The ultimate car camping starter kit

One of my friends has decided to start camping and I’m helping her get started. Because I want to set her up for success, I equip her and her nine-year-old son with the most effective equipment possible. So I put together a dream list of camping gear.

Does your first camping kit have to be as expensive as some of the products on this list? Of course not. However, when you invest in quality gear, you won’t just feel more comfortable. It will also often take longer and be of much greater value in the long run.

Sleep systems

You can forego most of the other things on this list, go to a campsite and still have a good time. But camping won’t be pleasant if you can’t sleep well. Prioritizing comfort and preparing for conditions that may be worse than expected is the most effective way to ensure you are having a good time.

Tent: Nemo Wagtontop 4P ($ 500)

A good car camping tent is spacious, can withstand bad weather (including strong winds), and is easy to pitch. Nothing I’ve tried met these requirements better than the Nemo Wagontop. A six and a half foot cube on each side offers plenty of room to stand up while you change. Thanks to the windows built into the upper perimeter of the tent, which allow ventilation without people being able to look inside, you can do this in privacy. The single-walled design (there is no separate rain fly), the interior of the wagon top stays dry even if you set it up in the pouring rain. And while the massive external pole structure is intimidating, it is actually incredibly easy to use and quick to deploy. The best thing, however, is how strong the resulting structure is. Five years ago mine was caught in a storm in Baja that destroyed all of my friends’ tents, but I still use the Wagtontop today.

Sleeping pad Sleeping pad: Nemo Roamer XL Wide (250 USD)

With a thickness of 4 inches, the Roamer corresponds to the comfort of the Exped MegaMat (the OG Lux Camping Pad). However, with perforated foam instead of monolithic foam, it can be packed much smaller and faster. Despite these perforations, the Roamer still achieves an R-value of 6.0 – more than enough insulation to sleep in even in cold weather.

Children’s sleeping pad: Big Agnes Two Track Petite ($ 80)

I thought it would make sense to equip my friend’s son with a wide range of equipment for car camping, summer camp and when I take him on his first backpacking trip. Self-inflating pads like the Two Track aren’t nearly as light or comfortable as air pads, but they’re more sturdy, which is an important consideration for children’s gear. Even so, at two inches, the Two Track is half an inch thicker than what I used at its age. However, the R value of 3.3 is marginal. At temperatures below freezing point, it makes sense to place a closed-cell foam cushion underneath for additional warmth.

Adult sleeping bag: Nemo Jazz Luxury Long ($ 230)

While sleeping bags with down insulation packs are smaller and lighter, they also lose their insulating properties if they get wet. Water can get into your gear in more than just rain. Camping on the beach, for example, often involves heavy fog that wets the insulation. For a special camping car bag, it makes sense to use synthetic insulation.

The Jazz Luxury Long is a square mummy bag that is tailored to the dimensions of the Roamer XL Wide Pad. It has an upholstered cover that securely connects the two elements and creates a uniform sleeping system that stays in place when you roll around at night. Jazz’s 20-degree comfort rating is just the place for camping trips over three seasons.

Unfortunately, due to the problems in the supply chain caused by the pandemic, there are no Jazz Luxury Longs in stock at every retailer. I found an easily used one on eBay and ordered my friend Nikwax TechWash ($ 10) to clean it up.

Kids sleeping bag: Big Agnes Sunbeam 15 ($ 180)

My friend’s son is four feet, four inches tall and growing rapidly. This means that it is already at the upper limit for children’s bags. So it doesn’t make sense to invest in a quality sleeping bag that it will outgrow next summer. The Sunbeam is a women’s bag and comes in a small size that can accommodate people up to five feet (six inches). It leaves plenty of room for growth without adding too much weight or unused space.

As part of Big Agnes’ unified sleeping system range, this bag contains a sleeve on the back that is designed for the two track pad, and there is no insulation on the underside. Because your body weight compresses the insulation beneath you as you sleep, it is the cushion, not the pocket, that provides the insulation in this area. Although it’s made of synthetic insulation, cutting this unnecessary part will also reduce the weight and package size. This thing only weighs three pounds.

