The 15 Essentials For Car Camping You Need To Have

It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned camper or new to the whole experience. You’ll need some essentials to ensure a safe and comfortable trip. 

In this guide, we’ll cover the 15 essentials for car camping you won’t want to leave home without. If you need more or a printable version of this checklist, find it here: Camping with Family Checklist That Will Make Your Packing So Much Easier + PDF. So pack your bags, buckle up, and let’s hit the road!

What is car camping?

Camping Near A Car

This is a form of camping where you use your vehicle, typically a car, as your base camp for storing gear. You do not sleep inside the car. You camp near the car and sleep inside your tent. 

Unlike traditional camping, where you carry all your gear on your back and then hike to a remote campsite, car camping allows you to drive to a designated campsite or a spot in the wilderness where you can park your car and set up camp nearby. 

This way, you can bring more gear and supplies since you don’t have to worry about carrying everything.

How to make car camping comfortable? 8 Tips

Car camping in a forested area

These are a few essentials for car camping that will teach you how to make car camping comfortable: 

  • Research: Make sure to plan your route and your camping destination. Research the weather, terrain, and local regulations. Also, make sure that you have all the necessary gear and permits.
  • Leave No Trace: It’s important to leave your campsite clean and trash-free. Bring trash bags and pack out your waste to help preserve the area’s natural beauty for future campers.
  • Keep it Organized: With limited space in your vehicle, it’s important to keep your gear organized and easily accessible. Use storage containers, packing cubes, and gear bags to keep everything in its place.
car packing
  • Test Your Gear: Before hitting the road, test all your gear and equipment to ensure everything is working. This includes your tent, sleeping gear, stove, and other essential equipment.
  • Bring Comfort Items: While camping is about returning to nature, bringing a few comfort items is okay to make your experience more enjoyable. Bring anything from a favorite book to a cozy blanket or pillow.
A man with an outdoor blanket over him
  • Check Local Regulations: Before you head out, check local regulations and obtain any necessary permits or reservations. This is how you can avoid surprises and ensure you follow the rules.
  • Stay Safe: When camping in a remote area, preparing for emergencies is important.
  • Have Fun: Car camping is about having fun and enjoying the great outdoors. Relax, explore, and make lasting memories with family and friends.

Basics for Car Camping

Basics for Car Camping

Some of the basics that will help you make car camping comfortable: 

1. Water: Bring enough for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. The amount will depend on factors like the length of your trip and the size of your group. As a general rule, plan to bring at least one gallon of water per person daily.

Sharing cups of warm drink beside a campfire

2. Food: Bring non-perishable foods that are easy to prepare and store. This could include canned goods, dried fruits and nuts, jerky, granola bars, and instant oatmeal or noodles. 

3. Tent: Choose a tent that is spacious, easy to set up, and has good ventilation. This will ensure a comfortable sleeping area and relaxing place during the day.

Cooking Supplies 

Cooking Essentials for Camping

4. Cooler: If you are bringing perishable foods such as meat, cheese, and vegetables, bring a cooler to keep everything fresh.

5. Cooking Supplies: A portable stove, fuel, and cooking utensils are essential for preparing meals while car camping. 

6. Utensils: Bring plates, cups, utensils, and cooking pots and pans as needed. Consider using reusable, lightweight utensils and dishes to reduce waste.

Camp Cooking

7. Trash Bags: Pack out all your trash to keep your campsite clean and litter-free!

8. Stove: Campstoves come in a range of sizes and styles, from small backpacking stoves to larger two-burner stoves that can accommodate a group. They’re also relatively affordable and widely available.

Comfort Basics for Camping Near a Car

Comfort Basics for Car Camping

9. Sleeping Gear: You’ll need a warm and comfortable sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and pillow to ensure a good night’s sleep. Consider investing in a high-quality sleeping bag rated for the expected temperatures and a sleeping pad that provides adequate cushioning and insulation.

KAMUI Sleeping-Pad-Green-horizontal

10. Chair: If you want the premium comfort car camping offers, bring a chair too! Check out the KAMUI camping chair, which is a foldable and sturdy option. 

11. Lighting: A reliable and bright flashlight or headlamp can be used for navigating your campsite at night. Consider bringing extra batteries or a rechargeable power bank.

Safety And Hygiene

First Aid Kit for Camping

12. First Aid Kit: Accidents can happen, so it’s important to have a first aid kit near. Ensure to include bandages, antiseptic, pain relievers, and prescription medications.

13. Navigation: A map, compass, and GPS device can help you navigate to and from your campsite and explore the surrounding area.

Lady using a compass while outdoors

14. Personal Hygiene Items: Bring soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, towels, and toilet paper. Bring a portable toilet and waste bags if you’re camping in an area without access to a restroom.

15. Sun Protection: Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Bring appropriate footwear and clothing to protect yourself from the elements if you plan hiking.

Car Camping Sites

Car Camping Sites

Now that you know how to camp, it is time to learn also where to camp. These are my favorite campsites where you can car camp: 

  • Upper Pines Campground: Located in the heart of Yosemite Valley, this campground offers over 200 campsites suitable for car camping. The site is surrounded by beautiful views of Yosemite’s iconic rock formations and waterfalls.
  • Bridge Bay Campground: This large campground is situated on the shores of Yellowstone Lake and offers over 400 campsites for car camping. Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, and hiking in the area.
  • Mather Campground: This campground is located near the Grand Canyon and offers over 300 campsites for car camping. You will enjoy breathtaking views of the canyon and participate in ranger-led activities.
  • Blackwoods Campground: This campground is located on Mount Desert Island and offers over 300 campsites for car camping. Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, and wildlife watching in the area.
  • Many Glacier Campgrounds: This campground is located in the heart of Glacier National Park and offers over 100 campsites for car camping. Visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, and boating in the area and view the park’s famous glaciers.


In conclusion, car camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, you still have a vehicle’s convenience and comfort. 

From water and food to personal hygiene items and maps, it’s important to be well-prepared and organized. By following some basic tips, respecting the environment, and having fun, you can create lasting memories and enjoy all nature offers.