13 Car-Camping Essentials That Turn Any Ride Into an Escape Vehicle

Car camping essentials
Car camping essentialsChris Wellhausen

Whether you’re a van life veteran or looking to explore the great outdoors for the first time, these 13 essentials will turn whatever you drive into a fully kitted escape vehicle.

1. Luno’s improved Air Mattress 2.0, customized to fit the backs of certain car models, turns trunks to beds by utilizing support cubes that fill the cavities behind front seats. The independent 4-inch-thick inflatable pads pair together so bedmates can adjust individual firmness. $225; lunolife.com

2. Sleep unconstrained in Therm-a-Rest’s light-but-cozy hydrophobic-down Vela Double 32F. Perimeter baffles prevent drafts while side snaps can attach to a partner’s quilt, or to a fitted pad sheet. $300; thermarest.com

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3. Given how easy and comfortable it is to sleep in the car these days, ditch the big tent and go light with a versatile Noah’s Tarp for backup. $60; kelty.com

4. Better yet, hang out. The spreader bar on Eagles Nest Outfitters’ SkyLite Hammock creates a supportive platform. Comfy with or without a sleeping pad, its integrated no-see-um-proof net has an oversized door that zips out of the way. $170; enonation.com

5. GSI’s Pinnacle Pro Stove is the MacBook Air of camp stoves. $199; gsioutdoors.com

6. Stanley’s stainless steel Even Heat Camp Pro Cook Set nests everything needed to fill five mouths—two pots and a pan with vented lids, plus a pack- able spatula and spoon, collapsible cutting board, and silicone trivets that double as hot pads—all locking into the largest pot. $140; stanley-pmi.com

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7. A kitchen kit is not complete without a cutting surface. The Primus CampFire Cutting Set’s timeless oak board and handled knife wraps in a rugged Fjällräven canvas roll. $70; primus.us

8. When space is at a premium, Hydro Flask’s superlight 3.2-pound 24 L Unbound Series Tote jams into overstuffed cars, tucking neatly behind front seats for easy reaching into the accessible hinged top. Think: a few days, not weeks, of cold. But don’t underestimate a capable, watertight soft-side cooler that fits 47 cans. $200; hydroflask.com

9. Go big with a supportive, high-back camp chair you can lean into without worry. The Big Six Armchair’s shock-corded poles pack down to the size of a yoga mat. $200; bigagnes.com

10. BioLite’s collapsible, dual-sided tabletop BaseLantern XL connects via Bluetooth for app control of brightness and color. Two charging ports also re- boot phones and other e-necessities. $130; bioliteenergy.com

11. The updated lunchbox look-alike Yeti 500x packs enough juice (505Wh) to power the whole site (plugs for portable fridges, phones, cameras, just about anything with AC, 12-volt, and 60w USB-C PD), and recharges at home, in your car, or with Goal Zero’s portable solar panels. $700; goalzero.com

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12. Light weight, durability, and clean aesthetics make Snow Peak’s Bamboo My Table hard to leave home. $129; snowpeak.com

13. Bring a classic campfire to any site with Fireside Outdoor’s packable 3-pound personal pit approved for use on BLM, USFS, and national park lands. The Trailblazer Firepit minimizes cleanup with efficient fires on steel mesh, plus doubles as a cook system with a folding grill. $100; firesideoutdoor.com

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