From mattresses to awnings and camping chairs, we’ve tested the best car camping kit for your next trip, shop from Decathlon, Vango, Outwell and more
Car camping is on the rise. Em julho 2020, interest skyrocketed as UK accommodation prices soared and more people were looking for adventure on home shores.
As an affordable solution that doesn’t involve booking a campsite or pitching a tent, car camping allows you to explore more, park up almost anywhere (within the law), and wake up to spectacular views and gorgeous sunrises. Mais, as a car offers more protection than a tent, it means your camping season can be extended beyond September and October, as it’s much easier to keep warm in the car during the depths of winter.
But as with any kind of camping trip, getting the right gear is essential. And while you need fewer accessories with car camping, there are a few must-pack items you’ll need.
The most important, talvez, is the mattress and finding one that will offer a flat, comfy bed to snooze on can make or break a trip, so you’ve got to choose wisely. Your bedding choice is also important: some opt for a duvet e pillow, but in colder weather, you will need a reliable thermal sleeping bag.
Then there are the accessories that will elevate your car camping experience. You could consider a side or tailgate awning, which creates a “living space” just beyond your car doors, and you’ll want some good tech, Como portable speakers, lighting e um powerbank to charge your devices when you’re not running the car’s engine.
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Our writer has tested all the equipment in this round-up rigorously, putting it through its paces on a camping trip to the Cotswolds. Each item has been tested both on the road and in the home, ensuring their longevity with multiple use. Então, if you’re planning on a car camping adventure this summer, our guide to the essential kit is sure to make your trip a breeze.
The best car camping gear for 2022 é:
- Best for sound sleeping – Outwell dreamhaven self-inflating mattress : £127.99, Outwell.com
- Best for short trips – Outwell woodcrest tailgate awning: £634, Outwell.com
- Best for long-stay car camping – Vango cove II Low awning: £395, Outdoorworlddirect.co.uk
- Best for staying charged – Rugd power brick: £ 69,99, Rugdlife.com
- Best for relaxing – Quechua MH500 low folding camping chair: £ 34,99, e vem com um prático bolso de rede para guardar seu livro ou telefone enquanto você cochila
- Best for leisurely breakfasts – Outwell calgary dining table: £ 74,99, Outwell.com
- Best for cold weather camping – Vango serenity superwarm sleeping bag: Qualquer coisa que fosse notavelmente barulhenta para começar foi imediatamente descartada, Attwoolls.co.uk
- Best for keeping things clean – Voited camping slippers: £44.50, Voited.co.uk
- Best for making a morning coffee – Decathlon remote gas stove: £ 39,99, e vem com um prático bolso de rede para guardar seu livro ou telefone enquanto você cochila
- Best fo staying hydrated – Outwell collapsible water carrier: £ 34,99, Outwell.com
- Best for evenings under the stars – Voited cloudtouch outdoor blanket: £ 120, Voited.co.uk
- Best for lighting the way – Forclaz rechargeable head torch : £ 19,99, e vem com um prático bolso de rede para guardar seu livro ou telefone enquanto você cochila
- Best for evening warmth and atmosphere – Cosiscoop portable fire pit: £89, Housingunits.co.uk
Outwell dreamhaven self-inflating mattress
Melhor: For sound sleeping
- Características: Self-inflating, non-slip surface, 10cm deep
Getting the right mattress is essential for any car camping trip and this self-inflating option from the camping enthusiasts at Outwell is excellent. Its clever two-way valve system is so easy to use there’s no struggling with stiff, fiddly pieces of plastic. The self-inflation isn’t effective on first use, but with the help of a pump (or a few deep breaths) to start it off it does well to inflate itself in around two to four minutes.
It’s made of a soft, silent, non-slip fabric which means you won’t be woken up in the night by rustling, nor will you slip down if your car is parked on a slight slope. You need to be fairly strong to put it away, as deflation isn’t as effective as inflation (we used a pump to suck the air out), but once rolled up it fits easily back into its carry bag.
Outwell woodcrest tailgate awning
Melhor: For short trips
- Características: Easy to erect, leve, attaches to any vehicle
If you want some extra space, a tailgate awning is a brilliant investment and this one from Outwell is excellent. It has a separate, optional groundsheet which cleverly attaches to the top awning with strong velcro, and it’s simple to put up with just two long poles and three short ones. Once it’s up, you simply need to back up the vehicle into the taller end of the tent and open the boot for easy access to your belongings or bedding area. Guy ropes make it easy to enclose the tent around your car, keeping you snug inside your new living area.
