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Nine Items To Create the Ultimate Car Camping Kit

Photo: Holly Mandarich (Unsplash), Illustration: Jake Inferrera
Steppin' Out WeekSteppin' Out WeekWith sun-drenched days upon us, the outdoors is your oyster. All this week, we've got tips and recommendations for everything from urban park excursions to backcountry backpacking, so let these guides help spark your next adventure.

Not everyone is cut out for backpacking and really, that is easy to understand. After all, schlepping a mountain of gear on your back for an ungodly amount of mileage doesn’t necessarily sound appealing. But, communing with nature is typically high on everybody’s priority list, and that is where car camping comes into play.

Car camping is awesome for a variety of reasons. Not only do you still get to appreciate Mother Nature in all of her glory, but you can do it while enjoying all the creature comforts that you can fit into the trunk of a car. Dazzling sunrises are easy to appreciate after a solid night of sleep on a cushy-and-plush sleeping pad, yanno?

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NEMO Jazz Synthetic Double Sleeping Bag

Trust me: you won’t regret sleeping on the ground once you climb into this luxurious bed. Designed with maximum comfort in mind, the Jazz is a synthetic bag (rated to 20 degrees) loaded with features. A removable washable sheet separates you from the actual bag so it’s just like having a sheet in your bed at home. The built-in pillow top is uber comfy and the integrated draft collar helps regulate temperatures. An integrated sleeve on the bottom prevents sleeping pads from sliding everywhere. Bonus: This beauty is a double bag, meaning you can snuggle all night long (or sprawl out. You do you).

Therm-a-Rest MondoKing 3D

The name says it all: you’ll sleep like a king on this extravagant pad. Sure, it weighs a lot, but who cares when your car is handling the transportation? Completely vertical sidewalls make the four-inch-thick pad feel even roomier, and side sleepers don’t have to worry about banging shoulder bones into the hard ground. A foam core gives this pad an R-value (the temp rating for sleeping pads) of 11.4, meaning you could sleep in a bank of snow and still wake up as fresh as a daisy.

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ENO SkyLoft Hammock
Photo: Amazon

ENO SkyLoft Hammock

You can sleep in it if you want, but personally, I prefer stretching out in the SkyLoft and staring at the sky…for hours. Utter relaxation in a hammock is tough to beat! Spreader bars hold the hammock in a wider position and a toggle flips between “relax” and “sleep” mode, adjusting the positioning depending on what you find comfier. Bonus: The stuff sack plays double duty as a pillow, so you even have a place to rest your pretty little head.

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Kelty Low Loveseat
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Kelty Low Loveseat

You can sit in a camp chair if you want, but this is car camping, so let’s think bigger: a camp loveseat! This two-person chair is essentially a camping couch. It sits in a slightly reclined positioning that is quite comfortable when relaxing by the fire. Plus, it’s durable and stable. Sprinting toddlers (or drunken friends) don’t stand a chance of knocking this guy over.

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Coleman Sundome 6

You need a tent, but it makes zero sense to cram yourself inside a small backpacking shelter. Instead, opt for the Sundome, a six-person behemoth with 100-square-feet of footprint space. It’s heavier than most other options (16 pounds) but that isn’t your problem if you aren’t carrying it. It’s durable, and the partial rainfly does a decent job of keeping rain out (although it becomes questionable in a torrential downpour). But, the highlight is the pricetag: you can snag this tent for half the price of similar tents. Heck yes.

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NEMO Helio LX Pressure Shower

If you are out in the wild for more than a few days, things get ripe. And by things, I mean you. Yes, you start to stink and sometimes a shower is for the betterment of everyone involved. The Helio shower doesn’t take up much space, and it defies gravity with an easy-to-use foot pump. The system sits on the ground, and campers use the foot pump to build up pressure. The Helio LX holds just under six gallons of water, and that amounts to water pressure for 7-10 minutes. Personally, we used this on a five-day paddling trip in the Florida Everglades and it was a godsend when we needed to rinse sand from our one-year-old’s butt every afternoon.

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Luminoodle Powered LED String Lights

Camping under the stars is awesome, but you know what else is awesome? Not running dome-first into a tree when you stumble away from camp to use the facilities. Use these affordable LED lights to add a little bit of ambience to your campsite. Plus, if you don’t want them strung up, you can bundle them up into a small bag to create a useful lantern.

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REI Co-Op Camp Roll Table
Graphic: Shep McAllister
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REI Co-Op Camp Roll Table

You need a table when you’re camping, regardless of whether it is to cook, to eat, or to play cards. The Camp Roll Table is affordable and does the trick without many bells and whistles. It’s aluminum construction means its sturdy (it can hold up to 100 pounds) and the heat-resistant aluminum slats on the top mean you won’t burn a hole through the top with a cook pan.

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Camp Chef Tahoe Three-Burner Stove

It isn’t cheap, but the Three-Burner is built for large family gatherings and extravagant meals in the wild. The 30,000 BTU burners and 608-square-inch cooking area (not a type) mean you can fry up some salmon while you appetizer sizzles and your dessert simmers. A three-sided wind screen does a great job of blocking wind too, so you can continue cooking when things get a bit breezy.

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About the author

Heather Balogh Rochfort

Heather Balogh Rochfort is an outdoor expert and full-time freelance writer and author in the outdoor industry.