As most weekend warriors have learned, nothing makes a trip to the wild more enjoyable than having the right camping gear. Below you’ll find a list of absolute essentials that will keep you comfy under the stars.
The Tent1 of 6
First things first, let's start with a tent. Die-hard backpackers know that lightweight and compact tents are essential, but when it comes to car camping, weight and size don't matter as much. Instead, keep these considerations in mind:
• Is it tall enough to stand up in? (Seriously, who wants to feel like they're playing a game of Twister while getting dressed each morning?)
• Does it have ample ventilation to catch the summer breeze?
• How about two doors so you're not forced to crawl over your tent mate while making a midnight trip to the bathroom?
The Big Agnes Big House checks all of these boxes (and more) and is our go-to car camping tent. Some campers, however, ditch the tent completely and hang a hammock in warm weather. The Warbonnet Blackbird gets rave reviews for its durability, easy assembly and built-in bug net, an essential feature for outdoor summertime sleeping.
Sleeping Bag2 of 6
It's all about personal preference when it comes to choosing a sleeping bag. Some campers prefer mummy bags, while others choose rectangular. Some like down bags while others select synthetic (see the pros and cons of each here).
Personally, we like a sleeping bag that unzips at both the top and the bottom so you can free your feet when you get too toasty. If you're a side sleeper, you'll also want a bag that you can toss and turn in. The Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy fits the bill with its innovative new design, which incorporates zipper-free ports at the shoulders and feet so that your arms and legs can move freely. It's a bag you can actually wear, and it will pretty much change the way you camp.
Ground Pads3 of 6
Ground pads are essential for a comfy night's sleep under the stars, and will also help you stay warm on cool nights by providing an insulating barrier between your body and the cold ground. We love the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir VENTURE Mattress because it rolls up small and is easy to inflate.
But since we're car camping here, who says we have to stop at a ground pad? The Helinox Cot One is an unbelievably comfortable and easy to assemble camping cot (it's a splurge, but worth the money if you're a frequent car camper.) Another option: Why not bring an air mattress from home? Just make sure the mattress fits in your tent and remember you'll need electricity to inflate it.
Pillow4 of 6
How many times have you crawled into your sleeping bag only to realize that you didn't pack a pillow? You can always bring your pillow from home, of course, but consider keeping an inflatable version packed away with your camping gear.
The Nemo Fillo Pillow is so comfortable and supportive that your neck won't even realize you've spent the night snoozing on the ground.
Tent Footprint5 of 6
Finally, don't forget to bring a tent footprint (a tarp works just as well) to protect the floor of your tent from the rocks and sticks that might damage it. If it rains, a footprint will keep the floor of your tent dry, too.
So, what are you waiting for? The days are already getting shorter, but that means the stars burn longer each night. Grab your car camping gear and escape into nature this weekend.