17 Top Car Camping Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2018)

Updated on August 9, 2018 by Asher Fergusson

Car camping entails camping next to your car at a chosen campground. It’s an easy way to enjoy the outdoors without having to do a ton of pre-planning. Car camping lets you pitch your tent right next to your car, and bring all of your favorite creature comforts with you, like coolers, lawn chairs, lanterns, and board games.

What to bring Camping:


1) Trunk organizer – When you’re car camping, it can be tricky to keep your car and yourself organized. A trunk organizer will help. This one clips into your trunk with bungee cords, and has large, heavy duty compartments. Perfect for organizing your toiletries, food, boots, and anything else you’re bringing.
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2) Moisture-wicking Shirts – Stay warm in cold weather, and cool on sunny days by wearing moisture-wicking or dri fit clothing. Dressing in layers (and staying dry!) is key to a comfortable camping experience. This one is versatile and highly rated.
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3) Insulating Jacket and Pants – When you’re camping, it may get chilly at night. Bring some insulating outerwear so that you can trap your body heat and stay warm in your tent or by the fire.
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4) Sleeping bag – Sleeping under the stars (or in your tent) will be loads more comfortable if you’re in a waterproof, season-appropriate sleeping bag. This one is lightweight, durable and easy to clean.
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5) Tent and Tent Stakes – Choosing the right tent is important to the enjoyment of your camping trip. Your tent should be completely weatherproof, and fairly easy to set up. The size and type of tent you choose will depend upon your group size and space needs, but this is a reliable and well-ventilated model.
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6) Sleeping Pad – At your campsite you might find yourself having to sleep on some less than comfortable surfaces, like on a dirt ground littered with little branches, or even worse – gravel. A lightweight sleeping pad won’t weigh you down, and you’ll definitely thank yourself for bringing it when you feel that extra layer of comfort.
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7) Hammock – There’s nothing like relaxing in a hammock under a shady tree at the end of a long hike. Bring one that’s easy to set up to make the most of your car camping experience. This hammock is portable, lightweight, easily cleaned, and quick-drying.
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8) Water Bottle – It’s so important to bring a reusable water bottle when camping. You can refill it at your campground’s water spigots, or bring extra gallons of water if necessary. This water bottle is my favorite because of its sip-friendly spout and spill proof locking mechanism.
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9) Lanterns – Bringing a lantern is especially important during fire bans or after you have to put out the fire during a dark night. Let this one light your way around the campsite, and then hang it from your tent while you get ready for bed.
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10) Food Supplies – The trickiest part of car camping is choosing your menu for the weekend. If you’re bringing a gas stove (or if there is a fire pit on site), bring hot dogs, burgers, or anything else you might like to grill for dinner. For breakfast, bacon and eggs or yogurt with granola are good options. Make sure you bring tongs and a spatula, and pack perishables in a cooler filled with ice. Since you’re car camping, there’s more room to get fancy with your culinary skills!


11) Camping stove – Bringing a camping stove is an extremely convenient way to cook meals at your campsite. Fire it up, put a pan on it, and you’re ready to make dinner. This one is lightweight, easy to set up, and made of super high quality materials.
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12) Portable Speaker – Whether you’re car camping solo or with a big group, playing music will set the mood for a fun time. This one stays charges for hours to that you can play music from sunrise to sunset. Perfect for the outdoors.
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13) Cooler – With plenty of room in the car, consider bringing a large cooler filled with your food and beverages. This cooler stays cold for a really long time and is perfect for multi-day camping trips.
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14) Wool socks – If you’re going to be doing any hiking during your car camping trip, bring along a few pairs of wool socks. For maximum cushion and temperature control, always hike in these. They’ll keep you comfortable on the trail, and also warm at night in your tent.
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15) Hiking Boots: Women’s and Men’s – A good pair of shoes is totally necessary if you’re going to be hiking. Never order shoes online unless you’ve tried them on in a store first. REI is a great place to look for the perfect pair with expert assistance. These ones are my personal favorite hiking boots, and have taken me all around the world!
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16) Daypack – For any outdoor activity, It’s important to stay organized with a daypack. Use it to store your clothing and toiletries when you’re going in and out of the tent, or take it on a long hike. Camelbak makes well-designed, aesthetic daypacks that great for a full day out on the trail. It’ll also keep you hydrated!
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17) To-Go Coffee Mug – Coffee or tea is a must while I’m car camping. Make some on your camping stove and then pour it in one of these to-go mugs, and you’re ready for a day in the great outdoors!
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Other packing list items for camping:


What to wear Car Camping:


1) Comfort is key if the drive to your campground is a long one. Stay comfortable with sweatpants, leggings, tee shirts and sweatshirts. Make sure to bring sunglasses as well.

2) Before you start packing your clothing for your camping trip, do a little research on the area you are going to in case the location is prone to rain or snow. Layering is vital to being comfortable in the outdoors, since temperature fluctuates. Layer up in moisture-wicking (no cotton!) tank tops, shorts or leggings, thermals, and jackets. Because you’ll be living out of your car, you will probably want to pack as light as possible. Try to pack only items that can be mixed and matched, and keep your supply down to one item per clothing category (for example, one tank top, one short sleeve shirt, one pant, etc).

3) For footwear, sandals are great for letting your feet breathe on hot days when you’re lounging around. Wool socks are good for keeping your feet warm and comfortable. On hikes wear hiking boots or sturdy athletic shoes with traction.

What NOT to take Car Camping


1) 🚫 Bulky luggage – It’s easier to pack your clothing and toiletries in a trunk organizer or laundry basket, rather than hauling out a suitcase every time you need to swap clothes.
2) 🚫 Jeans – Don’t weigh yourself down with stiff, inhibiting jeans. Denim and camping don’t mix well.
3) 🚫 Jewelry/ Nice clothing – Nobody’s going for style points on a camping trip.
4) 🚫 Unnecessary electronics – You definitely will not need your computer or tablet while you’re trying to soak in the outdoors.
5) 🚫 Perfumes – Do your part to keep bears and other wildlife away from humans (to protect yourself and the animals) and don’t bring anything too smelly.
6) 🚫 Valuables – Unless you’re at a busy national park during peak season, you don’t need to worry about thieves. You do, however, need to worry about the elements ruining anything too valuable.
7) 🚫 White clothing – If you wear white pants or a white shirt camping, you’re just asking to fall in the mud or get accidentally squirted with hot dog condiments.

FAQs about car camping:


1) How do you shower while car camping?

You can bring a solar shower, or bathe in clean stream or rivers. Some campgrounds have restrooms with showers. Worst case scenario, keep a stash of wet wipes handy!

2) What do you eat while car camping?

Bring snacks that are convenient and healthy. I like to bring along a lot of nuts, dried fruit, granola bars and apples, along with a cooler full of yogurt, salami, cheese and other easy foods. Check pinterest for campfire meal recipes.

3) How can I find out if there will be potable water at my campsite?

Always check the website of the park that you’ll be camping at. Most, but not all, campgrounds have a water source like a spigot that can be used to fill up your water bottles. Look online or call the park ranger service to check for specifics about your campground.

4) How do you deal with inclement weather?

Always dress in layers. Make sure you bring a rain jacket or poncho, the rain fly for your tent, and some board games to stay entertained during a random thunderstorm.

5) Do all campgrounds allow campfires?

No, not always. During dry season, many campgrounds will have a fire ban. Make sure you check online or call your local park ranger service to find out. If you are prohibited from making a campfire, make sure you bring a gas stove to cook with!

6) How do I find a campground near me?

You can find a campground through this website. You can also search for specific dates and group sizes!


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