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10 Car-Camping Essentials

Your Ultimate Guide for Beginner Campers. In this article you will locate some essentials to get you started and keep around as you become an expert adventurer.

Not quite ready to set up a tent and begin your first outdoor excursion back-packing around? No worries! Below you will find some beginner camper essentials to pair with the comfort of your own car.

Man and Woman Taking Selfie outside in car

So a little bit about myself, I am a new Utah resident and if you have ever visited the state of Utah, you'll find very quickly that outdoor gear is imperative. But in addition to that, expenses can add up pretty quickly especially if you are not sure committing to the niche activity will be your vibe. So with that being said, I myself like to ease into activities before I dive in completely.

So if you are new to camping and don't want to spend a fortune, but also want to get the full experience, you came to the right place!

Below you will see my itemized list of car camping essentials. Please keep in mind this list in comprised of itemized that I purchased and found extremely helpful and also some anecdotes of mistakes I made before coming to purchase these items. Don't be like be, be better! Save yourself the trouble and invest in these to get started.


#1: The Car Tent

Like I said, we're getting the full camping experience without being completely uncivilized. Which means, we need a car tent! That's right, there are these neat tents that attach directly to your car so that you can keep the trunk open and get that full-on nature feel. There are PLENTY of different versions- some for SUV's, and some that attach to a trunk bed, even some that have a "living-area". So depending on your car family size, or what you're willing to invest in, you have many options.

Man playing guitar outside with car camping tent

Car Camping Tent Suggestions

  1. SUV Car Camping Tent: For myself and my husband, we have a Toyota RAV4 and comfortably slept with this tent.

  2. Family Car Camping Tent: For a family of 3 or more, I suggest something like this tent with some extra space and an option for an additional mattress/sleeping bag.

  3. Truck Bed Camping Tent: But if you have a truck, maybe something like this truck bed tent would be more helpful for you.


#2: The Trunk Bed

So I'll start out by saying, I guess you don't necessarily need this if you have a big SUV that comfortably lays down the back seats, or maybe you have a memory foam mattress you keep stocked in your attic? But if you are going to be out and about to at least 2-3 days, I would suggest getting a blow up mattress that fits specifically to your car.

Man reading book in car trunk on car mattress while car camping

Car Camping Bed Suggestion

  1. Blow Up Car Mattress: Blows up with an automatic pump that hooks up to the car. Different sizes available!

I'll tell you what, this was actually surprisingly comfortable. I was worried that it looked too thin and that my husband and I would end up feeling that poorly-folded backseats lodged in our backs, but that was not the case! I was pleasantly surprised! We went back and forth on this purchase a few times and ultimately decided, yes, we like our sleep, and we can blow these up and use it again if we move up to camping without a car.


#3: Insulated Blanket

Ready for one of my biggest mistakes? This was the one right here. Our first time car camping was in Utah, in march, during one of the worst and longest winters. And I thought, I have multiple extra blankets in the house we don't even need to worry about getting new blankets. So I brought my duvet, some sheets, and an additional fuzzy blanket and told myself we were set. Oh my gosh was I wrong! Even though it was 70 degrees with the sun out, in the mountains, it dropped to 23 degrees at night.

Sleeping bags and insulated blankets in car during car camping

Don't be like me and freeze at night, be better. We eventually got these after we learned from our mistakes and they keep us comfortable at varying temperatures.

Car Camping Insulated Blanket Suggestions

  1. 3- Season Sleeping Bag: These are a great deal for the fact that you can use them in many different climates.

  2. Ultra Light and Compact Insulated Blanket: I also have this one because I find that it is more versatile and allows for me to bring it on many of my other travel expeditions since it is so compact.


#4: Foldable (And Light-Weight) Furniture

As I promised you, this guide it to get you started but also to keep you going as you move on to bigger and better adventures. This suggestion keeps that in mind. Of course when you are doing camping of any kind or even hiking there will be a time when you need to sit down to enjoy the view, prepare a meal, or start a camp fire.

Girls outside enjoying sun while camping sitting in foldable chairs with portable cookware

I found the most portable and light-weight mini table (as my small kitchen) and chairs that fold up super small and weigh less than 3lbs. So whether you are going to become an avid camper, extreme hiker, or will end up waiting in line outside of BestBuy on Black Friday, these chairs are perfect.

Car Camping Foldable Furniture Suggestions

  1. Lightweight High Back Chair: These chairs are extremely light (only 3 lbs) and very easy to set up and take apart. There is also a lower back version available, but I prefer the head rest.