Tent floor: Nemo Victory Blanket ($ 90)

The Victory Blanket is precisely tailored to the surface area of ​​the wagon top for four people, is waterproof and covered with flannel. This significantly increases the comfort in a tent, blocks the penetration of moisture from the ground and protects the tent floor from dirt, abrasion and dog paws.

Blankets: Cheap Amazon Polyester Fleece ($ 12)

If you have your car with you, you can take a few extra blankets with you. They will add some insulation in your tent and around the campfire. They also make great dog beds. The polyester fleece used in these blankets is thick enough to generate noticeable warmth, can dry quickly and is easy to clean.

Vehicle ability and willingness

My friend already owns a Ford Bronco Sport, the top-end version of Badlands with all-wheel drive, a rear differential lock and Falken Wildpeak A / T trail tires. These features make this vehicle the top performing crossover vehicle and a good choice for people who live in a city but still tackle unpaved roads and winter weather. But no matter what you drive, preparing a car for camping doesn’t stop with the vehicle itself.

Recovery Cards: Maxtrax Minis ($ 200)

If you get stuck in sand, mud, or snow, just slide these things under your drive Wheels and drive out. Genuine Maxtrax is made from a practically indestructible nylon material that can withstand lifelong use. Compared to the full-size originals, the Minis are only 25 inches long, making them easy to carry around in a compact crossover like the Bronco Sport. I ordered a kit for my friend when she mentioned her camping plans.

Recovery Straps and Shackles: ARB Weekender Kit ($ 132)

There will be situations when the Maxtrax is insufficient. And since the Bronco Sport offers safe and accessible recovery points front and rear, its drivers can use real recovery equipment in case they ever get seriously stuck. The weekender includes a kinetic recovery strap and two 3/4-inch shackles. Plug in another vehicle and slowly drive away from the stuck one. This will stretch the belt and when it rebounds gently pulls the stuck vehicle out of the obstacle. Is the gear that serious? necessary? Taking a tow truck onto a dirt road can cost up to $ 5,000. Usually full payment is required in advance. Think of this kit as cheap insurance.

Tire repair

Check out the video above and click this link for full instructions and a shopping list. Never leave the house without this stuff; Tires are the most common damaged component in any vehicle.

Bleed Tool: ARB EZ Deflator ($ 40)

Once you’re on dirt, you should lower your tire pressure to 20 PSI or less to improve ride quality, improve grip, and avoid flat tires. This tool is made from the same brass as your tire valves so they don’t get damaged. You screw it on, remove the valve core (securely in the tool) to quickly drop the pressure, reinsert the core and remove the tool. It sounds complicated, but it’s much faster than trying to let air out by pressing the valve. Make sure to use the air compressor you bought for the tire repair to secure air before heading back to the pavement. You can find the correct tire pressure on the road on a table in your driver’s door frame.

Storage accessories

It’s convenient to have one place to sit and another to put things. If, like my friend, you spend a lot of your time camping on beaches and in deserts, shade structure should be considered essential.

Table: Mountain Summit Heavy Duty Rolling Table ($ 100)

Roll-up aluminum camp tables such as Mountain Summit pack in a small carrying bag, but are surprisingly robust once set up. Simply wipe or hose off to clean. With a length of almost two meters, it is large enough for two people to comfortably carry out tasks in the warehouse kitchen.

Chairs: Mountain Summit Love Seat ($ 100)

It’s really nice to be able to sit together while watching a sunset or reading a book, and collapsible love seats make it possible in a package that still fits in your car.

Shade: REI Co-Op Outward Shade Shelter ($ 125)

The Outward Shade Shelter is built like a backpack tent and weighs only four pounds. However, it provides perfect shade for two people. Make sure you pin it well so it doesn’t blow away.

Cooler: Igloo Mission 50 Quart ($ 140)

Igloo’s Mission line of hard coolers offers most of the ice retention of more expensive brands at a much cheaper price. Fifty liters is the right size for two people, for up to three or four nights. Use ice packs instead of frozen water, cool things inside beforehand, minimize the time the cooler opens, and keep the cooler out of the hot car when parked in camp, preferably on one shady place.

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