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a campsite with a car unloading gear such as a tent, solar panel, wagon, and more for our review of the best car camping gear.

If you have space to pack more than the essentials, why not? Photo: Steve Andrews//The Inertia

The Inertia

Although backpacking rewards minimalism, car camping is a celebration of excess. Being able to pack a vehicle with gear and not have to lug it anywhere to set up camp allows for some creature comforts far from where the city lights and traffic fade. There are the obvious essentials, and then there are the often-overlooked, but freakishly awesome, items that can take any camping experience a step further.

We here at The Inertia take car camping seriously, because sometimes it’s fun to pack a bit extra and leave roughing it for another day. So we thought we would share some of our favorites that we’ve tested over the years; check out a few of our nice-to-haves for the car camping experience, whether or not they are essential items for survival. If you’re parking it in front of your secret surf spot or hanging with the family in the woods, here is some of our best car camping gear.


Patagonia Black Hole Duffel (From $159)

patagonia black hole 55L

Pros: Can easily pack in tons of stuff
Cons: Lack of pockets on the inside
For whatever reason, camping always seems to mean lots and lots of stuff. Although you could toss it all into the trunk of your car, it’s nice to have it all organized in one place. Available in four different size options, Patagonia’s Black Hole Duffel is made with 100 percent recycled body fabric, lining, and webbing and is durable enough to withstand anything you may throw its way. Other features that make it a winner are removable, ergonomic shoulder straps, burly daisy chains, a padded base, a full-access main compartment, and a zippered side pocket for essentials.
As a side note that has nothing to do with car camping, both the 40 liter and 55 liter versions (there are also 70-liter and 100-liter options) fit in the overhead compartment on airplanes.


Camp Kitchen:

YETI Roadie 24 Hard Cooler ($250)

yeti roadie 24 hard cooler

Pros: Long lasting ice retention, easy portability
Cons: Bulky for how much it can fit
One of the greatest challenges of camping is figuring out how to keep your food, and more importantly, your beer, cold for the duration of your trip. Designed specifically for the road, the Roadie Cooler is tall enough to accommodate bottles of wine and other goodies but slim enough to fit behind the driver’s seat. Featuring Permafrost insulation, the Roadie will keep your ice icy and your cold ones cool, so all you have to worry about is having a good time.

For longer trips and larger groups, the Roadie also comes in 48qt and 60qt versions with wheels. And if those still don’t cut it, check out our other top picks at the Best Beach Coolers.


Hydro Flask Camp Bundle ($51)

hydroflask camp bundle

Pros: Lightweight, durable
Cons: Pricey

If you like to use reusable plates and utensils when camping, look no further than the Hydro Flask Camp Bundle. The kit includes two camp plates, two camp bowls, and two utensil sets. Everything is made from stainless steel, which ensures your food tastes pure. Everything in the set is lightweight and durable, so you don’t have to worry should you accidentally drop it. Finally, the temperature-reducing outer layers help protect your hands and lap when enjoying hot meals.


Kelty Trash Pak ($125)

kelty trash pak
Pros: Durable, padded back, mounting system
Cons: Pricier than trash bags

If you’re anything like us, you’re infamous for forgetting to pack along trash bags when camping. Many campgrounds have trash cans or dumpsters, but when they don’t, it’s nice to have your own. Made from 600-denier oxford polyester, the Kelty Trash Pak is incredibly durable as well as water-resistant. You can use it to haul firewood and other gear to your campsite, and then use it as a trash bin once at your campsite. The Trash Pak includes a foam-padded back for comfortable carrying as a well as mounting system that allows you to hook it onto your vehicle. Inside the pack are there interior loops on which you can hang trash bags for easy cleanup. The Kelty Trash Pak is certainly pricier than buying a box of garbage bags, but it’s reusable and versatile.


Camp Chef Everest 2X Mountain Series Stove ($170)

camp chef camping stove

Pros: Removable day-trip tray, push-start ignition
Cons: Wind screen is confusing to attach

A reliable camping stove is well worth the investment. The Camp Chef Everest 2X Mountain Series Stove is a powerful two-burner camp stove with a matchless ignition. Each burner outputs 20,000 BTU of heat, making it easy to boil water quickly. The burners are adjustable, so you can also simmer or cook at low temperatures. The Everest has a three-sided wind screen that is a little tricky to get attached but once you do, it works great. The integrated day trip tray collects droppings and you can remove it for easy cleaning.

