Top 10 Things You Need for Car Camping

Top 10 Things You Need for Car Camping

Posted by phil kelly on

Do you like to sleep under the stars? Or maybe you just hate Motel rooms and the bed bug potential? Or maybe you’re like me and love the ultimate freedom. Sure, being on foot would even be freer…but it would take a lot longer to get around. We love to jump in the van, load up the boys (twin miniature golden-doodles) and head out. Car camping or Van Life camping as we do it, is so cool. You can just go and wherever you end up is where you end up. We’ve done this quite a bit and here are some things that you should have with you:


  • A smartphone or your tablet. Even though a lot of vehicles have navigation in them, Waze is the best for driving through or around big cities and pointing you in the right direction. You’ll also need to decide where you’re spending the night. Rest Areas (not recommended), truck stops (not recommended), Walmart (eh!) or someplace a little safer. Search is great for finding out what’s around you and Good Sam trip planner is great if you plan on staying in RV parks or campgrounds. Besides you’ll need the camera to capture the adventure!
  • Ice Chest – whether you’re a cold drink and snack person or a juicer or you’re one of those people that pack food for everyday on the road, you’re going to need to keep it somewhere. There’s nothing worse that eating the PB&J that’s been sitting in the sun all day or has been hiding in the bag under your seat, cool is good and will save you in the long run.
  • Tent - If your truly car camping then you’ll need a tent. We like the REI Half Dome 2 Plus as you can use it for car camping and also for backpacking. Two people and two dogs might get a little cramped, but our always like to sleep right outside the front door.
  • Sleeping Bag/Inflatable Mattress/Blanket -The Marmot Voyager is a great choice for a sleeping bag. 
  • Chairs – Riding around in the van all day can be tough, so when we stop, I want out! We’ve tried beach type chairs with fixed frames and have found the collapsible chairs that scrunch down into a big tube like these work best for stowing away when we are driving.
  • Flashlights – middle of the night and you-know-who is calling. We carry the ECEEN Solar Flashlight. It’s got tons of options, but there are many on the market. Find one that also acts as a lantern and can be charged via solar or in your car.
  • Drying Rack – If you get wet, go swimming or just get done drying off the dogs, where are you going to dry your stuff. Don’t lose your chairs to “drying duty” get a DryRack from us and dry your towels, clothes, wetsuits, jackets and just about anything you can think of. It collapses and can even be tied on the top rack. It’s durable, so no worries.
  • Toilet paper/Napkins – you never know…enough said.
  • Toothbrush & paste – you can always get coffee at Starbucks, or a bagel at Einstein Bros. but nothing says “good morning” like brushed teeth. (your partner agrees with me!)
  • Shower – yep, you can even bring one of these along with you. We bring the Rinse Kit with us. It’s great for getting the salt off once you get out of the ocean but rinsing the dogs off is why we carry it. You can even take a warm shower with it, and the pressure is pretty great.


We could have made this out top 15 or 20 but you’ll decide what is right for you. We’ve car camped in North America and across Europe and love it. You might too, if you give it a try!

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