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Car Camping Essentials: The Ultimate Packing Checklist for 2023

Car Camping Sleep

Car camping is one of my favorite ways to travel the country. It’s simple and inexpensive, and it’s an amazing gateway to the great outdoors. Whether you want to visit the national parks, set up a base camp for outdoor adventures, or just save money on a road trip, car camping is a fantastic way to travel.

If you’ve never tried car camping, it can be intimidating trying to decide what gear you need to bring, what you should leave behind, and what to be prepared for. This guide is meant to be your ultimate checklist for the car camping essentials to bring on your next trip.

I spend dozens of nights in my car or under the stars every year, and these are the items I’ve found make for a successful car camping trip.

Shelter and Sleeping

One of the most important considerations when car camping is making sure you get a good night’s sleep. It’s hard to beat waking up to sunrise after a great night outside, but if you don’t have the right gear, sleeping outdoors can be uncomfortable and difficult.

Sleeping Pad/Air Mattress

Car Camping Luno Air Matress

A good sleeping pad or air mattress is the most essential piece of camping gear to make sure you get a good night’s sleep outside. Just like your mattress at home, your sleeping pad can be make-or-break when it comes to being comfortable while car camping.

For years I slept on just a half-inch thick foam sleeping pad when camping. It was cheap, lightweight, and indestructible, but I also woke up every morning stiff and tired. When I finally upgraded to a quality inflatable pad, it changed my entire camping experience.

It is definitely worth exploring different options and investing in a sleeping pad that gives you quality sleep.

Another consideration when picking a sleeping pad is that your pad or mattress is the only thing between you and the cold floor of your car. Many good sleeping pads are designed to insulate you from the cold ground and keep you warmer at night. If you plan on car camping in cooler temps, I’d definitely recommend finding an insulated pad.

There are several routes to consider for a camping pad or mattress:

  • The cheapest is a piece of memory foam that you can cut to fit in your car. This option is simple, inexpensive, comfortable, and warm. The biggest downside is that memory foam won’t pack down very well, so it will take up a lot of space in your car.
  • Air mattresses are one of the best options available because they can be very comfortable while still packing down small. The Luno Life Air…

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