Here at the Gumption Gear HQ we frequently write about the latest outdoor and adventure lifestyle products. But we’re not just gear-heads, we are a collection of families and parents striving to share the broader outdoor experience with our young families. So when it comes to car camping, our gear list is constantly evolving as we adapt to the ever changing needs of our own growing nuclear units.
The Car Camping Essentials
Of course, the great news about car camping, is that there is no need to buy the lightest, fastest, expedition-ready products if you have a vehicle at your disposal. And while that means you will save valuable dollars, it needn’t equate into short changing your family on a comfortable camping experience. With the right gear, you’ll have a more satisfying, stress free experience allowing you to spend more time making memories. For the year ahead, here are 12 items from our personal car camping stash that will ensure a more enjoyable family experience for years to come.
Therm-a-Rest Tranquility Tent
Step one of any camping adventure beings with a proper tent. And when it comes to family sized tents, there’s no shortage of options available. But there is a problem. Too often it feels as though you’re forced to invest a small fortune, or suffer the indignity of spending your family vacation crawling over each other like puppies in a playpen. Trust us when we say that there’s a better way. Enter the new Tranquility series from Therm-a-rest.
Therm-a-Rest’s entry into the tent market gives you a fully freestanding design featuring a gothic inspired arch construction with high ceilings, big windows and truly livable space. Built upon the foundational principles of convenience, livability and a spacious design, there’s a lot to love about these tents. Therm-a-rest added crucial touch-points such as integrated vestibules, an easy-to-manage rainfly, and set-up that’s so simple, just one person can handle it. In short, this is the customized car-camping tent you’ve always wanted and your family will thank you for.
thermarest.com; MSRP $479.95 (Tranquility 4), $599.95 (Tranquility 6)
Slumberjack Family Sleeping Bags
When it comes to family camping, you don’t need sleeping bags that come with a slew of technological widgets and gadgets that can run you extra coin. All you really need is dependable cozy comfort, and that’s why SlumberJack remains our go-to option for car camping adventures. Ideal for any outdoor escape and available in an array of temperature ratings, SlumberJack offers some of the highest-quality camp bags you’ll find anywhere. These bags not only keep you warm and cozy, but come at a price that’s hard to beat.
slumberjack.com; $44.95 (Kids Kit), $69.95 (TimberJill 20), $74.95 (TimberJack 20)
YETI Tundra 65
Once you head off the grid you’re going to want something to keep your drinks cold and your food fresh. And when it comes to coolers, the Yeti Tundra still reigns supreme as King of the Mountain, and for good reason. The Tundra 65 cooler is a heavy-duty generalist, equally adept at keeping your catches cold in the field or serving as the drink-and-food hub for your family camping adventures. The Rotomolded Construction makes the Tundra armored to the core, virtually indestructible and offers bearproof-certified convenience. So wherever you decide to take it, this portable cooler’s sturdy construction will stand up to the rigors of the journey.
The Tundra comes in enough sizes for wilderness expeditions, hunting excursions, fishing trips, tailgating, or any outdoor related family revelry. Whatever size you choose, put your faith in the T-REX Lid Latches and PermaFrost insulation to ensure the cold stays in and heat stays out. End result? You never have to worry about your food or beverages losing their freshness. As an added bonus, you can personalize your Tundra with an array of YETI accessories to match whatever adventure lies ahead.
yeti.com/tundra; MSRP $399.99
BioLite SolarPanel 10+
You don’t want to leave your car running for half the day to keep your electronics charged. That’s why you need to pack in the BioLite SolarPanel 10+. Small and light enough to tack onto your backpack for day hikes, but versatile enough to give you plentiful output options to power up all your toys with 10 watts of usable electricity.
Featuring BioLite’s Optimal Sun System, an integrated sundial aligns you to the sun to gobble up direct rays while a 360 degree kickstand simplifies positioning at any campground. The folding design makes it easy to pack along for any adventure. Use your free energy in real-time or store for later with the integrated 3000 mAh battery. However you use it, this clean Earth-loving power panel goes anywhere you and your family do, ensuring you’ll have the power you need to send messages like civilized people even while you’re off the grid.
bioliteenergy.com; MSRP $129.95
YETI Hopper Two 20
Leakproof, portable and super-durable, the Yeti Hopper Two 20 is the perfect supplement to the Tundra 65 on any family camp adventure. Here’s the deal, once you set up base camp you’re going to be on the move. Whether it’s tracking down the best vistas in Lassen National Park, or a solo outing to the river for some quiet time, the Yeti Two 20 is the perfect wingman.
