LAST UPDATED: October 13, 2019
Best Car Camping Gear: Create an Easier Camping Experience
Make your outdoor camping trips a bit more comfortable with this car camping gear
The Review Team
How We Decided
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON October 13, 2019
Car camping lets you get away from the hassles of the city and go somewhere secluded where you can be in touch with nature. However, nature can be unpredictable, and you need to bring along some survival items. Also, you need to be comfortable while camping. Here is some of the top-rated car camping gear that you can bring along with you the next time you go into the woods.
A 6-gallon container that can be used for cooling and heating your food and beverages.
- Ergonomic carrying handle
- Can hold up to four 2-liter bottles of water
- Great for family road trips
- High cooling and heating temperatures
- Can be used to keep medicine cool
- May drain your car’s battery
- Can cause a fire if left unattended
- Cheap quality DC plug may melt if overused
A 16-piece car camping kit with a variety of safety and adventure tools that are great for the outdoors.
- Includes a compass
- Includes a collection of military tactical gear and life-saving gear
- Readies you for unexpected events
- Waterproof casing
- Small knife
- Some of the tools may not be durable
- May be challenging to keep all the tools organized in the set
A two-burner stove with up to 20,000 BTUs for outdoor use. Easy to use and highly portable. Comes with a three-year warranty.
- Lightweight and highly efficient
- Has wind-blocking panels for undisturbed performance in different weather conditions and a pressure regulator
- Flimsy design
- Prone to damage and requires careful handling and storing
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Car Camping Gear
- Convenience. Car camping gear includes a wide range of items designed to ensure convenience for all the drivers out there in the wild. Bulky items such as pillows, paper towels, bottles, flasks, and clothes can all fit in the vehicle and improve the overall camping experience.
- Comfort. Pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, and mattresses are also part of car camping gear you can’t take when backpacking. These items can give you a good night's sleep both indoors and outdoors, which is a huge benefit of car camping. You can easily make your vehicle cozier or spend the night outside, snuggled in the sleeping bag under the stars.
- Safety. While backpacking, you have to cut down the weight of your pack and bring only the most necessary gear. When camping in your car, on the other hand, you get to pack all kinds of gear. You never know when you might need extra bandages, plasters, scissors, knives, road flares, and other similar items. These can be quite handy in the wild and keep you and your loved ones safe in case of an emergency.
- Cost efficiency. Car camping gear is also cost-efficient, especially because you can get most of the needed essentials in bulk. On the other hand, pricier items tend to last for a while, so you can use them over and over again during your camping adventures. In both cases, you’ll save some money in the long run.
Types of Car Camping Gear
The sleep system is an essential part of your car camping gear and includes everything you need to sleep in, from shelter to bedding. Considering how important it is to have a good night's sleep during the camping adventure, investing in a quality tent, sleeping bag, hammock, mattress, and pillow is crucial. A good sleep system will keep everyone energized and ready for daily challenges on a car camping trip.
Car camping gear can't go without enough food and water supplies. We are not talking only about bringing meals, snacks, coffee, tea, and other eatables. The kitchen is an essential part of every campsite and includes having all kinds of items, from stoves to utensils.
When car camping, you will want to bring a portable stove where you can cook, warm up meals, make coffee, and more. You'll also need some other things to function properly, such as insulated bottles, knives, scissors, bowls, and plates. All these things make a crucial part of car camping gear.
Safety and First Aid System
Another important part of car camping gear is safety equipment. Along with having a basic first aid kit, you will need some other items to keep yourself and other people safe during the trip. Under the safety and first aid system, we include a compass, GPS, ropes, road flares, flashlights, emergency blankets, and more. We also recommend upgrading and refreshing the standard car roadside emergency kit, so you don't find your jumper cables and tire pressure gauge malfunction in the middle of the road.
Wagan is an automotive lifestyle company that produces all kinds of items for convenient and comfortable traveling. It is known for designing high-quality products for more than 37 years, from auto appliances to tools and lightning. Wagan is located in Hayward, Calif. We find the Wagan Electric Car Cooler and Warmer perfect for everyone looking to complement car camping gear.
Coleman was founded back in 1900 and is located in Chicago. The company got its name from W.C. Coleman, who invented a revolutionary gas-powered lantern. This was the first step in developing a widely-known brand that today provides the market with all kinds of outdoor recreation products. One of our favorite items is the Coleman Gas Camping Stove, a portable item ideal for car camping.
