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65 Awesome Car Camping Essentials For Your Packing List

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In this article, I’ve outlined 65 car camping essentials that everyone needs before setting out on their adventure! I’ve started with a simple car camping checklist that you can quickly browse, followed by a detailed breakdown of each suggested item.

I’ve discussed the gear needed to make the perfect bed, prepare delicious food, and store your luggage securely.

You can also use our printable car camping packing list at the end of the article to check you have all of the must-have necessities before departure. Follow this post to make sure you have all the items and supplies you need for car camping!

Let’s make your SUV camping trip one to remember with this ultimate gear list.

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What Supplies Do You Need For Car Camping?

When you go car camping the main supplies you need are a comfortable bed, food preparation equipment, and adequate clothing. You should also take essential medical supplies, personal care items, and a breakdown kit. Appropriate footwear and comfort items are also must-have necessities for any car camping adventure.

  • Car Essentials
  • Food Preparation Items
  • Sleeping Gear
  • Personal Care Items
  • Clothing
  • Campsite Items

Other Useful Articles On The Road Trip Expert


Car Camping Checklist

We have created the following car camping checklist for you to use on leaving day. If you want to you are welcome to download the printable version linked below.

Car Camping Checklist
Car Camping Checklist

Car Camping Essentials

Car Camping Essentials
  1. Car registration documents
  2. Drivers license
  3. Owner’s manual
  4. Car insurance details
  5. Breakdown cover details
  6. Phone, wallet, and keys
  7. Car phone holder
  8. Car phone charger
  9. Car air bed
  10. Sleeping bag
  11. Travel pillow
  12. Window covers
  13. Car trunk organizer
  14. Dash Cam
  15. Breakdown kit
  16. Camping stove
  17. Matches
  18. Cooking pots & pans
  19. Cooking utensils
  20. Cutting board
  21. Paper towels
  22. Plates and bowls
  23. Cutlery
  24. Camping mugs
  25. Cool box
  26. Food storage containers
  27. Camping chairs
  28. Camping table
  29. Camping lantern
  30. Food
  31. Water
  32. Rehydrated meals
  33. First aid kit
  34. Toiletries bag
  35. Insect repellent
  36. Sunscreen
  37. Lip balm
  38. Toothbrush & toothpaste
  39. Hand sanitizer
  40. Baby wipes
  41. General clothes
  42. Warm coat
  43. Warm hat
  44. Gloves
  45. Socks
  46. Walking boots
  47. Wellies
  48. Spare wheel
  49. Car Jack
  50. Lumbar support cushion
  51. Eye mask
  52. Ear plugs
  53. Neck support pillow
  54. Picnic backpack
  55. Power bank charger
  56. Power inverter
  57. Car seat organizer
  58. Roof cargo box
  59. Car seat covers
  60. Snow shovel
  61. Ice scraper
  62. Car Vaccum
  63. Border crossing documents
  64. Travel Insurance
  65. Playing Cards

Car Camping Packing List In Detail

Now we’ve gone through the list, the following is your complete car camping packing list in detail, so let’s get started. For each of these car camping essentials, I’ve gone into detail and provided some links to useful items!

We will now discuss each of the must-have car camping necessities in detail.

Essential Car Documents

Always remember to bring your license and registration documents. You’ll also need to bring your owner’s manual, car insurance details, breakdown cover details, and border crossing documents. Keep everything safe and organized with this useful Car Document Holder

High Road Car Glove Box Organizer, Registration and Insurance Document Holder and Car Manual Holder with Flexible Secure Zippered Case and Note Pad
  • Glove Compartment Document Holder – multipurpose…
  • Owners Manual Case – deep inside manual pocket…
  • Car Paper Organizer – zippered outside pocket…

Phone Mount

You really need a car phone mount in this day and age as you shouldn’t be holding your phone whilst driving. It’s illegal, and not a good idea anyway. It’s a great addition to your vehicle if you don’t already have one. You can get a Budget Car Phone Mount or alternatively a Wireless Charging Car Phone Mount. You can choose one which attaches to your dashboard or air vent.

Window Covers & Privacy Curtains

Privacy is very important when car camping. One option is to use window sunshades to create privacy and also keep your car cool. Alternatively, you can use this full set of Magnetic Car Camping Privacy Curtains inside the vehicle.

