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Imagine this: the freedom of the open road, the spontaneity of sleeping wherever you fancy, and the magic of starry nights with the comforts of your car just an arm’s reach away. Welcome to the epic world of car camping!
No exhaustive trekking with heavy backpacks, no compromise on gear (yes, you can bring that extra fluffy pillow), and yet you’re still at the heart of nature, living the true outdoor spirit.
But, and this is crucial, a perfect car camping trip hinges on packing right. Forget the spatula and you’re flipping pancakes with your fingers. Miss out on the right mattress and you’re in for a backache. Fear not! As your resident camping guru, I’m here to share the quintessential car camping essentials list. Fasten your seat belts, and let’s embark on this journey to becoming a car camping maestro.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Car Camping?
When it comes to car camping in winter, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how cold is too cold. Your comfort level depends on personal preferences, experience, and gear. That said, there are some general guidelines to follow.
For most people, a temperature of 15°F (-9°C) is considered the lower limit for sleeping in a car without any sort of heater. With a well-insulated van, you could push it to 0°F (-18°C) with a good mattress and down comforter. If you’re sharing the space with someone, their body heat can comfortably extend the limit to around -10°F (-23°C).
It’s important to remember that any temperature below 32°F (0°C) presents some level of danger. Hypothermia can occur in temps between 30°F (-1°C) and 50°F (10°C) with prolonged exposure, especially if you get wet. Below -30°F (-34°C), experts generally agree that it’s too cold to sleep in your car, no matter how prepared you are.
To ensure a comfortable car camping experience in winter, choose gear appropriate for your expected conditions. Make sure your sleeping bag and sleeping pad are rated for winter weather. Additionally, pack warm clothes, such as fleece-lined hiking pants and winter hiking leggings.
Car Camping Essentials for Winter
Cold-Weather Camping Gear
When it comes to winter car camping, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all the essentials to stay warm, safe, and comfortable. Here’s a rundown of some key items you’ll need for your cold-weather adventure.
- Four-season tent: A good four-season tent is your first line of defense against the harsh winter elements. These tents are designed to handle snow, wind, and cold temperatures, providing you with a cozy, well-insulated shelter.
- Winter sleeping bag: Choosing the right winter sleeping bag is crucial for a good night’s sleep while camping in colder conditions. Opt for a quality sleeping bag rated for temperatures below freezing to ensure you stay warm and toasty.
- Camp chairs: Don’t forget to pack some comfortable and durable camp chairs for chilling by the fire or taking in the snowy views. Look for chairs with insulation and waterproofing to keep you comfy and dry.
- Headlamp and lanterns: Proper lighting is essential for navigating your campsite and performing tasks in the dark. A reliable headlamp will free up your hands while a good lantern or two will provide ambient light around your camp.
- Camp stove: You’ll need a reliable camp stove that performs well in colder conditions. Look for a stove with a built-in windscreen and simmer control for greater cooking versatility.
- Extra layers: Winter car camping means cold temperatures, so it’s important to bring along plenty of warm layers, such as thermal tops and bottoms, fleece jackets, and waterproof outer layers.
- Extra fuel: Since it’s colder, you’ll likely go through more fuel when cooking or boiling water. Be sure to bring extra propane or liquid fuel to keep your stove running smoothly throughout your trip.
Our Favorite Winter Car Camping Gear
We know how important it is to stay warm and comfortable while car camping in the winter. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the best car camping winter essentials to keep you cozy and safe during your next cold weather adventure. From sleeping bags to portable heaters, we’ve got you covered with the gear that will make your winter camping trip a success. So pack up your car and hit the road with confidence, knowing that you have all the necessary gear to stay warm and comfortable in even the coldest of temperatures.
If you’re looking for a cozy way to stay warm on your winter camping trip, the Eddie Bauer Portable Heated Electric Throw Blanket is a great option. With its rechargeable lithium battery and three heat settings, this blanket will keep you toasty for up to six hours.
- The rechargeable battery lasts for hours on high heat.
- The blanket is made of soft polyester plush fleece that’s perfect for snuggling up in.
- The water-resistant nylon back makes it perfect for outdoor use.
- The controller can be a bit tricky to use.
- The blanket is a bit heavy, so it’s not the best option for backpacking.
- Some users have reported issues with the app connectivity.