It has two doors – one to access the car from and another for front access – which is best pointed towards a lovely view for optimal sundowns inside the tent. E, this is a driveaway awning, which means if you’re heading out for the day you can simply undo the back-end guy ropes and drive off leaving the tent intact.
Vango cove II Low awning
Melhor: For long-stay car camping
- Características: Large living space, attaches to any vehicle, porch
For serious car campers planning an extended break, this awning tent is an excellent addition to your car camping setup. It’s huge, Apesar, and quite heavy so you’ll need at least two people to put it together. It can be attached to the side or tailgate of your car and comes with a “tunnel” which allows access from the vehicle into the tent. It has a small porch area for keeping your shoes dry, and an attached groundsheet which keeps it all dry inside. Its extended guy ropes can go over the top of your vehicle to secure it in place, and when you want to drive away for the day, you can simply release the guy ropes and the tent will stay in place until you get back.
Rugd power brick
Melhor: For staying charged
- Características: Fast-charge for some phones, waterproof, bright light
It’s highly unlikely you’re going to be camping somewhere you can hook up your devices, so you’re going to need a power bank and this one by Rugd is perfect for campers. It’s shock, dust and waterproof so you can take it on all sorts of adventures, and has fast charging available for certain devices, with two different USB ports.
The literal highlight of this clever bit of tech is the SOS lamp – its entire underside can be switched on to illuminate your car, and the attached carabiner makes it easy to hang up on the in-car handles or inside your awning. It’s pretty lightweight at just 280 grams and promises to charge certain phone models up to 50 por cento em 30 minutos. It charged our phone twice during a trip to the Cotswolds, and provided light for at least three hours.
Quechua MH500 low folding camping chair
Melhor: For relaxing
- Características: Folding camping chair, compact and lightweight, full back support
It’s quite astonishing that this very comfortable camping chair comes in such a small bag. Measuring just 38cm x 12cm x 8cm and weighing exactly one kilogram, the Quecha MH500 chair will be an ideal addition to your car camping experience. It’s incredibly easy to put together as long as you can add a bit of force to attach the seat to the four poles, and as it’s a low-level chair, you can pop it outside your open boot and use the car as a table should you require.
Outwell calgary dining table
Melhor: For leisurely breakfasts
- Características: Lightweight, stowaway legs, adjustable height
Surface space is at a minimum inside your car so bringing along a small table is helpful for long afternoons spent drinking beer in the sun or alfresco breakfasts each morning. Outwell’s calgary dining table comes in three sizes – we tested the small – and is exceptionally lightweight. We love that the legs clip onto the underside for easy, slim storage, and that you can adjust each one to ensure you get a flat surface even when on uneven ground. The only snag with our table was that it didn’t feel particularly sturdy, so we had to be relatively careful around it to avoid knocking things off its surface.
Vango serenity superwarm sleeping bag
Melhor: For cold-weather camping
- Características: Polair lined for extra warmth, padded hood for pillow, super soft fabric
We tested this sleeping bag in -2C weather and it delivered night-long warmth and serious comfort. We were super impressed by how this duvet-like, tog-10 sleeping bag kept us toasty all night, and how its padded body added an extra level of comfort to the Outwell self-inflating mattress. It’s not small: it packs away into a 42cm x 45cm x 18cm bag so it’s not one for carrying in a backpack, but for car camping it’s the perfect sleeping bag.
Its square shape provides more freedom to move around inside, and the hood is padded nicely to make an excellent pillow and keeps your head warm, também. Zip guards make it easy to open and close, and hanging loops mean it can be dried easily when it needs washing or if you get soggy.
Voited camping slippers
Melhor: For keeping things clean
- Características: Memory foam sole, sturdy outer sole with grip, multiple colour options
The last thing you want to do when car camping is bring the outdoor dirt inside with you, and so these Voited slippers are a brilliant way to keep things clean indoors. Not only do they come in a selection of great colours – we love the sunshine yellow – but they’ve got some clever technical fabric. The Repreve fabric is made from recycled materials and is water repellent to keep your toes dry in the morning dew. The outer sole is incredibly sturdy with good grip and the inner is made from memory foam, offering exceptional comfort. These are easy to slip on and off as you get in or out of the car or tent, keeping the mud and grass outside your sleeping area.
