I didn’t see it coming. My wife and I have been bitten by the car camping bug.
It all started last winter when my wife wanted to camp out in the mountains so we could get a clear view of the Geminids meteor shower without any urban light pollution. We used my backpacking gear, but it wasn’t comfortable enough for her so we’ve since to geared up a bit for a more sedentary, plushier camping style.
The Teacher Becomes a Student
When my wife expressed an interest in car camping, I was cautiously optimistic. I hoped she’d be interested in doing it because we have such different preferences in how we spend our free time. I don’t think I really understood the differences between car camping and backpacking then. I’ve obviously camped out in campgrounds before, but never for more than one night at a time and never with the intention of nesting for a few days in one spot.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never really spent much time sitting around a campfire, night after night, toasting marshmallows and making s’mores, or listening to a chorus of owls hooting away in the dark. But the wonder and fun that my wife and I share when we experience these things together is something I never could have anticipated. It’s really great!
We’re really still in the early stages of gearing up for car camping, but we quickly realized that we had to buy a few more things instead of using my extra, fairly minimalist, backpacking gear.
We started by buying an inexpensive, but excellent 4 person Mountainsmith Equinox tent which is just right for the two of us to sleep in at night with all of our books, iPads, and stuffed animals. It has a huge amount of mesh and two doors so we can get out easily at night and vent the tent well to keep the amount of internal condensation under control. This tent is no longer manufactured by Mountainsmith but is still widely available in outlets for under $150.
My wife got a luxuriously wide Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Dream sleeping pad because she’s a side sleeper and a NEMO StratoLoft sleeping bag which is hard to describe but almost like sleeping in a feather bed at home. She’s writing a review. For me, I’m just using my normal backpacking sleep system.
We have a couple of more things that we need to buy, but we’ll probably hold off on them until next year:
- Screened 10 x 10 house for sitting in during daylight hours
- 2 x more comfortable camp chairs with drink holders
- Blue tarp to cover our tent so we can open the doors for ventilation when it rains
- Clothes line
- Big water jug (5 gallons)
- Two burner propane stove
- Beefy power supply to recharge the iPads
- Longer marshmallow forks
- Longer tent stakes and a mallet to bang them into the ground with
- Bigger gas or battery-powered lantern
- Trash bags
- Dust pan and brush to clean dirt our of the tent
- Solar shower
- Star chart and night sky identifier
If you can think of anything else we need to budget for, shout it out.
Car camping is much different than I realized and a nice change of pace from the deprivations of backpacking!
But sitting by a campfire, listening to the owls hooting in the night, and holding hands with my wife, that is just priceless.SectionHiker is read supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.