The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist

The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist

February 12, 2021

5 min read


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We've provided our quick summary of what to bring when going car camping in our blog post below.

Our app uses a lot of the same listed info below, and allows you to choose your outdoor activities, your accommodation, kitchen type, and other item sets, giving you a fully customizable packing list at your finger tips.

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Two screenshots of the Packup app showing a packing list with checked and unchecked items


  • Have you booked your campsite (and saved/printed your registration?)
  • Do you have any required passes? (backcountry, park, etc)
  • Is your car in good driving shape? Oil and tires are checked? Will you need tire chains?
  • Do you need a map to reach your camping area? Do you need to save the map offline?

Campsite Items

Car camping can entail being in a tent, or sleeping in your car at a site. If you want some ideas on how you can sleep in your car for more protection from the elements, check out our blog post on building a DIY sleeping platform for your car. Key campsite items:

Overhead shot of a camp stove and some utensils on a picnic table

Camp Kitchen

The requirements for your camp kitchen will vary depending on the facilities available in proximity to your camp. Be prepared to bring and/or treat water if clean water is not available in your area, and dispose of garbage and greywater waste appropriately following the principles of LNT (Leave No Trace).

Minimizing environmental impact and the attraction of wildlife is of utmost importance - many bears who learn to scavenge human camps end up being killed by animal control due to continued negative human interactions! Key items:

  • Camping stove/grill
  • Fuel (pack extra, and suitable to stove type)
  • Waterproof matches/lighters
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Cooking pots/pans
  • Cooking utensils (spatula, large spoon, tongs, etc)
  • Plates/bowls
  • Cups/mugs
  • Utensils
  • Cooler & ice
  • Water storage cube (filled!)
  • Biodegradable soap w/scrubber
  • Trash & recycling bag
  • Bear proof storage solutions if none provided at campsite. Hanging bags with rope, bear canisters, or other items to remove food from your sleeping and camp areas.
  • Paper towel


  • Prep knife
  • Cutting board
  • Can opener or bottle opener
  • Cast iron pan
  • Oven mitt
  • Aluminum foil
  • Roasting sticks
  • Table cloth and clips
  • Collapsible wash bin (facility dependent)

A grate sits over a campfire while some food is cooking, and two individuals in a hammock are seen in the background

Food & Water

The beauty of car camping is that you can go heavy and are really unlimited compared to backcountry cooking. Need ideas for your meals? Check out some blogs such as Fresh Off the Grid or Dirty Gourmet for great ideas on what to eat while car camping.

Remember to NEVER leave food, trash, or other smelly things (other than you!) in your tent, and to absolutely minimize leaving your food unattended. Food and coolers should be stored in your car, metal food lockers, or in a bear canister/hung from a bear pole while not being consumed and supervised.

It is always nice to have the following items with you in mini nalgene containers:

  • Salt & Pepper
  • Spices Mixes
  • Cooking Oil (Olive, Canola, Avocado)
  • Honey

And don’t forget your:

  • Snacks
  • Meals
  • Waterbottles/reservoirs (filled!)
  • Water filter/purifier or treatment tools
  • Extra food! It’s never a bad idea to bring an extra day’s worth of food.

Safety & Tools

  • Headlamp
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Lighter/matches & fire-starter
  • Gear repair kits (duct-tape, spare parts, buckles, glue, patches)
  • Bear spray

Two tents and a car in the woods

 Personal Items

  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Cellphone in protective bag
  • Cellphone charging cord
  • Credit card & cash
  • Identifications
  • Earplugs
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Sanitation trowel
  • Lip balm
  • Painkillers
  • Permits (backcountry, camp, park)
  • Powerbank
  • Prescription medications
  • Toothbrush w/toothpaste
  • Urinary/menstral products
  • Wet wipes

What about everything else?

Alright alright alright, so this is a lot of items, and I can’t check them off without printing this sheet and using a pencil! And now I need to plan for my activities I want to do, the clothes I need to bring, and other considerations!

Introducing packup

Try our app out and create your adventure checklist today!

Our trip generator allows you to select your activities, accommodations, kitchen, and all types of other considerations to form the foundation of a packing list that you can save and customize. Check the items off as you pack, right from your phone.

Trip generator allows you to create and customize your packing list for adventure.

Get outside faster, and try it today!

While we are not sponsored by any of these brands, some of these items have affiliate links and we will make a small percentage off the value of a sale. Rest assured, we use all of these items, and believe in their value. Think of these links as a way of giving back for using this checklist on your next trip!

Cover Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash


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