I love car camping. It's my favorite way to get outside without the traditional backpacking hassle. Instead, I can drive directly to a campsite and set up camp, enjoying all the comforts of home in the great outdoors. But even though car camping is more accessible than backpacking, there are certain items you need for a successful trip. Here are some of my favorites:
A portable cooler.
You'll want to bring a cooler on your next car camping trip. It's essential to keep food and drinks cold, especially if you're going to be out in the sun or heat for long periods.
Most portable coolers have wheels and can be stored under your car seat when not in use. They are also easy to carry if you need to transport them someplace else while on your trip, like from the campground parking lot to the campsite itself.
A camping stove.
A camping stove is essential for cooking on the go. It’s lightweight, portable, and easy to use—and you won’t have to worry about extra weight if you plan on carrying it around in your backpack.
In addition to this, camping stoves are also easy to clean and store away when not in use. If something spills onto a stove while cooking, it can be cleaned up easily with soap and water or an alcohol-based disinfectant spray (find one at any drugstore). Most stoves come with their storage bag to be stored away easily after use as well.
A sleeping pad.
A sleeping pad is a must-have for car camping. While it can be tempting to sleep on the ground, this is not comfortable and will make you tired if you have been driving all day. A sleeping pad will keep you off the ground and insulated from the chilly nights of the fall and winter months.
You should also consider whether your car has a roof rack or if you need to strap things down in the trunk. If there are no roof racks, consider buying an inflatable air mattress (we recommend Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite). This mattress packs down small enough to fit inside a backpack but still provides enough cushioning for an enjoyable night’s rest after driving all day long.
A sleeping bag.
A sleeping bag is an essential piece of gear for car camping. It will keep you warm at night, and it's easier to pack than a tent. You don't want to spend the night shivering under a thin blanket—or worse, nothing at all!
The best sleeping bags are synthetic or down-filled. Down is softer but less durable than synthetic fibers, which can better withstand compression into luggage (you don't want your sleeping bag to be crushed in transit!). Synthetic fibers also retain loft longer, staying warm when wet. A 20°F rating should keep most people comfortable on cold nights. If you're going somewhere consistently more complicated than that—think Alaska or Northern Canada—consider buying an insulated mummy bag instead; these keep heat trapped inside better than their traditional counterparts do because they enclose your entire body instead of just keeping your legs warm like standard bags do (you'll probably want two pairings of underwear and socks if you plan on using one).
To pack your sleeping bag for road trips, fill it with down comforters or other insulating materials before folding up the outer shell and rolling everything tightly into itself; then put this bundle inside another stuff sack made from a waterproof material like nylon canvas cloth so that no moisture gets through even if there's a leak somewhere along its length (I've used these sacks many times without incident). To clean off dirt after use—or worse yet, bugs!—hose them down outside first before doing anything else with them since water spots won’t come out quickly once dry again due to how porous fabric tends to be, which means dirt can easily get trapped underneath as well."
A camp chair.
A camp chair is essential for car camping. If you're like me and enjoy sitting on the ground while camping, you know it can get uncomfortable. A camp chair can make a difference in how much time you want to spend outside your tent exploring new places or just taking a break from hiking.
There are many options for finding the right kind of camp chair for your needs: portable chairs, folding chairs, and even hammock chairs! Here are just a few reasons why we love our Kelty Low-Lovey Chair:
It has an adjustable seat back so that everyone can find their perfect position.
The mesh fabric allows airflow and keeps us cooler when temperatures rise during hot summer days (I'm looking at you, California). This feature also makes it easier on our backs since we don't have to sit up straight anymore!
Headlamps and flashlights.
Headlamps are often preferred over flashlights because they're more convenient and lightweight. You can wear a headlamp while moving, which is great for hands-free lighting. A headlamp will also keep your hands free so that you don't have to hold a flashlight or set it down on the ground every time you need to do something.
A knife is an essential piece of gear for any car camping trip. It can be used to cut the rope, slice up a fresh orange, and open packages.
When selecting a knife for car camping, be sure it's sharp and sturdy but not bulky or heavy—you'll be carrying your gear on foot after driving your vehicle into the wilderness! The best thing about knives is how versatile they are: you can use them for cutting rope, slicing up a fresh orange or melon at lunchtime (or breakfast!), opening packages that contain food items—anything!
There are two types of knives that people usually bring: fixed-blade and folding blade. Fixed blades are considered more durable than folding blades because they're made from one solid piece of material; however, there's something to say about having one more minor moving part if it breaks down during your trip.
Extras like a frisbee or bocce ball set.
If you have kids or like to bring the whole family out on car camping trips, it’s a good idea to make sure that each member of your crew has something fun to do. You could bring along a deck of cards or a bocce ball set for everyone to play with. (If you aren’t familiar with bocce ball: it's similar to lawn bowling.)
If you don't want to break out the dog toys, another fun option is having an extra frisbee handy. If more than one person in your group wants to throw it around while they wait for dinner or dessert, then having two or three frisbees will keep things peaceful and help avoid arguments over whose turn it is next!
You can have all of the fun of backpacking right out of your car.
You can have all the fun of backpacking right out of your car. How is this possible, you ask? Well, it's simple:
You can't get lost in your car, which means no getting lost and sleeping in a rainstorm with nothing but soggy snacks for company.
No need to worry about food or water plans because you're only driving for an hour or two at a time instead of hiking long distances over days or weeks.
You don't need to plan as much because you'll be able to stay at campgrounds with showers and bathrooms available nearby! Perfect for those who love convenience!
And that concludes our list of must-have gear for car camping. We hope you enjoyed reading about these items and that you’ll find them helpful when you go out on your car-camping adventure. If you’re still not sold on car camping, think about it this way: a quick road trip or weekend getaway to the woods is probably much cheaper than a plane ticket to Europe, but it can provide just as many new adventures and opportunities to learn. Forget about packing suitcases or sitting for hours on end in an airplane; with these essentials in your trunk, all you need is a tank of gas and an open road ahead.