Car Glamping: The Ultimate Guide to Luxury Car Camping
The best thing about car camping is that, unlike backpacking, you can bring as much stuff as you want, as long as it fits in your car. Luxury car camping, or glamping, takes a hedonistic approach to outdoor living: If it makes you feel good, bring it!
Here’s what you need for the full car glamping experience.
That is, on top of the typical car camping necessities and an awesome destination in mind.
Car Glamping Sleeping Arrangements
The first thing you need for car camping is, of course, a tent. Most campers grab a pop-up, five-person Coleman or other cheap tent. It’ll keep you dry and warm(ish), although you might wake up with someone’s feet in your face. For car glamping, think bigger and better. If you’re camping with a crowd, consider Cabela’s Ultimate Alaknak 12-ft. x 20-ft. tent ($1,199). It’s tall enough to walk around in, sleeps up to eight, has two doors and three windows, and includes fold-down shelves and a special floor panel that allows you to use a woodstove inside. If it’s just the two of you, look at the REI Kingdom 6 ($439), a spacious and well-made tent that can be divided into two separate rooms. Switchback Travel named it the best car camping tent, especially if you purchase the add-on Kingdom Garage for gear storage.
The second most important thing you need for luxury car camping is… nope, not the sleeping bag. It’s what goes under the sleeping bag: a sleeping pad or inflatable mattress. A high-quality sleeping surface will ensure a good night’s rest, even with a hard or stony surface under your tent. The Wirecutter names the Therm-a-Rest Luxury Map ($110-$170) the best car camping sleeping pad, because it’s warm, cushy and self-inflating. For even more comfort, the camping mattress king is the Exped MegaMat 10 ($219), according to the testers at Outdoor Gear Lab.
Other things to bring for a luxury car glamping experience: A high-quality sleeping bag, soft pillows, warm blankets, a nightlight and a small, battery-powered fan to circulate air inside the tent.
Luxury Car Camping: Campsite Comfort
When you’re car camping, it’s fun to stroll around the campground and ogle other people’s setups — until envy overcomes you, and you wish you’d brought more than two folding chairs and a flashlight. Next time, you can be the one with the super-cool campsite! Here’s what you need (some items require an electrical hookup):
- Folding chairs with cup holders
- A folding table
- Hammock chairs that hang from a trailer-hitch stand
- String lights to illuminate your campsite
- An outdoor rug
- A mesh shelter so you can eat and relax without worrying about bugs
- A Bluetooth speaker
- Permethrin spray to keep ticks out of your campsite
- A propane-powered water heater for hot outdoor showers — or a cheaper solar-powered camping shower.
Luxury Car Camping: Gourmet Cooking
Not into hotdogs cooked on a grease-crusted campfire grate? No problem. How about grilled lamb chops with rosemary, risotto and asparagus? Half the fun of glamping is cooking memorable meals, and there’s plenty of gear to help you do it.
The main thing you’ll need is a camp stove, and there are a ton of options. BioLite makes a super-cool stove that uses fire to generate electricity: “Burning only wood, the CampStove 2‘s fan creates a smokeless fire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes while turning its heat into usable electricity,” the company says. If you’re cooking for a crowd, invest in a two- or three-burner propane-powered camp stove. The biggest and best car camping stove is the Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven ($200), a 35-pound beast that lets you cook on the range as well as bake food at up to 400 degrees.
If you know your campground will be sunny, a solar oven can take the place of a fuel-powered grill. The GoSun Grill ($799) can “bake, boil or fry a meal for eight people” — just place food in the cooking drawer and the sun does the rest. Customers rave that it works even in winter, when the outside temperature is below freezing and the sun is low. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t cook at night!
Other cooking gear you’ll need for luxury car camping:
- A cooler and ice
- A sharp knife and cutting board
- Pots and pans
- A griddle/Dutch oven for campfire cooking
- Marshmallow/hot dog roasting forks
- Coffee percolator
- Classic enamel camp dishes and mugs
- A tablecloth
- Mesh food nets to keep away flies
- A tub, sponge and soap to wash dishes
- Dishtowels and a potholder
Bon appetit, and happy luxury camping!