These Window Covers are a great budget option when used alongside a Budget Windscreen Sunshade. Bringing something with you to create privacy will help you create the perfect sleeping area. That’s why privacy curtains are one of my most recommended car camping essentials.

Sale EcoNour Car Windshield Sun Shade | Reflector Sunshade Offers Ultimate Protection for Car Interior | Cool Reflective Sun Blocker Fits Small Sedans, Mini SUVs, & Hatchbacks | Medium (64x32 inches)
Sale kinder Fluff Car Window Shade (4Pack)-The Only Certified Car Window Sun Shade for Baby Proven to Block 99.95% UVR - Mom's Choice Gold Award - Car Seat Sun Protection - Standard

Car Trunk Organizer

Car trunk organizers are similar to storage containers. They are tailored to fit directly into your car which means you can efficiently maximize your space. This Car Trunk Organizer is perfect for storing all of your food preparation items and sleeping gear

Sale
K KNODEL Sturdy Car Trunk Organizer with Premium Insulation Cooler Bag, Heavy Duty Collapsible for Car, SUV, Truck, or Van (3 Compartments, Black)
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Car Seat Organizer

Similar to organizing boxes, these fit onto the back or side of your seat, again maximizing the space you have for the perfect storage. They’re also great for storing things you want to be able to access quickly, without going to the trunk of your vehicle.

I like to store snacks, water, and other car camping essentials in a car seat organizer in the back of the car.

Lumbar Support Cushion

You might be sitting and driving a lot in your car camping journey, so a Lumbar Support Cushion is great to buy if you’re susceptible to getting back pain.

It goes at the bottom of the seat and keeps your back in a healthy comfortable position while you drive.

Lumbar Support Pillow, Agokud Back Pillow for Office Chair and Car Seat, Memory Foam Back Support Pillow for Lower Back Pain Relief, Adjustable Lumbar Pillow for Sleeping, Rest
1,388 Reviews
Lumbar Support Pillow, Agokud Back Pillow for Office Chair and Car Seat, Memory Foam Back Support Pillow for Lower Back Pain Relief, Adjustable Lumbar Pillow for Sleeping, Rest
  • 【Unique Design】Lumbar pillow adopts unique…
  • 【Upgraded Premium Memory Foam】Lumbar support…
  • 【Wide Applications】Designed for desk workers,…

Car Air Bed

A Car Air Bed is one of the must-have car camping essentials for any trip. A comfortable place to sleep will make improve your experience and a cozy air bed in the back of your SUV is perfect. Alternatives to an air bed include a sleeping mat or constructing a sleeping platform.

For short trips, I would say an air bed is the most comfortable option. If you’re on a budget you can get away with just a mat. If you are planning on sleeping in your car for an extended period of time you could consider constructing a proper bed by making a sleeping platform.

SUV Air Mattress, Inflatable Car Bed with Electric Pump and Pillow, Flocking Surface, Camping Sleeping Pad for Travel SUV Sedan Back Seat Trunk Tent Chevy Jeep Wrangler Toyota Honda Civic (Black)
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Sleeping Bag & Pillow

Get yourself a decent sleeping bag and travel pillow. If you are car camping in the summer then a 2 or 3-season sleeping bag will be perfect. If you are planning to sleep in your car during the winter months then make sure you get a high-rated 4-season sleeping bag otherwise you will be too cold.

Eye Mask and Ear Plugs

If you happen to be the passenger, you might really benefit from an eye mask and earplugs as both of these are helpful for you to get a good night’s sleep and not wake up at the first light of dawn.

Lanterns

Bringing some battery-operated lanterns with you means you don’t have to use electricity to light up your car when it starts getting dark. It’s also much cozier and more romantic if you’re traveling with a significant other.

Failing this, don’t forget to bring a decent flashlight or headtorch. Otherwise, you’ll have to rely on your phone for light in the evening, which isn’t ideal.

Cooler Box

If you bringing meat, then a cool box is a must in any weather. In warmer weather, cool boxes can also keep your vegetables, cheese, fruit, and other foods cool and lasting much, much longer. Try this Travel Cooler on Amazon.

Coleman 70-Quart Xtreme 5-Day Heavy-Duty Cooler, Blue
  • Keeps ice up to 5 days at temps up to 90°F thanks…
  • Holds 100 cans and has molded cup holders on top…
  • Leak-resistant channel drain lets you remove…

Make sure you don’t forget to get some ice packs before setting off. Using a budget cooler box with ice packs is a cheaper alternative to the more expensive electric camping coolers.

