The best part about car camping unlike backpacking is that you can pretty much take whatever fits in your car. If you want a huge setup with a barbecue grill or even a couch you can do that. It allows you to bring a lot more comforts and a lot more activities but still take advantage of the outdoors. It's also a great way to practice skills and test gear before you attempt a more remote backpacking trip.
Your tent can be as posh as you want. If you want three blankets and five pillows just stuff them in the car. It really depends on whether or not you're camping out of a tiny hatchback or a full-size pickup truck. We will just cover the basics.
Sleeping bag liners
Sleeping pad, cot, or air mattress and pump
Hammock and straps
Tent and footprint
Headlamps or flashlights with extra batteries
Sunshade, tarp or screen house
Camp table (if no picnic table)
No need to rely solely on your Swiss army knife as your only tool. Having a trunk gives you the option to bring lots of useful items.
First Aid Kit
Mallet or hammer
Axe and Gloves
Pad/Mattress repair kit
Small broom and dustpan
Clothesline with clips
Probably one of the best things about car camping versus minimal camping is the ability to cook amazing meals outdoors. you don't have to survive on boil-in-the-bag hiker meals and trail mix. When setting up an outdoor kitchen it can be extremely elaborate or very simple.
Stove/grill and fuel
Sharp chef's knife
Camp sink or wash bins
Portable coffee/tea maker
Marshmallow/hot dog roasting forks
Small food-storage containers/bags/foil
Large water jugs
Large, clear plastic bins to store kitchen gear
Hiking clothes are going to vary depending on the time of year and climate you live in but again you now have the ability to bring various outfits and layers you wouldn't normally be able to bring out into the remote wild. So go ahead and grab that big bulky sweater that you want to sit next to the fire wearing but here are the essentials you'll need.
Long-sleeve shirts (for sun, bugs)
Lightweight fleece or jacket
Socks (synthetic or wool)
Rainwear (jacket and pants)
Warm insulated jacket or vest
Gloves or mittens
Water sandals or shoes
Sandals or crocs
What you bring here really depends on what type of campground you are staying at. We tend to camp a lot of places that are considered primitive camping. Which means outhouses and no running water and absolutely no electricity. With that in mind here's what we recommend.
Shampoo or an all-purpose soap
Toothbrush and paste
Portable camp shower
EXTRAS AND PERSONAL ITEMS
Leave room for these or put that roof rack to use.
Field guides (flowers, insects)
Star chart/night-sky identifier
Journal and writing device
Music player with headphones
Solar and portable power
Credit card and/or cash
The campsite reservation confirmation (if required)
And now you're ready to go. With your car stuff to the gills, you are ready for adventure. Obviously you can modify this list to suit your needs but we hope that this will give you an idea of what's possible. You don't have to sacrifice comfort to be out in the woods. So get out there.