The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist

This comprehensive car camping checklist is designed to help you to prepare for your next outdoor trip.

car camping is a great way to travel in 2020

Car Camping

As we try to adjust to the “new normal”, the way we travel has been forced to change. Jumping on a plane to a far-off destination isn’t as straight forward as it once was.

For this year at least, domestic travel might be a more feasible option.

One budget friendly way to travel locally is through car camping. The beauty of car camping is that anyone can do it. It’s an easy way to enjoy the outdoors without breaking the budget.

However, without the right equipment car camping can soon become a miserable experience. Trust me, I’ve been there!

It’s important to do some research into the items you plan to purchase. It’s possible to get many items at a reasonable price but buying the cheapest items isn’t always the way to go, especially if you want your equipment to last.

In this guide I share my complete car camping packing list, along with the best car camping gear which I have tried and tested on trips around the UK. 

It’s also the same equipment Nick and I used on our epic 28 road trip around Ireland.

Car camping in Ireland
Car camping in Ireland is pretty awesome!

Car Camping Checklist

If you’re not interested in product reviews, jump straight in and download your ultimate car camping checklist pdf here!

For more information on the equipment I use and recommend, read on below.

Essential Items For Your Car Camping Packing List


Tent: First and foremost on this car camping list is a tent. There are a few simple things I want from a tent. I want it to be easy to assemble and capable of withstanding harsh weather. The Khyam Highlander is both of these things and for that reason I can strongly recommend it as the best car camping tent.

Other companies such as Coleman and Qeedo, now also produce this quick erect style of tent and thus provide a cheaper alternative to Khyam.

          Check price on Amazon UK or Academy Outdoors

Sleeping bag: A decent sleeping bag is key to a good nights sleep and is therefore part of the essential car camping gear.

Sleeping bags are categorised in seasons, which relate to the temperature in which they are effective. For example, a 1 season sleeping bag is good for hot conditions and a 4 season sleeping bag is good for extremely cold conditions.

I’ve had my Mountain Warehouse Everest Down sleeping bag for a few years now and I still love snuggling up in it at night. Its comfort range is -3 to -9 degrees Celsius, which means I’m never cold.

This bag has kept me warm on adventures in Patagonia, the Andes, Pakistan and around the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. The downside is that for hot Summer nights this bag is a little too much. Instead on hot nights I use my sleeping bag liner.

If you’re interested in seeing what a month hiking in the Annapurnas looks like, take a look at this video!

Check price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

Sleeping mattress: Along with a sleeping bag, a good mattress is another car camping essential. With car camping you can afford to be a little more luxurious with your sleeping mattress, since you have space to store it.

Normally when I’m hiking I carry a small and light Thermarest. However, for car camping trips we use a super comfortable double bed air mattress. Our Coleman mattress also comes with a small bag for handy storage.

      Check price on Amazon  or Academy Outdoors

Mattress Pump: Because who needs to be blowing up a big old double air bed each time? Seriously, you have power from your car so why not use it?! 😉

          Check price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

Pillow: Pillows make such a difference to having a good nights sleep, so are one of the top car camping necessities. Regular pillows from home work just fine, or to save space, consider an inflatable pillow like this one.

      Check price on Amazon

Shelter: If you’re likely to encounter rain on your trip it’s best to invest in a shelter of some sort. Trust me, it’s not much fun cooking in the rain! Tarps are cheap and take up minimal space and can work well to keep your fire pit dry. However, they only really work when surrounded by trees or something else to tie them to.

A better all around solution is a free standing shelter. Shelters are great for keeping off the rain or sun but can get battered in the wind. If you’re camping somewhere with strong winds be sure to peg it down securely!

   Check price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

An aerial photo of our high quality tent, which is an essential item on a car camping checklist
Top down view of our Khyam tent


Stove: The type of stove you buy will depend on your needs. In my case there are just two of us to cook for, so a stove with two burners works just fine.

This basic stove is easy to use as the gas bottles simply click into place. No need to worry about regulators and big propane containers. It’s also portable, which makes it ideal for festivals.

     Check the price on Amazonor Academy Outdoors

More recently I discovered this stove, which has a built-in grill. It’s very handy and has become one of my best camping essentials!

Note that this one requires a regulator so be sure to get the right one. On Amazon this is often sold as a bundle, along with the gas.

     Check the price on Amazon  or Academy Outdoors

Fuel: Buying multipacks of propane often works out cheaper.

   Check the price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

Dutch oven: If you love to cook on the campfire like we do then a Dutch oven is a must! For an in depth review of the best Dutch ovens for camping, take a look at this handy guide.

Check price on Amazon

Table: A recent addition to our car camping gear list, is a table. This is perfect for cooking since not all camp sites have benches available. They’re also handy when wild camping.

  Check the price on Amazon UK or Academy Outdoors

Cool Box: This is an absolute must for car camping in order to prevent all of your yummy food from perishing. When it comes to cool boxes, you get what you pay for so it’s worth spending a little extra here.

You can get cool boxes that charge from your lighter port which means you don’t have to worry about ice. This does drain your car battery though so just be aware of how much you use it when the car isn’t running!

   Check the price on Amazon UK 

Ice blocks: Essential for keeping the cool box cold, especially in hot conditions.

  Check the price on Amazon

Storage containers: Keep all of your kitchen gear organised with containers that fit comfortably in your car. Without containers your gear will end up all over the place!

Check the price on Amazon

Water jerrycan: Water storage for use with cooking and cleaning. This particular container also comes with a handy drinking tap.

Check price on Amazon

Pots, pans, kettle: All the essentials to make the magic happen in the kitchen.