Campers who took this blanket on a camping trip and were impressed by how warm and cozy it kept them. The fleece is incredibly soft and comfortable, and the water-resistant nylon back kept them dry when they used it outside. The three heat settings were easy to adjust, and the rechargeable battery lasted for hours on high heat.
That being said, they did have some trouble with the controller. It can be a bit difficult to use, especially if you’re wearing gloves. Additionally, the blanket is a bit heavy, so it’s not the best option if you’re trying to pack light.
We highly recommend the Jetboil Sumo Camping and Backpacking Stove Cooking System for anyone looking for a reliable and efficient cooking system during their winter car camping trips.
- The large 1.8-liter FluxRing cooking cup with an insulating cozy is perfect for cooking for groups.
- The proprietary regulator technology offers incremental heat adjustments from light simmer to full boil, allowing for versatile cooking options.
- The convenient, reliable pushbutton igniter makes starting the stove a breeze, even in cold temperatures.
- The stove is a bit heavy at 16 ounces, making it less ideal for ultralight backpackers.
- The accessories, such as the Grande Coffee Press and FluxRing 1.5L cooking pot, are sold separately, making it a more expensive option.
- The stove can only be used outdoors in a well-ventilated area, limiting its use in certain situations.
Campers who used the Jetboil Sumo during a winter camping trip were impressed with its performance. The large cooking cup is perfect for cooking meals for our group, and the regulator technology allowed them to easily adjust the heat for different cooking needs. The pushbutton igniter made starting the stove easy, even in the cold temperatures encountered.
However, the stove is a bit heavy, so it may not be the best option for those looking to go ultralight. Additionally, the accessories are sold separately, which can add up in cost. Finally, the stove must be used in a well-ventilated area, which may limit its use in certain situations.
Overall, we highly recommend the Jetboil Sumo for anyone looking for a reliable and efficient cooking system for their winter car camping trips.
If you’re planning to go car camping in the winter, the Coleman North Rim Cold-Weather Mummy Sleeping Bag is a must-have.
- The mummy-style design and adjustable hood keep you warm in temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The semi-sculpted hood tightens with a drawstring to seal in heat, and the quilting construction, insulated footbox, and Thermolock draft tube provide additional warmth and heat retention.
- The ZipPlow system plows away fabric to prevent snagging during zipping, making it easy to get in and out of the bag.
- The bag is bulky and heavy, making it difficult to pack and transport.
- The inner material is slippery, which can make it difficult to stay in place while sleeping.
- The bag is only suitable for one person, so it’s not ideal for couples or families.
Campers who took the Coleman North Rim Cold-Weather Mummy Sleeping Bag on a winter camping trip were impressed with its performance. The bag kept them warm and cozy even when temperatures dropped below freezing, and the adjustable hood and draft tube helped to seal in heat. The ZipPlow system also worked well, making it easy to zip and unzip the bag without snagging the fabric.
However, they did find that the bag was quite bulky and heavy, which made it difficult to pack and transport. They also had some trouble staying in place while sleeping, as the inner material is quite slippery. Additionally, the bag is only suitable for one person, so it may not be the best choice for couples or families.
If you’re looking for a comfortable and lightweight sleeping pad for winter car camping, the Klymit Static V Inflatable Sleeping Pad is a great option.
- The V-shaped design and synthetic insulation work together to keep you warm and cozy all night long.
- The pad is compact and easy to pack, making it a great choice for backpackers and car campers alike.
- The body-mapping technology provides support and comfort for all types of sleepers.
- It can be a bit difficult to inflate, especially if you’ve been hiking all day.
- The pad is a bit narrow, so if you’re a larger person, you may want to consider a larger size.
- The valve can be a bit touchy and may pop out if you’re not careful.
The V-shaped design and synthetic insulation of the Klymit Static V Inflatable Sleeping Pad keeps you warm and comfortable all night long, even when the temperature drops below freezing. The pad is easy to inflate, although it may take a bit of effort to get it fully inflated. Once inflated, the body-mapping technology provides support and comfort for all types of sleepers.
One of the things campers really like about the Klymit Static V Inflatable Sleeping Pad is how compact it is. When deflated, it compresses down to just 5 by 8 inches, making it easy to pack in a backpack or car trunk. The pad is also lightweight, weighing in at just 25 oz, so it won’t add too much extra weight to your pack.
