Your car can be a great resource on a camping trip. Camping next to your car reduces the amount of hiking needed to get to your campgrounds and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors without complicated pre-planning. Having your car as a power source also allows you to have more amenities while camping and allows you to bring more equipment.
You already know to bring tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, food, and supplies, but we’re going to go through some things you might not have thought about for car camping specifically.
Here’s what you need to ensure a great camping trip with your car. We’ll go through the essentials of car camping and the things you should bring with you.
Table of contents
Why You Need It: Keeping your stuff organized in your car plays a big role in a successful camping trip, and you will likely need a trunk organizer to help you. Trunk organizers are simple products that will come in handy even when you’re not camping. Trunk organizers keep loose items in your trunk secure so they’re not moving around while you drive, making them great for groceries and tools. While you’re camping, however, you can use it to sort and organize food, toiletries, and equipment.
What to Look For: Look for a trunk organizer that can be secured to your trunk. The easiest solution is to buy one with velcro on the bottom so it sticks to the carpet in your trunk, but other trunk organizers have straps that you can use to secure it. Look for one that is sturdy, has dividers and pockets so you can find things easily, and maybe even folds up when not in use.
Recommendation: We like the Picnic at Ascot Ultimate trunk organizer. It is a high-quality and heavy-duty product that also comes with a removable cooler that you can use to keep your beers cool around the campfire. It also has adjustable dividers and velcro strips on the bottom to make sure it doesn’t move around while you drive. Bonus: it has a lifetime warranty.
Why You Need It: If you are using a trunk organizer, you will likely need additional room for cargo, sporting equipment, and camping gear like your tent, folding chairs, sleeping bags, and stovetop. A rooftop cargo box is a great option, especially if you already have roof rails installed on your car, which most modern SUVs and crossovers do.
What to Look For: A cargo box should be made of a lightweight material, be aerodynamically efficient, open from both sides, have easy installation, and have strong, dependable locks to keep your stuff secure. Make sure you get one that’s big enough for all your stuff. A cargo box will come in super handy for camping trips but also if you do sports like hockey, snowboarding, skiing, or watersports.
Recommendation: We recommend the Yakima Skybox Carbonite Cargo Box. It is made of very durable materials and 80% of it is derived from recyclable materials. It is lightweight and comes in different sizes. It opens on both sides and the SKS lock System keeps your stuff safe. It also has a beautiful shape and finish.
Car Power Inverter
Why You Need It: Being in the wilderness means you will be away from major sources of power. Luckily, you can use your car as a power source if you have a power inverter, which turns your cigarette lighter adapter into something that can be used to power almost any appliance you have at home with a two or three-prong plug. Besides being handy for changing your devices like your Bluetooth speaker, cameras, phone, tablet, and laptop, maybe you really want to bring your fancy espresso maker camping with you. A power inverter w0uld be one of the only ways to power it when in the wild.
What to look for: When looking for an inverter, get one that can provide at least 200 watts continuous DC to AC and at least 6oo watts of instantaneous power. Find one with 2 USB ports so you can charge your devices. The USB ports should be capable of fast charging as well.
Recommendation: We recommend the BESTEK 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Car Inverter, which is a bestseller on Amazon. It is made using BESTEK Advantage technology, which provides at least 300 Watts continuous DC to AC power, with 700 Watts instantaneous power. It has two AC outlets and 2 USB ports.
It has a fast charging system with two 110V AC outlets. It is ultra compact and the size of an iPhone, making it ideal for vacations and camping.
Why You Need It: For appliances and tools that require more power, like a small fridge, perhaps, a power inverter won’t cut it. You will need something that’s capable of making more power. You also can’t keep your car running constantly because it’s not good for the car. You don’t want your car battery to die in the woods, so a portable generator should meet your power needs if you want to power lights for your campsite, use an electric grill, power a bug zapper, or even do camp karaoke.
What to look for: A portable generator should be quiet, easy to carry, and safe. Its AC output should be above 1500 watts for maximum current output. It shouldn’t consume too much fuel, should have a good fuel gauge, have multiple outlets, and it should come with an auto shutoff feature if it’s low on gas. Also, ensure that your generator has pulse control and is CARB Compliant.
Recommendation: We suggest the Yamaha EF2000iSv2, 1600 Running Watts/2000 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Inverter. This generator is quiet and very compact and lightweight. It has load-sensing rpm control so it’s always running at optimal efficiency and can power your campsite for 10.5 hours on a tank of gas at 1/4 rated load. It has an AC output of 1600 watts and is CARB Compliant.
Car Emergency Kit
Why You Need It: There is a lot that happens in the woods and it is just rational to have a good car emergency kit with the proper survival gear. In case of a breakdown, you need to be in a good position to fix it. Besides being equipped to deal with car emergencies, the right kit will allow you to be ready for a few medical emergencies as well.
