The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist

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This extensive car camping checklist is designed to help you to prepare for your next outdoor trip.

The way we travel this Summer might have to change, as we try to incorporate social distancing measures. Jumping on a plane to a far-off destination won’t be as straight forward as it once was.

For this summer at least, domestic travel might be a more feasible option.

One budget friendly way to travel locally is through car camping. The beauty of car camping is that anyone can do it. It’s an easy way to enjoy the outdoors without breaking the budget.

However, without the right equipment car camping can soon become a miserable experience. It’s important to do some research into the items you plan to purchase. It is possible to get many items at a reasonable price but buying the cheapest items isn’t always the way to go, especially if you want your equipment to last.

In this guide I share the best car camping gear which I have tried and tested on trips around England and Wales.  It’s also the same equipment Nick and I used on our epic 28 road trip around Ireland.

Car camping in Ireland is pretty awesome!

Car Camping Checklist

If you’re not interested in product reviews jump straight in and download your ultimate car camping checklist here!

For more information on the equipment I use and recommend, read on below.

Sleeping

Tent: There are a few simple things I want from a tent. I want it to be easy to assemble and capable of withstanding harsh weather. The Khyam Highlander is both of these things and for that reason I can strongly recommend it.

Other companies such as Coleman and Qeedo, now also produce this quick erect style of tent and thus provide a cheaper alternative to Khyam.

          Check price on Amazon: UK / US

Sleeping bag: A decent sleeping bag is key to a good nights sleep. Sleeping bags are categorised in seasons, which relate to the temperature in which they are effective. For example, a 1 season sleeping bag is good for hot conditions and a 4 season sleeping bag is good for extremely cold conditions.

I’ve had my Mountain Warehouse Everest Down sleeping bag for a few years now and I still love snuggling up in it at night. Its comfort range is -3 to -9 degrees Celsius, which means I’m never cold.

This bag has kept me warm on adventures in Patagonia, the Andes, Pakistan and around the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.

If you’re interested in seeing what a month hiking in the Annapurnas looks like, take a look at this video!

Check price on Amazon UK / US

Sleeping mattress: With car camping you can afford to be a little more luxurious with your sleeping mattress, since you have space to store it.

Normally when I’m hiking I carry a small and light Thermarest. However, for car camping trips we use a super comfortable double bed air mattress. This Coleman mattress also comes with a small bag for handy storage.

      Check price on Amazon UK / US

Mattress Pump: Because who needs to be blowing up a big old double air bed each time? Seriously, you have power from your car so why not use it?! 😉

          Check price on Amazon UK / US

Pillow: Pillows make such a difference to having a good nights sleep. Regular pillows from home work just fine, or to save space consider an inflatable pillow like this one.

      Check price on Amazon UK / US

Shelter: If you’re likely to encounter rain on your trip it’s best to invest in a shelter of some sort. Trust me, it’s not much fun cooking in the rain! Tarps are cheap and take up minimal space, however they only really work when surrounded by trees or something else to tie them to.

A better all around bet is a free standing shelter.

   Check price on Amazon UK / US

An aerial photo of our high quality tent, which is an essential item on a car camping checklist

Kitchen

Stove: The type of stove you buy will depend on your needs. In my case there are just two of us to cook for, so a stove with two burners works just fine.

This basic stove is easy to use as the gas bottles simply click into place. No need to worry about regulars and big propane containers. It’s also portable which makes it ideal for festivals.

     Check the price on Amazon UK

More recently I discovered this stove which has an in-built grill. Very handy! Note that this one requires a regulator. On Amazon this is often sold as a bundle, along with the gas.

     Check the price on Amazon UK / US

Fuel: Buying multipacks of this like propane often work out cheaper.

   Check the price on Amazon UK

Table: A recent addition to our car camping gear list is a table. This is good for cooking since not all camp sites have benches available. They’re also handy for wild camping.

  Check the price on Amazon UK / US

Cool Box: This is an absolute must for car camping in order to prevent all your yummy food from perishing. When it comes to cool boxes, you get what you pay for so it’s worth spending a little extra here.

   Check the price on Amazon UK / US

Ice blocks: These keep the cool box cold, even in hot conditions.

  Check the price on Amazon UK

Storage containers: Keep all of your kitchen gear organised with containers that fit comfortably in your car.

Check the price on Amazon UK

Water jerrican: Water storage for use with cooking and cleaning. This container is free of nasty chemicals.

Check the price on Amazon UK

Pots, pans, kettle: All the essentials to make the magic happen in the kitchen.

  Check the price on Amazon UK / US

Cutlery: This awesome set is portable and contains a few essentials for the finer things in life ie. wine glasses and a cheese knife!

