeVentures recommends the two burner camping stove. Cama said, "I use a Coleman stove which was handed down to me." Cama said, "I feel that these things last forever."
Cama stated that they used it for all kinds of things because it was so versatile. You can use it to cook, or you can fry your food on the lid. It can be used on a camp stove, or over an open flame.
Many car campers have made Aeropress their go-to coffee machine. Cama said, "It's portable and easy to make coffee." There are many ways to make coffee. It passes even my partner's coffee snobbery."
"It has been a reliable coffee maker that I have used while camping," Shawn Richards, Ultimate Kilimanjaro Expedition Coordinator. It is made from plastic, and there are no small parts or glass. This makes it lightweight so you can wash it wherever you go.
The mug is easy to hold and fits comfortably in your hand. This is my favorite camping mug. However, I also use it at home all the time.
The Yeti Tundra series is a highly rated car-camping cooler. It is extremely safe for bear country use and has great ice retention. Cama says, "A bear-resistant cooler" is essential. We would keep it out of the car, as bears can get into cars.
This Hydro Flask platter is perfect for the camp chef or charcuterie-board lover. This 2-in-1 system includes a sturdy cutting board as well as a stainless-steel serving platter.
You might not have water service at your campsite, so make sure you bring extra water. This 7-gallon container can be used for a long weekend. It also has a spigot that allows you to fill up your water bottles and wash your hands.
Claire Ramsdell is an adventure blogger for Wildland Trekking Company and uses this packable cutlery set when she goes car camping. The set includes a spoon, knife, fork, and spoon. It collapses to fit into a small tin container.
Camping is not all about sleeping and eating. You'll also want to have fun while you're on the water or at the beach. To make your base camp more comfortable and luxurious, outdoor brands have made gear such as hammocks, camp chairs, and portable showers. These are some of our favorite:
The portable firepit can be used as a grill or as a kitchen tool. It's also great for gathering around after completing your day. This portable firepit is ideal for campers who prefer to avoid the crowds of campgrounds and instead stay at remote sites with no firepits. It will also help you to be fire-aware and responsible during bad fire seasons.
Camping doesn't necessarily mean that you have to sit on the ground. This compact table and stool set can be used for four people or a small family if your campsite does not have one. It folds down compactly so it takes up little space in your car.
This Eureka highback recliner chair is my favorite camp chair. It's made from soft suede and has mesh panels at the sides. For added comfort, it also features armrests. It also has a cup holder and a pocket for snacks or books. It is easy to transport by simply breaking it up and storing it in the small carrying case.
For ultimate relaxation, set up a hammock on your next camping site. ENO's top pick for best hammocks is this one. It is large enough to fit two people and is made from soft, breathable materials.
Portable showers are great for those who love camping, but want to be clean. Ramsdell raves about the "strong water pressure" of this portable shower. It is great for washing dishes, and it also cleans my feet after a hike.
This shade awning is ideal for camping meals or mid-day hangouts, when temperatures rise and UV rays are a concern. It can withstand moderate winds and rain.
It's easy to spend too much time setting up camp and taking it down when you go car camping. You can make this easier by having your gear organized. This will allow you to spend more time enjoying the outdoors and reduce the stress. Cama states, "If you don't have a system in place to organize your car, you could spend an entire day looking for a lighter that will light your camp stove." Cama says, "If your car is not organized and you know where everything is," you will spend less time looking for it.
Cama says, "My partner and me went on an extended car camping trip in a Subaru Outback. I don't believe we could have done that trip without the cargo carrier." Cama explains that they used the cargo carrier to carry all their essentials and kitchen gear.
They are shade-resistant so they can keep the pups or kids cool in the backseat. But they also have many other uses. Cama says that these were one of the best investments she made. "We could sleep with the windows opened without mosquitos coming in," Cama raves.
When you are on the road, a backseat organizer is essential. Cama said that she uses it to quickly access essential items such as toothbrushes, face wash, and tissue paper twice daily.
Grijalva and Ramsdell, two of our experts, use the Jackery powerbank. Ramsdell works remotely and swears that the Jackery power bank provides all-day energy. I tried several other products, but nothing was good enough to meet the demands of my job. (I must be able to use my laptop for eight hours per day).
Although it may not be something you enjoy thinking about, safety gear such as a headlamp and a first aid kit should be included in your car camping kit. Not only can lights save lives in an emergency, but they also make it easy to get around camp at night. You'll be using gear such as multi-tools and first-aid kits regularly to fix minor issues. These are the essential items that you should never leave home without.
Alison Watta is a backpacking guide, writer, editor, and editor for Exploration Solo. She recommends the Cosmos 350 as one of the best camping light options because it's affordable, "offers enough light to safely navigate, and also gives you some control over its brightness."
This large first aid kit has everything you need for minor injuries as well as larger emergencies. It's the first thing you'll reach for when you're in need of bandages or medication. However, it's comforting to know that the rest are also available in case you ever need them.
Miriah Royal is the Midwest Regional Leader at Outdoor Afro. She loves her multi-tool leatherman for camping and backpacking. This model comes with the essentials, such as a knife and pliers, along with a fire starter as well as an emergency whistle.
It's important to have a plan in case things go wrong when driving backroads. A dead battery is one of the most common problems when camping. You can jump-start your car from anywhere with this portable, rechargeable battery pack.