Overall, we would definitely recommend the Klymit Static V Inflatable Sleeping Pad to anyone looking for a comfortable and lightweight sleeping pad for winter car camping.
If you’re looking for a pair of socks that will keep your feet warm and cozy during the winter, the HEAT HOLDERS Thermal Socks are a great option.
- These socks are engineered for maximum comfort and insulation, with a massive tog rating of 2.34.
- The moisture-wicking engineered acrylic fiber keeps your feet dry all day.
- The non-binding ankle and calf fit is perfect for those with diabetes or poor circulation.
- The socks tend to wear through the heel quickly.
- They are not made for everyday use with work boots.
- The price may be too high for some.
Campers who tried these socks found them to be incredibly warm and comfortable. The long pile cushioning and intensively brushed inside make them feel sensationally soft and cozy. Plus, they’re diabetic-friendly and provide relief for cold feet due to circulation problems.
While the socks are a bit on the pricey side, we think they’re worth the investment if you’re looking for a pair of socks that will keep your feet warm and dry all day long. They also make a great gift for anyone who struggles with cold feet during the winter months.
If you’re looking for an affordable way to stay warm on your next winter camping trip, the SteadMax Hot Water Bottles are worth considering.
- Treats a variety of pains and injuries
- Ribbed surface for safe skin contact
- Fills up to 2 quarts of hot water
- Made of natural rubber that may have a strong smell
- Not suitable for those with latex allergies
- May not retain heat as long as other heating pads
These hot water bottles are great for warming up a cold sleeping bag when you’re winter car camping. The ribbed surface ensures safe skin contact and helps the bottle retain heat for longer periods of time. You can fill the bottle up to 2 quarts of hot water, which provided us with enough warmth to last through the night.
However, it’s important to note that these bottles are made of natural rubber, which may have a strong smell. We recommend submerging them in a vinegar and water mix for at least 30 minutes to reduce the smell. Additionally, those with latex allergies should avoid using these bottles.
Overall, the SteadMax Hot Water Bottles are a great addition to any winter camping trip.
If you’re looking to extend the comfort range of your sleeping bag during winter camping trips, the Sea to Summit Reactor Insulated Sleeping Bag Liner Extreme might be just what you need.
- This insulated sleeping bag liner is lightweight and compact, making it easy to pack and carry.
- The Thermolite hollow core insulation is soft, comfortable, and stretchy, making it easy to move around in your sleep.
- The mummy shape with a toe-box, drawcord hood, and included stuff sack make it easy to use and store.
- It might not add as much warmth to your sleeping bag as advertised, especially if you’re a cold sleeper.
- The zipper is a bit short, which can make it hard to get in and out of the liner.
- The price might be a bit steep for some budget-conscious campers.
Those who’ve used the Sea to Summit Reactor Insulated Sleeping Bag Liner Extreme on winter camping trips were pretty happy with it. The liner is lightweight and compact, which is great for packing light, and the Thermolite hollow core insulation does a good job of adding some extra warmth to our sleeping bags.
That being said, some campers find that the liner didn’t add as much warmth as we were expecting, especially on really cold nights. You may also find that the zipper is a bit short, which makes it a bit difficult to get in and out of the liner.
If you’re looking for a portable and efficient heating solution for your winter car camping trips, the Mr. Heater Little Buddy Propane Heater is a great option to consider.
- The Little Buddy Propane Heater is lightweight and easy to carry, making it a convenient choice for camping trips or other outdoor activities.
- With a 45-degree heating angle and a heating coverage of up to 95 square feet, this heater is powerful enough to keep you warm in small enclosed spaces like tents.
- The low-oxygen shut-off pilot system and accidental tip-over shutoff make it a safe choice for indoor use.
- The heater only has one heat setting of 3,800 BTU/hr, which may not be sufficient for larger spaces or extremely cold temperatures.
- The heater requires a vent area of at least 4 square inches for adequate ventilation during operation, which may be difficult to achieve in some camping situations.
- The ignition button may require multiple presses to start the heater, which can be frustrating.
Campers who’ve used the Mr. Heater Little Buddy Propane Heater have found it to be a reliable and efficient heating solution. The heater is easy to set up and use, and the 1-pound disposable propane cylinder provides up to 5.6 hours of run time.
