It’s so easy to pack way too much on a car camping trip. After the essentials (the tent, sleeping bags, food, and clothes), it’s tempting to throw in all those things that make the trip a little more comfortable. Add toys and games, the coffee pot, and a fan for that hot weather and your car is now busting at the seams.

There is no need to live without all of those things though. Here are my top picks for camping gear that maximizes your camping comfort and maximizes the space in your car:

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1. Collapsible Lanterns

Our pick: MPOWERD Luci Original – Inflatable Solar Light

Why we love it: Not only does it take up less space when packing up your gear, it’s also solar powered, so you don’t need to pack back-up batteries that just take up even more space.  Just make sure you charge it in advance if you will be arriving at your site after dark.

2. French press coffee cup

Our pick: Bodum Insulated Stainless-Steel Travel French Press Coffee and Tea Mug, 0.45-Liter, 15-Ounce, Black

Why we love it: Skip the coffee pot and bring this coffee cup with a built in french press.  We saved a good amount of space by making this switch.  This one is also insulated so coffee doesn’t go cold on those chilly fall mornings.

3. Plastic or melamine dishes

Our pick: Ikea 36-piece Dinnerware Set, Assorted Colors (yep – the toddler set from Ikea that you probably use for your kids!)  This set is cheaper than purchasing cups, bowls, and plates individually.  It does also come with forks & spoons, which are great for younger kids, but these don’t work so well for adults, so plan on disposable flatware too.

Why we love it: Paper plates and bowls are always a convenient option, but if you want to reduce the trash on your camping trip, you’ll want to bring a set of non-breakable dishes.  There are a lot of camping-friendly sets out there, but if you are more casual campers like we are, you may not want to invest in many of them.  These plates, cups, and bowls from Ikea are compact and nest well. I also love the lip on the plates that help prevent spills while balancing in camp chairs.

4.  Absorbent towel

Our pick: Microfiber Travel Towel Large (XL, L or M) – Fast Drying Super Absorbent Sport Towel – Ultra Compact Size Great for Kids, Bath, Gym, Pool, Beach, Camping, Fitness or Yoga

Why we love it. Towels are a must for showers and swimming, but packing them can get bulky fast.  While small towels are a good option, they don’t often go far with heavy or frequent use.  These super absorbent towel pack small and dry quickly so they are ready for when you need them next.

5.  Small totes

Our pick: Sterilite 19849806 18 Quart/17 Liter Ultra Latch Box, Clear with a White Lid and Black Latches, 6-Pack

Why we love it: They may not seem like they hold much, but with a little planning, they can hold a lot.  I keep one for kitchen staples, one for pantry/dry foods, and one for tools and other camp gear. They are ready to grab for your next trip and because they are small, they are flexible in packing.

Planning your next camping trip? If you are in the Boulder, CO area, be sure to check out Pawnee Campground at Brainard Lake Recreation Area!

6. Broom and dustpan

Our pick: Coghlan’s 8407 Whisk-On-Pan.  We’ve had ours for over 10 years!

Why we love it: No matter how hard you try, leaves and dirt will end up in your tent.  At the end of your trip, you can shake most of it out, but during your trip, you’ll be thankful for this compact broom and dustpan set.

7. Silicone travel size bottles

Our pick: Leakproof Silicone Travel Bottles TSA Airline Carry-On Approved FDA Certification Refillable Portable Containers for Shampoo, Conditioner, Lotion, Toiletries (3oz 4 bottles)

Why we love it: Full size dishsoap, body wash, shampoo, and conditioner definitely take up too much space in your gear box.  These silicone tubes are great because it’s easy to get all the product out and the hook on the top make them easily attach to a carabiner for easy transport to the bath house.

Looking for more space saving gear? We have 7 more camping gear favorites that help you pack small.

8. Compact camp chair

Our pick: Moon Lence Ultralight Folding Chairs Heavy Duty Camping Chairs Beach Chairs with Carry Bag

Why we love it: This is the next best thing to pulling up a log by the camp fire (and a lot more comfortable).  Camp chairs add bulk to your gear, fast.  When you need to pack a chair for everyone in the family, the compact versions can make a huge difference.  These do cost a bit more than a regular camp chair, but I’ve found they are more durable and last longer than cheaper versions.

9.  Paracord

Our pick: TITAN MIL-SPEC 550 Paracord / Parachute Cord, 103 Continuous Feet, 620 lb. Breaking Strength – Authentic MIL-C-5040, Type III, 7 Strand, 5/32″ (4mm) Diameter, 100% Nylon Military Survival Cordage. Includes 3 FREE Paracord Project eBooks.

Why we love it: This is a must in the camping gear box, with so many uses for ropes and lines while camping.  String between 2 trees to create a line to dry clothes and towels.  In an unexpected rain storm, use to tie up a tarp and stay dry.  There are also instructions for making bracelets when the kids need a little entertainment!

10.  A deck of cards

Our pick: Glow in the Dark Playing Cards

Why we love it: As much as we love nature, kids (and adults!) sometimes need a little civilization – especially on those rainy days.  A deck of cards is the perfect solution. They are super portable, and with so many ways to play, they can entertain for hours.  Not only are these waterproof to protect against the elements, they are also glow in the dark so the fun doesn’t need to stop when the sun goes down.

camping gear

17 comments on “Camping Gear Picks That Save Space in Your Car”

  1. Amazing, great post! Love your cool outdoors camping list. These are looking lovely and stunning. These camping gear are truly gainful for an outdoors experience. Thank for your awesome battle on this post.

    • Thank you 🙂 These are definitely things we can’t live without on a camping trip – and since they are all pretty compact, we have no trouble packing it all in!

  2. I love these ideas!! And how fun are those glow-in-the-dark playing cards?! The prices on everything were surprisingly low, too. I’ve added a few things to my camping wishlist! With at least three more camping trips to go before it gets too cold, I’m excited to try some of these out!

    • I’m glad you like them! We try not to invest too much in any one thing (like camping) so we can do more – so I’m always looking for high quality, low price gear for our trips. We hope to get a few more trips in this year too – fall camping is the best!

  3. Haha! I believe the only thing I have never brought with me while camping, is the only thing on this list that I don’t know how I couldn’t have thought to bring with me!!!!! The broom and dustpan! Well… I will definitely be remembering this for next time!! Thank you for sharing!

    • I can only imagine how busy 5 must be – we have 3 kids and even that can feel a little crazy sometimes! You’ll definitely love the french press – with the coffee pot and coffee cup in one, there is one less thing to worry about (and clean)!

  4. Yes! I love this post! My husband and I try and go camping as often as we can, and I’m always looking for ways to make it go a little bit better or a little bit more smoothly. I’ll definitely check out this camping gear. Thank you!

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