ColdCell insulation delivers Yeti’s legendary cold-keeping performance—think 4 days worth, at least—and the HydroLok zipper is extremely tough, waterproof, and leakproof. The six tie-down points allow you to strap the Hopper to back of the RV or to the deck of that Pontoon boat you rented for the family fishing trip. The Hitchpoint Grid allows you to customize your Hopper with a bottle opener, carabiner, or an extra pair of binoculars. And don’t let the soft sides fool you, the Two 20 is as hard core as the mountain day is long.
yeti.com; MSRP $299.99
GCI Outdoor FirePit Chairs
Admittedly, our preference has always been for smaller compact chairs that take up less room in the SUV or mini-van. But that all changed once we were properly introduced to the FirePit Rocker from GCI Outdoor. The FirePit Rocker is a low-ride rocker that’s ready for crazy comfortable evenings around basecamp. Once you enjoy the smooth rocking sensation offered by the patent-pending Spring-Action Rocking Technology, you’ll never go back to standard camp chairs again. A mesh backrest and padded armrests will keep you cool and comfortable for hours. As an added bonus, you get an included a beverage holder to keep your drink nearby and a carry handle for easy transport. Winner? You.
gcioutdoor.com; MSRP $60
Bullfrog BF100 Bluetooth Music System
Any time is a good time for an impromptu dance party, especially on a family campout. With bigger and bolder sonic strength than most other portable speakers, the Bullfrog BF100 Bluetooth Music System from Kicker Audio is designed to be the heart of whatever party you bring it to. Kicker built these speakers to be rugged enough to survive in the outdoors, offering plenty of protection from dust, sand, and water. In fact, Kicker says the BF100 can be submerged in up to one meter of water for as long as 30 minutes and still continue to work just fine.
A massive 12-hour battery life and 100-foot Bluetooth range means non-stop fun, no matter where your family sets up camp. Plus, a unique design gives you audio on both sides of the unit for twice the speaker power. Still not loud enough? Then pair it with another BF100 and take advantage of the DoubleKICK Connect™ which allows you to easily join any two Bullfrogs together wirelessly.
kicker.com/44BF100 ; MSRP $200
Ledlenser Outdoor Series
Ready for a moment of honesty? We’ve been through our fair share of lights over the years. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the indifferent. Ultra-bright, weather-resistant, and easy to operate, the new Outdoor Series flashlights from Ledlenser have changed the way we think about flashlights. This intelligent and rugged series was designed to be bright, efficient, and affordable so you can extend your favorite outdoor activities well into the evening.
The lineup includes the $60 MT6, which cranks out 600 focusable lumens, making it a good choice to take with you on a hike after dark. The MT10 is capable of producing 1000 lumens of light, with a battery life of up to 144 hours, all in a 5.5 ounce package at a cost of $80. The MT14 provides the same level of performance as the MT10, but comes with a rechargeable battery for $20 more. Simply put, the 1000 lumen MT14 might be the best handheld we’ve ever used. This modern day torch casts a maximum beam distance of 320 meters and comes with a transportation lock, energy saving mode, charge indicator, as well as battery indicator.
STANLEY Classic Vacuum Camp Mug
One camp mug to rule them all. Let’s face it, with little tikes going full tilt, you’re going to need a quality dose of caffeine to keep up. But there’s more reasons than your morning cup o’ joe to love these adaptable mugs. We promise the STANLEY Classic Vacuum Camp Mug will become one of the most versatile pieces of camping gear you own. Load it up with yogurt parfaits for breakfast, fill it up with hot soup for a late lunch, and then once the kids are tucked away for the night, top it off with your favorite mountain IPA. Whatever the content, a flip lid and sturdy base keep the goods safely stored. And for quick get-a-ways, the integrated D-right lets you clip it to your pack.
stanley-pmi.com; MSRP $25
Headsweats Performance Trucker Caps
Camping and trucker caps go together like peanut butter and jelly. Whether you wear it for sun protection, comfort, or because it’s been four days since your last shower, the Headsweats Performance Truckers hook you up with lightweight performance and fun graphics. These classic ball-cap fit hats keeps the sun off your bow with plenty of ventilation for active wear thanks to a proprietary Eventure™ woven and stretch fabrics which offers a lightweight and breathable hat that fits comfortably and dries quickly every time. The terry sweatband will help keep the perspiration off of your face and out of your eyes, and a range of fun graphics means you can pick the right cap for your personality.
headsweats.com; MSRP $26
Darn Tough Socks
If your family has a habit of blowing through hiking socks in record time, count on the durability and comfort of the Darn Tough Socks. Built to last, these premium socks are the result of American craftsmanship and a tireless pursuit of making the best sock in the world. For almost 40 years the Darn Tough family has been knitting socks in Northfield, Vermont. From the 1/4 Hiker to the Haselton Hiker and everything in between, this brand has earned a place in our packs for every adventure, every time. Unconditionally guaranteed for life, Darn Tough offers a full product line that embodies the crucial connection between fit and performance that your family will appreciate for years to come.
darntough.com; MSRP $14-25
Setting up a stationary camp doesn’t mean that your camping adventures will be static. From paddle boarding to swimming, and freshening up at the camp shower, you’re going to need a towel. Made out of a microfiber fabric, the PackTowls are soft, highly absorbent, and include a mesh stuff sack for compact packing that will let your towel breathe when it’s packed away. How good are they? The Original PackTowl absorbs 10 times its weight in water. That’s a lot. Plus, its antimicrobial treatment means this towel resists odor build-up when you’re camping and traveling for extended periods. So do yourself a favor and stop packing those bulky old cotton towels.
packtowl.com; MSRP $15-35