Check Price on Backcountry CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Sea to Summit Frontier Ultralight Collapsible Cookset ($180)

sea to summit cookset for camping

Pros: Lightweight (1 lb 2.6 oz), everything packs down into the pot
Cons: Pricey

If you spend a lot of time camping, it can be nice to have a camp specific cook set. The Sea to Summit Frontier Ultralight Collapsible Cookset includes a collapsible 2.2-liter pot, two collapsible bowls, and two collapsible cups. The pot has a removable handle and everything is made from aluminum and rubber, so it’s nice and durable. Everything packs down into the pot and is lightweight, so it’s super easy to store and pack along for all of your trips.


Wuromise Folding Table ($69)

the wuromise folding table was a top pic for our list of the best car camping gear.

Pros: Easy setup
Cons: Shorter than a standard table
A table makes a campsite that much more manageable, with the ability to cook, play games, and just organize your stuff better. While the traditional cream-colored bifold table is a staple of larger camp setups, it takes up a lot of space. This folding roll-top table from Wuromise packs down small yet doesn’t sacrifice strength, allowing for up to 225 pounds on top. With a cargo net underneath, you can keep cooking supplies, dry goods, or any number of things safely stashed out of the way. Being compact, the table does sacrifice a bit in height clocking in at 27 inches, but to be fair, most classic folding tables only add another few inches at best, clocking in at around 29 inches on average, the tallest we found going up to 34 inches.


NEMO Helio Portable Shower($129)

Nemo Helio Best Surf Showers

Pros: Easy to use, solid pressure
Cons: Shower requires constant foot-pumping
Showers are a luxury while camping, and if you’re not in the backcountry where weight is a consideration, they’re definitely a luxury worth having. The Nemo Helio is a simple and straightforward design and it packs down small when not filled with water. With an 11-Liter capacity, and foot pump to pressurize the system, you’ve got a 5-7 minute long shower with solid pressure, though it does require a bit of foot-pumping while you’re showering to keep the high-pressure flow alive. The black color absorbs heat from the sun to warm the water, so if you’re camping somewhere sunny, you may even score a warm shower. Best of all? It comes with a lifetime warranty. That said, if you want something a little more luxurious, check out our guide to the Best Portable Showers for some battery-powered options.


Biolite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern ($80)

the biolite alpenglow lantern was a top pick for our guide to the best car camping gear.

Pros: Easy to use, multiple color options
Cons: On the bulkier side
A good lantern is essential for hanging out, cooking, and playing games post sunset. The AlpenGlow is a rechargeable lantern that doubles as a portable charging port for USB compatible devices. Featuring high-efficiency ChromaReal LED technology, the lantern has multiple settings including cool and warm light, candle flicker, single color, multicolor, and cycling color, so you can easily adjust the ambiance according to your mood.


Biolite FirePit+ ($300)

the biolite firepit was a top pick for the best car camping gear.

Pros: Easy to regulate the fire’s intensity
Cons: Takes up a lot of space
Nothing says camping better than cozying up next to a warm fire. BioLite’s FirePit+ is a super unique, portable design that burns wood or charcoal to create a hyper efficient fire. The fire pit sports 51 air jets that inject the fire with oxygen along key locations, creating a uniform temperature and mixing of gases inside the fire to improve combustion and reduce smoke. The fire pit also features an updated 12,800 mAh battery that runs the fan on the fire for up to 30 hrs. on a single charge. It also includes USB-A outputs and micro-USB inputs so you can charge your phone and other essentials while you chill. The legs of the fire pit fold and a travel bag is included, making it perfect for packing along for road trips and car camping trips. Read our full review of the Biolite FirePit+.



Rumpl NanoLoft Blanket ($179)

Pros: Nice and warm yet packs up easily
Cons: Sparks from the fire could leave a hole in the material
Regardless of what time of year you’re camping, a warm blanket is essential for chilling in the car or hanging by the fire. The NanoLoft fill mimics the feel of down while still trapping heat even when wet, offering that comfy cozy feel. Additionally, the blanket includes a water-resistant stuff sack and a cape clip that allows you to fasten it around your neck when you need your hands free.


Klymit Traverse Hammock ($41)

klymit traverse hammock for our guide to the best car camping gear

Pros: Lightweight, packs down small.
Cons: Not great for more than one person.
Who doesn’t enjoy lounging in a hammock alongside a creek or overlooking the ocean? Klymit’s single hammock includes two 10 foot tree straps with 18 daisy chains each and two aluminum carabiners, so you can easily set it up anywhere. Designed to withstand the elements, the hammock is made with abrasion-resistant fabric and packs down into its own pocket for easy transport. Be sure to check out our best hammocks for more options.


NEMO Jazz 30 Double Sleeping Bag ($350)

Nemo Jazz 30 Double Sleeping Bag was a top pick for our guide to the best car camping gear.

