When you hear about camping, you imagine the old times when people had to carry a large carriage bag with all their necessities. For the most part, the carriage bag would be double your body weight.
This means you would have to wear camping gear, and that would be a huge ask for most people. Once car camping became more popular and things got much better, everyone wanted to go on road trips and camping trips.
Car camping means using your car to go camping. In other words, a car makes up for everything traditional methods of camping lacked.
What do you need to bring for car camping? I will answer this question in this article and will touch on things you probably do not need for this type of adventure.
What to Consider Before Heading Out
Your Type of Camping Car
Truth is, your current car is a major asset. You would need a car that is able to handle different atmospheres, as well as, different terrains.
Camping is not always created in a comfortable and easily accessible place so finding a car that has off-road capabilities would be a better choice.
Most SUVs and trucks are great for camping. This is due to the fact that, aside from the comfort and convenience they provide, these cars have large spaces to carry all your luggage and accessories.
The Weather at The Camping Site
Checking the weather prior to your adventure is quite important. Harsh weather and rain can bring disappointment and take away all the fun in camping. Check the weather channel in advance so you can decide whether to proceed with the plan or to postpone it. This will also help you pack appropriate clothes for the trip.
The Camping Site
Where are you going for car camping? The location could be a national park, a national forest, a privately owned campsite, or any other preferred location. There are many camping sites available for you to choose from based on your preference whether it’s something more accommodating, fun, or scenic.
An ideal campsite that offers essential amenities would be perfect. These basic amenities include drinking water, security, toilets, and showers.
Some of these sites are pet-friendly and also offer gas, grills, laundry facilities, WiFi, among other utilities.
While deciding on the grounds to camp on, consider the ground altitude. High altitudes often cause illnesses mostly because of inadequate oxygen. Such illnesses may include nausea, headaches, vomiting, dizziness, sleep deprivation, exhaustion.
Picking a place that will ensure your stay will be comfortable and disease-free will guarantee you the best camping experience.
Make sure you call the facility in advance to book a good spot for you and your group. They can also warn you of what animals or insects you will likely encounter. You will have more knowledge on which insecticides to pack and will have a better camping experience.
Who are you going car camping with? Is it with your family or a group of friends? For a good experience, you cannot go alone. While going with the family, camping with a small child is an important factor to consider.
Is the child at a good age to go camping? Is it the right time to take her or him out for camping? If so, ensure that every plan has the little child as top priority.
Another important factor to look at is the surface of the location, is it grassy or is it covered in gravel, rocks, or dirt? The altitude is also a key factor as high altitude levels are likely to affect a child more severely than it would an adult.
Food, campsite weather, comfortable sleep, among other factors are the most critical elements to think of before including a child in the camping trip.
If you’re planning a trip with a group of friends, ensure that each person has a task to take care of. Assign someone to be a group leader, who will ensure that every task is taken care of within the set time limit.
If there are people who have dietary restrictions, make sure to pack food for them to eat. Good company always makes the experience more fun – the more, the merrier!
Most people tend to overpack but it’s important that you pack enough. Make sure that you carry enough essential items to last the period you’ll be out camping.
Besides your ID, gate confirmation, cash, and other personal items, we have an elaborate list of essential items to carry below.
A truck or SUV has ample luggage space to accommodate everything you need for a successful trip. However, you don’t want to overpack and make the car unbalanced. The more luggage you have, the slower the car will be.
Any unused space would be good to carry souvenirs from the trip.
It is also ideal to prepare a luggage checklist prior to the trip to ensure you do not forget anything at the last minute. The list will also be great to check off when coming back home to make sure that you leave anything behind.
The Utmost Necessary Essentials While Camping
First Aid Kit
Safety is the most important factor when going on a camping trip. At the end of the experience, you would like to give a good account of the trip. Therefore, the first aid kit comes in handy. Here are a few supplies that should be included in your first aid kit:
- Painkillers such as aspirin, prescription drugs, anti-inflammatory medicine, and gastrointestinal drugs like anti-diarrhea drugs or antacids
- Bandages of different sizes, types, and shapes – triangular bandages are good for dressing. Butterfly bandages are ideal for covering deep cuts and preventing infections, along with liquid bandage
- Medical tape to hold the bandages
- Antihistamine gel or cream for allergies or bug bites
- Hydrogen peroxide for wounds prior to dressing them
- Antiseptic creams, wipes, and ointments
- Gauze rolls, pads, and blister pads of different sizes
- Hand sanitizers
- Medical gloves for treating wounds
- Safety pins
- Cotton wool
- A pair of scissors
- A razor blade
As mentioned earlier, it would be a good idea to check the weather for the campsite you picked in advance. This will help you identify the best footwear or clothing to pack.
