LAST UPDATED: January 08, 2019

The Best Car Camping Gear (Review) in 2021

Best Choice best choice camping gear Keeper Waterproof Roof Top Cargo Bag
Premium Pick premium pick camping gear Therm-a-Rest MondoKing Self Inflating Mattress
Best Value affordable camping gear RoverTac 14 in 1 Multitool

Using your car as the ultimate camping tool is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. It allows you to transport yourself, your family, and all the gear you need without investing in expensive specialist vehicles like RVs. That opens up so many opportunities to get out and enjoy all the experiences, sights, and sounds of nature.

Camping accessories can be a great way to make camping in your car more comfortable. These days, as the popularity of car camping has exploded, there is now a huge range of camping gear tailored for use in the car. In this special guide we are take you through some of the best car camping gear on the market and help you find the right stuff to make your car camping trip as comfortable and fun as possible.

The Best Car Camping Gear

You came here for cool camping gear and gadgets, and we kick off the list with roof rack storage. Don’t sweat it, we will check out some very cool gear soon enough. But stay with us for now, as we take a good look at this item. No, it might not be the coolest, but it could be one of the most important pieces of camping gear you buy.

The fact is that while you can invest in a whole range of cool gear (and after reading our list you may end up doing just that), you also need to think of how you are going to transport it all. Camping gear, plus a family or friends, plus fishing rods or mountain bikes, and you have suddenly filled the average-sized car very quickly.

This item from Keeper can really help in that sense. It brings up to 15 cubic feet of additional storage to allow you to easily transport all your gear. It is compatible will all roof racks styles and is very easy to install and remove when the trip is done. It is also built of tough and strong rubber laminated Nylon. That allows it to provide protection to your gear from rain, wind, sun, and road debris.

Like we said, it may not be the coolest piece of equipment, but it could be one of the most important pieces of gear for a comfortable camping trip in your car.

Key Features
  • 15 Cubic Feet of Space
  • Fits all Roof Rack Designs
  • Tough & Waterproof Construction
  • Soft Sides for Odd Shaped Items
Specification
  • Brand Keeper
  • Model 07203-1
  • Weight 5.25 Lbs

If you want hot food while you’re camping, consider the Coleman Portable Butane Stove with Carrying Case. The great thing about this portable stove is that it’s easy to pack, transport, and set up on a picnic table. It can accommodate a 10-inch pan and features a rustproof aluminum burner, an enameled steel exterior, and a porcelain-coated grate.

You can control the temperature by using the rotating dial for the burners. It requires an 8.8-ounce butane cylinder to operate, which lasts for up to 1.25 hours (through a couple of meals). The stove has wind baffles, so it can operate during windy conditions, and the base is nice and stable. The appliance is also easy to clean. Users like that it lights up with ease and is very user friendly, lightweight, and portable.

However, the flame can blow out even with the wind baffles in place. Also, the carrying case isn’t the best quality, and it takes a little while to boil water.

Key Features
  • 20 x 12 x 4 inches
  • Carrying case included
  • Accommodates a 10-inch pan
  • Requires an 8.8-ounce butane cylinder
Specification
  • Brand Coleman
  • Model 2000020951
  • Weight 4.68 pounds

One issue that can come up with car camping trips is a lack of sleeping space. Naturally, a car is not the most comfortable place to sleep, especially for a number of people. Whilst tents can be an option (and, spoiler, we’ll look at some later on), another option in warmer climates is a hammock.

This option, from Wise Owl Outfitters, is one of the best examples of hammock style sleeping gear out there on the market right now. That quality starts with the material used for the construction. Wise Owl has gone for 210T Parachute Nylon. This material is both extremely tough but also very soft. That should make for a hammock that provides a good night’s sleep but also shouldn’t rip or collapse – both very good design points in a hammock!

It is also very easy to store. The single person version rolls up to about the size of a grapefruit, whilst unfolding to over 9 feet in length for a comfortable sleeping area. The couples version is bigger and, depending who you are sharing it with, more fun.

