Car camping essentials

There is nothing worse than finding yourself an hour away from the closest store without a basic item that you need. There is nothing better than being able to solve a problem with an item in your vehicle. Here’s the seven items I never leave behind on a camping adventure.

First-aid kit

A small first-aid kit comes in handy more than you would want. Inevitably, kids or adults will get cut or scraped while romping in the woods. Since dirt and camping go hand in hand, having a small, basic first-aid kit makes cleaning and covering a small wound a non-event. As you use the bandages and antiseptic, you can reload it individually rather than buy a new kit. Kits are easily found at any sporting goods store.

Leather gloves

If I am going camping and realize I don’t have my gloves, I will find the closest hardware store or Walmart and make a special stop. Handling firewood, managing a fire, cooking and cutting kindling are all easier on your hands if you have a pair of gloves. At the end of the day, I want to be relaxing by the fire. I don’t want to be picking splinters out of my hands and dealing with small burns.

Small hatchet

A small hatchet is useful around a campsite. Some campgrounds only allow you to buy wood from them due to invasive bugs that can decimate a forest. Having a hatchet allows you to split the firewood for kindling if the wood supplied is thick. You can also drive tent pegs with the flat side to secure your tent.


Many survival bracelets utilize paracord for a reason. While car camping should not present any “survival” situations, paracord’s usefulness is easily found at a campsite. Our common uses for it are to make a clothesline to dry clothes after playing in the creek or securing a tarp.


If the weather forecast has rain in it, a tarp can be a trip-saver. Being able to cover a picnic table to cook and eat will keep spirits high and dry. If there is plenty of rain in the forecast, we bring two tarps. The second one hangs over the tent to ensure a dry sleeping area. Just make sure the tarp drains downhill from the tent. That’s a mistake you only make once.

Extra flashlight

“Where did my flashlight go?” is a common refrain while camping with kids. Headlights are best for kids because you can attach it to them. Still, the headlight can disappear. Chances are it will be found when doing laundry back at home. In the meantime, have an extra one handy because flashlights are one of the best parts of camping for a kid.

Multiple ways to start a fire

The worst feeling is getting camp set up and realizing you have no way to make a fire. It is easy to forget a lighter. Even if you remember one, it may fall into the creek or your pyromaniac child might have used all the fuel while you were setting up camp. Always have a spare lighter or two and also a waterproof container with waterproof matches. Fires are a key ingredient to quality family time while camping