  Check the price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

Cutlery: This awesome set is portable and contains a few essentials for the finer things in life ie. wine glasses and a cheese knife!

  Check the price on Amazon

Utensils and cutlery: It’s not necessary to buy these pre-made kits and packages. Just be sure to have the following:

  • Cups
  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Knives
  • Forks
  • Spoons
  • Spatular
  • Cooking spoon
  • Chopping board
  • Chopping knives
  • Bottle opener/can opener/corkscrew

Coffee press: Are you a coffee person? Then I guess this is for you! Personally I’m a tea girl, but for Nick this is a car camping essential and at the top of his car camping list!

   Check the price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

Washing up bowl with detergent and sponges: This bowl is collapsable, which helps with storage.

Water purification tablets: Essential for purifying water if you’re wild camping.

Basic herb and spice selection

Trash bags

Aluminium foil

If you need inspiration for some great meals to cook while you’re camping, check out this post!

A photo of a fire pit in front of our tent. A good kitchen setup is essential on a car camping checklist

Car Camping Accessories

Camping chairs: These are quite easy to pick up and even the cheap ones are pretty durable these days. If you want to avoid sitting on the ground, these are camping essentials!

   Check the price on Amazon  or Academy Outdoors

Head torch: I’ve had a few head torches over the years but I really like my current Petzl. It has different brightnesses as well as the red light option to avoid blinding everyone around you!

   Check price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

Camp lantern: Head torches are great but it’s also handy to have a lantern around camp. This nifty lantern charges from USB and has 2 detachable torches.

   Check the price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

First Aid Kit: This kit is compact and every section is labelled which makes it fast and easy to use.

   Check the price on Amazon

Basic tools for around camp:

  • Mallet
  • Dustpan and brush
  • Shovel
  • Duct tape
  • Lighter
  • Multi-tool
  • Chargers
A tent is an essential item on your car camping checklist
Camping in the picturesque Lake District in England


Clothing for a car camping packing list

Base layers: These are the things that will keep you warm in the evenings around camp and also throughout the night. These items are car camping necessities, if you plan to visit colder locations.

It’s worth spending money on Morino wool as it has antibacterial properties, which means you don’t have to wash it so often. Bonus!

   Check the price of this women’s base layer top on Amazon or at US Outdoors

Wool socks: To keep those feet warm around camp.

   Check the price on Amazon or Academy Outdoors

Buff: This can double up as a beanie to mask unruly camping hair!

Gloves: I find gloves really handy for packing away the tent on cold mornings.

Puffy jacket: A good puffy jacket can be a lifesaver in so many different situations, so mine is never far away.

  Check the price on Amazon  or Academy Outdoors

Rain jacket or poncho: A high quality poncho can be as good as rain jacket and is perfect for around camp. 

Check the price on Amazon or US Outdoors

Midge/fly/mosquito net: If you’re planning a camping trip in northern England or Scotland you’ll want one of these. The midges are horrendous. Or maybe your camping trip is taking you to Alaska where the mosquitoes are huge.

Buy one of these – you can thank me later!

Top tip: Get the lighter coloured net as it’s difficult to see out of the black one!

  Check the price on Amazon  or Academy Outdoors

We learnt about midges on our camping trip in the Lake District where we planned to hike one of the Lakes’ iconic walks. Read about my Helvellyn adventure in this post.

Camp footwear: This very much depends on the climate of your camping. In hot conditions I love to relax in my flip flops but in wetter conditions wellington boots are more appropriate! A top brand for wellies are Hunter though I do like my Dunlop fur lined wellies which keep my feet toastie in Winter!

Check price on Amazon


When it comes to car camping toiletries, I like to keep to the basics.

Car Camping List Optional extras

The following items are by no means essential but often accompany me on a car camping trip. Hiking is usually involved in my camping adventures so I make sure I am equipped for those.

  • My Sony A6400 is compact and light which makes it perfect for hiking.

  • This Bose Colorlink portable speaker is waterproof, which is invaluable for camping holidays.

  • The DJI Spark is on the cheaper end of DJI’s range and since it fits in the palm of your hand it’s ideal for hiking.

  • These Nikons are high quality binoculars that don’t break the bank.

  • Although this Lowepro bag isn’t the cheapest, I’ve been using it for several years now and still love it. And more importantly it still works perfectly, demonstrating you get what you pay for.

  • Trekking poles are great for looking after my knees.

  • These Hanwag boots are the most comfortable boots I’ve owned and since they’re Gortex, they are waterproof and breathable. 

  • I’ve recently upgraded to an Iphone XS and love the quality of photos it takes.

  • I always try and have a physical map of the place I’m hiking just in case the technology fails.

Most of my camping trips usually incorporate day hikes, which accounts for many of the items above. For a full list of everything I typically take on a day hike, take a look at this post.

Final Thoughts on this Checklist for Car Camping 

Car camping is a budget friendly way to explore the best of what your own country has to offer, providing the ultimate in freedom and flexibility. 

In this guide I have provided a free printable camping list for all the items you will need on a car camping holiday. With this list you will hopefully never leave anything at home.

With some basic car camping essentials and good organisation, you can soon be on your way to an awesome outdoor adventure!

Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps cover the cost of running this blog. Thanks for your support!

Like it? Pin it for later!

In this guide I provide useful car camping product reviews and a free, printable car camping checklist. This checklist is designed to help you prepare for your next outdoor trip.

Join my Newsletter Today!


Louise is an overland leader from South Wales who runs adventure tours in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Louise is trained in mountain leadership and has a passion for photography.

Recent Posts