How to camp in maximum comfort, style, and fun on your next trip
Car camping may not feel like a skill that needs some strategery, but it is. Whether you’re at a whitewater fest or out on our public lands, there are a few great ways to mega-upgrade your experience in camp. In this quick Kayak Coffee playbook for taking your camping to the next level, we assume a few things: that you’ve already got the most basic essentials, such as tents (or another shelter, like a van), sleeping bags, pads, and cooking gear. In other words, all the things you need for a good camp. What we focus on here is gear (and one key skill) to take your camp from good to great.
Maximize comfort. The minimalist (or dirtbag) in all of us knows that all you need to relax is a log or patch of bare ground. But, like, c’mon, dude. Your backside deserves something better after the long day on the water you just put in. If you’re camping in a treesy area bring a backpacking hammock. They pack small and weigh just over a pound. Eagle’s Nest Outfitters pioneered the packable hammock category more than 20 years ago, and we still love their Double Nest. No trees? You need a nice chair, man. There are adequate $7 models at Wally World, but consider an investment like the GCI Firepit Rocker (it rocks! anywhere!) or if you want one chair to last the rest of your life, check out Yeti's. Bottom line? You chill in camp, so make it chill.
Maximize fun. Part of chilling in camp is rallying for a game while your pals make food or do the dishes. We love Kan Jam, Ladder Ball, and (of course) Cornhole. Kan Jam and Ladder Ball also pack fairly small. Nothing packs as small as a frisbee, though. At least bring one of those. Car-camp bonus points if you bring a friend who can play guitar.
Light it up. One of the newest additions to our car-camp kit is a set of LED string lights. It may sound like a crazy extravagance, but they add diffuse light to a wide area—and a great vibe. Try them under an EZup style canopy or even a truck-cap to light your tailgating. They're awesome in a tent, too. A rechargeable lantern is also a must and arguably has more utility than the string lights. If you can have a campfire (check fire regulations before camping—especially anywhere out West), we’ve envied folks who packed a Solo Stove for its efficient, smokefree burn, but a provided campfire pit or responsibly-built ring to build a fire in is awesome to bring the crew together to share tall tales into the night.
Repel bugs. Nothing kills a hang like mosquitos. Pack your preferred bug dope, but for camp, we’ve found the Thermacell MR300 to be a total wonder. It heats a repellent cartridge (made with a naturally-occurring repellent found in chrysanthemums) that repells bugs in roughly a 15-foot radius. Thermacell also makes units for backyards and another slick one that attaches to a backpacking stove canister. In a pinch, a smoky campfire or even some incense can help.
Make good brew. Obviously. This is the key part of the day, and truth be told, we love coffee in camp more than coffee at home. That’s why we started Kayak Coffee! From Aeropress to pour-overs to percolators to presses, we covered our fave brew methods and their pros and cons here.
Get out the door quickly. Skill alert! All your planning is for naught if you takes you extra hours to pull out of the driveway. Packing up is a classic time-suck, turning an evening camp arrival into a midnight mess of setting up tents in the dark and a crappy sleep. It doesn’t have to be that way, friends! If you’re lucky enough to have a camper van or RV (or even a set of drawers or bins in your truck bed), be smart and keep your rig packed with all your car camping equipment. Then, for any given trip, all you’ll need to worry about is food, clothes, and adventure stuff (like boats, bikes, paddleboards, rods, and their associated essentials). If you don’t have that luxury, make a “Go Box.” Or a few. Get plastic bins from any hardwear store and house your car camping stuff in labeled boxes that you keep packed and ready to go.
Scope out your neighbors and share hard-won knowledge. This list is full of our recent favorites for leveling up your camping, but whenever we camp at a site with other groups nearby, we look for cool, new ideas and gear. Camping fun is a constant evolution!
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