Gear Up for the Great Outdoors
Vehicle camping can be invigorating and fun. We’ve rounded up the best camping gear for van and car campers for those on a budget or with a little more extra cash to spare.
While the new 2023 EarthRoamer comes ready with every single little gadget you could possibly need on a camping adventure, it also comes with a price tag of over a million dollars, so that option isn’t feasible for all of us. For those who want to car camp on a budget, here is a list of the best camping gear!
Top 7 Favorite Pieces of Gear for Car and Van Camping
When considering gear for car or van camping, you’ll want to keep in mind how much spare space you have inside your vehicle. You may have more extra space in a van, but the storage area is minimal for car campers. That means it’s always a good idea to find gadgets that are versatile and can tackle more than one task or job.
You’ll also want to consider the environment you’ll be camping in. Should that valuable storage space go towards keeping you warm, or is it better served towards an item that will let you better enjoy a warm summer day?
Keeping those things in mind, here is a great list to get you started!
A good cooler or refrigerator is essential for those living full-time (or just for the weekend) in their vehicle. Keeping perishable foods fresh will save you from a diet of take-out or canned goods. In addition, having food handy will save you money, time, and effort.
Budget Gear Pick
This Amazon Commercial Molded Cooler is the perfect budget option for a cooler that delivers. It boasts 10 or more days of ice retention, and it’s food-grade safe.
Ballin’ Gear Pick
Those looking to go off the grid and that have access to a power connection may consider the DOMETIC Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator and Freezer. This cooler can even deep freeze down to -7.
Having a solar panel and power bank when car or van camping is essential for keeping your electronic devices charged. It allows you to power your phone and other devices (like your DOMETIC cooler)! A solar generator is also environmentally friendly camping gear because it doesn’t need to generate electricity by burning fossil fuels.
Budget Camping Gear Pick
If you only have a few small devices you need to power, such as your phone or tablet, the small Tranmix Solar Charger is a great low-cost option to get you started. When fully charged, it can supply up to a week’s worth of power to your phone.
Ballin‘ Camping Gear Pick
For those of us who need a bit more power, the Jackery Solar Generator with two solar panels is the gadget you need. This popular solar generator is easy to use, lightweight, and can power almost anything!
A gas stove can take your camping experience to the next level by allowing you to cook hot meals and make coffee or tea. They’re easy to use, lightweight, and portable. Camp stoves are also reliable and efficient – especially in remote areas where electricity is unavailable.
Budget Camp Stove Pick
The GSI Outdoors Glacier Camp Stove is the simplest camp stove model available – but it’s tried and true. The stove screws right onto a gas canister and is designed to use minimal fuel. In addition, this particular model supports larger pots and pans while still supplying even heat.
Ballin’ Camp Stove Pick
If you have a healthy budget (and appetite), the Eureka! Ignite Portable 2-Burner Stove may be a better camping gear choice. This 2-burner stove is perfect for those who enjoy whipping up elaborate meals while camping. It comes with a push-button ignitor, non-skid feet, a fuel regulator, and more features that make cooking a breeze.
Most vans and all cars lack one crucial aspect for camping: a shower. So whether you’re using a communal camp shower or running into a 24-hour gym, you’ll want all your toiletries in an easy-to-carry container. Enter the shower roll!
The JMMDY Travel Toiletry Bag is a stellar budget-friendly shower roll option. The bag has a built-in hook so it won’t get wet or dirty. In addition, it’s lightweight, waterproof, and comes in various colors.
There’s no reason to break the bank on a shower roll… but with a larger budget, you can choose something more fashionable. The AvaJex Premium Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag has 19 compartments and a water-resistant interior.
Camping Gear Must-Have: Multitool
A multitool is a versatile and compact tool that can be essential for van and car campers. This tool can be used for a variety of daily tasks and be a handy tool in emergency situations. It is a must-have for any car camper who wants to be prepared for any situation.
Budget Gear Pick
The Gerber Gear 12-in-1 Multitool Mini has plenty of gadgets for the average camper. You’ll find yourself reaching for this handy tool to help with everything from opening bottles to making small cuts.
Ballin‘ Budget Pick
High-end multitools like the Gerber Gear Center-Drive Multitool are designed with heavy-duty work in mind. This model comes with a 12-piece bit set and offers the torque and rotation of a traditional screwdriver, plus all the other valuable tools it has.
Sleeping Bag – Sleep Time Essential
Van lifers may already have a full-sized bed with bedding, but car campers need both a sleeping bag and a pad for a good night’s sleep.
When camping in your vehicle, you’ll want a sleeping bag designed for the warmest and coldest days, so look for one rated for four seasons.
Budget Gear Choice
HiHiker Camping Sleeping Bag + Travel Pillow offers a 2-for-1 with the included pillow. This sleeping bag is also machine washable and rated for four seasons, down to 25 degrees.
Ballin Gear Choice
If you’re expecting even colder temperatures or want to buy a sleeping bag that can also be used when backpacking, consider the Marmot Trestles 15. The lightweight and durable fabric is perfect for car and back-country camping.
Many of us have gotten into the habit of using our phones as flashlights, but when camping, it’s much more beneficial to have a headlamp. And if you haven’t splurged on a solar generator, your phone may be too drained to illuminate the night.
A headlamp allows campers to have both hands free while navigating in the dark. You can use them for setting up camp after dark, finding your way to the bathroom, or even for late-night hikes.
Budget-Friendly Gear Choice
Trusty brand Energizer offers the Energizer LED Headlamp Pro260, which can illuminate up to 80 meters. With seven light modes and long-lasting battery power, you’ll be able to light your way at an affordable price.
Ballin‘ Gear Choice
If you’re looking for the ultimate camping headlamp, the Ledlenser MH10 is the lightest and brightest. With the potential to light up to 150 meters and color filters for better night vision, this model is perfect for those who want a headlamp for around camp and out on adventures.
Camping Gear Recommendations for Budgets or Ballin’
Car and van camping can be an exciting and enjoyable experience for anyone, regardless of budget. From keeping your food fresh with a good cooler to staying connected with a solar generator, a lot of gear is available to suit your needs. With the right equipment, you can make the most of your camping experience and enjoy the great outdoors.
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Jennifer lives with her husband in a 29′ trailer in Mexico. She is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full-time RVers. Jennifer Jennings has been RVing for 2+ years and writing about the RV and Van Life for 2+ years. Jennifer specializes in topics such as Lifestyle, van life, campgrounds features, destination features, and product lists.