Everything You Need for a Car Camping Trip

These essentials

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Travel + Leisure / Sabrina Jiang

Now that summer is upon us, many of us will be embarking on camping trips. Some travelers opt for traditional tent camping, and others will be renting RVs this season, but car camping is an option not to be overlooked. You don't need a spacious RV or camper; in fact, no matter what kind of car you drive, you can enjoy car camping; if you have the right gear, that is.

And here at Travel + Leisure, we've covered plenty of camping tips and tricks to make your next outdoor getaway as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. From mistakes to avoid on your first camping trip to the best camping gear you can buy on Amazon, we have you covered. And if you're planning a car camping trip in the near future, this article is for you, since we're discussing all the must-have gear, including tents, air mattresses, portable lanterns, and more.

Keep reading for more on the car camping essentials you'll want to bring on your next trip.

A Rooftop Tent

Tan overland car tent
Courtesy of Amazon

If you prefer to the tent route versus sleeping inside your car, a rooftop tent is a solid choice. Depending on what kind of car you have, there are a variety of different rooftop tents out there that are spacious, comfortable, and ideal for stargazing.

An Air Mattress & Sleeping Bags

Inflatable Travel Bed Air Mattress
Courtesy of Amazon

If you'll be sleeping in your car, you'll want a comfortable, easily packable air mattress that will provide a good night's sleep but won't be a pain to pack up at the end of your trip. There are even some air mattresses that are specifically designed to fit in the trunk or backseat of a car, making them all the more cozy for your next car camping trip.

A Durable, Portable Cooler

Grey and blue Igloo cooler
Courtesy of Amazon

When you're camping, you're going to want a solid cooler that will keep food, drinks, and ice cold for as long as possible. Igloo and Yeti both have durable yet sleek options that not only have plenty of room for all the food you'll need on your trip, but can also keep ice for days at a time. And if you'll be taking shorter excursions, a portable cooler backpack is another must-have.


White portable lantern
Courtesy of Amazon

Whether you're cozying up inside your car or enjoying some time outdoors, you'll want to make sure your campsite is well lit. Solar-powered and rechargeable lanterns are a stellar option for cozy and effective campsite lighting, and Amazon shoppers love these options.

  • Luminaid Solar Inflatable Lantern, amazon.com, $25
  • Taotronics Rechargeable Portable Lantern, amazon.com, $36
  • Fly2Sky Portable LED Tent Lamp, amazon.com, $13

A Camping Stove & Kitchen Basics

Blue portable camping stove
Courtesy of Amazon

There are plenty of ways you can go about cooking on camping trips, but with a few basics, like a camping stove, portable flatware set, and hand-powered espresso maker, you'll be sure to have everything you need for meals on-the-go right in your car.

  • Coleman Portable Butane Stove with Carrying Case, amazon.com, $40
  • Wacaco Portable Espresso Machine, amazon.com, $50
  • Hommaly Reusable Travel Utensils, amazon.com, $9 (originally $15)

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