Gear: All the Right Stuff for Car-Camping

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Are We There Yet?

Gear: All the Right Stuff for Car-Camping
By Douglas Gantenbein

Cots and sleeping bags

Forget sleeping on the ground: set up a couple of L.L. Bean's Allagash folding cots ($42), made by Byer of Maine. These have sturdy hardwood side panels, four galvanized wire legs that double as carry handles, and a durable polyester cover. A good match for the cot is Slumberjack's Trapper sleeping bag ($50), a roomy, rectangular-cut bag with the requisite plaid flannel liner. Slumberjack's Romeo & Juliet ($119) is a double-bag wide enough for couples.

Car racks and carriers
How to get it all packed? For durability and flexibility, it's hard to beat a setup like Yakima's Q rack system, which includes a tower set ($115), clips ($40), crossbars ($39), and RocketBox (13.2 cubic feet, $399). The box is particularly valuable if you have a small vehicle and plan a long trip--its yawning maw can swallow just about anything that won't fit in the trunk. To carry a bike, you'll also need a SteelHead bike mount (about $100). A similar, slightly more economical system is available from Thule, which includes gutter-mount towers ($92), bars ($35), and an Adventure box (16 cubic feet, $350). Thule's Adventure box fits on Yakima racks as well. For bikes only, Rhode Gear's Euro Shuttle ($140) enables you to mount bikes vertically, like a roof rack, but still fit them on the trunk. In standalone units that fit a variety of roof rack systems, Packasport's massive System 115 ($925) is just the thing for extended trips. This rack provides 30.5 cubic feet and is more than seven feet long and nearly four feet wide. A different approach is taken by The Kanga Company, which makes affordable soft rooftop carriers. Their 15-cubic-foot RoofPouch ($150) is big enough to hold most things that won't fit in the trunk, and is made of totally waterproof polyester.


For cooking, propane is the fuel of choice. It burns hot and cleanly, and the canisters are widely available. To cook for a mob, it's hard to beat Coleman's 3-burner propane Guide Series stove ($90). It works off disposable bottles or bulk propane and puts out enough BTUs to accelerate global warming. Pair it with a Coleman electronic-ignition two-mantle lantern ($30) so you can get a look at the simmering pasta sauce. And for a traditional look at mealtime, Pioneerware's 16-piece enameled "campset" ($50) has enough place settings for a family of four.

Camp accoutrements

After dinner, kick back in a Byer Deluxe Maine Lounger ($46), a compact, durable chair for the outdoors with a polyester back and soft poly-filled cushion on a flexible, hardwood slat and frame, or a folding camp chair ($36) from B-West. While lounging, toss a CD into Aiwa's compact but big-sounding CSD-EX111 CD boombox ($130). Or, tune in to distant countries with Grundig's Yacht Boy 400 world receiver ($199).

Needed: a tent for the whole gang. Quest's Odyssey V tent ($375) is a roomy, tall tent that will sleep a family of five comfortably. It's a classic umbrella-type design, with awnings over the three big mesh windows and door to keep out rain while still allowing good ventilation. Another good choice is Eureka's Shadowdance 10 with a net enclosure ($660). This tent has a bug-proof front porch, so you can sit and watch the RVs cruise by without being eaten alive.

Where to Find It
Aiwa America: 800-289-2492; Byer: 800-338-0580; B-West: 800-293-7855; Coleman: 800-835-3278; Eureka: 888-245-4984; Grundig: 800-872-2228; L.L. Bean: 800-809-7057; Packasport: 800-359-9870; Pioneerware (call GSI Outdoors): 800-704-4474; Quest: 800-875-6901; Rhode Gear: 800-456-2355; Slumberjack: 800-233-6283; The Kanga Co.: 800-347-9793; Thule: 800-238-2388; Yakima: 888-925-4621

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