9 Car Camping Upgrades
Turn your campsite into a first-rate base camp
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+.
Despite what some preppers might have you to believe, the most popular form of camping in the U.S. has nothing to do with eating bugs or building your own makeshift shelter. That’s right: most of us will drive right up to our campsite this summer with all our gear stowed in the trunk. And hey, you’re not roughing it, so why not go the extra mile to turn that site into a luxurious base camp? The following nine products will help.
Thule Sonic XL Box ($630)
If you’re going car camping, you’ll likely need a cargo box to haul all that gear. This box from Thule is about seven feet long, 35 inches wide, and 17 inches high. It opens on either side of the vehicle making for easy access, and the nose dips down to help with aerodynamics. The Sonic comes with a locking system that won’t let you remove the key unless the box is closed completely.
Barebones Safari Tent ($2,000)
This 120-square-foot, eight-person tent is the one you want at base camp. There’s a heavy-duty floor that anchors firmly to the ground, and the ceiling rises to a full nine-foot loft. Hook-up ports let you run water and electricity into the interior. One major bonus: the tent is designed to accommodate Goal Zero solar panels on the roof, so you can feed the cables through the side walls and into a generator like the Goal Zero Yeti. Hunkering down for a couple weeks? No problem.
Winnebago Micro Minnie ($14,493)
This brand-new camper has a bath, a bedroom complete with a queen bed, a kitchen, and an exterior shower. But the coolest feature on this 3,000-pound marvel is the new “tankless” hot water heater that uses high-output burners to give you a continuous stream. The dual-axle (four wheel) design is also a bonus: if you get a flat, you can limp along to the next service station.
Briggs & Stratton PowerSmart Series P3000 Inverter Generator ($1,299)
This power generator will pump out enough juice for every light in your campsite. Most generators run at two kilowatts, but this new model runs at three. (FYI: That’s enough to power a 13,500 BTU A.C. unit in an RV.) The P3000 runs 80 percent quieter than most of its competitors and there’s a telescoping handle like the one you’d find on a suitcase for easy carrying.
Nemo Helio Pressure Shower ($100)
For most outdoor shower systems, you have to fill a reservoir and then hang the tank on a tree branch. Not so the Nemo Helio Pressure Shower, which sits on the ground as you rinse off. The Helio holds about three gallons of water (enough for up to a seven-minute shower) and uses a foot pump to spray the water from a (relatively) high-pressure hose. Place the tank in the sun to heat the water.
Viatek Portable Searchlight ($20)
One of the smartest camping gadgets you’ll find, this high-powered 300-lumens light will never run out of juice. There’s a hand-crank on the side that you turn to charge the light. One minute of cranking yields about 30 minutes of power, but you can also use a standard AC 12V adapter (not included). Once the light is fully juiced-up, charge your smartphone with the USB port. The light doubles as a flashlight and a lantern.
Coleman Gladiator Series HyperFlame 2-Burner Propane Stove ($180)
The big selling point on this new cooking stove? New technology called HyperFlame that’s designed for super easy lighting. The recessed propane burners (each one is 12,000 BTU) will stay lit even in a strong wind, according to the company. The burners also run smoother and hotter than those on similar units: Coleman says boiling water takes about half the time as it would on most other propane stoves.
ThermaCELL Dark Bronze lantern ($23)
This lantern can repel mosquitos from a 15-square-foot area. A replaceable butane cartridge emits an odorless insecticide called allethrin, similar to a chrysanthemum flower. The butane then heats a mat (good for about four hours of use) to draw the mosquitoes away from your body. The lantern lasts about 12 hours on three AAA batteries.
2015 Chevy Tahoe 4WD LTZ ($44,895)
Camping with the whole family? This full-sized SUV will tow the Winnebago Micro Minnie. (Towing capacity is actually rated up to 8,500 pounds.) There’s room for seven people plus their luggage, and the Tahoe even gets decent fuel economy for a vehicle this large: 23 MPG on the highway.