Camping Stove

Hot meals are a big part of car camping, as they won’t just be nutritious but will also help you feel more upbeat. Camping Stoves are easy to use and a great option for cooking hot meals on your camping trip.

Make sure you disconnect the gas before putting everything away, and it’s a good idea to pack a lighter in case it fails to ignite. Most hook up to propane gas cylinders, so also get one of those, if your stove needs it.

Coleman Portable Butane Stove with Carrying Case
  • Instastart ignition for matchless lighting; 7,650…
  • Fits up to a 10-inch pan
  • Lasts up to 1.25 hours on high on one 8.8 oz….

Cooking Equipment

Think about what kind of meals you’ll be cooking while on your trip and pack accordingly. If you’re going to be chopping veg, bring some knives. If stirring pasta, then you will need ladles and spoons. If you want to make an omelet then perhaps consider bringing a whisk.

Plan ahead and then you’ll be ready for whatever meal you want when camping. If you want something simple, check out these No Cook Camping Meals from our friends at Dinkum Tribe!

Cutlery & Plates

You won’t want to be eating with your hands (unless you’re eating a meal that’s made for doing that), so bring the required forks, spoons, and knives. Sometimes a Spork is a perfect tool for the job!

Camping Mugs

Though thermos flasks are an important thing to take on these travels, Camping Mugs are the only way you’re going to be able to get the correct container for a cup of tea or coffee. Don’t bring your favorite mug, or it’ll likely get smashed.

Coleman 12oz Enamel Coffee Mug, Impact-Resistant, Dishwasher-Safe, Perfect for Camping, Picnics, BBQ, Tailgates, Sports Events
  • Durable: Double-coated enamel enhances longevity…
  • Easy to Clean: Completely dishwasher-safe for easy…
  • Ample Capacity: Holds 12 ounces ideal for morning…

Camping Chairs

When eating or relaxing, you won’t want to sit on the floor or the seats of your car.

The best thing is to buy a camping chair, which will mean you’ll be more relaxed on those starlit evenings when you’re opening a bottle of wine and munching down that curry.

Here you can get Two Camping Chairs on Amazon, so if you’re traveling with someone, it’ll be perfect for you.

Big Water Jugs

If you’re out in the wilderness one thing that you will find useful are these Big Water Jugs.

You don’t want to be halfway across Texas and run out of water, so whenever you get the opportunity to fill up your jugs, do so. Water is the most important thing for you to have on your trip and an invaluable SUV camping hack to know!

Dehydrated Meals

There’s nothing like a fresh meal. However, dehydrated meals are an excellent thing to bring along on those days when you’re tired and you don’t want to think about too much.

Picnic Backpack

If you’re planning on being out and about most days, getting a picnic backpack might come in useful. You’ll be able to pack food for your lunch, snacks along the way, or an actual picnic with a blanket!

Try this Picnic Backpack on Amazon.

apollo walker Picnic Backpack Bag for 2 Person with Cooler Compartment, Detachable Bottle/Wine Holder, Fleece Blanket, Plates and Cutlery(2 Person, Brown)
  • Premium quality all-in-one picnic backpack with…
  • Includes:2×stainless steel knives, forks, spoons,…
  • Picnic food storage compartment is 15% bigger than…

Car Emergency Roadside Kit

An Emergency Roadside Kit is a fantastic set of equipment, with all the things you’ll need if you get into an accident or incident.

First Secure – 90 Piece Car Emergency Roadside & First Aid Kit Inside – Long-Lasting Quality – Essential Emergency Tool Kit – Survival & Safety Solution – Peace of Mind on the Road
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Dashcam

You might want to get a dashcam for your trip, as it can record you when driving, just in case something goes wrong.

They are usually on the pricier side of things, but here’s a cheaper one on Amazon.

Sale
ROVE R2-4K Dash Cam Built-in WiFi GPS Car Dashboard Camera Recorder with UHD 2160P, 2.4″ IPS Screen, 150° Wide Angle, WDR, Night Vision
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  • DASH CAM WITH GPS – Built-in GPS accurately…

Phone Charger

Keeping your phone charged is important when car camping as you’ll want to be able to reach others if an emergency arises.

Look at your car to see if it has a USB port and if it doesn’t, you’ll have to get a Car Charger USB Adapter.

