Gear Guy

What's the Best Car Camping Gear for $25 or Less?

Ten pieces of affordable kit that you'll want to pack every time you head into the woods

What's the Best Car Camping Gear for $25 or Less?

More fun. Less money. Photo: Sergio Villalba

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)

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  Photo: Franklin Sports

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)

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  Photo: Dream Foods

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)

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  Photo: Houzz

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)

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  Photo: NRS

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)

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  Photo: Bulleit

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)

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  Photo: Sea to Summit

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)

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  Photo: evrgrn

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)

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  Photo: Stansport

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)

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  Photo: Bialetti

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)

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  Photo: Uline

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.

Filed To: Car Camping

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