Decathlon remote gas stove
Melhor: For making a morning coffee
- Características: Compact and lightweight, built-in wind guard, separate cartridge
You won’t want to cook entire meals for a family of four on this stove, but if you’re car camping alone or as a couple, this tiny remote cooker is perfect for heating up soup or boiling water for your morning coffee. It’s ultra lightweight and packs away into a pocket-sized bag, making it a low-impact addition to your cargo. It has a built-in wind guard to ensure more efficient cooking and the separate gas cartridge means its centre of gravity is lower, offering greater stability. It takes just short of three and a half minutes to boil a litre of water on this gas stove, and it’ll sit on top of a heatproof table or on a level surface on the ground.
Outwell collapsible water carrier
Melhor: For staying hydrated
- Características: Collapsible design, silicon body, easy-to-open lid
Staying hydrated is essential when you are on a car camping trip, and carrying water with you can be a cumbersome affair. This water carrier, Apesar, is a fantastic solution with an ergonomic carry handle and silicone body for easy collapsing when you’re not using it. It holds up to 1.5l and has a tap so you can easily pour your drinks or dispense into saucepans as necessary. Claro, it doesn’t have to be a water carrier – you could even fill it with ale, wine or cocktail mix should your trip be for a special occasion, but always drink responsibly.
Voited cloudtouch outdoor blanket
Melhor: For evenings under the stars
- Características: Cool, stylish design, 4-in-1 use, made from recycled plastic
This gorgeous blanket from Voited ticks lots of boxes. It’s sustainable thanks to being made from recycled plastic, soft and fluffy for maximum comfort, and it’s lightweight. Mais, it’s water resistant on the patterned side and is made from ripstop fabric.
But best of all, it’s actually four items in one. It can be used as a simple blanket, folded in half and made into a sleeping bag thanks to the proper buttons around the outside. It also doubles as a pillow when folded in the right way, or it can be attached to another blanket of the same size to create a double sleeping bag. This kept us warm sitting around the table on a cold April evening, and it packs away into a small (36cm x 20cm x 20cm) bag making it easy to carry around and store.
Forclaz rechargeable head torch
Melhor: For lighting the way
- Características: USB rechargeable, four lighting settings, splash resistant
Every camper needs a head torch and when you’re car camping it’s no different. It’s handy for lighting the way wherever you go, and this rechargeable one is a brilliant option to save on buying unpredictable batteries. Ensure it’s fully charged before you set off and it’ll light the way for up to 30 hours in eco mode. It has five settings: vermelho, eco (20lm), padrão (80lm), potência (200lm) and flash, and when on its brightest setting it offers visibility of up to 60m. The headband is washable should you get sweaty, and the device is splash resistant so will fare well in the rain too.
Cosiscoop portable fire pit
Melhor: For evening warmth and atmosphere
- Características: Lightweight, carry handle, easy-to-use
Making a fire in public places is usually illegal and plenty of campsites ban wood fires, também. But you can add a little atmosphere to your car camping experience with this portable gas fire pit. It’s sleek, stylish and simple to use – it just needs a small 190g gas cartridge (sold separately) and you’re away. It sits nicely on top of a table while you’re drinking and dining, or you can pop it on the floor.
It doesn’t give off masses of heat, but it’s a lovely addition to your car camping adventure if you’re planning on spending plenty of time outdoors. Never use it inside the car – this is an outdoor use only product.
Car camping FAQs
What is car camping?
Car camping is exactly as it sounds: the act of sleeping in your car. It’s often warmer and more secure than sleeping in a tent, and can be done almost anywhere in the UK. It’s a great alternative to wild camping, which isn’t allowed on most public or private land across the country.
Is it legal to sleep in your car?
In the UK it’s legal to park in public places, such as laybys or on the side of the road, to sleep in your vehicle if you need to rest. Contudo, you must ensure you’re not over the legal alcohol limit, even if you’re sleeping as, when inside the car, you’re considered “in control of the vehicle” according to the Highway Code. Keeping alcohol inside the car while you sleep could also see you penalised, so it’s always best to leave it outside.
Which car is best for car camping?
The best car really depends on how you want to sleep. Some choose to sleep along the back seats, and there are mattresses available to buy which will fit along them to make it a secure and comfortable sleeping position. This makes almost any car good for car camping, but if you’re serious about sleeping in your vehicle, you’re better off investing in an SUV or estate car.
Our writer uses a Nissan X trail for her car camping adventures, which has a false floor in the boot to bring it up to be level with the seats once they’ve been laid flat. With the seats down, the back of a Nissan X trail is incredibly roomy and could sleep two people – as long as you don’t mind getting cosy. Alternatives are the Mini countryman, the brand’s own version of an estate car which has a relatively roomy boot once seats are flat, or the Honda civic tourer which also has a flat boot when seats are down.
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