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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Essential Car Camping Gear for 2024

Photo by Drazen Zigic via iStock

I’m writing this in February, so it’s not exactly car camping season yet (at least not here in the U.S.). But that doesn’t mean I can’t start thinking about the adventures I’ll take once the weather warms up!

I’ve been camping and overlanding for a long time now, and I have a pretty good list of gear that I have to take with me. The question on my mind is if that list would change if I were car camping…

So, let’s answer that question by having a peek at my list of essential car camping gear for 2024!

Table of Contents

Essential Car Camping Gear: Tailgater Tire Table

tire table 20

Item number one on my list is the Tailgater Tire Table. Why? Well, that’s simple…

First, the Tire Table is incredibly easy to set up – just hook it over the tire on your car, deploy the leg for additional stability, and you’re ready to go. Setup takes 15 seconds – if that – and you have a rock-solid table for whatever you need.

tire table 7

That brings me to the second reason why Tire Table is tops on this list: it’s multifunctional for all sorts of camping needs. You can use it to prepare food for meals, eat meals, or get some work done. Play a quick game of cards, use it as a platform for your lantern, and turn it into a workbench for repairing your bike. The possibilities are endless!

tire table 18

The Tire Table comes in several variations – silver aluminum, aluminum, or steel, and either standard or large sizes. The standard Tire Table is 29″ x 23″ x 1.5″ and weighs just 5.5 pounds for the aluminum versions or just under 13 pounds for the steel version. The large Tire Table gives you a 33.5″ x 28″ x 1.5″ work surface and weighs eight pounds for the aluminum version and 16 pounds for the steel version.No matter which version of the Tire Table you choose, you’ll get a piece of essential car camping gear that has a small form factor, so it won’t take up a bunch of space in your car. And with the easy setup I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to waste your time setting up a complicated table. It’s a win-win!

Add Kitchen Items to Your Essential Car Camping List

Cooking in nature

Photo by visualspace via iStock

Camping in your car means you either need to bring a heck of a lot of pre-packaged meals, grab dinner on the go as you pass by restaurants, or bring a fully-kitted kitchen along for the ride. I’m not opposed to the first two options, but having the ability to cook while you’re car camping opens up many more possibilities for what you eat (and when). It’s also less expensive!

So, what essential car camping gear needs to be in your kitchen? Here’s a good list to get you started:

  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Cooler or fridge/freezer
  • Cookware and utensils
  • Water storage

Let’s explore each of these in a little more detail…

A basic camp stove powered by propane or butane will suffice for most car camping kitchen needs. Something like the MSR WindBurner® Personal Stove System shown above is a great option that has a very small form factor, yet boils water quickly and efficiently. It even includes integrated cookware so you can make a quick bowl of noodles or a hot drink without a big mess. Nice!

But let’s say you have greater cooking needs than what the small MSR stove can handle. In that case, you might visit a retailer like BTR Outfitters to get set up with something a little beefier, like the Partner Steel 9″ two-burner stove shown above.

While this stove is quite a bit bigger than the MSR, it’s still just 12″ x 9″ x 6″ when folded up, making it a viable option for your car camping adventures. That small form factor hides two burners, but thanks to a break-apart hinge, you can take just one side of the stove with you if two burners is overkill. That kind of flexibility is just what the doctor ordered for cramped camping in your car!

Another kitchen-related item I’d add to your essential car camping gear list is a powered cooler. Sure, a traditional cooler works fine, but the constant search for ice can be a bit of a downer. Besides, there are all sorts of powered cooler options that do a fantastic job without taking up a ton of space.

The Dometic CFX3 55IM is a perfect option for car camping because it’s about 28” x 19” x 18”. That’s big enough for several days’ worth of meals, drinks, or a combination of both. This unit will even make ice! All this comes in a package that runs off AC, DC, or solar. 

Flex™ 4 Cook Set by MSR

Your car camping kitchen also needs a good cookware set, including utensils. The MSR ​​Flex™ 4 Cook Set has everything you need to cook for up to four people in a compact nested design. This cook set includes the following:

  • 3.2L Nonstick hard-anodized aluminum pot
  • Dual-handle 5.3L hard-anodized aluminum pot
  • Two aluminum strainer lids
  • Four DeepDish™ plates
  • Four 10.2 oz. insulated mugs
  • Talon™ pot handle

That’s not bad for a kit that’s just 9.3” x 6”!

