On the scale from ultralight backpacking to yurt glamping, I prefer to do my road tripping on the luxurious side. There’s a time and a place for cutting down your toothbrush and sitting on the ground, but, for me, road trips are not it! I’ve done a lot of car camping and road trips, and I have some great suggestions to make your time on the road and in your tent as comfortable as possible. I found options at lower and higher price points, so you can get a pleasant set up, no matter your budget.
Being comfortable while sleeping makes a huge difference to your quality of life on the road, and I think it’s the most important area to splurge on. I love having a big-ass tent. Greyson and I are both tall people, and, while we can both fit in a two-person tent, it’s a tight squeeze. We have the Big Agnes Tensleep Station ($449.95) and the footprint ($50.00), and it is incredible. The tent is tall enough to get dressed in and there is enough room for both Greyson and me, and our bags. It also has a large vestibule, so you can take off wet and muddy gear, but stay dry. The tent is easy to set up – though it definitely helps to have two people, it can be set up by one. It has plenty of guylines, so you can stake it out and make it stable in high winds, despite its height. It doesn’t pack down very small and is heavy, which is the only real downside. For four-person tents under $200 from reputable brands, you could look at the highly-rated REI Co-op Camp Dome 4 or the Kelty Salida 4. For sleeping, I want something long, wide and cushy, and the insulated Nemo Cosmo in long and wide is perfect ($139.95). It also has an integrated foot pump for easy filling. For comfort under $100, try Kelty Weekender ($59.95), ALPS Mountaineering Comfort Series Airpad ($39.99), or the old reliable close-cell foam Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest.
After more than 5 years, I’m still really happy with my Sierra Designs Zissou ($144.95). With water-resistant down, it has the benefits of down without the drawbacks in wet weather. For warmer weather, Greyson prefers a backpacking quilt-style sleeping arrangement, even for car camping, like the Enlightened Equipment Revelation ($255). With quilt bags, you can cinch up the sides and bottoms when it’s chillier, or use it like a blanket on warmer nights. If you opt for synthetic, affordable and reliable sleeping bags are easy to find. There’s the Mountain Hardwear Bozeman Quilt ($69.27) or the REI Co-op Trail Pod ($89.95) or the Marmot NanoWave ($89.95), which also comes in long. I didn’t use a sleeping bag liner until our honeymoon, and now I can’t imagine camping without one. I have the easily-washable and light Sea to Summit Expander Travel Liner ($34.95) which is on the cheaper end of liners. If you tend to sleep cold, you could get the Sea to Summit – Reactor Extreme Thermolite liner ($59.99) which can add up to 25 degrees of warmth! You could even use it as a standalone ultralight bag in really warm weather. Don’t forget a pillow! You can just bring a pillow from home for the cheapest and easiest option, but I have and like the NEMO Fillo ($39.95). A cheaper travel pillow is the Cocoon Ultralight Pillow ($25.95).
I’ve found that having a nice and easy to use kitchen set up makes us much more likely to cook and less likely to cave in to eating out. First up, a really nice cooler is worth the money. We are so impressed with our YETI Tundra cooler ($249.99). Stuff stays cold for so long! At a lower price point, the old school Coleman Steel-Belted cooler has good reviews and holds a ton ($94.99). For cooking, nothing beats the Coleman Classic 2-burner Stove, ($32.99) for both price and performance. If you want something that packs down smaller, there’s the Jetboil Genesis 2 ($239.59). We also have a Jetboil Flash ($99.95) that we use if we’re just heating water for coffee in the morning. On the cheaper side, the MSR PocketRocket ($44.95) is a classic for a reason – it works and, while not quite as easy to use as a Jetboil, it’s quite simple.
I like the ease of an all in one camp cookset, like the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper ($139.95). For a smaller cookset, look at the Snow Peak Personal Cooker ($29.95). You’ve also got to have utensils, and nothing beats a Titanium Spork ($9.95). You can also go super budget with this reusable GSI plastic spork ($1.75)
If you’re not spending more than a day in each of your stops, and you have a lot of time on the road, you can probably get away with charging your phones via a car charger. If you’re spending a few days exploring a destination or you have bigger things (computers, cameras, gps units, etc.) to charge, you’ll want a battery system. No matter what, this isn’t going to be cheap, but it’s better than camping out in Starbucks for hours! We have the Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station ($199.95), which can charge up to five devices at once, via USB ports, regular plugs, or car chargers. You can recharge the power station from a wall outlet or via Goal Zero solar panel ($125.49).
Once you’ve settled in to your campsite for the night, you’ll want to be comfortable and entertained. While a lot of developed campsites have picnic tables for seating, dispersed or primitive camping lacks that amenity. Plus, a chair with a back is so much more comfortable! I’m not a fan of the ultra light or small packing camp chairs – if I’m bringing a chair, it needs to be the real thing. The REI Co-op Camp X chair ($39.95) is perfect. It’s roomy, has cup holders, and they seem to last forever. I’m also big on having a hammock whenever possible, and I’ve had no complaints about the ENO DoubleNest Hammock ($52.46). Don’t forget the Hammock Suspension System ($29.95) – you won’t be able to swing without it.
Hopefully, you’ll be stopping for outdoor meals in gorgeous places on your road trip. I’ve found that having a water-resistant picnic blanket for these occasions is a must have. We’ve given the Nemo Victory Blanket ($79.95) as a gift, and the recipients love it. It’s truly waterproof (non just resistant), and you can even stake down the edges if it’s windy out! There are much cheaper options out there, like this one ($9.99) or this one ($21.99), but they aren’t going to be fully waterproof.
Camp games are a great way to entertain yourself and to make friends with your neighbors. I’ve played Spikeball ($55.99), Bocce Ball ($29.95) and Ladder Golf ($37.49) while camping and had a blast. Get waterproof versions of playing cards ($8.99) or games like UNO ($9.95) for durability and to protect from spills or sudden storms.
Finally, we love our solar powered, inflatable, multi-color Luci Lanterns ($19.50). While they might just seem like a silly gimmick, we truly use ours a lot. They don’t take up very much space at all, charge quickly (we put ours on the car dash while we drive), and the white is bright enough to read by. The multi-color function is fun for the wilder nights and for entertaining kids. If you just want white light, you can get the Original Lucy ($17.95) for a little cheaper.
There are some of my suggestions to make your next car camping road trip a little more luxurious! I didn’t hit everything, so what did I miss?
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!