  Check the price on Amazon UK

Utensils and cutlery: It’s not necessary to buy these pre-made kits and packages. Just be sure to have the following:

  • Cups
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Knives
  • Forks
  • Spoons
  • Spatular
  • Cooking spoon
  • Chopping board
  • Chopping knives
  • Bottle opener/can opener/corkscrew

Coffee press: Are you a coffee person? Then I guess this is for you. Personally I’m a tea girl, but for Nick this is an essential.

   Check the price on Amazon UK / US

Washing up bowl with detergent and sponges: This bowl is collapsable, which helps with storage.

Water purification tablets: Essential for purifying water if you’re wild camping.

Basic herb and spice selection

Trash bags

Aluminium foil

A photo of a fire pit in front of our tent. A good kitchen setup is essential on a car camping checklist

Car Camping Accessories

Camping chairs: These are quite easy to pick up and even the cheap ones are pretty durable these days. 

   Check the price on Amazon UK / US

Head torch: I’ve had a few head torches over the years but I really like my current Petzl. It has different brightnesses as well as the red light option to avoid blinding everyone around you!

   Check out the price on Amazon UK / US

Camp lantern: Head torches are great but it’s also handy to have a lantern around camp. This nifty lantern charges from USB and has 2 detachable torches.

   Check the price on Amazon UK 

First Aid Kit: This kit is compact and every section is labelled which makes it fast and easy to use.

   Check the price on Amazon UK / UK

Basic tools for around camp:

  • Mallet
  • Dustpan and brush
  • Shovel
  • Duct tape
  • Lighter
  • Multi-tool
  • Chargers
Camping in the picturesque Lake District in England

Clothing

Base layers: These are the things that will keep you warm in the evenings around camp and also throughout the night.  It’s worth spending money on Morino wool as it has antibacterial properties, which means you don’t have to wash it so often.

   Check the price of this womens base layer top on Amazon

Wool socks: To keep those feet warm around camp.

   Check the price on Amazon UK

Buff: This can double up as a beanie to mask unruly camping hair!

Gloves: I find gloves really handy for packing away the tent on cold mornings.

Puffy jacket: A good puffy jacket can be a lifesaver in so many different situations so mine is never far away.

  Check the price on Amazon UK / US

Rain jacket or poncho: A high quality poncho can be as good as rain jacket and is perfect for around camp. 

Check the price on Amazon UK/ US

Midge/fly/mosquito net: If you’ve planning a camping trip in northern England or Scotland you’ll want one of these. The midges are horrendous. Or maybe your camping trip is taking you to Alaska where the mosquitoes are huge.

Buy one of these – you can thank me later!

Top tip: Get the lighter coloured net as it’s difficult to see out of the black one!

  Check the price on Amazon UK/ US

We learnt about midges on our camping trip in the Lake District where we planned to hike one of the Lakes’ iconic walks. Read about that adventure in this post.

Camp footwear: This very much depends on the climate of your camping. In hot conditions I love to relax in my flip flops but in wetter conditions wellington boots are more appropriate! The best brand for wellies are most certainly Hunter.

   Check the price on Amazon UK.

Toiletries 

When it comes to car camping toiletries, I like to keep to the basics.

Optional extras

The following items are by no means essential but often accompany me on a car camping trip. 

  • My Sony A6400 is compact and light which makes it perfect for hiking.

  • This Bose Colorlink portable speaker is waterproof, which is invaluable for camping holidays.

  • The DJI Spark is on the cheaper end of DJI’s range and since it fits in the palm of your hand it’s ideal for hiking.

  • These Nikons are high quality binoculars that don’t the bank.

  • Although this Lowepro bag isn’t the cheapest, I’ve been using it for for several years now and still love it.

  • Trekking poles are great for looking after my knees.

  • These Hanwag boots are the most comfortable boots I’ve owned and since they’re Gortex they’re waterproof and breathable. 

  • My trusty Iphone 6s is still going and takes a decent picture.

  • I always try and have a physical map of the place I’m hiking just in case the technology fails.

  • For the last year I have been using this water bottle with an incorporated filter. This way I can refill my water anywhere I go.

For high quality drinking reservoirs, vests and packs, Camelbak are hard to beat and come with a lifetime warranty. Click below to see their latest products.
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Most of my camping trips usually incorporate day hikes, which accounts for many of the items above. For a full list of everything I typically take on a hike, take a look at this post.

Summary

With Summer fast approaching it’s time to start thinking about those summer vacations. One budget friendly option is a car camping trip.

In this guide I’ve provided a handy checklist for all those items you will need on a car camping holiday. I hope you find it useful.

With some basic car camping essentials and good organisation, you can soon be on your way to an awesome outdoor adventure!

Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps cover the cost of running this blog. Thanks for your support!

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In this guide I provide useful car camping product reviews and a free, printable car camping checklist. This checklist is designed to help you prepare for your next outdoor trip.

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