Car Camping Gear Pricing
- Under $50: If you already have most of the car camping gear, you can find many inexpensive products to complement it. Extra items such as knives, flashlights, emergency blankets, tarps, stoves, and mattresses can significantly improve the overall car camping experience.
- $50 and up: Building car camping gear from scratch can be a little pricier, especially if you need large and high-quality appliances and car accessories. Expect to pay more for refrigerators, coolers, heaters, and similar items.
Before you buy new car camping gear, think about the place you're going. If you have reservations on a public campsite, you will have access to water, toilets, and maybe even a kitchen. In this case, we recommend double-checking the available amenities and then buying the necessary gear afterward.
On the other hand, if you're packing for a full-nature experience in the wild, you might need a few extra things. Think about doubling the water and food supplies, getting gas or solar-powered devices, and similar. You will need all of these items to cook meals, prepare coffee, power up your phone and other devices, and more. Therefore, carefully pick the products for your car camping gear, so you don't end up on the road without the things you need.
Season and Duration
Another thing to consider is the camping season and the duration of the trip. Depending on how long you stay out in the wild, you might need to add a few items to your gear. The longer the trip, the more supplies, tools, and appliances you need for a comfortable stay.
Also, the car camping gear requirements for winter and summer can differ quite a bit. During the summer, you can easily set up a fire outside, sleep on the ground or with the car doors open, and more. During the winter, you need thermal socks, extra blankets, jackets, and much more to keep yourself warm and cozy.
During the camping trip in the wild, you have to prepare for the unexpected. Anything can happen in nature, especially when you're far away from the main roads. You can experience a vehicle malfunction, get injured during hiking, and much more. All these things are easy to overcome, but not without the proper equipment. Therefore, it's essential to prepare for the unexpected before getting on the road and starting a camping trip. That way, you can get all the necessary equipment, from jumper cables to bandages, and be safe wherever you go.
- Quality. When buying car camping gear, it's crucial to look for high-quality products that will last even in the most demanding conditions. Although you can't get a 100 percent guarantee on each product, other people's experiences and reviews will tell you what to buy and what to avoid. We suggest picking well-known brands that offer warranties on their products.
- Cost. Cost-cutting is not the best strategy when it comes to car camping gear. You will need the best equipment to ensure safety on the road, which will cost you quite some money. Consider how much you are willing to spend and act accordingly. Those on a limited budget might want to get fewer but better-built items for more durability and protection.
Best Car Camping Gear Reviews & Recommendations 2021
Wagan offers a high-quality and versatile item you can bring on your car-camping adventure. It is both a cooler and warmer that can make all the difference out there in the wild. You can keep cool or warm up your drinks and food and keep yourself refreshed or warmed up, depending on the camping season. The product can hold up to 24 liters and comes with a 7.5-foot cord, so you can store a lot of cans and bottles, and move the container around without restrictions.
The item features polyurethane insulation foam and operates in a wide temperature range. Weighing only 9.8 pounds, the container proves to be very portable. There's also an ergonomic carrying handle to make things easier, and a removable lid for simple cleaning. All in all, the product is super useful to keep within hand's reach during car trips, no matter where you're going and for how long.
The item is not without drawbacks, though. Although very convenient and useful for camping, it requires special care. Some buyers noticed the container tends to drain the car's battery when plugged in for a while. It also comes with a cheap and flimsy DC plug that might melt when overused. We recommend careful handling at all times.
If you're planning a car camping trip, consider getting an all-purpose set with different tools and accessories. This particular model contains 16 pieces for more safety and protection in the wild. You will find a compass, a knife, a flashlight, a tactical pen, and much more. All these items can help you in case of emergencies and make the entire camping experience more comfortable.
The main benefit of this kit is the great balance between versatility and price. At a low cost, you get a wide range of items to help you manage your way in nature. The kit is also highly portable, so you can easily store it in your vehicle or take it with you wherever you go. Thanks to the waterproof casing, the set won't get damaged despite the different weather conditions.
However, keep in mind that such an inexpensive kit doesn't include the most durable items. Some of the tools might be a little flimsy and prone to damage. The knife is also somewhat small and challenging to use for demanding tasks. Another thing we noticed is that the set is packed tightly, so it can be tricky to keep stuff organized.
One of the things you will definitely need in your car camping gear is a stove. It is an essential part of every outdoor kitchen, allowing you to prepare meals and drinks throughout the day. The Coleman camping stove is highly portable and offers up to 20,000 BTUs. It's very convenient for the entire family because it has two burners and allows for precise temperature control, so you can use it to prepare all kinds of meals.
