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Car Camping Essentials

Woman in bright purple jacket and a beanie sitting on a rock taking a jacket out of a Pika packing cube. Lost clouds and a grassy mountain in the background.

It’s car camping season! This is my favorite time of year, but inevitably, I end up forgetting at least one important thing when I pack for car camping. We decided to put together a list to pack for camping. Note that if you’re going backpacking, the list will differ a bit, but here are some car camping essentials.

Packing List for Car Camping:

Tent sleeping essentials:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Pillow

Optional (but nice to have):

  • Eye mask
  • Ear plugs
  • Extra blanket or pillows

Kitchen and Cooking essentials:

  • Camp stove, grill, JetBoil, or a just a campfire
  • Lighter or matches
  • Castiron or non-stick pan
  • Plate/bowl, spork, knife, and mug
  • Spatula
  • Trash bag
  • Paper towels or kitchen rag
  • Camp table
  • Camp chair
  • Cooking oil, salt and pepper
  • Water
  • Firewood and kindling

Easy Camping Food Ideas:

Woman in a beanie cooking food outside at a campground using a camping grill

Breakfast:

  • Oats with fruit and yogurt
  • Eggs and Bacon
  • Protein Bar
  • Overnight Oats

Lunch:

  • Salami, cheese, and crackers
  • PB + J or deli meat sandwich
  • Protein bar and fruit

Dinner:

  • Sausages, peppers and onions
  • Mac n Cheese with broccoli
  • Grilled burgers

Clothing:

Obviously, this depends on when and where you are camping. But as a rule of thumb, always plan for it to be colder than you expect, and bring:

  • A down jacket
  • One or two midlayers
  • Warm socks
  • Shoes that are easy to slip on and off 
  • A bathing suit (you never know!)
  • Extra underwear
  • Clothing that is technical and layerable (no cotton)

Other stuff we never camp without:

  • A headlamp
  • Book or Kindle
  • Hammock
  • An overabundance of snacks
  • Bluetooth speaker

The fun part about car camping is that you can’t really overpack. A lot of these car camping essentials might not be “essential”, but they will make your experience more fun and comfortable. Hopefully this list of what to pack for camping is helpful, and let us know if you would add anything else!

Woman in a baseball cap taking camping items out of the back of a pickup truck in the desert. Several cars lined up behind her and mountain bikes on bike racks on the cars.

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