I used to think of car camping as backpacking with a vehicle. Maybe you had a camping chair and a cooler, but that’s about it. Then I got smart. The sport of car camping demands a little luxury. This list of the best car camping gear for anyone who loves a night under the stars will elevate your camping game.
Now that I have a teardrop camper, I’ve elevated my car camping game by including fun luxuries such as twinkle lights and a memory foam mattress. With the holidays right around the corner, I’ll hook you up with these amazing car camping gift ideas that are guaranteed to elevate your car camping game.
*A quick note: This post contains affiliate links and some sponsored content. This means that if you click a link and purchase something, I get a small kickback at no added cost to you (you get honest gear recs and I get to keep this website going). Please note that I NEVER recommend any products before testing them out, beating them up and fully vetting their capabilities. You can read more about my affiliate policy here.
What to Look for with a good camping gift or car camping gear
When it comes to car camping, there is a lot of gimicky gear. It can be easy to get weighed down with tons of useless knick knacks that will have you feeling like you’re at a hoarders convention instead of actually stepping away from things and into nature.
The key to finding a good camping gift or scoring an amazing piece of camping gear is practicality and multi-function. Look for things that can be used for more than one activity, or more than one purpose. Each of the car camping accessories on this list can be used in several different ways, making it a versatile product that you’ll want to use.
Be weary of something that claims to be everything, but pots with lids that double as strainers? Safety equpiment you can make into a couch? A speaker that you’ll use at home too? All of these are excellent examples of the ultimate car camping gear.
Cook it up with the best camping pots and pans
GSI Outdoors makes camp cooking possible with their incredible lineup of cook sets. I can’t get enough of my Bugaboo Base Camper cook set. The non-stick coating lasts along bumpy roads and the pots and pans nest, making cleanup a breeze making it some of the best car camping gear money can buy.
Long gone are the days of using old aluminum cook sets. This set has vented lids so you can easily drain pasta or cook water in a jiffy. Essentially all of my friends own a set of these, they are literally that amazing.
The Bugaboo Base Camper is on the pricier side, with the large model coming in at $99. However with two pots, a pan and cutting board (or a plate) this cook set can easily handle the needs of a family of four.
Bring some funk to your trunk with a waterproof speaker
Typically, when I’m out with friends we hardly use a portable speaker. However, when my good friend Sarah and I are cooking, we like to keep the camp kitchen dancy. I also enjoy some soft music when I’m camping solo.
However, we never blast the tunes (seriously, be respectful of your neighbors) but if you need a little beat to spice up the evening, don’t hesitate to pick up an Altec Lansing LifeJacket 2. At the time of this post, this bad box only costs $100 – which is a STEAL considering this Bluetooth speaker can withstand being dunked underwater, rained on, snowed on and defeat dust and sand. I’ve actually got two speakers like this, one for home and one for life on the road. I’ve beaten the crap out of my LifeJacket and it’s still as good as new.
Not what you’re looking for? I’ve got boatloads of outdoor gift recommendations for every style of adventurer. Check it out:
- Gift ideas for hikers on any budget
- Eco-friendly Gift ideas
- Gifts that aren’t things
- Beginner backpacking gear
- Hiking clothes for any budget
- Durable climbing gear for the send!
Set the mood with Luci Lights
MPOWERD, a benefit corp (meaning they are socially and environmentally responsible and transparent) recently sent me a few Luci lights to put through my rigorous series of tests. Their Luci Outdoor Pro is a solar-powered, inflatable light also comes with a USB charger.
I immediately fell in love. Not only with the company’s thoughtful stance on sustainability – they distribute these handy LEDs to folks who don’t have electricity across the world, but they are super handy for any situation. Luci products make an excellent camping gift idea, since you’re not only giving to a loved one, but you’re spreading the light around the globe.
I’ve taken my Luci Outdoor Pro camping, backpacking and even overseas! The Luci Solar String Lights bring a portable (solar powered), festive mood to any camp. I love to string them up around camp and even while I’m on the go (seriously, I brought them to Belize just to dance at night near palm trees).
Each Luci Light costs around $35, making it an affordable camping gift option. My only knock is that they take a minute to charge and I wouldn’t solely rely on the USB charger if you carry a lot of cameras and gadgets, but it works great to give your phone some juice on the go!