Pros: Warm yet breathable
Cons: Pricey
If you like to camp with you spouse, your kids, or the dog, the Nemo Jazz 30 may be the bag for you. A doublewide sleeping bag designed to comfortably sleep two, the Jazz 30 has all the comforts of your bed at home while on the road. The Jazz 30 includes a built-in bedsheet for toasty nights, a pillow pocket to ensure your pillow stays under your head, and an integrated pad sleeve—it pairs perfectly the Nemo Roamer sleeping pad. The sleeping bag comes with an oversized duffel that can store both the bag and pads, making transportation and storage a breeze. Looking for more couples camping gear? Here’s our favorite camping gear for couples. Read our full review of the Nemo Jazz 30


REI Co-op Camp Dreamer Double ($279)

car camping mattress REI

Pros: Supremely comfortable, durable design and easy inflation
Cons: Doesn’t pack down super small, a little wide for the back of most cars

REI has created a winner in the camping mattress category with their four-inch-thick Camp Dreamer Double Self-Inflating Deluxe Bed. The bed is easily one of the best nights sleep our experienced gear testers have had out in the field, with four inches of air-supported foam for a dreamy experience whether you prefer a firm bed or a soft one. The two-valve system was also a favorite feature, supported by the included inflation bag that helps finish up the pad’s self-inflation process.

Another stand-out feature of the pad was its durability – we have dragged this one out into the brush for nights under the starts, spent days lounging on it in the tent, and it has stood up. While we don’t condone pushing your luck with inflatable sleeping pads, it’s nice to know this one can be trusted. The one negative we found was that the pad is a bit wide to fit perfectly in the back of most wagons/midsize SUVs, be sure to check measurements if you plan on using this as a car-bed setup.


The North Face Wawona 6 Tent ($500)

our pick a good car camping tent is the north face wawona 6

Pros: Roomy and spacious
Cons: Needs at least two people to setup

The North Face Wawona 6 is an absolutely giant camping tent. We loved it so much that we gave it the nod for Best Car Camping Tent in our recent Best Camping Tents article.It has an impressively roomy 6.3-foot peak height and walls roughly the same. Multiple people can stand or set up chairs inside the tent, it’s that good. Made from thick, durable materials, it has two full doors and a bag full of extra-large, extra-thick aluminum poles. You’ll be surprised when setting it up that poles that thick do bend that much — but they do! — and are color-coded to match the sleeves for a setup that won’t have you cursing the frustration away. But setup is still a two-person job due to the height and the bend of the poles.

Beyond the extra-large interior and quality components, the real kicker of The North Face Wawona 6 is the huge vestibule. It’s more than a vestibule — it’s an entire room. The North Face decided to turn the obligatory “extra space” feature into a connected tunnel of sorts, which has to be staked separately and offers two extra-large side doors. This means you can have a private room, a spacious place to eat lunch in the shade or simply throw all your dirty sandals after a full day of river-rock-hopping.

If price is a concern, check out the Coleman Sundome 6 ($129)  It has plenty of room and costs less than most concert tickets these days. For something even more durable and spacious (albeit a few hundred dollars more), check out the canvas flex-bow tents from Kodiak. We love how rugged they are. They are fairly heavy and bulky when packed, but if your vehicle can fit it, it’s our choice for stays longer than a weekend.

CHECK PRICE ON REI Check Price on Backcountry

Therm-a-Rest Honcho Poncho ($135)

therm-a-rest honcho poncho

Pros: Packs into its pocket, water-resistant
Cons: Bulky

There’s nothing better than cozying up next to the campfire in a comfy, warm outfit. The Therm-a-Rest Honcho Poncho is essentially a wearable sleeping bag. The poncho is oversized and easy to slip on over any outfit. The synthetic insulation is warm and water-resistant and the kangaroo pocket is great for stashing essentials and warming up your hands. The entire poncho packs down into its pocket and can be used as a camping sleeping bag. Or, you can unbutton the poncho and use it as a blanket.


Helinox Cot Max Convertible ($480)

helinox cot

Pros: Easy to set up, lightweight
Cons: Doesn’t include leg conversion

When you’re car camping as opposed to backpacking, you have the luxury of making your sleep setup as comfortable as possible. Although sleeping pads can be comfortable, it’s nice to be elevated off the ground on a cozy cot. The Helinox Cot Max Convertible is light, durable, and provides lots of surface area and support. The cot is easy to set up and can be low to the ground or high above the ground if you purchase the Max Leg conversion kit. At the end of the trip, the Cot Max packs down into a zippered storage bag with grab handles for easy transport.


Teva ReEmber Slip-Ons ($80)

teva slip-ons

Pros: Sustainably made
Cons: Run small

When you’re in for the night, it’s nice to swap out your boots for a pair of camp slippers. The Teva ReEmber Slip-Ons are puffy and comfy but still have a rubber outsole for walking around camp. The ReEmbers have a closed heel, but you can also push down the collapsible heels and wear them as slip-ons if you wish. The ReEmbers are meant to fit like a shoe, but they do run a little small so you may want to order a size up if you prefer a looser fit.



