When car camping, weight and packability matter a lot less than they do on the trail, so you can get away with heavier—and thus typically less expensive—gear. We’ve covered the basics before, but there’s plenty of other sub-$25 stuff that can make the whole experience more fun and enjoyable. Get the tent and the sleeping bag, of course, and then bring along these toys and treats.
Franklin Recreational Bocce Ball Set ($20)
Bocce ball on a regular court is a snoozefest compared to bocce ball at a campsite. Every ditch, rock, tree, and hill make the game that much more fun. Turn the kids loose on their own, or grab a couple beers and play with the adults.
Volcano Lemon Burst ($2.41 for 6.7 ounces)
This little bottle of lemony goodness makes everything—from river-caught trout to white-liquor cocktails to cheap lagers—taste better. Each bottle is the equivalent of eight lemons.
Flannel Sheet ($10)
I’ve been there a hundred times: I bring my backpacking sleeping bag on a car camping trip and spend the entire night sweating because the fill is way too warm. As an alternative, I sewed some flannel sheets together and use that as my sleep sack. It’s perfect by itself on really warm nights and works well under a blanket (something like a Rumpl) when temps drop to just above 40.
NRS 1-Inch HD Tie-Down Straps (From $4 to $15)
You probably have paracord in your camp box, but I’d add a couple of these tie-downs as well. They’re great for hanging hammocks, reinforcing tents, or strapping stuff to your car.
Bulleit Rye ($25)
There’s better whiskey, but not for this price. This super-drinkable brand is easy to sip and won’t leave you wrecked the next day (assuming you enjoy responsibly).
Sea to Summit Head Net ($10)
Yes, I look ridiculous wearing this thing, but the protection is worth it, especially when the mosquitos are bad. (I’ve avoided chemical repellents ever since I saw a bottle spill and melt a drybag.) Alternative bug sprays sometimes work, but not as well as my net.
Evrgrn Lowboy Lantern ($18)
Headlamps are great for setting up camp or reading in a tent, but a lantern is much better for nightly tasks. Use it to make dinner, play cards, or do dishes. We like the Lowboy because its soft glow won’t disturb your neighbors, and it can be hung from nearly anywhere.
Stansport Dutch Oven 2-Quart ($21)
Everyone brings a cast-iron pan, but I also bring a Dutch oven. It’s perfect for casseroles, lasagna, and cakes.
Bialetti Pour-Over Coffee Maker ($6)
Cowboy coffee and French presses are great, but I prefer the pour-over system when camping because you don’t have to clean it after every use. Plus, it allows everyone to make their own cup.
Uline Hand Sanitizer ($14 for 68 Ounces)
To keep things clean, I always bring a giant bottle of sanitizer and use a little before I dig into a bag of chips or start chopping away for dinner.