Key Features
  • Constructed of High Quality Parachute Nylon
  • Extra Soft & Extremely Tough
  • Lightweight & Compact
  • Comes With Everything You Need
Specification
  • Brand Wise Owl Outfitters

If you would rather sleep with your butt on Terra Firma than swinging in a hammock then you’re going to need a comfortable sleeping bag. That is especially true if you are looking to camp in colder weather, for which this sleeping bag from TETON is specially designed.

This sleeping gear boasts a comfortable, brushed interior that you will love crawling into at the end of a long day. It also has a double stuffed style construction, which allows for the maximum retention of thermal heat. This feature means the sleeping bag has been survival rated as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit.

A clever double zipper design though means that you can open one side for ventilation, making this bag suitable for use on warmer camping trips too. It has also been designed with larger specs than the typical sleeping bag. One bag is large enough for two people, or a single sleeper will find that they more room to roll around than will be afforded them in more modestly sized bags. 

Key Features
  • Soft Lining
  • Double Zip Design
  • Rated to Zero Degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Double Stuffed for Extra Insulation
Specification
  • Brand TETON Sports
  • Model 101L
  • Weight 9.3 pounds

Light can be a big issue when out camping at night, and that applies to car camping too. No, it is not a good idea to leave the car headlamps on, since you’ll probably only wake up to a flat battery in that instance!

Instead, you should consider picking up this innovative product from HeroBeam. It is a combination of lantern and flashlight, designed to give the best of both worlds. Stand it upright and open it like a lantern for a stable, single position light source. Close it up, flip it through 90 degrees and now you can use it as a flashlight for convenient, on the move lighting.

It is powerful too, able to push out up to 300 LUMENS. Add in the fact it is less than four inches long in collapsed mode and it is small and easy to transport too, perfect for car camping.

One other thing to note with this product is the fact it is very power hungry, requiring no less than three AA batteries to operate. Because of this, it is an idea to stock up on a lot of spare batteries before you head out.

Key Features
  • 300 LUMENS of Brightness
  • Combined Lantern/Flashlight
  • Easy to Store
Specification
  • Brand HeroBeam
  • Weight 1.2 pounds

We’ve already taken a look at a product that lets you take the comfort of what is essentially a stripped down electric oven on your camping trip. The next product to make our list is this entry from Wagan.

It does a somewhat similar job to the electric heater we looked at, however this device is also a cooler when required. In this way it provides a best of both worlds ability to cool drinks to as low as -36 Fahrenheit below ambient temperature. It can also be used in the opposite way to warm food to as high as 140 Fahrenheit.

It does all this via a simple plug attachment that connects to any standard 12 Volt charging port. It also boasts decent capacity, being able to hold up to four 2L bottles (to give an idea of capacity). This is certainly an example of cool camping gear that, by being able to serve two functions in one, can be a very handy tool that will save on storage space.

Key Features
  • Warms or Cools
  • 24-Liter Capacity
  • 7.5ft Power Cord
  • Plugs into 12V Adaptor
Specification
  • Brand Wagan
  • Model EL6224
  • Weight 12.05 pounds

Just because you are living it up in the wilds on your trip is no reason to live like a savage. Only animals eat off the ground, and you can avoid having to join them with this great piece of camping equipment from Outry.

It is a table designed for camping, and as such it has to be the best of both worlds. On the one hand, in table mode, it needs to be stable and easy to use. This is achieved via a strong aluminum frame that is topped with a tough and heavy duty Nylon table surface. Outry has even added four cup/bottle holders for an even higher degree of comfortable usability.

As a piece of camping gear, it also needs to be easy to store and use. The table has been designed to be easily collapsed for fast take down when clearing a campsite. Once collapsed it measures only 30 inches in length, and the whole table weighs less than 3 Lbs.

This table is functional, simple to use, and easy to store.

Key Features
  • Nylon Fabric Top
  • Aluminum Frame
  • 4 Cup/Bottle Holders
  • Low Weight, Easy to Fold & Store
Specification
  • Brand Outry
  • Weight 2.6 pounds

Hey, you can’t have a table without a set of chairs, right? Don’t say we never hook you up here are Carbibles, because this is a set of high quality camping chairs that function just as well on their own or when paired with a table for a comfortable outdoor dining experience.

