Car Camping Must-Have Checklist

One of the great joys of car camping is all the camping gear you can take. You can pack as much as your vehicle can fit — which means the camping gear list can become a little long. 

When setting up your campsite you can make it feel as luxurious as you would like. Comfortable seating, camp games, and even some decorations can make you feel right at home. The list of extra camping supplies is endless, but it’s important to understand the essentials. 

You don’t want to forget any important camping gear when you are far from any convenience stores. First aid kits, matches, and other survival items can be crucial in an emergency. 

We’ve put together the ultimate car camping gear list, plus a few extras items for some added fun. Use our list next time you're packing for a camp trip, and you won’t forget a thing.

Car Camping Gear Checklist

Car camping allows for a more flexible camping experience. There are many options for how you choose to sleep (we obviously prefer a roof top tent!). But whatever your preference may be, the sleeping essentials for camping remain the same.

Camping Sleeping Essentials

  • Shelter of your choice — ground tent, roof top tent, camper shell, RV, or just cowboy camp under the stars
  • Sleeping bags — this one happens to be our favorite
  • Pillows
  • Extra Blankets
  • Mattress topper or sleeping pad
  • Battery pack for LED light strip — if using one of our premium roof top tents

Camping Toolkit

A camping toolkit is a great resource to have on hand if you’re dispersed camping or at a designated campground. Always prepare your kit for small emergencies, repairs, and the unexpected.


  • Lighter/Matches/Fire Starter
  • First Aid Kit
  • Multi-tool or pocket knife
  • Duct Tape — everyone’s favorite camping tool.
  • Water filter or water purification tablets
  • Saw, ax or hatchet for firewood
  • Extra rope or paracord
  • Extra tarp
  • Bear Spray and bear canister if in bear country
  • Maps, compass or GPS — depending on how remote your location is.

Camp Kitchen

Your camp kitchen will depend on your culinary preferences and the type of trip you are planning, but there are a few kitchen tools you can’t go without. Whether you’re a car camping newbie or a seasoned professional, the camp kitchen is a must have for camping.

Kitchen Checklist

  • Water bottles and water jug — especially at primitive campsites where there may not be a water source. You need water to drink, cook, and clean, so bring an ample amount.
  • Cooking utensils — Tongs, Spoons, Spatula
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Pots and pans
  • Plates, bowls
  • Forks/Sporks
  • Coffee gear — mugs, coffee, coffee maker, kettle
  • Cooler — packed with food, snacks, and ice
  • Knives, cutting boards
  • Can opener, corkscrew, bottle opener
  • Trash bags — pack it in, pack it out
  • Kitchen towels — microfiber rags are good choice, they are lightweight and dry quick
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Clean up gear — soap, sponge and wash basin
  • Seasonings — salt, pepper, garlic powder, sometimes a taco seasoning packet can do the trick
  • Beer/Wine — or your beverage of choice

Camping Clothing

The clothing you pack for camping is dependent on the activities you’re doing. Always pack according to the weather but be prepared for cooler evenings. It could be a warm day, but temperatures could easily drop below the 50’s.

The Best Camp Clothing

  • Long sleeve shirts for sun, bugs or warmth
  • Quick drying pants or shorts
  • Jacket layering — Light weight fleece jacket and down jacket for extra warmth
  • Shoes appropriate for the terrain — hiking boots, sandals, sneakers
  • Socks — wool or synthetic
  • Rain jacket if needed
  • Layers for sleeping — long underwear, base layers, sweatpants, sweater or sweatshirt. Always change into dry clothing before bed.
  • Bandana or Buff
  • Beanie or warm hat for cooler temperatures

Camping Health and Hygiene Essentials

If you’re camping on BLM land or at a campground, the odds of getting to take a shower are unlikely. Be prepared to go a few days without a shower by packing for some on-the-go hygiene. If you’re showering or bathing outside, follow the Leave No Trace Principles.

When washing yourself while camping, use a small amount of biodegradable soap. Always wash 200 feet away from any stream or lake to avoid contaminating water sources with soap.

Camping Hygiene Must Haves

  • Soap — biodegradable soap is always a good choice 
  • Baby wipes — oversized full body wipes work well for long camp trips
  • Toilet paper
  • Sun protection — sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat
  • Chapstick
  • Lotion
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant 
  • Hair - brush and hair ties
  • Face wash — this face wash is designed for campers and hikers, rinse-free and environmentally friendly 
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Bug spray

Personal Items

  • Wallet (ID and cash)
  • Camping reservation info, if staying at a campground
  • Charger for cell phone and devices

Basecamp Needs

The truth is, you don’t need a lot to go camping. But making your campsite feel more like home can elevate the camping experience. Setting up your basecamp to be well lit with a comfortable place to sit can make a world of difference!

  • Headlamp
  • Lantern — Our pick is the ReadyLight Camp Lantern + ReadyLight
  • Camp Chairs
  • Camp table
  • Awning or pop-up for some shade or shelter — our pick for added shelter
  • If in a no burn zone, portable propane fire pit
  • Portable propane heater if in a cold climate

The next list of items are totally optional. Depending on how remote your campsite is or how much your vehicle can hold, these items could come in handy or just bring some fun. 


  • Portable charger — there are many different options, but for something with lots of power this is our pick
  • Shovel
  • Hammock
  • Camera
  • Fun lighting 
  • Camp games — playing cards, Jenga, or fun drinking games
  • Bluetooth speaker — our ReadyLight Camp Lantern comes with one or you could pick one up separately
  • S’mores supplies — don’t forget the skewers
  • Dog camping gear — bowls for food and water, leash/harness, dog bed — read more about our dog camping tips here
  • Notebook and pen/pencil
  • Books or reading material to read while relaxing
  • Field guides on local wildlife/native plants

Car Camping Tips and Tricks

While packing for your camping trip, refer back to our car camping gear list to be sure you don’t miss anything. We love being a helpful resource for campers!

Speaking of helpful resources, our email newsletter is full of camping tips and tricks. Catch all of our favorite camping recipes, must-have gear, and so much more!

Sign up for our newsletter today for expert camping tips >

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.