The Essential Car Camping Gear Guide (2020)

I've been camping since I was a kid, and whenever I want to have a low-key vacation that stays in my budget, I think of camping. But as I've gotten older, car camping has become more and more appealing to me, along with the car camping gear that's apart of it. There's no need to invest in a huge tent, it's easy to do anywhere and I can use my car as a giant battery for my phone? Yes, please.

There truly are some essential pieces of gear you'll need before you get started with a car camping lifestyle. Here are the 10 essential items that you'll want when you make the switch from standard camping to car camping.

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We hope you find these products as awesome as we do. Just an FYI: We are a participant in the Amazon affiliate program, and Brainjolt may receive a share of sales from links on this page.

Make your car a palace

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One of the biggest benefits of car camping is that you can use car space as sleeping space. But just curling up on a car seat is not my idea of a perfect bed. That's why I use this Therm-a-rest pad. This air mattress self-inflates, and you can stick it in a truck bed, the back of a van, or really any car to create a luxury camping experience.

Optimize your space

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Another huge benefit of car camping is that you've got tons of space for all your gear. And with one additional purchase, you get even more space. This car topper is affordable and gives you oodles of extra space in your car. Especially if you're using some of your vehicle as a sleeping space, more storage is a must.

Live a life of luxury

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One of the challenges of camping is always cooking. If you want to upgrade your cooking game when you start car camping, this portable stove is the perfect gear for you. It plugs in to your car and acts just like a microwave. It's basically magic.

Who doesn't love hammocks?

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As nice as it is to have built in sleeping in your car, sometimes you want to feel the breeze on your face and look up at the stars. Or maybe you just want to make your campsite a bit comfier. One of my absolute essentials for car camping is a small hammock. It takes up almost no space, but can increase my comfort levels infinitely.

Make your campsite home

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While many standard campsites have a picnic table or other easy seating, car camping doesn't always come with that luxury. You'll want to make sure you bring along your own seating that's collapsible and comfortable. This two pack of chairs is sturdy, light-weight and hits the right price point.

Complete the set with a table

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To truly make yourself comfortable, you'll want a table you can pop up at any campsite. This Outry folding table is a perfect option, and it's become an essential piece of gear for me no matter where I go. Easy to set up and take down, this table is sturdy but lightweight and perfect for car camping.

Keep it light

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If you want to be really unhappy in the morning, you can use your car's lights while you're car camping. But that will only result in a dead battery and a bummer of a trip. Instead, invest in this lantern/flashlight combo. You can use it to light the inside of your vehicle, or switch it to flashlight mode if you need to find somewhere private to do your business.

Take it to the next level

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Let's say you've been car camping for a while now and you're ready to invest in something to take your experience up a notch. This truck-bed tent is exactly what you want. The tent lets you sleep in your truck bed without worry about rain or bugs, and gives you plenty of space to stretch out.

All your tools in one

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One of the downsides of car camping is that there are more things that can break: a whole car's worth of them. You don't want to lug around a whole toolkit in case something goes wrong. This multitool is worth its weight in gold when it comes to car camping. It has all the tools you might need, and even a bottle opener (the most important tool of all).

Save yourself from a flat

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The last thing you want when you're car camping is a flat tire. Of course if you're driving on uneven terrain, it's more likely. Save yourself from any anxiety with this tire-patching kit. You don't even need a jack.