Just as we said when looking at the table above, this item also needs to blend functionality with ease of use and storage. Just as it has similar requirements to the table, so the manufacturer has answered these requirements in a similar way. So we have a strong and robust aluminum frame that is topped with a Nylon seat. This helps to make the chair strong, comfortable, and lightweight.

This is another piece of camping gear that is thankfully extremely easy to fold up and put away. The nice feature of this product is the built in storage bag. The chair simply folds up and into its bag (which is about 14 inches long) and weighs only 2 Lbs for super easy storage in the car. 

Key Features
  • 2 Pack
  • Aluminum Frame
  • Lightweight & Compact
  • Folds Into Bag for Easy Transport
Specification
  • Brand Sportneer
  • Model LYSB01N67GCKW-SPRTSEQIP
  • Weight 2.25 pounds

One of the big advantages of a car camping trip is getting out into nature and leaving behind the worries and stresses of modern life. Unfortunately, this also means leaving behind a lot of the positives of modern life. If one of those positives for you is the easy availability of excellent coffee, you may quickly start to long for your morning wake up cup of bean juice.

Never fear, Carbibles is here with yet another piece of camping essentials for the modern human. The Wacaco Minipress is a very impressive little tool. For one thing, it contains an internal grinder, meaning your coffee can be as fresh as possible. It is also completely hand operated and requires no electrical power.

Of course you do need to boil the water. This could be done over a campfire though, so even the most rugged campsite can still generate all you need for a tasty shot of espresso. 70Ml water capacity allows for a good-sized shot, and the device itself is designed to be easy to clean for multiple uses.

Key Features
  • Small and Lightweight
  • All In One Design
  • No Electricity Required
Specification
  • Brand Wacaco
  • Model MPGR100
  • Weight 12.8 ounces

The next item to make our list is this entry from Bearz. Now, a blanket may seem like one of the simplest of all camping essentials. But what Bearz have done here (apart from misspelling the plural of bear) is much more impressive – they have essentially re-invented the beach blanket.

The big difference is that this blanket is made of a tarp style of material instead of fabric. This change means that it is waterproof (or moisture proof at least) as well as sand proof and puncture proof. That means you can toss it down onto just about any surface and have no worries about damaging the blanket or getting a wet butt.

There are other benefits to this material choice too. It folds up very, very small for instance and can be neatly stored in the included carry pouch. The pouch itself has a very useful clip so it can attach to your backpack or belt loop on hikes. One last cool feature is the small pockets found at each corner. They can be filled with sand or gravel to weigh down the blanket and stop it blowing away in a breeze.

This is a really cool piece of camping gear that has been very well designed.

Key Features
  • Durable & Lightweight
  • Easy to Store
  • Waterproof & Puncture Resistant
Specification
  • Brand BEARZ Outdoor
  • Weight 6.4 ounces

The Coleman Sundome Tent is a two-person tent that is seven by five feet with a four-foot center height. It takes just 10 minutes to set up and can accommodate one queen-size air mattress. It’s a great warm-weather backpacking tent. It features Coleman’s WeatherTec System, so you’ll stay dry at all times. The floor is waterproof with welded corners and inverted seams, and the tent features water-resistant fabric, leak-free rainfly seams, and zipper guards to keep moisture out.

The tent is designed with a sturdy frame and can withstand winds up to 35 mph. It has ground vents and large windows that promote airflow, so you don’t get too hot. There are pockets on the tent walls for storage and an E-port that provides access to electrical power.

However, you may want to purchase stronger tent stakes to keep it in place. Also, only the top half of the door is a mesh screen. Plus, it’s geared for summer camping and is not designed for use in cooler weather.

Key Features
  • Two-person tent
  • WeatherTec system
  • Withstands wind up to 35 mph
  • Lots of ventilation
Specification
  • Brand Coleman
  • Model 2000027924
  • Weight 7.75 pounds

On any camping gear list you will find a multitool, because they are just such a useful item to have before you head off car camping. This item from IUNIO is the multitool on our list. It’s taken this position because it is very well designed and constructed, as well as being able to fulfill just so many roles.

