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Car Camping Essentials for 2023

Car camping doesn’t need to mean slumming it. Neither do you need to pack everything but the kitchen sink.

The great thing about car camping is you can bring whatever you want so long as it fits in the car.

We’ve seen cars turn up to camp packed to the gunnels. The occupants spent the weekend hunting for stuff in their disorganised mess.

In contrast, we’ve seen one car arrive with hardly any camping gear and the couple had been travelling like this, non-stop since 1996!

There’s a middle ground though. The right car camping equipment and accessories makes for a successful camping trip.

This is our list of car camping essentials to make sure you have all the gear you need for a comfortable, cosy and fun camping trip.

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Sleeping well

There’s no need to have an uncomfortable night’s sleep when you’re car camping.

If you pack the right gear for the conditions, you’ll sleep as well as you do at home.


To spend anything more than a weekend camping, you need a great quality tent.

It needs to be easy to put up, high enough to stand up inside and provide protection from the elements.

Find a tent you can spend an evening in without having to lie down in bed. And one with fly screens too, to keep the night time bugs outside.

You don’t have to spend a fortune either.

Stand up inside tent

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Foam mattress

Adding an extra layer between your body and the ground will help keep you warm while you sleep and add a little extra comfort too.

Walking campers carry their roll mats or sleeping pads on their rucksacks.

They help but with car camping you don’t need to worry about lugging extra bulk and weight around so you can go for the comfort option.

An air mattress will do the job but make sure you get a good quality. We’ve had a couple in the pas and they always ended up punctured.

If you go for an air mattress, make sure you have a puncture repair kit, and at least a foot pump if not an air compressor to run off you car to make inflating it an easy job.

Best of all though, and if your car has the space, take this foam mattress. Complete luxury and you’ll be the envy of your camp mates!

Portable folding foam mattress

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So you might think you have to pack a sleeping bag each right?


Just bring the plush feather duvet and plump pillows off your own bed.

Seriously. This is how to guarantee a good night’s sleep.

Cotton sheets

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Travel blankets

You’ve got your warm, comfortable bed sorted but what about the evenings?

Temperatures can plummet after the sun sets depending on where you are.

Aside from your warm layers, have a couple of travel blankets in the car to throw over your legs or round your shoulders to keep the evening chill at bay.

Rumpl blanket

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Eating well

Have a well equipped and well stocked car camping kitchen will make sure you have a hearty meal at the end of the day.

Here’s the car camping kitchen essentials you need.

Camp table

If going camping in a place without picnic tables, a camp table adds so much comfort to your camp.

You won’t need to kneel or crouch to prepare your food and dine in comfort.

And you’ll have somewhere to prop your beer too.

Even a small basic table will be worth carrying – and they don’t take up much space in the car anyway.

camping table

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Camping Stove

With the right car camping cooking gear, camp meals don’t all have to be sausage and beans, dehydrated rations and packets of junk food.

With a 2 ring camping stove you can cook up a fine meal.

We always liked to use the petrol version because getting refills was so easy. But they do come as a camping gas version too if you prefer.

Coleman Gas Camping Stove

Camper kitchen accessories

To check out all the cooking kit you need, take a look at our post on kitchen essentials.

Just pack it all up into a plastic box with a lid and slide it into your car.

All set to cook up a feast!

Camp comforts

The only things left to add to our car camping essentials list are all about convenience and your comfort.

Camping chair

We all love a comfortable camp chair. It doesn’t matter if you go with a fancy, carbon one, an umbrella-folding cheap one or something in between.

Just make sure it’s comfortable and you all have one each.

And try not to reverse over them – we turned one of ours into a recliner this way.

Camping Chair

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Comfortable camp shoes

Whether you prefer flip flips or crocs, a practical pair of shoes for lunging around the camp is far more comfortable than keeping hiking boots on all night.

Skechers walking shoes

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Camp lights

Head torches are great for walking around camp after dark but they glare into the eyes of anyone you look at, half blinding them.

Keep the head torches for walking around and pack a table top lantern.

Hand crank camping lantern

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Read this for inspiring camper van gift ideas?

Car camping is on the increase and if you follow our advice, you won’t need to worry about weight, space, over or under packing.

Camping is one of the best tonics to the stresses of modern day life.

Make sure you get the benefits to your wellbeing, both physical and mental and pack these car camping essentials for your next outdoor weekend.

For a complete list of everything we carry with us in our campervan, head on over to our post on van life essentials packing list. You can print our free checklist there too.

If you plan on camping in a motorhome, RV or campervan, check out our guide to camping responsibly here.

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