How to go car camping like a pro

If you’re new to camping, have a young family, or just don’t feel like carrying a heavy pack into the wilderness, car camping is quite simply the best way to get out there and explore.

Car camping is easy: You drive your car right up to your campsite and pitch your tent. Then, when the night or weekend is over, you pack everything back into your car and take off again.

Car camping is also ideal for longer road trips, allowing you the freedom to explore several different places over the course of your trip. Not to mention that it can save you lots of money on accommodation!

Another plus of car camping is that you can use ordinary camping gear. You don’t have to invest in the kind of expensive, ultra-light camping gear that’s necessary for backpacking, and you can bring plenty of extras to make your camping trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

Car camping is fun and easy enough for people of all ages. But, there are still a few things that make it even more enjoyable. Here’s how to car camp like a pro, even if you’ve never done it before.

Car camping kit

Obviously, you’ll need a tent. The great thing about car camping is that you can bring a big one. It’s always a good idea to have a tent that has room for at least one more person. This isn’t because you’re expecting guests – it’s because tents are tiny compared to houses, and extra space means extra comfort. So, if there are two of you, buy a three-man tent like the K-Way Panorama 3 Person tent.

For families, it’s a good idea to let the kids have their own tent, giving the adults some space of their own. It will also be lots of fun for them to learn to put up and take down their own tent. Look for tents that are sturdy but easy to pitch. The K-Way range of leisure tents are perfect for car camping. The K-Way Kids' Pop-Up tent is ideal for the little ones.

Sleeping bags are your next priority. Make sure you have some idea of what the night time temperatures are likely to be where you’re camping. Throw in some extra blankets if you’re not sure you’ll be warm enough – these are always brilliant around a campfire too. A great idea for couples is to buy two sleeping bags that can zip together to form a double bag. In case you prefer your own sleeping bag, we think the K-Way Hybrid 2 Sleeping Bag. 

Since you have the space and don’t have to worry about weight, the best mattresses for car camping are the large inflatable kind that are just as comfortable as your bed at home. You can even use your car to pump them up. We can recommend the K-Way Air Lite Mattress.

Your car camping kitchen

One of the best things about camping is cooking all your meals outdoors. Some campsites have kitchen facilities, but it’s hard to beat egg and bacon on a skottel by the seaside, or chops on a braai under a starry bushveld night.

Find out what facilities are provided at the campsite. Many campsites have built in braais, but you may still need to bring your own wood. (Don’t forget the matches and firelighters!) Some don’t allow open fires, so you’ll need to bring a stove. It’s always good idea to take a stove anyway, for your morning tea and coffee. The Fire Maple Gas Stove is just what you need to get the job done.

If you’re lucky, there may be a small shop at the campsite, where you can buy things like milk, bread, cool drinks and cold beers. However, you should take at least one good quality cooler box well-stocked with ice for your perishables, cool drinks and beers. The Coleman 70QT Extreme Cooler is large enough to store all your essentials and keep them colder for longer.

As well as taking torches and headlamps for inside the tent and getting around the camp at night, you may want to bring a lantern, like the Life+Gear 60 Lumen Lantern, for the kitchen. With some comfy camping chairs like the Cape Union Ranger Chair and a folding camping table, you can turn any campsite into a comfortable living area.

Beat the camping blues

Don’t forget to plan for the unexpected, and to prepare for some of Mother Nature’s little curve balls. In case of bad weather, make sure you take some K-Way rain jackets, a canopy tarp, and some extra games to play together in the tent while you wait for the rain to stop.

For mozzies, take insect repellant, such as the Lifetrek Mosquito Repeller, as well as some citronella candles for your campsite. Just in case your neighbours snore, or you find the local frogs too loud, pack some earplugs. And, of course, don’t forget the first aid kit.

Packing for car camping

First up, create a car camping checklist and pack ahead of time. Otherwise, you may end up waking up with the birds to get off on an adventure only to find yourselves still gathering stray items as the morning slips away. Likewise, arriving at a campsite to discover you’ve left behind an essential piece of kit can quickly wipe the smile from your face.

If you’ve got a big car or there are only a couple of you, it’s fine to just shove things into the car.
But, pro car campers pack chronologically. Put the items you’ll need last at the bottom and the ones you’ll need first (like the tent) on top.

You may also find it helpful to buy two or three big plastic tubs with strong lids to keep your camping kit organized (clear ones are ideal). Keep tents and sleeping gear in one, cookware, stove, fuel and utensils in another, and non-perishable food items in a third tub. You can also stack the tubs to make a camp table.

There you have it. Now you’re all set to enjoy exploring the great outdoors on a car camping trip!


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