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Car Camping Checklist

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

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 bags

  • Sleeping bag liners

  • Sleeping pad, cot, or air mattress and pump

  • Hammock and straps

  • Camping blanket

  • Pillows

  • Camp chairs

  • Tent and footprint

  • Lantern

  • Headlamps or flashlights with extra batteries

  • Sunshade, tarp or screen house

  • Camp rug

  • 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

  • Lighter

  • Scissors

  • Bushcraft Knife

  • Multi-tool

  • Mallet or hammer

  • Axe and Gloves

  • Paracord

  • Water Filter

  • Duct Tape

  • 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

  • Grill rack

  • Griddle

  • Dutch oven

  • Charcoal

  • Matches/lighter/firestarter

  • Cook pots

  • Potholder

  • Frying pan

  • Eating utensils

  • Cooking utensils

  • Bottle opener

  • Can opener

  • Corkscrew

  • Sharp chef's knife

  • Plates/bowls

  • Mugs/cups

  • Cutting board

  • Cooler

  • Ice

  • Water bottles

  • Camp sink or wash bins

  • Biodegradable soap

  • Pot scrubber/sponge(s)

  • Trash/recycling bags

  • Dishtowel

  • 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

  • Fire extinguisher


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.

  • Moisture-wicking underwear

  • Moisture-wicking T-shirts

  • Quick-drying pants/shorts

  • Long-sleeve shirts (for sun, bugs)

  • Lightweight fleece or jacket

  • Socks (synthetic or wool)

  • Sleepwear

  • Rainwear (jacket and pants)

  • Warm insulated jacket or vest

  • Gloves or mittens

  • Warm hat

  • Swimsuits

  • Water sandals or shoes

  • Sandals or crocs

  • Hiking boots


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

  • Toilet Paper

  • Baby wipes

  • Toothbrush and paste

  • Hairbrush

  • Quick-dry towel

  • Sunscreen

  • Bug repellent

  • Lip balm

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Deodorant

  • Earplugs

  • Sleep mask

  • Portable camp shower


Leave room for these or put that roof rack to use.

  • Camera

  • Portable charger

  • Binoculars

  • Navigation tools

  • Field guides (flowers, insects)

  • Star chart/night-sky identifier

  • Book/reading material

  • Musical instrument

  • Frisbee

  • Journal and writing device

  • Camp Games

  • Day pack

  • Dry bags

  • Music player with headphones

  • Sunglasses

  • Sun hat

  • Solar and portable power

  • Credit card and/or cash

  • ID

  • Cellphone

  • 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.

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