12 Family Car Camping Essentials You Can Get on Amazon
Here's the car camping gear you need to get ready for seasons of camping fun.
According to KOA's North American Camping Report, there were 10.1 million first-time camper households in 2020. What drove this flood of first-time campers? The COVID-19 pandemic, partly. In 2020 and 2021, camping has become a safe and affordable way to vacation. In fact, according to the report, more than half of first-time campers’ reasons for planning a trip in 2020 were directly tied to concerns surrounding the pandemic. And guess who camps the most? Families. Couples with children drive the interest in camping and actually plan to camp more this year. Check out our list of car camping essentials to ensure you’re prepared for your next outdoor adventure.
A tent is a basic need for any family car camping adventure, but be wary about the size of the tent. As in, a four-person tent doesn't always fit four people. It may only fit three or even two when you're settled in with sleeping bags, lanterns and toiletries. A Coleman Dome Tent is super easy to set up and offers good ventilation. You will also need a tarp to layout under the tent to keep dry in case of rain.
If you have space in your vehicle, bring along a camping mattress, but double-check how you need to inflate the mattress. Some mattresses have a plug and require an electrical outlet to blow up the mattress. While some campsites have electric hook-ups, not all do. The Sleepingo camping mattress is quick to inflate, so you don't need to worry about cords at the campground. This mattress is also waterproof and folds down to the size of a water bottle. Another good option is a folding camping cot.
Of course, you need something to sleep in, so everyone needs a sleeping bag during your family camping adventure. A lightweight, waterproof sleeping bag is best. This compact sleeping bag weighs just four pounds and keeps campers comfortable in evening temperatures that range from 32 to 77 degrees. You'll want to bring along a pillow and a camping mat so you don't feel every rock and twig underneath your tent as you sleep.
Most campsites have picnic tables, but it's nice to bring along a comfortable camping chair for each member of the family too. Camping chairs are just right for sitting around the campfire sharing stories and roasting marshmallows. This sturdy camping chair from Coleman has a cup holder, a built-in four-can cooler and a padded seat so you're extra comfy at the end of a long, fun day.
While headlamps are needed for after-dark activities, so too are portable camping lanterns. Set one up on your picnic table at dinner time and have one to illuminate the inside of your camping tent. This lantern has four different brightness settings, including a warm white setting that's ideal for nighttime reading and a flash mode that makes it easier for you to be seen in the woods. A hook on the bottom allows you to hang the lantern from a tree branch or the inside of your tent.
In the middle of summer, it can get toasty inside a tent, even with ventilation flaps open. A battery-powered camping fan is what you want to keep cool and sleep more comfortably, especially on breeze-free nights. This small three-speed fan keeps it cool but also keeps it quiet. The battery lasts up to 40 hours (fan only) and can be charged with a USB charger or power bank, making it easy to power up while on the way to the campsite or out on a hike.
Kids love to run around at camp-outs, making a rechargeable headlamp, like this waterproof model, essential once the sun goes down. Kids can explore the campground or stop in the bathhouse after dark with a brightly lit path to guide them. A headlamp also allows little ones to keep their hands free so they can catch themselves if they trip on a tree root, a rock or even a tent pole.
Check the size batteries you need (e.g., AA, AAA, etc.) and stock up to avoid a situation where your lantern or camping fan runs out of juice while on your family camping trip. Inspect everything you plan to bring, like lanterns, headlamps and portable speakers, to make sure you have a backup battery, like the Energizer Recharge Universal, for everything that runs on a battery. Rechargeable batteries are eco-friendly and can be charged with a USB port.
Some campsites have heavy-duty camping grills, but they're not always the cleanest, so bring your own grill to your camp-out. One to consider is the Petite Gourmet tabletop gas grill from Cuisinart. The legs fold out so it rests on a picnic table. This tabletop grill can cook up to eight burgers at once, ensuring everyone's burgers are ready at the same time. Don't forget the gas canisters (double-check that they are the right size) and any hoses or attachments you need to connect the propane tanks to the grill.
If the fresh mountain air doesn't wake you up first thing in the morning, there's always a portable camping coffee maker to give you an extra boost, like this percolator coffee pot. The nine-cup coffee maker is ideal for a family outing and is super-easy to use. Simply add water, a filter and few scoops of ground coffee, much like at home. Place the coffee pot on a campfire or camping stove and you're good to go once the coffee begins to percolate.
Nothing puts an end to the fun of a family camp-out than a swarm of gnats that just won't leave you alone and a bunch of itchy, scratchy bug bites. Choose an eco-friendly bug spray, citronella candles or repellent bands, like those from Cliganic that are plant-based, DEET-free and ward off mosquitos for several hours. Sunburn is another easy way for a family camping trip to quickly go south, so don't forget a few bottles of sunscreen (SPF 30+).
It's hard not to get dirty when camping as a family, so it's a must to bring along more than one canister of antibacterial hand wipes. A 20-pack of hand wipes is useful to clean up before meals and after a hike. Some campsites don't have running water, making hand wipes a necessity. In the woods, do what you can to keep germs at bay and clean up anytime you or the kids have dirtied up.