11 Essentials for Five-Star Car Camping

We've come a long way from the days of instant coffee and card games by flashlight.

Apr 8, 2015
Outside Magazine
11 Essentials for Five-Star Car Camping

The perfect five-star car camping setup.    Photo: Inga Hendrickson

We have a special place in our hearts for car camping. Super rugged it is not—and with the latest gear, it's downright luxurious. Whether you have kids in tow or just want to impress everyone around the fire pit, there's no shame in arriving prepared.

Alite Designs Meadow mat ($39)

  Photo: Alite Designs

Outdoor concerts. Beachside picnics. Overnight trips with the kids. Alite Designs’ waterproof Meadow mat is up for almost everything you do outside.

Coleman Hyperflame FyreChampion stove ($220)

  Photo: Coleman

This stove is just like the company’s original Army green, propane two-burner, only better: it’s sturdier, it cooks hotter, and it’s better at blocking the wind. Plus, you get two griddles.

Kelty Woobie 30 sleeping bag ($65)

  Photo: Kelty

The Woobie 30 is for your littlest campers. It fits mini dudes and dudettes up to four feet tall. And you can’t beat the prints. 

Zippo Rugged lantern ($90)

  Photo: Zippo

Simple and tough, Zippo’s Rugged lantern is water- and tumbleproof. The lithium-ion cell lasts an impressive ten hours on high, but there’s no swapping out batteries if it flatlines.

Stanley Mountain Vacuum Coffee System ($50)

stanley mountain coffee system ski gear outside
  Photo: Stanley

The Mountain Vacuum Coffee System is a barista in a bottle. A pot, a French press, two cups, and storage for grounds nest inside the 17-ounce thermos.

Yeti Hopper 30 cooler ($300)

  Photo: Yeti Coolers

The soft-sided Hopper 30 cooler is overkill, and that’s the point. Not only is it leakproof and indestructible, but it’ll keep 18 beers cold for a whopping three days.

Mountainsmith Modular Hauler 4 ($100)

  Photo: Mountainsmith

Mountainsmith’s Modular Hauler 4 keeps everything organized. Each kid or activity gets a color-coded cube—the set comes with four—and the entire open-top tote system slots easily into the trunk. Packing for a weekend has never been easier.

Outdoor Tech Big Turtle Shell speaker ($229)

  Photo: Outdoor Tech

Rain, a few drops, and a nasty New Mexico sandstorm didn’t faze Outdoor Tech’s ruggedized, rich-sounding speaker. Yet what really sets it apart is its 16 hours of battery life. And it doubles as a power source, with enough juice to charge your smartphone up to four times.

Big Agnes Gilpin Falls Powerhouse 4 MtnGlo tent ($600)

  Photo: Big Agnes

This tent is spacious and easy to set up, and there are stash pockets galore. But it really shines at night—literally. One click of a button turns on strips of flexible LEDs embedded in the seams. It’s totally unnecessary and totally awesome, and the extra flair adds negligible weight.

GSI Pioneer Table ($70)

  Photo: GSI Outdoors

We’ve tested all sorts of cooksets and always come back to GSI’s Pioneer Table. It cleans up easily, is dishwasher safe, and will last through seasons of abuse.

Alite Designs Bison camp chair ($200)

  Photo: Alite Designs

It’s the Bentley of portable seating. Alite Designs’ camp chair is 34 inches tall and stylish enough to be a patio fixture. It also packs down to the size of a yoga mat.

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