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  • Writer's pictureapriladventuring

Top Car Camping Essentials ⛺️

Updated: Jan 23

Ah, car camping! For me it was the gateway to backpacking and more remote adventures. For others it's the perfect middle ground between roughing it and staying in a hotel.


There's something so wonderful about having extra creature comforts while enjoying the great outdoors. Car camping holds a place in my heart as one of the easiest ways to get into nature and see tons of places without too much effort.


Car camping to me can mean driving out somewhere scenic and either setting up camp next to where you're parked, or simply sleeping in your car! I've done plenty of both and pack almost entirely the same for both situations -- the obvious exception being that you don't need a tent if you're sleeping in your car. I still tend to bring a tent just in case I want to use it, but love sleeping in the back of my Prius when I can.


This list is a bunch of fun extras I like to bring on my car camping trips. These are items I wouldn't normally be able to bring backpacking because they're too big or bulky, but add to the experience of camping when my car is doing all the heavy work for me.


I hope you enjoy and are inspired to get outdoors, even if just for a night!


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Table of Contents:




This Fujifilm Instax camera has been such a fun addition to bring with me on trips! In today's world of digital everything, there's something so satisfying about getting a photo immediately in your hands.


This camera takes the largest instant photos you'll find in the Fujifilm Instax collection with a landscape print. It's a bit bulky to carry on backpacking adventures, so I save this for places that I drive to and pull it out at all the scenic stops.




There's no end to the times that I want a comfy blanket on hand and this packable option is perfect for travel. It's super warm and compact, making it an amazing addition for car camping.


I've used this blanket while sleeping in my car, by the campfire, and generally all around camp or any chilly places I visit. The print on mine has a picture of Mount Rainier as a nod to one of my favorite sights from my home city of Seattle.




Hammocks are a must for lounging at camp, especially during the warmer months. There are so many great options now, but I've been loving this one from Kootek. The straps are tree-safe and have a good, adjustable length to fit between trees close and farther away from each other.


The large option is plenty big enough for two people to share. I've even had three people plus my dog in this and it held up just fine!


I do bring this backpacking with me if I know I'll get a lot of use out of it, but it's always handy when I'm on a roadtrip and traveling by car.




If you take long road trips or have forgotten to turn off your headlights in the past, this rechargeable car battery starter is a must-have for your car camping kit.


I purchased this car battery starter after getting my old van, since I knew there was a very real possibility of being stranded with a dead battery.


The awesome thing about this battery is that it doubles as a portable charger! You can connect your phone or any other electronics via USB to give them a power boost in a pinch. I never take any long trips without it.




Having a decent first aid kit in your vehicle is always a good idea, especially if you're heading to remote locations. I bought one of these for each of my cars and have used them on numerous occasions.


Remember to refill any parts that you use. You'll thank yourself later for having this handy!




I got two of these comfy folding chairs when they were massively reduced on sale and am loving them. They've become my permanent balcony chairs for morning coffee and evenings out in the fresh air.


Anytime I go on a road trip, having comfortable seating is a must. I love that these chairs are so easy to pack up in just seconds. They're low to the ground, which makes them perfect for camp cooking on a small stove sitting on the ground.


Even though these are padded, they've stayed pretty clean and are easy to wipe off. At seven and a half pounds, these aren't a backpacking option but make a wonderful car camping addition.




Bugs can put a major damper on any outdoor adventure, so I make sure to keep a handful of bug repellent incense or candles on me. These ones by Murphy's have essential oils that deter mosquitoes and other bugs from coming too close.


Placing a few of these around camp will keep those pesky bugs away all day -- and you'll have the pleasant scents of citronella, rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, and cedarwood!




I used to buy big water jugs before each trip, but now keep this reusable container on hand for my car. This water jug holds over 5 gallons and collapses down completely flat when it's empty, making it ideal for stashing underneath your seats for whenever you need it.


You'll also save in the long run by refilling a big container at home. This should give you enough water for a couple days without needing to drive back into town for a refill.




This dual zone fridge/freezer is an investment, but has been amazing for car trips. I originally bought this to be the fridge in my camper van. Since then, it's been a staple for all my road trips!


I love that it's super quiet, doesn't use a ton of power, and has two adjustable sides. You can even turn off one side to save power if you only need a little space for food and drinks. The one I got is 60L. Even without plugging it in, it's a super effective cooler.


I also opted to get the insulating cover so it uses even less electricity. It easily lasts a few days with my Jackery power bank.


This fridge does get pretty heavy when filled, so is best carried by two people. I don't have much difficulty moving it alone when it's empty.




This is another luxury item and has changed the sleeping game on road trips. I got the Queen size 4-inch mattress. It folds down in three sections, making it easy to carry and pack.


This mattress fits in larger 2 person tents or pretty much anything 3 person and up. This is a great alternative for anyone that struggles sleeping on the inflatable mats or has back/shoulder issues.


We love this mattress so much it's become a permanent fixture in our living room. We use it for cuddle puddles with our dog during relation time :)


One thing to note about this mattress is that it gets extra firm when cold. On our colder camping trips, it takes a while to warm up and get to the squishiness level that I prefer.




Thanks for making it to the end of this list! If you're ready for your first (or 100th!) car camping trip, check out my Instagram or YouTube for travel ideas. If you're looking for backpacking gear next, check out this blog post.


Safe travels and I'll see you out there.


Happy adventuring,

A

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