Don't leave home without 'em

Gear for the perfect car-camping trip and tips from Sunset staffers


Quarters (for the shower)


Deck of cards

Waterproof tablecloth

Tablecloth clips

Something to cover wet benches

Bungee cords

Ice blocks (last longer than cubes)

Utility knife

Nylon tarps

Ground cloth or tarp (for under the tent)

Bear barrels (if in bear country)


Whisk broom (for tent)

Comfortable, collapsible chairs

Firewood (in case supply is limited where you are going)


Extra batteries

Sticks for s'mores (many parks don't allow gathering)

DEET-free botanical insect repellent

Dr. Bronner's soap (environmentally friendly; use it for everything)

Cast-iron skillet (virtually indestructible; cook anything in it)

Roll-up plastic cutting board

Plastic French coffee press

Barbecue grill grate (place it over the campfire for cooking steaks or veggies) Hammock

Favorite fireside cordial

Sunset's staff says ... | Top

"I keep my camping gear packed and in one place so it's easy to throw into the car on a moment's notice." ― Julie Chai, Fact checker

Hang a whistle around your kids' necks in case they wander from camp. You can use walkie-talkies, but the whistle is simpler." ― Lora J. Finnegan, Senior writer

Make a spice kit! Fill very small plastic containers with salt, pepper, cumin, basil, Lawry's seasoned salt, garlic powder, chili powder, sugar, olive oil, and cinnamon. I keep mine in a little mesh bag along with a bottle of Tabasco. You can make any bare-bones camping meal taste yummy." ― Alison Aves, Copy editor

The La-Z-Boy-lovin' side of me enjoys putting a waffle foam mattress pad under the sleeping bag. Sure softens those pinecones and god-knows-what-else under the tent." ― Paul Donald, Creative director

Keep leftover packets of catsup, mayo, mustard, soy sauce, salad dressing, jam and jelly, sugar, creamer, and salt and pepper from fast-food forays in a zip-lock plastic bag. There will always be something in there you need." ― Lorraine Reno, Editorial Services manager

Put your money into the things that will add comfort ― the best sleeping bag, sleeping mat, and boots you can afford. If it looks like rain, remember to think about runoff underneath as well as coverage overhead." ― Lisa Taggart, Travel writer

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