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Amp Up Your Next Car Camping Adventure With This Essential Gear

It's one of the most accessible ways to go camping, but several integral pieces of gear can make car camping even more enjoyable.

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Dreaming of summer adventures around the fire? There’s nothing more fun and freeing than gathering up your crew, packing the car with everything you need for a weekend in the wild, and hitting the road. The only thing that can make it less enjoyable is not having the right gear. We’re not talking the super-fancy stuff here, just reliable staples such as sleeping bags, camp chairs, and sturdy tents, plus nice-to-haves like a bug screen, a comfy camp pillow, and a way to keep your devices charged.

Visit Backpacker’s best backpacking tents for a selection of the best tents

Below we’ve collected a handful of our favorite car-camping essentials, all of which are available for purchase right now at the Outside Shop. (P.S.: Use your Outside+ credit if you haven’t already; not an Outside+ member? Find out all the perks here.) Get kitted out now so when the weather warms up and the campfire comes a’calling, all you’ll need to do is fill the cooler.

Eureka Kohana 4 Fitted Footprint ($55) and 4-Person Tent ($250)

Kohana 4 Tent
The Kohana 4 is just the right size. Photo: Courtesy of Eureka

A reliable mid-sized tent is crucial for car camping—big enough to give everyone a little space, but not so big that it’s hard to set up and take down. With a durable aluminum frame, a thick floor, and a full-coverage rain fly, the Kohana 4 fits the bill. Buy the footprint that’s made for the tent for extra padding, warmth, and moisture protection from the elements. BUY NOW-FOOTPRINT | BUY NOW-TENT

Goal Zero Nomad 10 Solar Panel ($100) and Yeti 200X Portable Power Station ($300)

Goal Zero Nomad 10Goal Zero Yeti 200

From left, Goal Zero’s Nomad 10 and Yeti 200. Photos: Courtesy of Goal Zero

Keeping devices juiced up when you’re off the grid is one of camping’s biggest challenges. Goal Zero has got your back. The company’s remote charging solutions are some of the best in the business. The Nomad 10 Solar Panel lets you harness the power of the sun to charge your devices. It’s lightweight and durable, and it has a kickstand that clicks into multiple positions so you can aim it where the sun shines. The Yeti 200X Portable Power Station is the ideal item to store in the car to keep your phones, tablets, fitness trackers, and more powered all week on a single charge. BUY NOW-SOLAR PANEL | BUY NOW YETI 200X

Kammok Mesa Mat ($29/$39) and Puffin Pillow ($35)

Kammok Puffin Pillow
The Puffin Pillow is a campside treat. Photo: Courtesy of Kammok

Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that elevate the outdoor experience. The Mesa Mat and the Puffin Pillow fall into that category. The Mesa Mat comes in two sizes, single and double, and is made to be a waterproof and dry spot at the entrance to your tent so that you can avoid tracking dirt and mud into your living space. The Puffin Pillow is designed to ensure a good night’s sleep by cradling your head and allowing you to adjust the air pressure with a simple valve. BUY NOW-SINGLE MAT | BUY NOW-DOUBLE MAT | BUY NOW-PILLOW

Kelty Folding Cooler 45L ($110)

Kelty Cooler 45L
The soft sides of Kelty’s 45L Cooler are partially collapsible. Photo: Courtesy of Kelty

When keeping things cool is of paramount importance—and really, no one likes warm beer—this cooler gets it done, and saves space. Hard-sided cooler fans who want to travel more efficiently will dig the partially collapsible 45L cooler that holds 70 can of beer and boasts cup holders, to boot. BUY NOW

Nemo Bugout Screen Room Tarp ($240) and Meldr Hammer ($50)

Nemo Bugout TarpNemo Meldr Hammer
From left, the Bugout Screen Room Tarp and Meldr Hammer are worthwhile accessories. Photos: Courtesy of Nemo

There are a gazillion camping accessories out there, making it hard to narrow down what you really need and what’s just fluff. Here are two good ones: If you’re camping in a spot where bugs are a problem, Nemo’s Bugout Screen Room Tarp will be the best purchase you make. It can be erected quickly, and its mesh screen walls roll down for a breeze, if desired. And you’ll reach for the nifty Meldr Hammer, with a stainless steel head and hickory shaft, more than you can imagine, from hammering in stakes to setting up the camp hammock. Bonus: It also doubles as a bottle opener. BUY NOW-TARP | BUY NOW-HAMMER

RAB Solar 3 Sleeping Bag ($140)

RAB Solar 3
Consider the Solar 3 in temperatures down to 32 degrees. Photo: Courtesy of RAB

A lightweight yet warm and durable sleeping bag is a true car camping essential, and RAB’s Solar 3 comes with a reasonable price tag, too. It’s made with a 20D ripstop polyester outer and soft poly liner with synthetic fill that promises to keep you comfortable down to 32 degrees. What’s more, the Solar 3 sports a blanket base with a shingled upper for temperature regulation and warmth. BUY NOW-MEN’S | BUY NOW- WOMEN’S

AMK Family First Aid Kit ($30)


AMK Family First Aid Kit
We hope you won’t need it, but you’ll be glad to have it if you do. Photo: Courtesy of Adventure Medical Kits

You simply can’t take kids camping without a solid first aid kit. From removing splinters caused by homemade S’more skewers to patching up skinned knees from jumping off boulders and tree stumps, boo-boos happen. This kit contains literally everything you’ll need: assorted bandages, pain relievers, ice packs, and even materials to stabilize fractures and treat sprains—which you hopefully won’t need. But if you do, you’ll sure be glad you have it. BUY NOW

Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed ($280/$260) and Shadow Mountain Sleeping Pad ($80)

Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed
The Backcountry Bed takes sleeping under the stars to the next level. Photo: Courtesy of Sierra Designs

A restful night in the wild is worth shelling out your hard-earned money, and you can’t do much better than this duo. The Backcountry Bed comes in a men’s and a women’s version, but both boast the same zipperless technology with self-sealing foot vents and full-length hand and arm pockets. These bags are meant for use down to 20 degrees. The Shadow Mountain Sleeping Pad is a must for true comfort, with a three-inch-thick pad with baffle construction and its own storage bag for easy packing and transport. BUY NOW-MEN’S | BUY NOW-WOMEN’S | BUY NOW-PAD

Travelchair Aluminum Joey Chair ($100)

Travelchair Joey
Lightweight and comfortable, the Joey Chair sets up easily and packs down small. Photo: Courtesy of Travelchair

Sometimes you just need to sit back and take stock of the great job you did setting up camp. The Joey Chair is just the right place to do such a thing. The seat is made from a comfortable polyester mesh fabric that will keep you from getting sticky, and the aluminum frame is incredibly lightweight. BUY NOW

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