What to Look For: A car emergency kit should have things that can address both a car emergency and a medical one. A good kit will include jumper cables, a flare, a tool to break windows and cut seatbelts, safety vest, a self-powered flashlight, a wrench, a multitool, first aid supplies, mylar blanket, and more.
The bag should be small enough to fit either in the back seat, in your trunk or even in your spare tire compartment. It should be super-organized to help you identify the items easily.
Recommendation: We recommend the Always Prepared 149-Piece Roadside Assistance Auto Car Emergency Kit, which is fully fitted with jumper cables. It has a wide selection of over 149 different emergency items that will help keep you safe. It comes with an All-in-One Selection bag that fits everywhere in your car.
It is also equipped with Premium First Aid items with Made-in-USA medicine.
Wireless Cell Signal Booster
Why You Need It: You’re going to be in the wild, which means that cell reception will probably be pretty weak if it’s even available at all. This can be disastrous if you need to make an emergency call or access data. A wireless cells signal booster improves the network signal, enabling you to make a call or access the internet. As a safety or entertainment gadget, a cell signal booster can come in very handy.
What to Look For: Ensure that the booster is really easy to set up and that you know all the requirements it needs beforehand. One of these requirements is a user account. You must also be confident that the manufacturer is a respected player in the industry. This will increase your chances of getting even a stronger, steadier signal. It should also be very portable.
Recommendation: We recommend SolidRF MobileForce 4G cell Phone Booster, as it works with 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. It is capable of boosting all U.S. and Canadian cell carriers and its signal speed is reliable and consistent.
Its hardware is very easy to set up. It has an automatic gain control that ensures a very reliable coverage with any coming signal.
Super Bright Lantern
Why You Need It: After you put out the fire, you will need some lighting in case you need to use the facilities or just get hungry and want a late night snack. A light also lets people know you’re there and can help keep animals away.
What to Look For: Look for ultra-bright, high-quality lighting that can last throughout the night. It should be durable for both indoor and outdoor activities. It should not be very heavy, and should easily collapse to its default position with a simple push.
For your own security, find lighting that has a 100% satisfaction guarantee and a long warranty period. It should very long light power, and also strong enough to withstand hostile weather conditions.
Recommendation: Gold Armour’s portable LED camping lanterns are our favorite and they’re sold in pairs. These LED lanterns feature a 2-in-1 design, allowing you to use it as either a flashlight or a lantern. They use Chip-On-Board (COB) LED technology and emits 500 lumens in lantern mode or 110 lumens in flashlight mode. Equipped with a magnetic base, these lanterns can stick to any iron surface so they can also be used as a wall light. Gold Armour includes a 15-year warranty with these camping lights.
Why You Need It: This is a great way to keep in touch with your friends during your camping trip, especially if you do not have cell service. The communication using walkie-talkies is not only effective but also fun because you can use code names and say fun things like “The eagle has landed, over” and use “10-4” as confirmation of awesomeness. Besides being fun, they can be useful in emergency situations.
What to Look For: You should look for a walkie-talkie that is waterproof so it can be used in the rain. Ensure that it can lock the keypads not to interfere with the personalized settings. Ensure it has long battery life and a bright flashlight to light your way during the night. It should also give you accurate weather alerts.
Your walkie-talkie should also be compatible with any radio.
Recommendation: We recommend Motorola T600 Talkabout radio, 2 Pack because it has all these features. It has an IP67 Waterproof casing that guarantees your gadget functionality in all weather. It uses the VibraCall feature when calling, meaning that your keypads will always be locked unless you intentionally unlock.
It has a built-in flashlight with strong white and red LEDs and has 11 weather channels to update its weather status.
Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Why You Need It: You need to set the mood for your scary campfire stories, create an impromptu forest dance-off, or just have some background noise because the silence while camping can be too much to handle. A Bluetooth speaker can be useful even when you’re not camping, so everyone should have one.
What to Look For: The speakers for camping should be chargeable via USB and should be able to play music for hours. Since it is for outdoor purposes, it should be clear and loud but also shockproof and waterproof.
Its bass should be powerful and the sound should not be distorted at maximum volume. It should be protected from harsh environmental conditions and should be compatible with many devices.
Recommendation: With so many speakers out there, it’s very hard to narrow down to the best. However if we had to make one recommendation, it would be the VicTsing SoundHot C6 portable bluetooth speaker. This is an IPX5 waterproof speaker with up to 6 hours of playtime with a 5w speaker and it’s extremely affordable. It’s extremely compact and easy to carry and is equipped with a detachable suction cup and aluminum alloy hook, so you can use it just about anywhere. This speaker uses Bluetooth 4.2 for a quick and easy connection.
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.