You still need utensils, though, and the Front Runner Camp Kitchen Utensil Set has it all:

  • 4 serrated knives, 4 steak forks, 4 dessert spoons, 4 teaspoons
  • 1 chopping board
  • 1 paring knife, 1 bread knife, 1 carving knife, 1 serving spoon
  • 1 spatula, 1 BBQ/campfire fork
  • 1 bottle opener and corkscrew

All this is contained in a convenient storage bag that keeps everything organized and easy to transport, as well.

Lastly, having fresh drinking water along on your trip is a must, and for that, the Front Runner Plastic Water Jerry Can is an ideal option. This can holds 5.3 gallons of water, fills up from the top, and has an integrated tap at the bottom for easy dispensing. The can is made of food-grade BPA-free polyethylene, too, so it’s safe to use for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.

All of these essential car camping kitchen items are available from the fine folks at BTR Outfitters, so don’t hesitate to visit their website to check these items out in more detail and peruse the other items BTR Outfitters offers to make your car camping experience all the better!

Get a Good Night’s Sleep With a High-Quality Bed

hest foamy sizes

Ok, so now that you have a place to prep and eat meals and the tools necessary to make those meals, let’s talk about sleeping after you’ve got a full belly!

I think we can all agree that sleeping in your car isn’t the most luxurious way to sleep, but it’s also hard to beat the convenience of not having a tent or trailer to set up! So, how do you make your car bed more comfortable? With the following essential car camping bedding!

You can start building your car camping bed with one of the most comfortable camping mattresses I’ve ever used – the Hest Foamy. I have the wide version, which might not fit in all cars, but as shown above, Hest has a number of other options, including one that’s regular width and another that’s a shorter length. You can add the Hest Foamy Pillow to the mix, too!

You also need bedding of some kind, and for my money, it’s hard to beat a good sleeping bag. With a sleeping bag, you can quickly unroll it and hop in for bed, as opposed to messing around sheets and blankets for your sleeping pad.

The style and warmth of your sleeping bag depend on many factors, not the least of which is your personal preference and the type of weather you’ll be camping in. The Sierra Designs FrontCountry Bed 20 bag shown above is a good choice if you like a little extra room.

Essential Car Camping Gear: Bring Your Own Power

inergy power station

I don’t know about you, but these days it’s just about impossible to go camping without some sort of portable power.

Sure, you can use your car to charge your phone, and if your car has an inverter, you can also use the car’s battery to charge devices like your tablet or laptop. Personally, I worry about draining my car battery by overusing it for accessories, so I like to have a power station along for the ride to juice up my devices while I’m camping.

inergy power station overland west

For my purposes, the Inergy FLEX 1500 Power Station is a great option. It’s built like a tank, has all kinds of power ports, and can be charged via AC, DC, solar, or all of the above. I will admit that it’s a bit heavy for car camping – 29 pounds – but it’s still got a small footprint of 14″ x 8″ x 8.9″. This includes one FLEX 1500 battery, but you can add more (up to 96 of them!) if you need additional power.

When I said this thing has all kinds of ports, I wasn’t kidding:

  • 6 110-120V AC outlets
  • 2 60W USB-C ports
  • 2 USB-A ports
  • 2 5.5mm x 2.5mm DC outputs
  • 2 15A cigarette lighter ports

inergy power station graph

With all these ports, a 1,000 watt-hour battery, and a 1,500-watt pure sine wave inverter with 3,000 watts of surge power, you’ve got everything you need to keep your devices juiced up!

Best of all, the Inergy FLEX 1500 is nearly silent, so you (and your camp neighbors) won’t be disturbed by the noise or pollution created by a gas-powered generator. Not bad, right?!

Plan Ahead So You Don’t Forget Your Essential Camping Gear

Mature person is sitting on bed and packing big rucksack for hikingPhoto by invizbk via iStock

Now, obviously this isn’t a complete list of everything you need to go car camping, but it will sure get you started on the right foot.

As you collect more and more gear, it’s probably a good idea to keep a running list of your essential items, that way you can check them off as you pack up for your next trip. Take notes while you’re gone, too, so you can add items that would come in handy and remove items that you don’t use.

Remember as well to prioritize gear that’s small and compact, as well as gear that is multifunctional. Car camping means you’re short on space – the last thing you want is to be overloaded and have to sleep between piles of stuff in the back of your car!

Disclaimer: Just so you know, some of the cool stuff we mention comes with affiliate links, meaning we earn a commission if you buy (no extra charge to you!). Plus, we occasionally feature sponsored content, but rest assured, we only shout out products we genuinely stand behind.

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