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The Best Car Camping Gear for Any Season

car camping
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Camping does not necessarily require you to jam everything into a backpack and hike miles to the campsite. Car camping offers nearly all the luxuries of sitting at home except you’re out in nature and, ideally, you left the streaming capabilities at home. But no matter the length of time you plan to be gone, even if it’s just a quick 24-hour escape to sit around the fire with a handle of whiskey, a plan and packing list will help get you where you need to be.

In the Go-Pack

Due to the fact that car camping packing is usually a last-minute thing, it’s nice to keep a bag ready to go, or at the very least, a go-to outfit:

  • The Dickies DuraTech Ranger Duck Cargo Pants are two times stronger than cotton, have a relaxed fit perfect for kneeling and bending to tend to the fire, and a finish that wipes water and oil away.
  • A campfire flannel is a must when the temperature drops and the L.L. Bean Overland Performance Flannel Shirt is optimal to retain heat and look good doing so. It has reinforced elbows to get down and dirty, snap buttons for easy on and off maneuvering, and a look that says, “yeah, I was in the woods.”
  • Furthering your getup, the Alive and Free Co. “BTH” Camo Trucker Snapback is perfect for all campsite activities and even bears to hatchets on the crest.
  • And because the terrain will be variable and wooded, the Jag boots from Danner are optimal for day and night adventures, rain or shine.
car camping outfit
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Setting Up Camp

Once you find your site, it is incredibly important that you get everything out of the car and set up camp. The only thing you should do before unpacking and beginning the graceful dance of popping up the tent is open a beer. The importance of setting up camp before the real fun starts can not be stressed enough, especially if Jack, Jim, and Jose are in attendance. Once you get your camp dialed in, then you can unfold your camping chair, kick up the feet, and embrace the suite victory of a night or weekend away from the big city lights.

Food and drink for the weekend do not have to be anything special. Pack lots of beer, but never pack glass. Wine is great out of the box or transferred to an outdoor-friendly tumbler. And hard liquor, the beauty of the plastic bottle to be passed around the fire. As far as food goes, everyone should bring something to share within the confines of a menu. Because the cooler is grand and the stove is stacked, you can detail out a five-course meal, if you see fit. A nice cheese plate followed by fajitas and a succulent s’mores dessert will be the bee’s knees of fine camp dining.

What to Bring

Outdoor Tech Big Turtle Shell Ultra

Outdoor Tech - Big Turtle Shell Ultra
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It seems the debate of whether or not music is welcome at the campsite will continue well beyond the last flame goes out. But if you need a little aural pleasure to set the mood the Outdoor Tech Big Turtle Shell Ultra is the Bluetooth speaker made for the outdoors. The Turtle Shell is waterproof, has a power bank for charging your EDC, and has a built-in lantern optimal for mood lighting once the sun goes down. This speaker will certainly get it done in the woods and all that is asked is that you respect your neighbors.

Big Agnes Big House 6

Big Agnes - Big House
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The Big House is ideal for car camping and is perfectly sized for housing the whole squad under one “roof”. It’s big enough to stand up in, which is a wooded luxury and if rain sets in, you’ll have the party tent. The added bonus of Shelter Mode lets you pitch it as a covered shelter without the tent body, proving to be stupendous when the sun is beating down and you’re just looking for a little shade. And though this Big House is a car campers dream, the backpack-style carry bag adds just another level of ease to the weekend adventure.

Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide 20

Kelty - Tru.Comfort Doublewide
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The continued beauty of car camping is you don’t have to worry about the size or weight of your gear. And if you’re going to be sleeping outdoors, you might as well sleep in comfort and without the restriction of a coffin. The Kelty Tru.Comfort Doublewide is stitched for two people, but on your own, it’s the perfect starfish companion. It has built-in blankets, foot vents just in case you’re one of those people that sleep with your feet out from under the covers, and a zip-off layer for the hot summer nights. This doublewide bag was built for car camping and an unrestricted night of sleep.

Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad

Exped - MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad
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Big tent, big bag… big sleeping pad. The Exped Mega Mat is big enough for two and even better for one. It comes with a pump, though it is self-inflating and because wear and tear is part of the game, the durable laminate will keep you above ground through the night. The MegaMat is 4 inches thick and the 3D construction brings level support out to each edge, so you don’t end up in the halfpipe. With this pad, you may just even sleep in or at least till you smell the bacon.

Yeti Trailhead Camp Chair

YETI - Trailhead Camp Chair
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If you’re asking yourself if you really need a $300 camp chair, the answer is undoubtedly yes. The YETI Trailhead Camp Chair is a best-in-class seat designed for legendary durability and unmatched comfort. The included cup holder fits just about any size bottle and can be moved from left to right to coincide with your preferred drinking hand. And with Flex Grid Fabric, your Trailhead Chair just may end up in the living room.

BioLite BaseLantern XL

BioLite - BaseLantern XL
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Unless the moon is full and to avoid a circle of headlamps, a BioLite BaseLantern XL is the way to go. It will light the entire campsite without too much blinding attention and can be controlled from your phone. The BaseLantern has a built-in charging station which is nice since we don’t go anywhere without our phones and with the app, you can turn it on from your bag to see who or what is stirring around in the middle of the night. The BaseLantern XL is a great addition to the packing list and campsite, especially when the fire is lacking lumens.

Pelican 80QT Elite Wheeled Cooler

Pelican - 80QT Elite Wheeled Cooler
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Bigger is better when it comes to car camping. And when you’ve got the Pelican Elite Wheeled Cooler you can rest assured that your adventures will be well outfitted with food and beverages. It’s Elite because it has a built-in bottle opener, is capable of holding ice for up to 10 days, and if you’re camping near water, the lid will let you know just how big the lunker is. The cooler also comes stocked with certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, which is great for you and maybe even better for the bear. And though it’s not guaranteed, the threaded plug and sloped drain may just wash away the campfire hangover.

Camp Chef Pro 60X Two-Burner Camp Stove

Camp Chef - Pro 60X Two-Burner Camp Stove
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Just because you’re out in nature doesn’t mean you can’t eat like a king and with the Camp Chef Pro 60X and it’s 60,000 BTUs of cooking glory. You’ve got your car, so there should be plenty of room for this dual burning stove and enough propane to last the weekend. The Pro 60X comes with windscreens, adjustable leg levelers for uneven terrain and is optimal for cooking for the masses. Bacon, pizza or fajitas, the Camp Chef Pro 60X is ready to go camping.

Gerber Gear 9” Black Hatchet

Gerber Gear - 9” Black Hatchett
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You can go throw axes for fun while out on the town, so why wouldn’t you pack a hatchet for the woods? The Gerber Gear 9” Black Hatchett is a pint-sized beast of a blade and its compact size makes it ideal for chopping kindling. The forged steel head and composite handle are extremely durable and lightweight making this hatchet ideal for any task around the campsite. It’s not recommended that you throw it at a tree for fun, but what happens in the woods should probably stay in the woods.

Coming Home

When the adventure comes to an end, it’s important to abide by the unspoken rule of leaving it better than you found it. First and foremost, you brought trash bags for a reason, and once you fill them up, the bags should be in the back of someone’s car for disposal back in civilization. No gear or beer cans should be left laying about. Because something was definitely thrown in the fire at some point, clear your pit. Nature is for everyone to enjoy and if you leave the site looking like the beaches of spring break of ’99, everyone loses. Make the extra effort to ensure that everything you arrived with is either leaving in your stomach or in back in the car. And once you get home, crack another beer and be sure to get everything out of the car and lay it out if the trip was wet. The shower? Well, that’s up to you.

Planning a road trip? Here’s everything you might need to plot a cross-country journey, a family vacation, or a solo trek.

Ben Hitch
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ben Hitch, well, he's the first of his name and one hell of a character. You can find him exploring the streets of San Diego…
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