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Car Camping: The Ultimate Checklist

Car Camping: The Ultimate Checklist

If you’ve been looking to start car camping, but you have no idea where to look, then this is a great place to start. The beauty of car camping is the amount of gear you can bring with you is it’s pretty much limitless (or at least what you can fit in your car). Plus, If you’re one of those people that like their creature comforts, then car camping is definitely for you. Unlike your average camping trip, you don’t have to worry about how much weight you’re carrying. This means you have the chance to bring all the bells and whistles with you on your camping trip, including your kitchen sink… well, maybe not your actual kitchen sink, but you get my point.

The problem is, with so many options available to you, it can be extremely easier to forget the baseline equipment or the stuff you need to survive your trip. So, if you don’t want to leave your house without your car camping essentials, don’t go anywhere! Our car camping checklist will ensure you have everything you need, but before we get into that, let’s talk about how you choose the right equipment for you:

How To Choose The Right Gear? 

Choosing the right gear to take with you on your car camping journey is never an easy task. And before you go purchasing equipment, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Do you have an interest in backpacking in the future?

  2. Will the piece of equipment make your life easier?

  3. Do you have the budget for it?

So why do these questions matter? Well, if you see yourself backpacking in the future, you might want to go for gear that’s on the lighter side. The reason being is when your car camping, you don’t have to worry too much about how heavy the equipment is going to be. Many people don’t want to own multiple tents, sleeping bags, and cooking stoves. So, finding something on the lighter side will be beneficial if you plan to go backpacking.

Another vital thing to think about is, do you actually need it? And, will it make your life easier?  This is something a lot of people don’t tend to think about. They see a shiny new object, and they want it. The problem is it won’t actually do anything for them or make their life easier, so they never used it again. This is a sure-fire way of ending up with a garage full of stuff you don’t need and losing out on your hard-earned cash.

While we’re talking about money, it’s a good idea to think about your budget. How much money can you afford to spend on new equipment? The good thing about car camping is that the equipment tends to be cheaper than the lighter backpacking gear, which can either work to your benefit or not. The problem with lighter gear is a lot of money gets spent on researching and developing the technology, which adds to the price.

So, now you know how to choose the right gear, let’s take a look at some of the most important car camping essentials

The Ultimate Car Camping Essentials 

Car camping is an excellent experience for you and your family until you forget something essential… and then it turns into a complete nightmare.

We hope to rectify this problem by giving you a complete car camping checklist for things you shouldn’t leave your house without.

#1 Sleeping Bag

For many people, it’s an obvious choice, but you might be how surprised by how many people overlook their sleeping bag or forget it altogether. The main thing you need to consider about your sleeping bag is will it keep you warm.

Before you buy a sleeping bag, you need to think about what type of weather you’re going to be camping in. 

Each sleeping bag has a comfortability rating which will show you what temperatures it can handle. Most three-season sleeping bags should do you well while your car camping. And the bonus is:  Because you’re car camping, you can always take an extra blanket just in case you get a little bit cold at night.

#2 Sleeping Pad

The next thing on my car camping checklist is a sleeping pad, and again, it’s something people overlook. Not only does a sleeping pad make your night on the floor more comfortable, but it also keeps you warmer.

When you’re sleeping on the floor, the cold ground will suck heat from your body and into the earth. And this can lead to a freezing night camping.

Having an extra layer between your body and the ground helps insulate your body and keeps you warm throughout the night.

One of our favorites is the Tillak Shasta Sleeping Pad, which you can check out here:

#3 Tent

Okay, we’ve covered most of the things you need to have a good night’s sleep while you’re camping. But you really need to think about what tent you want to use for your car camping journey.

One of the main things you need to think about when buying a tent is how many people it can hold. And this is pretty easy because the tents are usually rated as “per person,” making it easier to understand.

If you’re looking for a tent for you and your partner, you should be looking for a “2-person tent.”

The next thing you want to think about is what conditions the tent can handle. This works very similarly to sleeping bags because they’re split into seasons (One, Two, Three, or Four). 

Most people don’t have to deal with blizzards or heavy snow while camping, so you can probably get by with a three-season.

If you’re looking for a four-person tent, check out the Campo Designs Escape M4:

#4 Solar Lanterns

Many people don’t think about what happens when it gets dark in your tent. And the thing is:
Some people like to read in the tent, other like to talk, but one thing is for sure, you need to be able to see.

And that’s why I’d recommend taking some sort of lantern with you on your car camping trip.

They can be left in the tent and turned on when you need them, making it a lot easier to find your clothes or anything else you might need.

