You don’t need to drive a super-sized SUV to be a #happycamper. Camping trips are entirely possible in a compact car—pack right, and you’ll have room to spare for additional s’mores supplies.
Get the most out of your vehicle by bringing only essential clothing (one or two flannels, warm socks, and season-appropriate base layers) so you can utilize your ride while camping as additional storage, makeshift beds or even a mobile kitchen. Here are our tips for what to bring when camping out of a compact car!
Keep a Cool Head (and Consumables)
Keeping one’s cool is of the utmost importance when it comes to perishable goods. Since you’ll be miles away from a grocery store or pizza place, plan simple meals ahead of time. A cooler is necessary for preserving ingredients, especially during summer. Traditionally, coolers have been made of bulky, inflexible plastic—an inefficient use of space.
Opt for a compact soft-sided cooler like the eBags Crew Cooler. Its zippered pockets allow you to organize smaller items and utensils, and the handle and shoulder strap make it easy to carry the cooler to a remote campsite.
While keeping your perishables cold is fairly important, I generally believe that keeping cold beers close at hand feels like a life-or-death situation, especially during the summer. After a grueling hike or “disagreement” when assembling the tent, nothing else can quench your thirst quite like a cold brew. If you can find room in the car, you can bring 24 cold ones on your journey with the Picnic at Ascot 24 Can Cooler. It includes a clip-on corkscrew, and it’s collapsible so you can make more room in your car once the beers are empty.
Gather ‘Round the Fire (in Comfort)
Camping is fantastic for chilling out and catching up. It feels amazing to be immersed in nature while reading a book or chatting with loved ones. On that note, it feels less amazing to have pine needles crawling up your shorts, so outdoor chairs are a campsite essential. Even if you’re low on trunk space, these Kelty Camp Chairs can easily fold in half and squeeze in your trunk to save your junk.
Hang Out for A Few Hours or a Solid Eight
Isn’t it wild how the most comfortable bed comes from the smallest container? Hammocks have recently become all the rage, as they make for epic Instagram pics and relaxing stargazing sessions. We love the muted stripes on the Burton Honey Baked Hammock, which includes cords for easy set-up and a stash pocket for easy relaxing. It’s simply perfect for an afternoon nap or a full night of slumber.
Stay in Touch While Off Grid
While it’s important to digitally disconnect while camping, smartphones are more than social devices—they’ve morphed into lifelines. Sometimes a compass just won’t cut it! What if an emergency happens when you’re out of range?
Invest in peace of mind with the GoTenna Off-Grid Text & GPS device. It’s the only way to turn your mobile into an off-grid device and is sold in pairs! That way, you can stay connected, even while offline, to another member of your party. This critical piece of your gear arsenal is lightweight, weatherproof, and user-friendly.
Power Up for the Weekend, Wherever
A dead phone is an instant buzz kill. While you don’t want to be glued to Facebook, what if you need to take an awesome hammock photograph? If your phone battery is in the red zone, the eBags Lifeboat Quick Charge Battery will revive it to 100% battery in a jiffy—just in time to utilize the flashlight or load your directions home.
If you’re camping out of a car, a mobile charger is especially important because it eliminates the temptation to charge devices using a car charger. While this sounds like a brilliant idea on Friday night, it may find you calling AAA for a jump on Sunday afternoon.
Puppy Proof Your Ride
Man’s best friend makes a wonderful travel companion, especially with the burgeoning ease of finding pet-friendly campsites. While pets’ fur makes them nice to snuggle (especially on those cold nights in the tent), the hairs are also a nightmare to extract from car seats. Cover your back seat with a High Road Wag n’ Ride Seat Cover so that things will be a tad less hairy when you return to real-life duties on Monday. Even if you don’t have a pet, this seat cover will keep your seats pristine and safe from camping-related mishaps.
Even if your ride’s not exactly an off-road monster or a cargo king, you can still take advantage of late summer’s thinned-out crowds and spectacular weather. To find the perfect camping spot, check out Reserve America or Go Camping. You’ll find all of these sites PLUS camping opportunities on private, BLM and military land at Hipcamp; read more about this comprehensive new land sharing app here. And for even more camping gear, visit eBags.
Annie’s based in Los Angeles but hails from Portland, Oregon. Sort of. She moved to six states by the time she reached middle school, and continues to move around the US and abroad – call her a nomad, but she prefers “Location ADHD.” After studying abroad in New Zealand, Annie circled the globe, graduated from USC, and circled the world once again. For one year she lived out of a backpack everywhere from The Philippines to Nepal to Slovenia to Norway. She’s a curry connoisseur and passionate explorer, taking the road less traveled, the “trail” covered in vines and swarmed in exotic bugs. Foreign lands feel like home, and Annie loves encouraging more and more people to utilize their passports and experience a new culture.