  2. Small Camp Table: This table folds up to a small briefcase size. It was very helpful with all of my small cookware.


#5: Survival Food Kits

I have a lot of advice for you on this one. Mostly because this was my main concern. The first thing I will say is, whatever you are making, you will need condiments, (Ketchup, syrup, mustard, jelly, peanut butter, etc.) That is already a full list and that can take up a lot of room. Do yourself a favor and stock up on mini condiments from Chik-fil-a and you'll be set in that area.

Readywise adventure meals

In addition to that, focus on and meals that don't need to be kept cold, like rice and beans, Mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and so on. Now I know those don't offer too much variety, so for that I would say purchase some of these survival food kits so that you can incorporate some additional sustenance.

Car Camping Food Suggestion

  1. ReadyWise Outdoor Favorites Kit: I found these to be actually very tasty! And it was SO easy to cook these as you only need boiling water and a tiny pot.


#6: Mini Cooksware

This one kind of goes hand-in-hand with number 5. If you are out car camping and making food on your mini kitchen table you will most likely have to warm something up at some point or boil water for your coffee. Unless you are just doing PB&J for days (no shame in the game).

Car Camping Cooking Suggestions

  1. Camping Cooking Equipment: This has everything you will need! And it all comes in a very cute carrying case.

  2. All-In-One Boil and French Press:My husband absolutely loves this because it makes very good coffee, and you can boil the ground right there in the cup.

  3. Propane Camping Stove: These is very small, which I love. It comes apart easily and does the job if you are trying to cook without all the large gadgets.

  4. Camping Cookware Pots & Pans:Comes with one pot and one pan and they are the perfect size for a 2 person meal.

  5. Cooper's Cask Coffee: The strongest coffee I could find and it has really robust flavor so it tasted wonderful without any creamer or sugar.


#7: Mesh Window & Privacy Curtains

Since we are sleeping in the car here, you need to make sure you wake up, ie. carbon monoxide poisoning. Go ahead make sure you properly ventilate your sleeping area by rolling down those windows! Now of course you could just roll down the windows, but personally I don't like getting eaten by mosquitos or other critters while I sleep. So I suggest getting these mesh windows covers.

In addition to that, since I really appreciate my car camping privacy I went a little extra with this one and got some curtains. Ya know, to avoid any onlookers.

Car Camping Sleeping Suggestions

  1. Car Window Shades: I found these to be useful for peace of mind while I was sleeping, or if I needed to change.

  2. Breathable Mesh Car Window Shades: Very important to have ventilation when you are camping in a car! This allows you do do so with tint and screens away from insects.


#8: Water Filter

Like I promised, we messed up our first time, in a big way! We ran out of water. I am talking 4 gallons of water and we were only gone for 3 days. But then again I guess we were using it for coffee, and making food, and just in it's pure form. Anyways, this is not the area you want to mess up in. After coming back from our car camping excursion a smidge dehydrated we went on to look for a fix so this would never happen again.

I'd recommend the hydro flask compressible water bag and the filter that connects. You can scoop up water right from the river and filter it in this bag again and again. You can drink directly from it and It literally takes all of 30 seconds to filter and we didn't even have to boil out any bacteria. Which is exactly what we did our second time and we didn't even have to worry about rations! It comes with other cool attachments too so that you can even use it as a shower bag.

Car Camping Hydration Suggestions

  1. HydraPak Filter Cap: The filter attaches directly to the water storage bag and you can drink straight from the bag, no boiling or special straws needed!

  2. HydraPak Collapsible Water Storage: Allows for you to scoop water directly from the river and the attachment only takes less than a minute to filter so you can continually drink clean water.


#9: Solar Powered Portable Chargers

This one is obvious! Even if you plan to unplug completely and not use your phone cause you're on vaycay, let's make sure it doesn't become a staycay because you get lost. Plus I'm sure you all have a Fitbit or an apple watch to track those calories. Don't let those go unnoticed!

Solar power charger for travel and camping

Car Camping Charger Suggestion

  1. Solar Power Charger: These ones have a flash lite, 2 USBs, a carabiner so you can attach to your backpack and let it charge as you walk, and a compass- if ya know how to read one of those.


#10: Hammock

Don't forget to enjoy your time and take in the scenery! This is why you are here after all.

Here is the one we purchased:

man and woman camping and enjoying nature in their hammock

Make sure to practice your mindfulness and count your blessings to fulfill your soul.

Car Camping Peace of Mind Suggestion

  1. Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Hammock:You can get this hammock in a single or double and they pack up super small! The material is good if they get wet as well. Comes with straps and carabiners.




Hi, thanks for stopping by!

My name is Chris, the creator and owner of Soulful Life. If you want to receive more articles like this one and learn more attainable ways to  live your life to the fullest, subscribe below!

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