Car Camping Is Way Better with These 5 Pieces of Gear
Fall is the perfect time to get out there
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
This summer, my family and I camped more than ever, taking advantage of one of the few safe ways we could get outside and escape during the pandemic. More time outdoors has been great for dialing in our kit for weekend excursions. These are my recommendations for gear that will make your next camping trip more comfortable and fun.
Kelty Loveseat ($109)
I forgot this double chair on our last outing, and it almost ruined the trip. My partner and I are accustomed to sitting together and snuggling around a campfire—sitting in separate chairs felt distant and awful. Two drink holders ensure we both have a place for our beers, and the quilted fabric provides enough cushioning so we can sit for hours. The loveseat is neither small nor light, but the extra proximity to your loved one is worth it.
Mountainsmith Shade Dome ($168)
Camping without shade—even in the fall—sucks. You’ll be sick of the sun before the first day is over. I’ve tested a lot of shade structures, and this is my favorite. It comes with a curtain you can attach to any side of the dome to create a full wall of protection, and it sets up quickly and packs down to the size of a small camping tent. When it rains, the dome doubles as a useful cooking or hangout structure.
REI Co-op Camp Roll Table ($75)
Even if I know there’s a picnic table at my reserved camp spot, this piece of gear still goes in the car—you can never have too much table space when camping. I’ve used it as the kids’ table, as a prep surface, to display hors d’oeuvres, and as a hand-washing station. Thanks to smart engineering, it sets up in a minute and is about the size of large firewood log when stored in its bag. The aluminum legs support a lot of weight, and the top is easy to clean.
Front Runner Stratchits ($30 for 2)
Built-in stretch allows you to snug these tie-downs without tightening them so much that you crush or break whatever you’re securing. Carabiners at either end quickly attach to D-rings in your truck bed or on your roof rack, but if you don’t have attachment points, it’s easy to loop the Stratchit around your roof bars and run the webbing back through the carabiner. On a recent camping trip, I was able to securely attach six people’s gear to my roof in less than 20 minutes.
Nemo Equipment Victory Blanket 2-Person ($50)
You’d be surprised how many ways you can use a blanket while camping. Our kids usually eat on this one during mealtimes, and it often sits outside our ground tent or below our rooftop tent, where it doubles as a changing platform. If the dog rolled in something and isn’t allowed in the tent at night, this is where she sleeps. A durable waterproof bottom puts up with wet grass or rocky dirt, and the flannel top is comfy to sit on and easy to clean.
Ust FlexWare Sink 2.0 ($20)
If you’ve ever tried to wash your camp dishes without a tub, you’ll know what a waste of water it is. And when you’re dispersed camping—and not next to a river or faucet—water is a precious resource. This is my favorite tub because it’s big enough to hold a family’s worth of dishes yet packs down flat. It also comes with convenient carry handles that make it easy to haul around.