A call to the facility beforehand would be essential as you can ask about the ideal clothes to pack. Depending on the location, some places may need you to avoid shorts and opt for long sleeves due to mosquitoes or bugs.
Every campsite is unique and will require appropriate clothes for a successful trip. However, some of the must-haves in any car camping trip include:
- Quick-drying clothes
- Moisture-wicking underwear
- Footwear appropriate for the camping site topography
- Water-resistant sandals
- A few pairs of light and warm socks
- Warm clothes and hats
- Light jackets or fleece
Sleeping Materials and Shelter
A large part of camping entails daily activities that need you to recuperate with a restful and comfortable sleep in a nice, warm shelter. Some of the equipment you will need include:
- Tent – Your tent becomes your home away from home for the duration of the camping trip. Therefore, space is the most important factor to consider when picking tents.
Tents come in many different shapes and sizes. It’s a good idea to choose a tent meant for 3 occupants for two people. You can keep your luggage in the car so the tent space can be reserved for people and pets.
The most recommended tent type is the dome tent as it offers ample space inside and can withstand any weather condition.
- Sleeping pads – Sleeping pads serve as your home mattress for your camping trip.
You can use a yoga mat, a foam pad, or an air mattress. We recommend the hybrid air and foam type because they are affordable, lightweight, and more comfortable for the camper.
- Sleeping pillows – If you have enough space, carry pillows.
However, they become an unnecessary item if you want to save on space. If you are trying to minimize space, just carry a few pillowcases stuffed with clothes to serve as pillows.
- Sleeping bags – These serve as blankets and they come in different sizes, shapes, materials, prices, and thickness. The best sleeping bag depends on the weather and temperature of the camping site.
Although blankets are quite bulky and take up much space, they can be good alternatives for car campers with sufficient space.
- Hammocks – These are a lightweight alternative to tents and can help you save on space. You will need trees to hang them.
Some camping sites or national parks do not allow hammocks so make sure you inquire about this beforehand.
- Sun or rain shelter – Essential for the cooking and dining areas, this can be used to cover tents or hammocks.
You will need water for cooking, drinking, and cleaning. Hot climates require more water intake, at a minimum of two liters per day.
The front-country camping sites typically offer running water, which is convenient.
On the other hand, the backcountry sites do not have running water. This may become a hassle so pick a campsite near a water point.
In both instances, carry:
- Water bottles – Reusable water bottles are good for personal usage. Lightweight water bottles are even better to carry around when you are taking part in the daily activities
- Collapsible water cans – These save on space
- Water filters or purifiers – Helps filter drinking or cooking water, which is especially great for the backcountry campers
Some camping sites have restaurants where you can buy your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For camping grounds without a restaurant, consider carrying foods that do not require too much preparation. The food should be delicious and healthy.
Here are a few food items to consider:
- Snacks – Snacks such as protein bars, energy bars, popcorn. Carry as many of your favorite snacks as you can.
- Cooking oil
- Food for grilling
- Canned food
Some sites do provide gas, grills, or a cooking area. If the site does not offer these amenities, carry a gas stove. Other kitchen items you need are:
- Cooking pots
- Spoons and folks
- Cutting boards
- Aluminum foil
- Kitchen towels
- Plastic bins
- Can and bottle openers
- Coolers, if necessary
- Food dishes for left-over food
As you pack your kitchenware, ensure that you have cleaning materials for your dishes such as dish soap and a cleaning cloth. Most of the camping sites offer clean water.
You can carry lanterns, flashlights, or headlamps to use as a light source. Pack extra batteries as well.
Personal Hygiene Items
- Toilet paper
- Menstrual pads
- Bathing soap
- Face flannels
- Hand sanitizers
- Extra phone batteries
- Insecticides such as bug sprays
- A rope to hang your washed clothes
- Board games for when the weather is not outdoor-friendly
Before heading out, here are a few tips to plan for a successful camping trip, especially if this is your very first trip.
Planning the trip in advance ensures that there are no last-minute surprises.
Make sure that the whole family has everything ready a day earlier.
If you are camping with a group of friends, the group leader should ensure that every person has completed their assigned tasks.
Call the facility in advance to get an idea of the climate, terrain, and possible insects, birds, or animals you may encounter. It may be a good idea to inquire about the amenities as well so you know what items to carry and what to leave behind.
Make sure that everything is packed appropriately to avoid mixing everything up. Pack the most essential items like the first aid kit in a place that is easily accessible and quick to grab in case of emergencies.
