In this article, I’ve outlined 65 car camping essentials that everyone needs before setting out on their adventure! I’ve started off 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
- Campsite Items
Other Useful Articles On The Road Trip Expert
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- Places To Shower On The Road While Car Camping
- Best Cars To Sleep In
- Is It Illegal To Sleep In Your Car?
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 Essentials
- Car registration documment
- Drivers license
- Owner’s manual
- Car insurance details
- Breakdown cover details
- Phone, wallet, and keys
- Car phone holder
- Car phone charger
- Car air bed
- Sleeping bag
- Travel pillow
- Window covers
- Car trunk organizer
- Dash Cam
- Breakdown kit
- Camping stove
- Cooking pots & pans
- Cooking utensils
- Cutting board
- Paper towels
- Plates and bowls
- Camping mugs
- Cool box
- Food storage containers
- Camping chairs
- Camping table
- Camping lantern
- Rehydrated meals
- First aid kit
- Toiletries bag
- Insect repellent
- Lip balm
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Hand sanitizer
- Baby wipes
- General clothes
- Warm coat
- Warm hat
- Walking boots
- Spare wheel
- Car Jack
- Lumbar support cushion
- Eye mask
- Ear plugs
- Neck support pillow
- Picnic backpack
- Power bank charger
- Power invertor
- Car seat organizer
- Roof cargo box
- Car seat covers
- Snow shovel
- Ice scraper
- Car vaccum
- Border crossing documents
- Travel insurance
- 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
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 Enovoe 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.
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
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.
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 contructiing a proper bed by making a sleeping platform.
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.
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.
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.
Make sure you don’t forget to get some ice packs before setting off. Using a budget cooler box with icepacks is a cheaper alternative to the more expensive electric camping coolers.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 left-over 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 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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 which you may find useful!
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