Garmin inReach Mini 2 ($400)

the garmin inreach mini was a top pick for our guide to the best gear for car camping.

Pros: Could save your life in an emergency
Cons: Subscription required
Depending on where you’re posted up for the night, you may or may not have cell service. The Garmin inReach Mini 2 is compact satellite communicator that will allow you to stay in touch anywhere your travels take you, whether that’s a rest stop in the middle of nowhere or a backcountry slice of BLM land. If you decide to venture out of cell service, the inReach is only 3.5 oz. and has 14 days of battery life, so it’s easy to pack along. It provides two-way communication, tracking, and interactive SOS capabilities, so not only will you be able to send for help in an emergency, but you’ll also be able to keep loved ones up-to-date on your whereabouts.


LED Patio Lights ($29 for 100ft)

these LED string lights were a pick for the best car camping gear.

Pros: Gives your site unparalleled ambiance
Cons: Need AC power to plug into
LED lights have been a game changer for a while now, giving reliable lighting solutions at a fraction of the power consumption on traditional lightbulbs. But they didn’t always look so great compared to their counterparts, until now. With these outdoor patio lights, you can illuminate the campsite to get a fun outdoor party vibe well into dawn, even far away from the campfire, but still retain the warm color of an incandescant bulb. We liked this string of 100 feet, and found it worked great in a variety of weather conditions.

They do require plug-in power though, so unless your campsite has a power outlet you may need to see below for our next recommendation.


EcoFlow River 2 Pro ($599)ecoflow river 2 pro

Pros: Super fast charging time (70 min), 4 AC and 4 USB ports
Cons: Extended handle makes for wasted space

As for portable power: Our best portable power station of 2024 was the EcoFlow River 2 Pro. It has best combination of available ports, charging time, portability, and ability to stack, we couldn’t find much wrong with the. No other brands could compete with the output for the price of the River 2 Pro. Unless you need something truly massive (like the Delta 2 Max model), we found the 768Wh capacity with 800W max output to be a real sweet spot between the common 500Wh and 1000Wh units. It provided the portability of smaller options with nearly the same output as larger power stations.

Check Price on REI Check price on Amazon

Black Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp ($50)

black diamond headlamp

Pros: Waterproof for 30 minutes, integrated battery meter
Cons: Doesn’t include rechargeable batteries

These days, most headlamps are rechargeable, but sometimes it’s nice to have a headlamp with a good old-fashioned battery back. The Black Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp takes AAA batteries but is also compatible with BD 1500 mAh rechargeable if you prefer to go that route. The headlamp has a minimalistic design and is comfortable to wear around camp all night long. The Spot 400 has multiple modes, includes white and red light. A standout feature is the integrated battery meter display which shows the percentage of power remaining so you know when to replace the batteries. The Spot 400 is also waterproof for up to 30 minutes, so you can rest easy should you get caught in a downpour.


Extra Luxury:

NEMO Equipment Stargaze Luxury Recliner ($300)

NEMO Stargaze

Pros: Comfortable and easy to setup
Cons: Pricey
300 bucks is a little steep for a camping chair, but Nemo’s Stargaze Luxury Recliner comes with all the bells and whistles to make it the ultimate in comfortable experiences. Not only does the chair swing, but it also auto-reclines so you can quickly extend out for napping or stargazing. Additionally, the aluminum frames allow the chair to easily fold into the included padded carry case for seamless transport and storage.

We understand that a lot of people might not want to spend $300 on a camping chair, and that’s fair enough. If you want something that has a bit of sway to it but in a bit more reasonable price point, check out the Hammock Chair by Cascade Mountain Tech. It’s not as durable as the Stargaze, but if you treat it well it’ll give you plenty of relaxing times near the campfire.



ISLE Explorer 3

isle explorer 3

Pros: Lightweight, great hybrid SUP/kayak
Cons: Paddle is heavy, fin doesn’t come with a screw

If you’re camping near water, it’s nice to bring a kayak or paddle-board with you. The ISLE Explorer 3 is an inflatable stand up paddle board that packs down into travel backpack for easy storage and transport. When inflated, the board is wide and stable, making it well suited to all levels of paddlers. You can also purchase a kayak seat, footrest, and paddle attachment to convert the board into a kayak. Read our full review of the Explorer 3. 


Editor’s Note: Need a tent to take camping? Check out our guide to the Best Camping Tents. Looking for a place to plant your tush? The Best Camping Chairs can help with that. Got a camping trip planned with you S.O.? The Best Camping Gear for Couples can help with that. For cozy feet, take a look at The Best Camping Slippers. For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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