Bare Necessities: Car Camping – 3 things


Truck camping along the Taiya River. Dyea, Alaska. Photo: Nicole Kovaks

  1. Sleeping bag
  2. Sleeping pad
  3. Water 

If you wanted to to get a quick escape for a night, these three things are all you really need.

(OK, technically all you really need to go car camping is a car. Though having a few extra things tending to your comfort makes the experience much more enjoyable.)

I do not mention pillow because you can bunch up a jacket or any clothes to use under your head. There are many different sleeping pads to choose from. My favorite is the Therm-a-Lite Z pad because it’s closed cell foam so you don’t having to worry about it deflating while you sleep. And I usually grab a gallon water jug, maybe two, somewhere on my way out.

There are a few more basics you can bring to add a bit more luxury/convenience/entertainment. But if you start with the first three things mentioned above, you’re practically already camping.

Here are a few more items to consider grabbing as you’re scurrying out the door (or that you can leave in your car so you’re always prepared.)

  • Trash bag
    • It is just always a good idea to bring one. Never ditch your trash.
  • Baby wipes 
    • Or toilet paper. I am, personally, always a fan of wipes because they are more efficient.
  • Head lamp
    • Pictured below is my new favorite because I have the option of super bright, to not so bright, to red light mode.
    •  028b0b97-b5b4-4156-b599-c91184b8c0b2Petzl Actik Headlamp $45
  • A cooking stove of some sort
    • Primus or Jet Boil stoves are great if you’re just going to boil water or make pasta/oatmeal/add-hot-water-to-your-meal-in-a-bag sort of thing.
    • primus_p_356083_eta_lite_compact_all_in_one_1437577527000_1151194Primus Eta Light $60
  • Coffee and a way to brew it
    • When all else fails, cowboy coffee. You can brew the grounds with hot water in a pot or bowl or cup, let it sit for 10/15 minutes, and find away around the grounds best you can.
    • Better option: there are so many ways to make camping coffee now a days. My favorite as of late is this…
    • 45fee7c9-96c8-44fe-9bdf-cc9650ad7094.jpegYou can brew it hot and strong. Only $7 at REI. Remember filters!
  • Beer
    • or wine, or champagne, or whatever else you might enjoy sipping on.
  • Snacks/food
    • So many different options for food.
  • Fire wood and a lighter 
    • That is, if no fire ban is posted.
    • Depending where you are, you can also just go collect wood when you get to your spot.
  • Book &/0r Jounal
    • These are my special gems of choice for a quiet/mellow night of camping. Through, if I plan on getting rowdy with friends I do not bother with these items.
    • Red light mode on your headlamp: Comes in super handy when you are camping with just one other person and you want to read at night after they have decided to sleep.

There you have it, the bare bone basics. Obviously, you could pack your vehicle full of things you think you might need or want to use. Honestly, the simpler the better.

The less you have, the easier you keep it, the more time and space you have to enjoy the experience of where you are. Instead of spending time rummaging and searching through a vehicle packed with doodads and whatever-the-hecks, keep it clean,simple, organized and enjoy the calm, fresh air of camping.

Remember! Always, pick up and pack out your trash. Go a step further even, pick up more trash around you that you see! Respect the land, respect other campers, and have lots of fun.

Please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions/comments/feedback!


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