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Essential Camping Car Accessories That Every Camper Should Own

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When camping out of your vehicle, you need two main things: the right camping car accessories and a few safety tips. A car camping adventure can be fun, easy, and efficient, depending on how you set it up.

You could go all out and use a camper van or RV if you have a big family or a smaller vehicle like a Jeep Wrangler or a Toyota Tacoma. Whichever way you look at it, there will be some car camping accessories that could help make your car camping experience a bit more comfortable.


Useful Camping Car Accessories

Before we go into the various accessories you may need on your car camping trip, it’s important to mention what the actual car needs. Unless you are using an RV, there’s a good chance that your car camper might need a sturdy roof rack.

A roof rack allows you to load up some of your most essential gear as it’s an excellent cargo carrier and frees up more space inside the car. You could also have a rooftop tent up there if you don’t want to set up camp on the ground.

With that in mind, here is our list of essential camping car accessories every camper should own.

An Air Mattress

Comfortable sleeping arrangements should be a priority when camping. Whether you are tent camping or car camping, how you spend the night determines how your days of exploration will turn out.

Having an air mattress as part of your car camping essentials is a smart move. The best camping car air mattresses are:

  • Easy to set up
  • Comfortable
  • Have a high R-Value rating, meaning you can use them even in cold weather
  • Pairs well with your sleeping bag

A high-quality air mattress makes it easy to get a restful night of sleep, even if you intend to camp in your truck bed.

Camping Chairs

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In the spirit of roughing it, some campers prefer to find a log or a rock to sit on while camping. That’s all well and good, but if you want a comfortable camping chair you can set up on almost any kind of surface, this Kelty Deluxe Reclining Lounge Chair is an excellent option.

It’s almost as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy recliner without the size and weight. This folding camping chair has insulated cup holders, can be set up anywhere, and comes with a carry bag for easy portability.

If you want to see more chairs, then we have the 15 Best Backpacking Chairs for any adventure post.

A First Aid Kit

You must have a fully stocked first-aid kit in your car and home. Accidents happen, and when they do, you will be glad you have a handy first aid kit.

This first aid kit comes with the following and so much more:

  • An easy-to-carry travel case
  • A smaller, multi-purpose pouch for when you go on hikes
  • Anti-septic wipes
  • Gauze
  • Bandages of different sizes
  • Disposable CPR mask
  • Emergency foil blanket
  • Tweezers and scissors
  • Safety pins and vinyl gloves

Air Compressor

An air compressor like this portable TEROMAS Tire Inflator Air Compressor is one of the best pieces of car camping gear you could bring on the trip with you. This is especially true if you are going to be driving over different types of terrain.

The tire pressure you need when rock climbing isn’t the kind of pressure you need when driving over sand or on the tarmac. A portable air compressor allows you to deflate and inflate your tires as needed.

It’s not just about driving on different types of terrain. It’s also about your own vehicle recovery capability. A flat tire or punctures are not unheard of in the wild. If you have a tire repair kit, you will need a portable air compressor to get your tire pressure back up so you can get back on the road.

car camping during sunset

Food Organizer and Cooler Box

Unless you plan on hunting for all your meals while camping, you will need a food organizer and a cooler box.

Both allow you to keep your food in one place and fresh for the trip. One of the safety measures you need to take when car camping is to always keep all the food in the car and bear canister, to prevent access by rodents and other wild animals.

Tent

You can choose to go car camping and sleep in your car, in which case the air mattress mentioned above will come in handy. Or you could decide to go car camping but bring your own tent. If you can’t decide, then read our article on the Best Car Camping Tents for all Budgets to find the right tent.

There are a few options here:

  • A regular ground tent, which will be set up once you find the perfect spot
  • A car tent, which can either be a rooftop tent or a truck bed tent, both of which will depend on the kind of car you have and your personal preferences

A Portable Shower

If you are camping near a lake or a river, a portable shower such as this KEDSUM Portable Camp Shower is a great idea. Not only is it easy to use, but it’s also durable, making it a nice long-term investment for your future camping trips.

Other accessories, such as a camping stove, will depend on your camping style. You might not need this if you prefer to do all your cooking over an open fire. Awnings and foldable camping tables are considered luxury items that would also be a great addition to your gear, but you can do just fine without them.


Tips for Car Camping Safety

car towing camping trolly

While most of these creature comforts will help make your trip pleasant, some safety tips will go a long way in keeping you and your family protected while out in the great outdoors.

Note: When car camping, follow the Leave No Trace Principles of outdoor camping. The outlined practices therein are not only for your own benefit but also benefit the environment.

Share Your Location

Whenever you are on the road, it’s prudent to share your current location with at least one trusted family member or friend. Not only does this give them peace of mind—knowing that you are safe—but it also makes it easier to track you—at least up until your last known location, should you go off-grid for whatever reason.

Get Roadside Assistance

If you don’t have roadside assistance, you should, at the very least, get an updated coverage plan if you will be off-road camping.

Off-roading puts a lot of stress on any vehicle and breaking down in the wild is not entirely unheard of. Even if you know a lot about your car and can often fix it when it breaks down, there are some instances where your only saving grace will be a spare part or a tow from a flatbed.

If you have valid roadside assistance coverage, you can rest easy knowing that someone will be coming to your rescue whenever and wherever you may break down.

Keep All Food Items in the Car

Apart from helping you observe the Leave No Trace Principle, keeping your food bear canister in the car or a cooler box when you retire for the night serves two other purposes:

  • It will keep your perishables fresh (if you have a cooler box with ice)
  • It will keep the animals away—wild animals such as bears and raccoons tend to scavenge and having food out in the open will attract them to your camping site.

Car camping is as convenient as it is fun. It can be even more convenient if you have all the necessary camping car essentials, such as the ones mentioned on this list. This list is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive, as every camper has their own preferences regarding what they need out in the wild.

The trick is to make a few trips, take note of what you need and how much weight your car can carry, then stock up on essentials as you go. You can refine your list with each car camping trip until you have a list of the best camping car essentials that meet YOUR needs. 

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