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The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist

Watching the sunrise while car camping

The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist

Have you ever wanted to go camping without the fear of inclement weather ruining your trip?

What about going on short camping trips with the least amount of fuss when setting up and taking down camp?

Are family camping trips out of the picture because there’s too much stuff your family needs to bring along?

Then car camping is for you. Car camping combines all the joy and benefits of camping outside and combines them with the convenience and reliability of a vehicle.

Camp Anywhere With These Car Camping Essentials 

With car camping, you’re no longer limited to what you can fit in your backpack and how much you can carry on your back. That said, you wouldn’t want to bring stuff you won’t actually use at camp. Below we’ve listed down our picks for car camping essentials plus an easy-to-print quick checklist at the end. 

1. Sleeping Bag or Hammock  

One major advantage of car camping is you don’t have to worry about where you’re sleeping. All you need is to make some space to set up your sleeping bag in your car and you’re good to go. If your vehicle has enough space, you can even set up a hammock instead.  

2. Tent or Rooftop Tent  

If, however, you’re with your family or you just want a more traditional camping feel, you can always use a tent. Car camping tents let you set them up on one side of your vehicle and are spacious enough for a family. 

But, if you want to set your tent higher off the ground to avoid wild animals or because the terrain is simply too rough, your best bet is a rooftop tent. 

3. Camping Pillows 

Camping pillows ensure you can get a good night’s sleep. The beauty of some camping pillows is their inflatable design. This lets you carry enough for each member of your family – especially if you or they require more than one.

4. Cooler 

Unless you’re car camping near a fishing spot, odds are you’re going to be bringing your food from home to camp. In this case, you’ll need a hard-shell cooler to keep your food fresh and your beverages cold.

5. Camping Stove 

You’ll need some way to cook your food at camp. Since weight isn’t a big issue when car camping, you can bring along a camp stove and a larger gas tank. Don’t forget to also bring matches, a lighter, or a firestarter. 

6. Camping Pots and Pans 

Unless you plan to cook all your food shish kebab style, you’ll need to bring some camping pots and pans. The heavier your stove can carry, the larger your pots and pans can be. 

7. Cooking and Eating Utensils  

You wouldn’t want to stir your food with a stick or serve and eat hot food with your hands. You just need a ladle for your pot, a spatula for your pan, and enough sporks for everyone.

8. Water Storage  

Another advantage of having so much space and carrying capacity is you don’t have to limit yourself to just water bottles. Bring enough drinking water for everyone to drink according to thirst. You can also bring more clean water if you plan to bring entry #15 on this list.

9. Camping Table 

You’ll need a hard stable surface to prepare your meals, lay out your gear, and do other camping chores. Foldable camping tables come in a variety of designs, including heavy-duty ones and ones with built-in benches.

10. Foldable Chair 

Of course, nothing is stopping you from also bringing foldable camping chairs. This lets everyone at camp have their own seat and prevents lower back pain for those who have it. 

11. Camping Clothes 

The camping clothes you’ll need will depend on where you plan to camp. Multiple warm layers for colder places and sweat-wicking breathable clothes for hot and humid areas. 

Make sure to bring a set of dedicated sleeping clothes so you don’t have to sleep in your dirty clothes.

12. Sunglasses  

Sunglasses are essential wherever you plan to camp. Not only do they help you see better in bright light but they also help prevent premature wrinkles around your eyes (which is always a plus).

13. Headlamp  

From visibility in bright light, we go to visibility in darkness. A lantern or a flashlight will always be better than your phone light or lighter. That said, a headlamp lets you see in the dark and keeps both hands free to do chores. 

14. Toiletries and Personal Hygiene Products  

No matter where you go camping, never forget your toiletries and personal hygiene products. The last thing you’d want to do is wipe yourself with some leaves and end up grabbing some stinging nettle or other painful plants.

For personal hygiene products, you may want to replace your regular soap, shampoo, and toothpaste with nature-friendly and biodegradable alternatives. This way, you get to enjoy nature with as little impact to it.

15. Portable Shower and Outhouse 

If you’re car camping somewhere with no bathrooms or if you find the local water body sketchy, a portable shower will let you bathe with peace of mind. 

Install your portable shower inside a portable outhouse and you’ve got the closest thing to a private bathroom (minus the toilet bowl) you can get at camp. Just make sure to properly dispose of your waste, though. 

16. Insect Repellent 

Creepy crawlies and pesky flying parasites will usually be present unless you’re camping in colder places. These bugs can carry diseases like malaria and typhoid fever so it’s best to avoid them with some insect-repellent spray or lotion.

17. Duct Tape 

Duct tape is every survivalist’s best friend. It can get you out of a pinch and help you repair tears or holes in your tent or clothes, seal your food, fix a leaky water container, and more. There’s a reason you often hear handymen say “if you can’t fix it with duct tape, you’re not using enough duct tape.”

18. Tools 

Aside from duct tape, you’ll also need the right tools. While vehicles usually come with tools, they’re usually limited to solving vehicle-specific problems. 

If you want to be prepared for most camping problems, you’ll need a reliable survival knife, an E-tool, and a multi-tool. These three tools can be used to do anything from slicing and preparing food, cutting rope and cordage, digging holes for latrines or fire pits, fixing tents, and even as makeshift weapons against wild animals. 

19. First Aid Kit 

You can’t predict what’s going to happen at camp, no matter how well you plan everything out. To make sure little cuts, scrapes, and bruises don’t worsen into trip-ending emergencies, bring a fully-stocked first aid kit and make sure someone at camp knows how to do first aid.

20. Trash Bags  

As campers, we love nature. This is why it’s important to clean up after ourselves before ending any camping trip. Bin bags should make it easy to segregate your trash and transport them in your vehicle for later disposal. 

Car Camping Essentials Quick Checklist

  • Sleeping Bag or Hammock 
  • Tent or Rooftop Tent 
  • Camping Pillows
  • Cooler
  • Camping Stove
  • Camping Pot and Pan
  • Cooking and Eating Utensils 
  • Water Storage 
  • Camping Table
  • Foldable Chair
  • Camping Clothes
  • Sunglasses 
  • Headlamp 
  • Toiletries and Personal Hygiene Products 
  • Portable Shower and Outhouse 
  • Insect Repellent
  • Duct Tape
  • Tools
  • First Aid Kit
  • Bin Bags


I'm David Aston, Founding Nomad of AdventureHacks, Inc. My mission is to inspire adventure on the ground, in the water and through the air. If I also happen to inspire you to purchase gear, my team and I plant a tree in its native environment for every order.

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