Some people like to take battery lanterns, but a solar lantern is a lot more functional for me. You don’t have to take any batteries with you; just leave them out in the sun to charge.

Check out this Solar Puf Lantern review for a bit of inspiration:

#5 Warm Clothes 

It doesn’t matter where you’re camping in the world, it can get extremely cold at night, which is where having some warm clothes available can be very handy. Having warm layers to slip into at night or on a cold afternoon can help keep your body temperature high, which, let’s face… is very important!

When I’m looking for camping clothes, I’m not just looking to keep the heat in; I’m looking for something that has some sort of water-resistant properties. If your clothes are wet, you’ll lose your warmth very quickly.

If you’re looking for some car camping clothing, Ably Apparel has some great options out there for you:

#6 Cleaning Wipes & Bug Repellent Wipes

If you’re going camping for a few days in the wilderness, you’re going to need to clean yourself eventually. Staying clean is never an easy feat in the wilderness, which is why taking body wipes with you is so beneficial. It’s a simple case of taking it out of the pack and wiping yourself down somewhere private. It will keep you feeling fresh and stop anything nasty from growing on your body.

While I’m talking about body wipes, let’s talk about wipes that can help keep the bugs off your body. One of the worst things about camping is having bugs biting you all night. Not only are they annoying, but they can spread diseases.

If you’re looking for a few good options, take a look at this video:

#7 Headlamp

We spoke about having a lantern inside your tent, but what about when you’re outside the tent cooking or need the toilet?

To help with this, you should be looking for a quality headlamp. The great thing about headlamps is they look where you’re looking, and more importantly, you don’t have to use your hands. A good headlamp should have multiple colors, light settings, and a durable headband to hold it in place.  Another great thing to look for in a headlamp is an SOS setting… you never know when you’ll have to use it.  

Check out our review of the HybridLight Atlas 600 Fire and see what you think:

#8 Coffee

It might be the first thing on people’s list, but for some, it’s hard to live without a cup of coffee, especially on a cold night. Having a hot brew available when you need it can be highly beneficial if your body temperature drops. 

But at the same time, it’s not easy making a decent coffee while your car camping. And this is where products like Steeped Coffee can come in very handy. It’s basically a teabag filled with coffee which offers a no-nonsense solution.

If you don’t believe us, check out this video review of the product yourself:

#9 Cooler

When you’re going away overnight, you will need something to eat and drink, but storing things like meat or beers for a few days isn’t advisable in the back of your car.

And that’s where a cooler can come in very handy. Portable coolers use insulation to keep anything inside the cooler at a reasonable temperature. Yes, you might have to top up the ice once a day, but it’s better than having a warm beer.

There are many different styles of coolers; some are chest coolers, some of them can plug into your car, and some of them you can carry as a backpack.

Take a look and see what you think about this one:

#10 Pop-Up Fire Pit

If you love to have a fire while you’re camping, you’re going to need a place to put it. Not all sites are safe to have a wildfire, so you need to keep it under control. And that’s where fire pits come in handy. You can pop them up wherever you need them, and they can stop any disasters.

The last thing you want is to set off a forest fire in the middle of nowhere. Fire-pits help to control any ambers flying out onto the ground, which will help prevent any sudden accidents.

Take a look at this one and see what you think:

#11 Cooking Stove

You don’t just have to store food while you’re out camping, you also have to cook it, and not everyone knows how to cook on an open fire.

At one point in time, you didn’t have much choice other than to cook on a fire, but in today’s world, things are a little bit different.

Cooking stoves/ovens comes in all shapes and sizes, from single camping stoves to multiple stoves to compact ovens. And they can be powered by all sorts of fuel sources, from solar power to alcohol, which gives you many options.

Check out this portable solar oven and see what you think: 

#12 Cooking Table

It’s probably not the most essential thing to think about while your car camping, but hell, it comes in handy.

If you love cooking gourmet meals while you’re out camping, you’re going to need a place to cook. And the new style of camping tables offers shelves to store cooking equipment, windbreakers and much more.

One of our favorites is the Sylvan Dine-O-Mite:

#13 Camping Knife

One of the last things you should bring with you is a camping knife. There are all sorts of situations where a camping knife can come in handy.

You can use them for cooking, cutting wood, and anything in-between. Honestly, never leave your home without your camping knife; you never know when it comes in handy,

Here’s one of our favorites:

Final Thoughts 

You made it to the end of the article, and hopefully, you’ve got everything you need ready for your next camping trip.

Yes, you could add many more things to this car camping checklist, but these are the most important things for us.

Let us know what you think in the comments; what would you take on your next car camping journey?

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