Do thorough research on the car camping site of your choice. There is a lot of information on the websites of the camping ground, which will provide you with a good idea of what to pack, what is provided, and additional information to help you with planning.
Test Your Items
Some camping items may need to be tested before it is packed away for the camping trip. These items include lighting sources, tents, collapsible water cans, and others. You can test the items at home and either repair or replace the broken items.
Lighters and Matches
These are essential tools that one cannot function without while camping. Make sure you pack these and bring extras.
Check Up On The Kids
If you are in the company of kids and they are not sleeping in the same tent as yours, make sure that you regularly check up on them.
Food and Leftovers
Food should not be left out under any circumstances. In campsites, there are either monkeys, insects, or birds that wait for any chance to enjoy the food you cooked. Store food in containers with tight lids or put the food inside the tent. Food left around your tent will bring around ants and other undesirable insects.
Pack Chopped Vegetables and Other Food Items
Have the food half-ready before heading out. Food items such as vegetables, onions, carrots, tomatoes, and others can be chopped in advance. You can store them in small food dishes or boxes to make cooking at the campsite easier and faster.
Do not loiter around other people’s tents. It is an unwritten camping rule. No one wants their privacy invaded, not even yourself.
Non-perishables and canned foods are always ideal for any adventure. As car camping provides sufficient space to carry a cooler, a good trick is to freeze the perishables before packing them into the coolers. You can have a separate cooler for meat and vegetables or you can have one cooler that fits all.
Tent Sides and Top
Check that you keep off the tent sides and top.
Check that you have all the tent sides and top. Anything could cause a leak, and no would want that.
What Not to Carry
Avoid bringing too much luggage, carry as little as possible and pack your essential items. Some of the items you can avoid carrying include jeans, perfumes, jewelry, bright clothes, fragile kitchenware, computers, or other highly-priced items.
Drink as little as you can during the night. This will prevent you from frequently leaving your tent during the night, and more so, your comfortable sleeping bag.
Ask The Rangers Many Questions
Do not be afraid of asking the rangers questions, especially if you are new to the camping site. They are there to help you have the best experience you possibly can.
Do not litter. Make an effort to carry a garbage bin around to put all your litter in. When the camping period is over, leave your spot cleaner than you found it.
Have as much fun as you can! Do not hold back and relieve all your stress by taking part in every available activity. Laugh out loud, play hard, be a comedian, and do not restrain yourself. After all, wasn’t this the point of the camping trip?
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all campsites allow car camping?
Not all. Before going out for camping, inquire if the campgrounds allow for car camping as well as any other relevant information that may be of use to you.
What can I eat during car camping?
There are many things you can eat while camping. Some of the camping sites have restaurants that offer take out food.
If there are no restaurants, we recommend bringing light but healthy meals that are easy to cook like snacks, drinks, fruits, and non-perishable food. If you want to carry perishables, freeze the food and store them in your cooler.
Are campfires allowed at all camping sites?
Not all camping sites allow campfires. Make a call in advance to know all the campground rules, especially if the park or site allows campfires. The call will provide you with more information on whether you need to carry a gas stove or if one is provided.
What is the difference between a front-country and back-country camping site?
A front-country camping site is one that is easy to get to with your vehicle. They also offer campers running water, showers, and other bathroom facilities.
The back-country sites have no running water, are easier to get to on foot, and do not offer bathroom facilities to the campers.
Are there camping sites that offer camping equipment?
Yes, there are some camping sites that offer equipment, the privately owned camping sites provide campers with camping essentials such as tents, sleeping bags, coolers, and so on.
This comes at a variable cost, depending on the site. Not everything is provided, you will need to inquire about what the site provides and what they do not. From there, you can pack what is needed in your car.
Where do I shower in back-country camping sites?
You can pack a portable shower enclosure and choose between a solar shower, a basin, or a bucket to shower in. You can also bathe in nearby rivers or streams.
How do I go to the bathroom while car camping?
In case there are no bathroom facilities provided, here are the many ways to go to the bathroom while car camping:
- Get yourself a portable camping toilet in advance
- Get a private spot away from people and dig a small waste hole.
- Bring a pop-up camping toilet enclosure. You can have the portable camping toilet with the portable and flushable camping toilets inside the enclosure. If you would like to take a shower, just take out the portable toilet.
Everyone wants to give a good account of their car camping trip. We have highlighted the important factors to consider, the most essential items to carry, and a few tips for a successful trip.
It would also be a good idea to ask friends who have gone on these types of trips for advice on various issues. You will be surprised on the unwritten rules and additional tips they are willing to offer. Ultimately, pick a good car camping site and have as much fun as you can!