Never deal with kitchen mess again with Stasher Bags
I seriously cannot get enough of my silicone, reusable Stasher bags! They are simply the best things since sliced bread. These all-silicone bags work wonders if you like to meal prep before you camp. Just dump your ingredients in the bag, seal and go.
What makes these some of the best car camping accessories is that you can use them for virtually anything else in your life.Not to mention they eliminate the need for plastic baggies! The come in all different sizes and I love my sandwich and snack sizes. Other uses include:
- Fill with water and freeze for mess-free ice
- Boil your leftovers in the baggies for no-mess meals
- Rinse out easily and re-fill ’em with your favorite trail snack.
Sleep Like a Goddess with Exped MegaMat
If you want the absolute best of car camping luxury, look no further than the Exped MegaMat Duo 10. This plush sleeping pad sleeps two making it one of the best pieces of car camping gear.
It’s got 4 inches of purely amazing insulated comfort which means you won’t even notice that you’re sleeping on the ground? Added bonus? The regular fits nicely in the bed of a Tacoma and most Subaru hatchbacks (definitely measure before you buy). Now there’s a night’s sleep to get excited about!
Relax in style with a camping couch
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, bouldering crash pads make excellent couches! That’s right, you can build a couch with a cooler and a crash pad. In fact, bouldering crash pads come in handy for more than just protecting yourself while climbing pebbles.
My dog loves to lounge on my Metolius Session II Crash Pad. It’s my favorite desert camping accessory because I can quickly pack it up, strap it to my back and wander to the nearest climbing problem around camp. At $145 it isn’t the cheapest lounger on the market, but if you already like to climb, then it’ll make a perfect addition to your climber’s base camp.
For more camping know-how, check out these posts:
- How to find free camping anywhere in the USA
- The best free campsites near Denver
- 22 tips to master desert camping
- Your Guide to Car Camping
The Best Car Camping Accessories on a Budget: S’more Skewers
Do you dream of the perfect gooey s’more? I’m a burnt mallow gal myself (yummy, crispy carbon) and there’s something about the Rolla Roaster sticks that make this campfire tradition special.
When a friend whipped out a set of these on a car camping trip I thought it was a bit gimmicky, but they are actually insanely helpful. The sticks extend and you can spin the forks with the whirl of a small wheel near the handle, ensuring your sugary treat is toasted to perfection. At only $13 for a set of four, this is a gift that promises plenty of smiles.
Stay Covered and Cozy
I don’t leave for camp without my Rumpl Blanket ($150) and Shammy ($59). The Rumpl blanket is essentially a sleeping bag in blanket form, it goes with me everywhere. Both of these awesome items makes a perfect car camping gifts. I mean, who doesn’t want the gift of coziness?
It keeps me cozy on cool mornings and my dog simply loves to lounge around. If I’m headed to warmer climates or I’ll be chilling near water, I pack my Rumpl Shammy. This Shammy does double duty. First, it rappels dirt and sand (a real life-saver on my two-week trip through the desert). And secondly, it’s highly absorbent and packable, making it the perfect companion for watery destinations. Rumpl has the cover-up needs on lockdown.
Get Your Free Desert Packing List and stay organized for your car camping adventure!
A top-shelf cooler that doesn’t break the bank
Yeti Coolers are a total rip off, #sorrynotsorry. Sure, they do their job well, but did you know you can spend a lot less and get the same exact cooler? My 40L Grizzly Cooler costs nearly $80 less than a Yeti, making it one of my favorite car camping gift ideas. This bad mamma can hold ice for over 24 hours and keeps food cool even when it’s blazing hot out. I’ve put four days worth of food and drink in this cooler without much of a fuss.
It doesn’t leak and if you put a few master locks on the end, it’s bearproof. At $225, it’s still a pricey cooler, but you don’t need to buy the name brand to get the same quality. Oh, and you can get the cooler in almost every color under the sun which is a nice plus. I’ve also heard good things about the Ozark Trail brand coolers, but I haven’t personally tested them myself.
Each of these pieces of car camping gear adds something different to your camp. Whether you’re shopping for a loved one (or yourself, no shame!) these car camping gift ideas aim to give a little bit of luxury to the car camper on your list this year.