Gear Guy

What Gear Will Make Car-Camping More Comfortable?

We're going for an epic, cross-country road trip. Weight isn’t an issue, so we're excited to load up on gear that we normally wouldn't have in the backcountry. What are three pieces of gear that you think really make for a great car-camping trip?

Doug Gantenbein

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That’s a great question. Car-camping, to me, is about kicking back and having as much fun as you can. RVs have all the amenities, but those folks end up spending a good amount of time inside, watching TV. But the folks with tents—a different story! They’re outside, sitting around campfires, toasting marshmallows, having a fine time.

Car-camping is even more fun with the right equipment. These choice items define the luxury of not having to carry all your gear on your back.

Car-Camping Comfort Gear: Tarp

Sure, the good old blue tarp from the hardware store can serve a lot of functions. But looking good and working well aren’t two of them. Kelty’s Noah’s Tarp ($90) solves that problem. It sets up in several configurations, creating flexible shelter to keep off the elements. You can use your own poles or nearby trees for support, or buy Kelty tarp poles for $40 each. The Noah’s Tarp sets up tautly and is large enough to cover both a picnic table and a few camp chairs near the fire pit.

Car-Camping Comfort Gear: Stove

The camping chef needs a quality stove. The Primus Firehole 300 ($250) is just such an appliance. It’s close to commercial quality, with two 12,000-BTU burners, a built-in timer, piezo igniter, precise controls, and much more. Whether you’re making a breakfast omelette or an evening stir-fry, the Firehole offers the control to make it possible. It runs on ubiquitous propane canisters, so fuel availability is never an issue.

Car-Camping Comfort Gear: Mattress

Thin pads are fine for backpacking. But when car camping? You need to be comfortable. So invest in the Aerobed Extra High Adventure Bed ($150). It’s a 13”-thick inflatable bed that’s designed for outdoor use. It comes with an inflator that recharges off your car’s 12v outlet, and has a special valve that releases air in seconds for fast packing. Sweet dreams!

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