It’s a shovel, it’s a hoe and it’s a pickaxe. It’s also an ice ax, a fish scaler, a whistle, a flint for fire-starting — heck, it even has a bottle opener so you can crack open a cold bottle of beer after lighting a fire and cooking your scale-less fish.  What is also great to see is that high carbon steel has been employed in the construction. This makes for a tool that is durable and very tough.

As a piece of camping gear, we also know this tool needs to be compact and easy to store. It’s a great design feature therefore to see that the multitool handle is made of several interlocking pieces. This allows the tools to be stored in several short lengths.

Key Features
  • Collapses for Easy Storage
  • Multifunctional Design
  • Sturdy & Durable Construction
  • High Carbon Steel
Specification
  • Brand IUNIO
  • Weight 3.86 pounds

The next product is a self-inflating mattress from Therm-a-Rest. If you are looking to add an edge of comfort to your car camping experience, then we suggest that you take a good look at this product. Therm-a-Rest notes that this product offers a level of comfort second only to a home mattress. That is an impressive level of comfort for sleeping gear designed for camping. To achieve this, the design utilizes foam and air stuffed lining that is four inches thick. That is a level of thickness and comfort you simply don’t see in most camping mattresses.

It’s also easy to assemble. There are two valves located at the top end. Open one valve, and the mattress inflates. Open the other, and it deflates and you can put it away. You can’t really ask for much more in terms of ease of use. Using these valves you can even adjust the firmness of the mattress for the perfect night’s sleep.

All that and a total weight of less than seven pounds, and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular car camping mattress.

Key Features
  • Self-Inflating For Ease of Use
  • Foam Lining for Extra Comfort
  • 4 Inches Thick (Once Inflated)
  • Made in the USA
Specification
  • Brand Therm-a-Rest
  • Model 09211
  • Weight 6 pounds

If you are looking to turn your car into a shade throwing, rainproof base camp then you need this next product from KingCamp. It is designed to easily install to any vehicle — from cars to trucks and even trailers. Once in place it provides a huge area of shade to protect against heat or rain.

The awning itself is made of high-quality polyester for strength. The design has several very clever vents and mesh panels in place too. Whilst they will not affect the protection from sun or rain, they do allow breezes and wind gusts to travel through the canopy instead of getting caught up in it and blowing it away.

Installation is a dream too. The vehicle end attaches with stretchy bungee cords, whilst tough but lightweight fiberglass rods hold up the other end. Aluminum poles for extra strength and rigidity provide the spine of the awning. One last impressive feature is that it all dismantles down into a very small storage bag for easy storage in the vehicle.

Key Features
  • 60 to 76 Square Feet of Shade
  • Durable Polyester Construction
  • Waterproof & UV Protection
  • Lightweight and Easy to Install
Specification
  • Brand KingCamp
  • Weight 9.7 pounds

Next is this very cool tool from RoverTec. This multitool may be a bit small, but that doesn’t mean that it lacks functions. In fact, it can perform up to 14 of them! They are all functions that are helpful during camping trips. A hammer, for example, is perfect for knocking in tent pegs. A small axe blade allows you to collect and prepare small branches for firewood, while screwdrivers help with the set up of other pieces of camping gear.

You also get a wood saw, a pair of pliers an Allen wrench, and a small knife blade. This is, in one package, 14 different tools compiled in one handy device. The stainless steel construction makes for a tough product that can take anything you can throw at it, and the handy Nylon carry pouch can be looped onto your belt, so you can always keep this useful tool on hand.

Key Features
  • 13 Functions
  • Stainless Steel Construction
  • Small And Compact
  • Complete with Belt Mounting Carry Pouch
Specification
  • Brand RoverTac
  • Weight 14.9 ounces

Best Car Camping Gear Buying Guide

In our buying guide, we’ll take you through the features that you should keep an eye out for when picking out the best car camping gear for you. After that, we’ll take a look at how best to use your new gear and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this extremely useful product.

car camping

What to Consider When Buying Car Camping Gear  

  • Weight

The first consideration is the weight of the stuff. You will see in the list above that the items we selected are made of weight saving materials where possible. We’re talking Nylon, aluminum and fiberglass as a few examples, and each one will help avoid overloading your car.

  • Size

There is only so much room in the car too, even if you invest in a rooftop cargo box. Again, where possible choose items that collapse or fold away for easy storage.

