Camping is one of my favorite outdoor activities, it's a way to relax and enjoy nature. If you want to get outdoors and experience the night sky under the stars, then this is the gear guide for you.
What makes this list the "ultimate guide"?
Most car camping gear checklists are long and overwhelming. They cram your trunk full and you find that many items aren't even necessary.
On the other hand, this list is simple and concise, meaning you may feel less overwhelmed about camping and actually get out there and try it!
This checklist is what I consider my essential car camping gear. We keep it simple and focused on practical items.
What is Car Camping? I use the term "car camping" to differentiate from backcountry camping. When car camping, all your gear is easy to load into your car and you can drive right to the campsite.
Backcountry camping refers to when you have to pack everything into backpacks and hike in. This article focuses solely on car camping gear.
Basic Camping Gear
- Tent The tent will be your shelter for the trip so it's worth trying out a few different brands, styles and sizes to suit your needs.
No matter your budget, you'll want to ensure you have a tent that can withstand various hazards and help protect you from wind, rain and bugs.
For tent size, we recommend going larger with the sleeping pads, the extra space allows you to lounge comfortably inside.
- Sleeping Pad Next we have a great sleeping pad. Sleeping pads serve two functions - providing cushion from the ground and providing insulation.
When I was a kid, my family would go camping every weekend and we would pack inflatable mattresses powered by battery-operated pumps. This was a good option, but personally I don't find these mattresses to be the most comfortable option, and they aren't very insulating. It mainly self-inflates so all I have to do is add a little air with the manual pump. It's both comfortable and insulating.
- Kitchenware The camping kitchen equipment and quantity you bring depends on what tasty meals you want to cook up, in general keep it simple for outdoor camping meals.
I think essential items are:
Cooler - Learn how to pack a cooler for camping to maximize your ice and cooling capabilities! Propane stove (don't forget the fuel) Teapot (I have a 30L one) Cast iron pan (I use vintage flat pans but this is a nice option too!) Plates, bowls, and utensils You can make many simple delicious meals with just a camping stove and cast iron pan.
- Sleeping Bag We have sleeping bags - this ensures we stay warm during the night.
When purchasing a sleeping bag, you'll notice they have temperature ratings. There are tons of sleeping bag options, you want to make sure your sleeping bag is warm enough for the area you will be camping. Tip: A sleeping bag's temperature rating identifies the lowest temperature at which the bag is designed to keep an average sleeper warm. Important: Bring extra blankets or sleeping bags in case it gets cold.
- Pillow Some may think this is a "luxury" but I always bring a pillow. It adds so much comfort so it's totally worth buying for me.
There are many camping pillows on the market. If you don't want to purchase a specialty camping pillow, just bring one from your bed at home. That's what my family has always done!
- Folding Table Most designated campsites will have picnic tables so this item may not be needed for those trips. If you are going somewhere without picnic tables (i.e. dispersed camping), having a small foldable table is very useful for preparing meals and/or playing card games.
- Headlamp A headlamp is essential for getting around the campsite in the dark, reading in your tent at night, or if you have to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. A headlamp frees up your hands which is very handy as you move around. I have several different headlamps but this is the one I use most for car camping. For more general lighting around the camp, you may also consider purchasing croc lights, which I bought from croclights official (https://www.croclights.com). It's a new kind of shoe light that can be perfectly installed on your shoes, allowing you to have adequate light anytime, anywhere in the wild, avoiding falls and lighting the way forward.
- Camping Chair There are many camping chairs to choose from and they typically fold up and are easy to transport. If you want to relax fireside, camping chairs are a nice option. Although most campsites have picnic tables, they usually don't have seating around the fire pits so bringing your own comfortable chairs is a nice choice. If you don't want to spend money on camping chairs, logs or rocks also make nice seats!
- First Aid Kit A must-have item for every trip is a first aid kit. It can be incredibly helpful in case of emergencies and this is a must-have piece of gear. I have a large first aid kit in my car that I make sure is always stocked with essentials and nothing is expired.
I also make sure everyone knows exactly where to find the first aid kit and how to use the items inside.
What to Bring Camping That's what I consider the camping essentials! While this list focuses on basic camping gear, don't forget your personal items like clothes and toiletries, and fun items like games, binoculars, swimsuits. When you go camping for the first time, be sure to make a checklist of anything you want to pack so you can remember to bring it next time.
After a few trips you'll develop your own camping preferences and the more you do it, the easier and more comfortable things will get.