For many people, spring marks the glorious beginning of the best time of year: camping season. And if you've got a car, that can be as simple as car-camping.

Once the bitter cold of winter disappears and the nights warm up a little, the time is right to head out with your camping gear. “Car-camping” refers to any camping experience that you can drive to in a regular car. This means that you don't need to own a camper or have any backpacking skills—you simply drive to your campsite and pitch your tent. Some people even take it a step further and use their car as their tent (though for families, this isn't really a reasonable expectation). If you are thinking about getting out and doing some car-camping this year, here are your must-have items to keep you safe and comfortable.


One of the key components to car-camping is having a tent to sleep in. Some people make do with just their car, by folding the back seat down in an SUV for instance, but it is much more comfortable to have space to spread out. This is especially true if you have kids. Keep in mind that the best tent for you will be one that has enough space for all your campers but is also not too difficult to put up.

Camping in a car

Image courtesy of REI


Another fact of camping is that you're likely going to have to bring most (if not all) of your food with you. You need some place to safely store the food. Make sure that your cooler is large enough to fit all of your food but also not too big to fit in your car. There are many coolers on the market that are rated to keep ice for up to five or even seven days. You should also make sure that your cooler has a good seal—you don't want the food smells attracting animals at night.


Image courtesy of Survival Mastery

Sleeping Bag/Pad

You're also going to need something to sleep in and on, even if you're sleeping in your car. Make sure that you are choosing a sleeping bag rated for the temperatures you're likely to experience. If your sleeping bag is only rated to 50 degrees, you're going to have a rough night if temps dip below 40. Another nice item to make the ground (or your car) more comfortable is a pad or air mattress, both of which are available in a range of styles and options. Some even feature integrated air pumps that you can plug in and turn on.

Sleeping bag

Image courtesy of Switch Back Travel

Camp Stove (and accessories)

Another necessity is something to cook on. For most people, this is satisfied by a propane camp stove. Even if you want to just cook over the fire, you will still need supplies. Either way, make sure that you're taking all the accessories you will need to cook, such as a knife and cutting board, aluminum foil, and matches or a lighter.

Campfire cooking

Image courtesy of Freedom General


Finally, don't forget your flashlight and extra batteries or charging cables. There are lots of options available, including some that strap to your head to keep your hands free.

camping flashlight

Image courtesy of Camping Relief

What are your car-camping must-haves? Let us know in the comments!