One of the standout features of this heater is its safety features. The low-oxygen shut-off pilot system and accidental tip-over shutoff provide peace of mind when using the heater indoors or in enclosed spaces.
However, the heater’s single heat setting may not be sufficient for larger spaces or extremely cold temperatures. Additionally, the ignition button can be finicky and may require multiple presses to start the heater, which can be frustrating.
Overall, we would recommend the Mr. Heater Little Buddy Propane Heater for anyone looking for a portable and efficient heating solution for their winter car camping trips. Just be sure to use it in a well-ventilated area and keep in mind its limitations in terms of heating power.
If you’re looking for a reliable emergency blanket for winter camping, the EVERLIT Survival Emergency Mylar Thermal Blanket is a solid choice.
- These blankets are designed to retain up to 90% of your body heat, making them an effective way to stay warm in cold weather.
- They’re made of durable mylar material, which is weatherproof and can be used as a rain poncho or shelter in addition to a blanket.
- The blankets are compact and lightweight, making them easy to pack in a backpack or car emergency kit.
- Some users have reported that the blankets are difficult to fold back up and fit back into their packaging.
- The mylar material can be noisy and uncomfortable to sleep on if used as a ground cover.
- While these blankets are designed to be reusable, they may not hold up well after multiple uses.
These blankets are a reliable way to stay warm in cold weather. They’re easy to pack and take up minimal space in a backpack or car emergency kit. We appreciate that they can be used as a rain poncho or shelter in addition to a blanket, making them a versatile addition to any camping gear.
One thing to keep in mind is that the mylar material can be noisy and uncomfortable to sleep on if used as a ground cover. Additionally, while these blankets are designed to be reusable, they may not hold up well after multiple uses. However, for the price, they’re a solid choice for an emergency blanket for winter camping.
Creating a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
When car camping in the winter, creating a cozy sleeping environment is crucial. To keep warm and comfy, focus on insulation techniques that will help you stay toasty all night long.
First, choose a high-quality sleeping pad or mattress. A thick, insulated pad like a self-inflating foam model will work wonders to keep you off the cold car floor. Memory foam mattresses are also great for retaining heat and providing added comfort.
Make sure to allow for proper air flow and ventilation in your car. Cracking a window open may sound counterintuitive when it’s cold, but it can help prevent condensation build-up inside your car. This will keep your sleeping area dry and cozy.
Layer up with thermal underwear and warm clothing to really keep the heat in. Rocking some merino wool or synthetic base layers will make a noticeable difference in your overall warmth. As a bonus, you can peel off layers if you start to get too warm.
To boost insulation, use a reflective sun shield or a material like Reflectix to line your windows. This will help trap heat inside your car while keeping the cold air out. Simply cut the material to size and attach the pieces to your windows with suction cups or some other method.
If you have access to power, an electric blanket is a game-changer for cold-weather car camping. These blankets can provide consistent warmth throughout the night, ensuring you stay nice and toasty.
When it comes to winter car camping, staying warm is essential. You don’t want to end up shivering throughout the night, so it’s crucial to have a proper setup to keep you cozy. Let’s talk about some key tips and gear that’ll help you maintain warmth during your car camping adventure.
Insulation: Make sure to insulate your windows with reflective sun shields. This will trap warmth inside your car and keep it from escaping. Plus, it adds a bit of privacy. For added insulation, create window coverings using reflective foil insulation wrap, like Reflectix.
Sleeping gear: Your sleeping bag plays a significant role in your comfort during winter car camping. Pick one with an appropriate temperature rating (e.g., a 0°F sleeping bag for 0°F weather). If necessary, add a high-quality blanket, like the Snugpak Jungle blanket, for extra warmth in colder temps.
Car heater: Keeping your car’s heater running throughout the night isn’t a safe or efficient solution. Instead, consider investing in a car camping heater to maintain a comfortable temperature inside your vehicle. Make sure the model you choose is appropriate for the confined space of your car.
Portable power: To power devices such as electric blankets or heaters, a portable power supply can come in handy. Pick a reliable unit that can handle your energy needs and give you that extra boost of warmth when necessary.