  • Compatibility

We chose electrical items that are happy working with 12V adaptors in the car cabin. Since we’re car camping, this just makes the most sense to us!

  • Multifunctional

Another great way to save space is to select items that perform more than one function. Why have two things taking up the room that one item could occupy if it can do both jobs?

What is Car Camping?

Car camping is great and simpler way to camp than the traditional methods. It also has a number of benefits over the traditional camping experience. Because in car camping you are driving to an area to camp, you can bring a heck of a lot more camping tools and gear than you would be able to carry on your back.

As we’ve looked at above, this does mean that you can bring a whole host of high quality camping gear. Whether this is an inflatable mattress or an electrical cooling box for chilled drinks, this means you can enjoy camping whilst also taking advantage of few modern comforts.

You can also use a car as a base camp. You can, for example, set up your awning to provide shade. In that shade you can then set up a table and chairs so you can eat your food in comfort.

Just a small suggestion of how you can have the best of both worlds with car camping!

Car Camping vs. Tent Camping

Tent camping, popping a tent and supplies on your back and striking out into the wilderness, can be an incredible experience. It can be the ultimate way to get back to nature and really create an experience of a lifetime.

But tent camping can also be a nightmare. Because of the loads that need to be carried, often over rugged terrain, it can be unsuitable for children, older folks and unfit people. It is also a return to wilderness style holiday that frankly won’t be fun for everyone (heck, it’s not really our thing either).

A car camping trip is very much a best of both worlds situation. You can get out into the wilderness or wherever you choose. But because you drive there, you can bring a lot more camping gear to make the experience more comfortable for everyone.

You May Also Like Our Review of Rooftop Tents

Best Car Camping Gear FAQ:

Q: What type of car is best for camping?

A: Ultimately, it’s really going to depend on where you want to go camping, and what you need to do when you get there. That being said, there is no car in our mind that is not suitable for camping provided you tailor your needs and expectations.

So for example, if you are looking to bring a big group of friends or your family, a Minivan or truck could be the way to go. It will have the space not only for your passengers (and fellow campers) but lots of space to pack the camping gear, food and other supplies you may need.

These types of vehicles will be limited to parking up in a lot or at the most some very mild off road driving on dry dirt tracks. If you want to go deeper into nature, it could be an idea to go for a SUV or 4×4 style vehicle.

Q: Is it safe to cook inside my car?

A: Very much a yes and no question here, and the answer really comes down to safety. Is safe to light a grill up inside the vehicle? That would be a no.

Is it safe to plug in one of the electrical food heaters we looked at above? Yes, certainly. Just be aware that they need to be placed onto a flat, heat resistant surface. If possible, it is best to cook food outside the car if possible.

If the weather is terrible, and you’re very hungry, use an electrical heater inside the car – just be very careful, especially when the food is hot!

Q: Do I need a backup generator?

A: It really depends on how much you are planning on using the car battery. The typical battery produces 12 volts for 40 amp hours. Figure out the amperage of your devices, add the time you plan to use them for and you have a (very, very) rough guide to what you can get out of it.

Always remember that the car is your way out of the wilderness, so try not to drain the battery! If a full back up generator is going to take too much room, you could consider investing in UV panels to harvest some energy from the sun. That may not be enough to power a heater or cooker, but it could charge your devices like tablets and smart phones. In that way it lessens the burden on the car battery.

camping in nature

Our Top Pick 

Picking the top item out of this crowded field of top quality camping gear is extra tough. Yes, we complain about that in just about every product review that we produce (so sue us for only bringing you top quality gear).

But this time, because this is more of a collection of gear rather than products of roughly the same type, this makes it extra hard. But, tough decisions are what we do so in that spirit we went for the Keeper 07203-1 Waterproof Roof Top Cargo Bag.

As we pointed out in our review, it may not be the coolest piece of camping gear on the list. It is however a true camping essential, a way to safely and securely transport the rest of your camping stuff. For a few dollars, it really can help to make a car camping trip that much more comfortable and that is why, for us, it is the top pick on the list.

Sources:

  1. How to Camp in Your Car – wikiHow
  2. How Camping Works – howstuffworks