Whether you are frugal or just up for adventure, there is something special about car camping. A lot of the time, it’s just convenient and in some places it is the best way to wake up to the most awe-inspiring surroundings. If you’ve ever visited Yosemite, then you know that car camping beats staying outside the park in the hotel every single time. But, you don’t have to be in Yosemite to make car camping your preferred lodging style. So, if you’re looking for ways to make the most out of your car camping experience, we’ve compiled what we here at Active Weekender think are the most essential items to add to your car camping checklist.
We don’t advise that you actually sleep in the car unless you’ve got a sweet campervan or Sprinter van – instead, get yourself a tent that is big enough for the number of people that you’re traveling with. When shopping for tents, you will notice that they tend to be listed by the number of people that can comfortable fit inside – so you’ll see things like a four-person tent or a six-person tent and so on. Here’s a tip – choose one that is for more people that you intend to have inside of it. This gives you a little more room to move around and get dressed without knocking elbows with your tent mates the entire time. And if anyone in your group moves around a lot in their sleep, then you will really be thankful for the extra room!
The great thing about car camping is that it’s cheap, and often cheap gear is good enough – like the popular Coleman Sundome tent at Amazon. It’s a good cheap tent that is made well enough for car camping, but we prefer something with a little better design and weather protection.
Since our favorite tent is large enough to accommodate a queen air bed, you can certainly get one of those for your car camping adventures. However, we find that a comfortable sleeping pad works just as well, if not better. You’ll find sleeping pads in a variety of sizes, shapes and prices. You can go with a single-person sleeping pad or a double one for couples. Amazon carries a lot of these, but we find that the best selection comes from REI. So, if you don’t sleep well on the lumpy, bumpy ground, we suggest a good sleep pad to go under your sleeping bag for a good night’s rest.
You can find a lot of different variety when it comes to sleeping bags – do you want the zipper on the right or the left? do you need it in a sleeping pod mummy style or not? do you want a single person or two-person sleeping bag? do you need it to be really warm or cool for summer temperatures? Overall, we think that a good three-season sleeping bag is the best choice for you cause it is very versatile and works in temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. And honestly, who wants to go car camping when it’s colder than that?
When most people think about camping stoves, I bet they picture one of those old Coleman stoves that takes the little fuel canisters. Well, though you can still buy that type of old school stove, there are some much better options available these days. Here at Active Weekender, we think a good camp stove is one that works well without being heavy or clunky – you definitely don’t want something that takes up a lot of space. With that in mind, we’ve moved on from those Coleman stoves to something that works a lot better at a fraction of the cost (in our opinion).
Now that you’ve got a camp stove, you’ll need a cookware set for all those yummy camp meals. We suggest looking for a nesting cookware set so that it doesn’t take up a lot of space – especially if you think you’ll end up using it for backpacking trips. Most camp cookware is designed for two people, so keep that in mind you’re taking out the family or camping with friends. With that in mind, we’ve selected our favorite set for two campers. But if you’re still shopping, we suggest REI as we think they have the best selection.
I used to always laugh when I saw someone wearing one of these, cause let’s face it, you kind of look ridiculous with a headlamp on, right? But here’s the thing – headlamps are one of the best things to take with you on camping trips. The uses for them are really endless – you can use them for reading at night, for a less treacherous walk when you need a potty break at night, investigating odd noises at night, to help with tent setup in the dark, and so much more. Plus, these things are super cheap. Our favorite model below is very cheap! When choosing a headlamp, definitely go with an LED model for longer burn time.
While you may want to pull up old logs or take a seat on a tree stump, the fact is that camp chairs are the best way to relax in camp at the end of a long day. There are a few different designs available on the market, but we find that the Helinox camp chair offers the most comfort for the money. The cost is similar to that of the traditional camp chairs, but the comfortable level is much better. And this type of chair also collapses for easy and compact storage and transport.
Portable Camping Shower
If you’re at a National Park or other type of camp ground, then there is a pretty good chance that you’ll have access to a shower house. But, if you’re the type of camper who pulls over whenever there is a good spot or who does some backcountry camping, then taking along your own camp shower might be of interest to you. I know what you’re thinking – this isn’t really a necessity. That’s true, but some campers just can’t fathom going without showers. If you’re one of those campers, then we got you. We’ve checked out all the options and picked our favorite portable camping shower – it will be a true camping luxury, except that it only gives you about 5 minutes of water pressure.
There are a lot of other things that you can include on your car camping pack list, we be think that the eight items listed above are the definite must-haves when planning your next car camping adventure. Other things that might want take with you include a multi-tool, a hammock, some games, a portable table, a coffee French press and a portable grill. But above all, have fun out there!
top image credit: dovapi (Deposit Photos)
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