The Coleman stove is compact, lightweight, and ideal for outdoor camping where you don't have access to electricity. It has wind-blocking panels for more convenience in different weather conditions and a pressure regulator for secure performance. The Coleman stove works for one hour continuously on a high setting, which is more than enough for outdoor use. It also comes with a three-year warranty.
The thing that might bother you with this unit is the flimsy design. Although useful and efficient, the Coleman stove is not very durable. You will have to operate it with caution to avoid damages, and store it carefully. Weather can damage the unit and significantly reduce its lifespan.
One of the things that can make car camping more enjoyable is a tarp. The item provides a highly beneficial shield against sun and water, allowing you to spend time outside regardless of the weather. Wise Owl Outfitters offers a high-quality tarp that comes packed with some extras such as tent stakes, tie lines, and a waterproof storage bag. You get everything you need for setting up the item and transporting and storing it with ease.
This particular tarp measures 11 by 9 feet and weighs only 26 ounces. You can take it with you while car camping, backpacking, hiking, and more. The tarp is super lightweight and made of quality materials to withstand heavy abuse. It's reinforced and completely sealed, which allows it to repel water and sun rays with outstanding efficiency. You can sit and even sleep below it regardless of the environmental conditions.
Some buyers did complain about the tarp being too small for their purpose. We recommend double-checking the dimensions before making an order. Also, the package sometimes comes without extra stakes. The company resolves all issues very quickly, but the lack of pieces makes it inconvenient for the buyer.
If you're looking for a good sleeping system for your car camping adventure, consider getting a Therm-a-Rest mattress. This model is very comfortable and makes sleeping outdoors incredibly enjoyable. It is quite large and thick, giving users the impression they are sleeping on a full house bed. One thing is certain—the Therm-a-Rest mattress takes sleeping at the campsite to the next level.
Along with being thick and cozy, this mattress provides several extra features for more convenience at the campsite. It has a TwinLock valve for fast inflation and deflation and an additional layer of insulation foam. That means the mattress provides warmth in cold weather, and protects your body from rocks and the uneven ground beneath. Overall, you can use it in the most extreme conditions and enjoy its protection and comfort. The mattress also comes with a storage bag and a lifetime warranty.
You will have to pay extra for the comfort, though. The mattress is quite expensive, and although it makes an excellent investment, some people won't be able to afford it. When it comes to the design itself, the only caveat is the deflation. It's sometimes very challenging to deflate the mattress after usage.
- Before buying any kind of fire-starting gear, check the rules in your camping zone. If it lists that no fire is allowed, switch to LED lighting options and fused electrical warmers.
- Ensure that all the valuable items that you bring to the outdoors are in lockable bags. Put anything that’s not in use in your trunk.
- Remember to lock the car doors to prevent unauthorized access and wild animals from destroying your car’s upholstery.
- Always carry a tool that can help you send a distress signal in case you are lost and your phone’s battery is dead. Whistles and flame guns are handy tools in that type of situation.
- Try not to drain your vehicle’s battery if it’s your main power source. Look into the amperage of the devices you intend to power and consider buying a backup generator if there’s enough room for it in your car.
Q: Is it safe to cook inside a car?
Typically, no. It’s easy for your seat covers to catch fire in case you forget that something is cooking in there. Also, it may take weeks before you get rid of the food smell in your car. A food warmer is much safer since it doesn't produce as much heat as a cooker. Just remember to monitor the food and always use high-quality and safe products.
Q: What car is best for camping?
Car camping involves sleeping in your car, and any car is good to sleep in if you have the right camping gear, such as inflated mattresses for a high level of comfort. However, if you plan to bring more than two people to the camping trip, you can use a bigger truck or purchase a tent extension that attaches to the back of your car for extra room.
Q: Do I always have to keep the engine running when powering my accessories?
Yes, you do if you don't want to shorten your battery’s life. However, take care not to keep the engine running for long since it will use up a lot of fuel. Alternatively, you can try to enjoy an authentic experience outdoors and not bring too many rechargeable appliances that will leave you constantly fretting about recharging them.
We selected the Wagan Electric Car Cooler and Warmer as our top pick because it’s a handy piece of camping gear that lets you enjoy cool beverages and warm food. It also has a decent capacity and can hold and preserve most of the food you need for your trip.
If you are looking for a cheaper type of car camping gear, consider the Lanqi Survival Kit.