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Car Camping Essentials

Everything you need to pack up in the trunk and hit the road

Mayuary has been good to the folks in Colorado and Utah. They’ll be skiing there until July. For the rest of us, however, summer is nearly here, which means car camping season. Pack your rig, fill up your tank, and use this gear to enjoy your favorite spot out in the woods.

Mountain Hardwear Optic 6 Tent
MSRP: $299.25
MountainHardwear.com

If you’re used to sleeping in a regular backpacking tent, the Optic 6 will feel like the lap of luxury. A giant 77-inch ceiling means most people can stand straight up, and a floor area that totals 86 square feet is plenty big for moving around. The tent will sleep six people and their gear comfortably, but it’s even better if there’s only three or four of you. The main structure and fly are a synch to set up and adjoining doors improve access and the view.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Dream
MSRP: $199.95 for the large
CascadeDesigns.com/Therm-A-Rest

No sleeping pad will ever match the comfort of your bed, but the NeoAir Dream is as close as you’re gonna get. Four inches of total padding means you won’t feel any rocks or branches underneath and a fleece cover reminds you of your flannel sheets back home. There’s plenty of room to roll around and the stuff sack conveniently doubles as a pump for inflation.

Rumpl Puffy Blanket
MSRP: $199 for the Queen
GoRumpl.com

On warmer nights ditch your sleeping bag, grab your partner, and snuggle under a Rumpl blanket. A buttery soft outer material and synthetic down insulation mimic your favorite comforter, but the Rumpl blanket is also coated with DWR so it’ll repel coffee or mist if you want to wear it around camp in the morning. A 20D ripstop nylon prevents it from tearing if you snag it on a tree, and it’s machine washable so you won’t have to live with that campfire smell forever.

Hydro Flask 16-ounce True Pint
MSRP: $21.99
HydroFlask.com

Unlike the ubiquitous red plastic cup, the True Pint from Hydro Flask will actually keep your beverage cold thanks to its vacuum insulation. The 18/8 stainless steel construction doesn’t taint the taste of your fancy craft beer and the lip is designed to help you pour without creating too much foam. Plus, it’s reusable so you don’t end up with a trash bag full of environmentally unfriendly cups when your camping trip is over.

Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro
MSRP: $79.95
OutdoorTechnology.com

The Buckshot Pro is like the Swiss Army Knife of electronics. It’s a portable Bluetooth speaker that pumps out music for dance parties around the fire at night, but it also turns into a flashlight so you can find your tent when the party’s over. Inside the tent it hangs like a lantern so you can find your stuff, and overnight it charges your cell phone so you can stream Morning Edition while you’re cooking breakfast the next morning.

Cast Iron Pan
MSRP: Whatever Goodwill charges

You don’t need fancy cookware for camping. Just pop by Goodwill and pick up a cast iron pan. Back home, give it a good cleaning, get some oil on there and you’re set. I like a large pan so I can have my bacon and eggs frying simultaneously. Cleaning is easy—never use soap, just wipe it out—and the pan doesn’t have any nasty no-stick chemicals that’ll taint your food and your body.

Coleman FyreSergeant
MSRP: $169.99
Coleman.com

The FyreSergeant is just as reliable as the old green Coleman stove you grew up with but it also has a couple important updates. The 11,000-BTU burners with even distribution boil water twice as fast and two grill grates help you warm twice as many tortillas. Special pan supports block the wind and eliminate side panels, which means more room for oversized cookware.

Western Rise Granite Camp Pants
MSRP: $99
WesternRise.com

When your old pair of Carhartts finally wear out, replace them with these. Built with a durable four-way stretch material, these pants are twice as comfortable and tons more breathable than what you’re used to. Take ’em out to chop wood, play Frisbee, or ride your bike and you’ll never feel like they’re holding you back. The material also has a DWR coating so rain and beer roll right off.

Topo Designs Puffer vest
MSRP: $149
TopoDesigns.com

The Puffer is a perfect old school/new school mashup. It looks like an old down vest your dad pulled from his closet, but inside it’s packed with Primaloft’s light, quick drying, and ultra packable synthetic insulation that adds tons of warmth even if it’s wet. Wear it over a flannel shirt and you’ll definitely be the best-dressed person around the campfire.