Are you new to car camping? or just here to get some tips. Here is a list of everything you will need for car camping. Camping is so much fun and adventurous. Since we do a lot of road trips to remote areas, camping is our best option. And that is why we converted a cargo trailer into our mobile home. But we can not take trailer on all the terrain. So, during such off-road trips we started sleeping in our car. You could also camp in a tent at designated campsites, but somehow we don’t really feel comfortable and safe sleeping in a tent among the wild. Based upon our experience so far, we have come up with this “Car camping essentials checklist” to help your travel.
Link to download FREE printable pdf of the checklist is available at the bottom of this post!
Vehicle : First and default necessity is your vehicle. No matter what kind and size of vehicle you have, make sure there is enough room inside to lie down and some extra space to store your stuffs. Myself and Naveen can comfortably lie down flat if the second row of seats are folded in our nimo. But, before preparing for bed, we have to cleverly organize all the other things and move them to front seats for making room to sleep. Also should keep the driver seat area clear for emergencies.
Car Camping Essentials Checklist
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1. Sleeping kit : Mattress, Blankets, sleeping bags, pillow
Choose whatever is comfortable for you to get a good night sleep. We first tried using sleeping bags. But din’t work for us. After many trials on different weather conditions, we now use 4 inch foam mattress as our base. During summer camping, one blanket to cover the mattress another to for us just works fine. During winter camping, we use one comforter to cover the mattress and then cover ourselves with two layer of comforters (sherpa works best). If we still feel cold, we turn on car heater for a bit.
2. Shower & Toilet kit
Carry a car kit with face wash, flushable wet wipes and water bottle. Apart from this, carry a toiletry kit that holds tooth brushes and travel size bathing needs. This bag is handy, compact and helps to keep them organized. Even when you are using a public bathroom, you can hang this kit for easy access.
When traveling to remote areas, there won’t be any restrooms or even pit toilets. So, we made a DIY bucket potty that we carry with lots of garbage bags. I know, it could sound gross to you. Just pointing out an option for desperate times! 😛
3. Cooking kit
Our default kit includes Portable stove, Table cloth, gas refills, 5 gal water can, 1 gal water can, mini spice box (converted a pill box), chopping pad, knife, cooking pan, pot, 1 spatula, 1 serving spoon, paper plates, bowls, garbage bag, dish wash liquid with scrub and paper tissues. Best way is to decide what you will be cooking and pack accordingly. If you are going to cook on campfire, the list of items will vary.
If staying in campgrounds, it will be equipped with tables. But if you are boondocking, carry a small foldable camping table.
Pack your favorite drinks, snacks and cooking ingredients in a cooler. We love using this 12v cooler/warmer. Its compact and doesn’t take much floor space in the car. This cooler also comes with an optional AC adapter.
5. Inverter & Chargers
We recommend this inverter if you want to charge your laptop, drone or camera batteries. DO NOT CHARGE THEM WHILE YOUR VEHICLE IS NOT RUNNING. Don’t forget your phone chargers.
6. Medicine kit
Its essential to have your medicines & First aid kit handy in your vehicle all the time. we have one kit in our vehicle and another in our carry on bag or camera bag.
Some of the items that we find to be essential are cough drops, something for cold, headache, throat infection, fever, nausea and digestion. And a basic first aid basic kit with band-aids, alcohol wipes and ointments. Its always good to carry one while hiking.
7. Lantern, Flash light, Head lamp
Its a must have item during camping. Chargeable lanterns and solar lanterns are available to buy. More than a flashlight, a head lamp is what has been easy to use most of the times. Its keeps your hand free while taking night photography or if you wanna use the restroom in middle of the night.
Tip : Hanging Led string light inside your car can pep up the ambiance!
8. Window shades
Shades have two purpose. One is for privacy and another for cold weather. We bought a roll of reflectix double side foil insulation and cut it to size of our vehicle windows. Its been very helpful to keep us cozy and helps insulating while we sleep in our car below 0 deg.
10. Other car camping essentials :
- Campfire starter and wood. Use wood according to local guideline.
- Food & snacks – The most essential!. We have put up a separate blog on this, as its a huge topic to cover.
- Garbage bag – Lets help keep the campsite clean. Also, avoid an untidy car.
- Footwear bag – Keep it near you or hang inside while sleeping.
- Bring bug spray, mosquito repellents.
- Optional for comfort : Battery powered fan, eye mask, ear plugs, electric hand warmers.
Entertainment – Enjoy nature and have fun! During day, you could hike, play and just chillax. At night, you could make a campfire, read book, watch stars or do night photography if interested.
Things you should know before car camping
- Always Crank your window down a little bit for fresh air movement. Otherwise it will lead to suffocation while you are sleeping.
- Have your phone nearby with you when you go to sleep. Its easy to misplace it while sleeping in car.
- Keep a lantern or flashlight at reachable place in case of emergencies.
- Scout your site before deciding to stay.
The main reason we all go camping is because, we love this gift of nature around us. Its our sole duty to keep it intact. No matter where in the work you stay, keep the campsite clean. Pick out the trash after you use. Lets leave the place better than we found.
Campfires should be made only at designated spots. Because, some areas are prone to catch up fire due to accidental fire sparks and destroy the whole place. Also sprinkle water and put out the fire fully before you leave.
If you are camping in campgrounds, follow their rules. Most of them will ask you have quiet time during nights. Shouldn’t be a menace to your neighbor campers.
WILD & WEATHER:
Research about local weather, local wild animals and plan your camping trip accordingly. If its going to be very cold at nights, then be prepared for it. You could use leg and hand warmers to warm up. Bears and other wild animals can smell food from distance. So, don’t keep any food outside in your campsite. Use bear proof boxes or store somewhere high and away from your campsite.
PACK ONLY ESSENTIALS:
If you have lots of unorganized and unnecessary things, it could really make you frustrated during the trip.
TRIAL YOUR CAMPING ROUTINE BEFORE YOUR FIRST TRIP
Trust us! First time sleeping in car in the wild is challenging. Our first time was a disaster. Routine involves, finding right spot, scouting the surroundings, organize & setting up camp, prepping to cook, eating, packing up all cooking/ food stuffs to keep it away from wild animal, light up the space if needed, rearranging your stuffs to make sleeping space, prepping your bed and keeping important things at reachable distance for emergencies. After you get up in the morning, you will repeat the things said above again, get yourself ready and prep for you journey on road.
We have the Printable Checklist ready for you and its absolutely free!
Hope our “Car camping essentials checklist” was helpful to you. If you think we missed something, please let us know by commenting below.
Wondering what to pack for your upcoming road trip? Relax! We have a checklist for you. Click below