Pack It In: Summer Car Camping


Long summer nights, coolers full of beer, and comfortable beds under the stars are a good recipe for camping memories to share all year. With a summer heatwave in full force, it’s time to upgrade your gear and head for the mountains in search of a good spot to pitch a tent and cook dinner over a fire. We’ve been carefully testing a few essentials for your summer car camping adventure so you can load up your SUV with friends and leave your daily commute behind for a few days. With the extra comfort and peace of mind this gear brings, you may just decide to stay out in the wilderness for a few extra nights.

Related: Top Camping Destinations | Mountain Hardwear Camping Gear

Mountainsmith Modular Haulers
We regularly pack up camping and fishing gear for two people, as well as haul all the extras we need for roadtripping with three rambunctious dogs. These gear haulers from Mountainsmith make it easy to organize gear (we even color code everything according to each cube). They are easy to keep pre-packed with a few essentials so the gear closet is always organized for a quick weekend adventure. When not holding tents or climbing gear, the cubes also double nicely as oversized, reusable grocery bags. Extra cubes that double as coolers and containers for dog food round out a nearly flawless packing system.

Nemo Wagontop 4P
Sure that backpacking tent is nice to bring along to impress your buddies with an $800 piece of ultralight sil-nylon, but for luxurious car camping it’s time for a bigger footprint. We love Nemo’s Wagontop 4-person tent for the amount of space it creates. Nearly vertical walls give you standing room – six and half feet at the peak. It is built from the same burly materials as Nemo’s award winning backpacking and military lines, so it will stand up to years of abuse. It may fit three of your closest buddies, but we recommend filling that extra space with a queen-sized inflatable mattress and sleeping in comfort and style.

Esky Coolers
Coleman’s Esky line of coolers are the ultimate camp comfort. With an air-tight gasket seal, and two inches of foam insulation in walls (two and half on the bottom and lid) we’ve been regularly keeping ice in ours for up to six days on the road. These made in the USA coolers feature a burly burly polyethylene exoskeleton and nearly indestructible hinges. A pull out cutting board and ruler on the lid are nice touches so you can finally provide photo proof of the huge brook trout you’ve been slaying this spring.

GoalZero Yeti 150
GoalZero’s Yeti line of batteries are the perfect accessory for the outdoorsman who needs to stay connected, or at least powered up so the kids can watch their favorite disney movies in their tent. With one-hundred-fifty watts, the Yeti 150 will charge a laptop from dead to full twice – that’s more than a dozen charges for power hungry smartphones, and more than twenty-five times for your GoPro. Its rugged design houses USB, 12V, and AC outlets, so you can keep the power running all night at camp. It will charge fully in about seventeen hours from a Nomad 20 solar panel, but that time can be cut significantly by chaining a few together.

Rumpl Puffy Blanket
We love our mummy bags when we’re sleeping in the cold or high in the mountains, but for casual summer camping it’s time to ditch that constrictive bag. Rumpl is a newcomer to the outdoor space and their puffy blanket is the first thing that we’ve seen that is a potential sleeping bag killer. Using the same 20-denier fabric as many sleeping bags, and synthetic down insulation, the Rumpl puffy blanket is our new favorite summer camping accessory. Whether it’s tucked into a hammock at the lake or pulling duty late into the night while we line up a good Milky Way photo, our Rumpl is never out of arm’s reach.

Thermarest NeoAir Dream
With four inches of loft, the NeoAir Dream mattress from Thermarest will be the last sleeping pad you’ll ever buy. Combining the award winning NeoAir inflatable pad with a pillowtop cover, the Dream is your ticket to blissful sleep no matter how rocky the ground is beneath your tent. As an added bonus, the air mattress core can be removed and used on its own when you need to shed a little weight.

Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe
Our Fiskars axe has split wood, felled trees, and pounded in tent stakes all over the Rockies. When you need a tool that can take a serious beating and still outperform the competition, look no further. the X27 is a thirty-six inch behemoth built for splitting large logs. A low-friction coating on the steel ensures clean splits, and that you won’t spend your time prying the axe head out of stubborn logs. The DuraFrame handle is light and shock resistant, helping you stay accurate with every swing – especially when your girlfriend is watching.

Alite Designs Mayfly Chair
Every night camping seems to end with a few smores and beers around the fire. Don’t settle for a seat on that gnarled log your friend pulled up. A good packable camp chair is worth every penny when it comes to your comfort. Our favorite is the Alite Mayfly. Sitting low to the ground, this three-legged recliner has a low center of gravity and deep bucket-seat profile for lounging in style. Whether you’re sitting on the shore with a fishing pole or next to the fire, you’re going to get more than a few envious glances.