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Power Bank Charger

A Power Bank Charger will give you an extra charge if you can’t or don’t want to use your car’s battery. Plus, it can charge other electrical things you’ve brought with you.

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Power Inverter

Bringing a Power Inverter will allow you to charge electrical devices using your car battery It turns direct current into alternating current and using your car battery it can run things like hairdryers and laptops.

Toiletry Bag

Make sure you have a toiletry bag full of all the essentials such as soap, toothpaste/toothbrush, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Don’t forget your deodorant, toilet paper, and any medication you might need.

Hand Sanitizer and Baby Wipes

Because you’re not taking the kitchen sink (pun intended), you will need a way to clean your hands. Hand sanitizer or baby wipes will be great to bring along.

Don’t forget bin bags for the used wipes and any other rubbish such as leftover food.

First Aid Kit

Wherever you’re going, you’ll need a first aid kit. It’s also a good idea to buy travel insurance
so you can be sure that if you have an accident and need medical care, you won’t be handed a huge bill.

Hats, Beanies, and Caps

You don’t know what the weather will be like, so beanies or balaclavas for the colder weather or caps for the hotter weather will be great additions to your packing list.

Coats and Jackets

Changing weather can catch you by surprise, so it’s good to bring a selection of different coats and jackets for all conditions.

You could bring a warm puffer one, a waterproof one for the rain, and a stylish one for going to restaurants or on less ‘hiking trip’-like days out.

Warm Gloves and Woolen socks

You’re going to be walking on your trip and doing plenty of different things with your hands, so keeping warm is very important.

Bringing warm gloves that you can still do things in is a must, as are woolen socks.

Shoes

Shoes are incredibly important as you’ll be hiking, walking, or strolling frequently during your trip. You’ll want boots for heavy walking and hiking, trainers for lighter walks and runs, and sandals for more casual wear. Slippers or Crocs are great for going to the toilet during the night! Also, bring rain boots for… well… the rain as a matter of fact!

Swimming Costumes

The great thing about road trips is you don’t know what’s around the corner, so packing swimwear is great in case you come across a lake, swimming pool, or stream on a hot day.

Roof Cargo Box

Want to take more than you have room for in the car? A roof cargo box is an item for you. It will fit securely to the roof of your car, and mean you can pack even more things for your trip.

Neck Support Pillow

If your neck gives you grief, then a neck support pillow is the thing for you. It will support your neck while you drive, making sure your mind is on the road.

Car Vacuum

As you’re on holiday or have found yourself having to live in your car for a while, it might be tempting to let cleanliness slide. But as you’re sleeping in your car, it will start to smell, and you’ll start to feel like you’re living in a trash heap. Buy a small car vacuum that you can use to make the car feel like new.

Spare Wheel and Jack

Before you set off, you need to check your car. Check the tire pressure, and that you have your spare wheel and jack. Check the oil and water levels too and that you’re completely ready to go.

If hiring a car, take photos of previous damage so you don’t get charged for it. Check where you’re going on your route, and if you need to book parking spots.

Rinse Kit

You don’t have to be stinky and unwashed on your car camping trip, as with a rinse kit, you can shower and keep clean. Be careful where you are showering, even if you’re wearing a swimming costume to do it.

Snow Shovel

If camping in the winter, or in places where snow is likely, a snow shovel is a must for your packing list. You never know when you’ll wake up one morning and find that you’re snowed in.

If you’re heading off-road in an SUV, my collection of 90s Ford Bronco mods might provide some inspiration!

Ice Scraper

If you’re camping in the winter it can get frosty or icy in the mornings. If you don’t want to start driving and not be able to see where you’re going (and believe me you don’t!), then getting an ice scraper is a brilliant shout – you never know when you’ll need it!

Car Camping Resources

If you need to rent a car Rental Cars is an excellent place to get one!

If you need travel insurance then World Nomads can help you out.

For more resources check out The Ultimate Guide To Car Camping which is my complete resource on all things car camping!

Here is a list of the Best Car Camping Spots In America that you may find useful!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert.

Image of Iain The Founder Of The Road Trip Expert

Iain Salter

Founder & Editor of The Road Trip Expert

Iain founded The Road Trip Expert in 2019 and continues to manage the website to this day. The inspiration to start the blog came during an extensive road trip around Europe with two friends that spanned several months and involved over 25,000km of driving. He first developed a passion for backpacking in 2014 and has had the pleasure of exploring over 60 countries.

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