Car Camping Gear Comparison
If you’ve never been car camping, it can sound like an intimidating — and expensive —endeavor. It’s really not! Unlike backpacking, which can require some specialized equipment, car camping can be done with the basic stuff you already have: bedding, clothing, light and food. Only two pieces of car camping gear are really essential.
Checking off Your Car Camping Gear List
There are just two things you’ll want to acquire: a tent and a stove. We’ve taken a look at the car camping gear out there and identified a few of the best options.
But first: spend a few minutes on Compare.com to see if you can find a better deal on car insurance. It’s fast, it’s free, and it could save you a lot of money! You don’t want to be in the middle of an adventure without car insurance or a bangin’ playlist.
The Best Car Camping Tents
What should you look for in a car camping tent? First of all, weight doesn’t matter so much. Unlike backpacking tents, which are designed to be compact and lightweight, a car camping tent can be bulkier. You’re just going to toss it into the trunk. You’ll probably want a 3-season tent for spring-fall camping, instead of one designed to withstand heavy snow and wind. If the weather gets really bad, you’re just going to pack up and go home anyway, right? Or you can always sleep in the car.
The best tent for car camping will be spacious (upsize to one that fits one more person than you have, REI suggests) and easy to set up. Another factor: How long do you plan to camp? If you’re just staying for a few nights, a simple dome-style tent for sleeping will suffice. If you’re envisioning a week-long stay, invest in a larger, cabin-style tent you can hang out in. We compared several car camping tents to identify the best.
- Best car camping tent for space: The name says it all: Big Agnes makes big, well-designed tents that give you room to stretch out. They offer several models, but their best car camping tent (according to OutdoorGearLab) is the Flying Diamond 6. It boasts two rooms, a vestibule and sturdy design.
- Best car camping tent for quality: Everyone loves the REI Kingdom 6, a well-made tent that gives you 83 square feet of space plus a 6-foot ceiling. Selling for around $439, it’s not cheap, but experts say this tent lasts for season after season.
- Best cheap car camping tent: While super-cheap tents can be found at discount stores, it’s a total waste to buy a tent that can only be used once or twice. The best budget tent for car camping, we think, is a classic Coleman. The Coleman 4-Person Instant Cabin sets up in seconds, can fit a queen-sized bed and can be purchased online for around $100.
The Best Car Camping Stoves
Cooking all your food over a campfire sounds romantic… until morning two of your car camping adventure, when you want some hot coffee and you want it NOW. A camping stove, whether powered by propane or another fuel, makes it easy to boil water and prepare basic meals. When comparing camp stoves, look for the listed BTUs — the higher the BTUs, the more heat generated. Also, keep in mind that a camping stove is not the same thing as a grill. If you plan to do a lot of grilling, add a portable charcoal or propane grill to your car camping gear list.
- The best compact car camping stove: Camping with Gus praises the Camp Chef Everest as the all-around best camping stove out there. It’s not fancy, but it has two powerful burners, weighs just 12 pounds, and only costs about $100.
- The best car camping stove for a crowd: Two burners can’t always keep up with a pack of hungry campers. Camp Chef’s Big Gas Grill Three-Burner Stove is a free-standing stove with three 30,000-BTU burners and a grill box with cast-iron grate. It weighs 49 pounds without the grill box, so don’t plan on carrying it too far, and costs around $260-$320.
- The best car camping stove for a gourmet cook: If you’ve ever torn off your chef’s toque and shouted, “I cannot work in these conditions!” then the Scout Overland Kitchen was made for you. It’s an ingenious kitchen — complete with counter space, a cutting board, drawers, a sink and space for a propane stove — that attaches to the back of your vehicle and slides out when you need it. Costing around $5,500, the Overland Kitchen can be ordered for a Toyota 4Runner or Tacoma, or custom-made for other vehicles.