Tent heater: If you’re sleeping in a rooftop tent, you may want to look into a tent-specific heater to keep you warm throughout the night. Just like with car camping heaters, ensure the model you select is safe and suitable for the tent’s environment.
Is it Colder to Sleep in a Car or a Tent?
When car camping in the winter, you might be wondering whether it’s colder to sleep in a car or a tent. This depends on a few factors, so let’s dive into the differences.
Sleeping in a car offers some protection from the elements, as it’s an enclosed space. As an added bonus, your car can block wind and provide a solid barrier against snow and rain. However, the windows in a car might lead to extra condensation from your breath, which can create a cold and damp environment. To avoid this, crack open a window slightly to allow moisture to escape.
On the other hand, sleeping in a tent requires some extra effort to stay warm. While tents don’t provide as much protection from the wind and snow as cars do, you can invest in a tent with a cold weather cover to add insulation. To further enhance warmth, be sure to choose a proper sleeping bag rated for winter temperatures and use an insulating sleeping pad.
It’s worth noting that condensation in a tent can be a problem, too. It’s harder to prevent moisture build-up in a tent than in a car, which might make the inside of the tent even colder than it already is.
So, the choice between sleeping in a car or a tent during winter car camping trips ultimately comes down to preference and preparedness. Whichever option you choose, make sure you have the right gear and a solid plan to keep yourself warm and cozy.
Cold weather, icy conditions, and shorter daylight hours can all contribute to potentially dangerous situations. So before you hit the road for your winter adventure, make sure you’re fully prepared with the right safety gear and first aid supplies.
It’s essential to have a well-equipped first aid kit on hand. Accidents can happen even when you’re being careful, so you’ll want to be able to treat cuts, scrapes, and sprains. Your kit should have bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers, just to name a few essentials. Don’t forget to pack any personal meds too!
When setting up camp, always park your car on a flat surface and away from potential hazards like snow-laden tree branches or areas prone to avalanches. Invest in good quality snow tires for better traction and control, and carry tire chains when necessary. Make sure your car’s fluids are topped up, and your battery is strong enough to handle low temperatures.
Since winter nights can be especially dark and long, pack some reliable lighting options. Headlamps, flashlights, and lanterns are all useful for different situations. Make sure you’ve got plenty of batteries, or choose rechargeable options that can be powered by your car or a portable charger.
The cold weather can also deplete your body heat quickly, so it’s crucial to keep warm. Layer up, starting with moisture-wicking base layers, followed by insulating middle layers, and finally a weatherproof outer layer. Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and thick socks to keep those extremities toasty. Pack extra blankets too, in case you need them.
Stay informed about the weather conditions at your intended camping destination. Monitor forecasts and be ready to adapt your plans if necessary. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Additional Tips for Car Camping in Winter
Car camping can be a fantastic experience, even during the chilly months. To make the most of your adventure, consider these additional tips to stay warm and comfortable:
1. Double up on insulation: Your car’s windows let out most of the heat, so it’s important to insulate, especially during winter. Grab a thick reflective sun shield for your windshield and cut insets out of Reflectix wrap (available at most hardware stores) for your other windows. You can also use a tarp to cover gaps and shield your campsite from cold drafts.
2. Sleeping in your car: The best way to stay warm at night is to make sure your sleeping setup is as cozy as possible. Fold your back seats down, and lay a sleeping pad or air mattress (or even both) for extra warmth and comfort. Top that with a good quality sleeping bag and consider adding a Snugpak Jungle Blanket when the winter chill kicks in.
3. Keep your gear dry: Nobody wants to deal with wet gear in winter, so be sure to keep your essential items dry with an easy-access waterproof duffel bag. You could store it in the front or rear-seat footwells for quick access during your trip.
4. Solar panel for power: Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the sun won’t shine. A portable solar panel can help keep your gadgets charged during the day, even when you’re away from grid power. Browse stores like REI to find one that suits your needs.
5. Health and safety: Stay ahead of any potential hazards by packing a first aid kit, emergency matches, a portable stove, and some extra layers of clothes. Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
With a little preparation and these handy tips, you’ll be all set to embark on a cold-weather adventure that you’ll absolutely love.
We’re passionate about getting the most from your car when it comes to going on adventures and road trips. When you take one of these trips you often need more room in your car than you usually would. This is when we come in, to help you find the best roof tent for your car and needs.