America currently has an insatiable lust for camping. While many people buy massive motorhomes or camper vans, plenty still go camping by pitching a tent outside of their car. Heck, some people, like myself, will fold down some seats and sleep right there in the car. Sleeping in your car or in a tent can be a truly miserable experience, fraught with nearly freezing to death, getting rained on, having nowhere to wash your hands, and so much spoiled food. So, for those of you (or maybe your family) who want to start camping out of the car, here are some products to add to your gear to make sleeping on the go easier.
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Coleman 6-Person Dark Room Tent
I’ve said it a few times, and I’ll say it again: I normally hate sleeping in tents. I used to love the experience; being all connected to nature and having a portable home that fits in any car’s trunk. But as I continue to beat myself up on Gambler 500 after Gambler 500, a rough night in a tent is no longer appealing. However, my U-Haul camper isn’t ready yet, so I’m still sleeping in tents.
Thankfully, my wife has figured out how to make a tent a blast to sleep in. One critical element is the tent itself. We’ve had many tents over our relationship, but my favorite are the two Coleman tents that we have right now. One is a huge 6-person dark room dome tent with a screen room (above), and the other is a similar 6-person dark room tent, but without a screen room (below).
There are three things that I love the most about both of them. The first is that there are few parts to put together. The boxes for either tent say that setup takes “a few” minutes. Sure, maybe if you put tents together for a living. In reality, it takes more like 10 minutes for the one without a screen room and 15 minutes for the one with the screen room. I like the one without the screen room for its ease of pitching. You just slide the two main poles through the tent, a secondary pole through the rainfly, then secure it all down. You can definitely do it solo!
While the one with the screen room is a little harder, having that screen room is great because I can keep muddy shoes outside of the tent interior.
My next favorite feature is the fact that I can stand up in either tent. I’m one of those weirdos who don’t like getting dressed while sitting, so not having to hunch over in a tent is fantastic.
And lastly, my absolute favorite feature is the fact that both of them are dark room tents, and they live up to the advertising. When these tents are all zipped up, they’re pretty dark inside, even when the sun is out. Some reviews for these tents suggest that some units may have defects that cause them to leak in storms, but both of ours have been fine. I should also probably note that Coleman’s “6 person” sizing seems to be a stretch, unless those six people include kids or they’re all cuddling.
Mr. Heater MH15C
I love tools and gear that serve more than one purpose, and the Mr. Heater MH15C has it in spades. This little radiant heating device has dual functions. It can provide you necessary heat in the cold, which is awesome enough. But flip it over, slap the grate on it, and you can also use it as a camping stove! It emits up to 15,000 BTU.
Best of all is the fact that it has a built-in regulator, and can be used with a big 20-lb propane cylinder. I’ve been using one of these for over four years and I don’t go camping without it.
Where to buy: Amazon for $57.40.
Mr. Heater Big Buddy
Now, that little heater is good, but you probably shouldn’t use it indoors. If you need a heater with more coverage and safe for indoor use, I recommend the Mr. Heater Big Buddy. It emits up to 18,000 BTU and like the smaller one, can be fed by a 20-lb propane cylinder. What it does a lot better is radiate heat in a manner that warms a greater area. It heats up to 450 square feet and if tipped over it’ll shut itself right off. It’ll also shut itself off if there isn’t enough oxygen. I’ve had one of these before and used it to keep a rusty cargo van warm in a cold Michigan winter. It did the job so well that I rarely had it set to full power. Not even air wafting in from the van’s huge rust holes overcame the Big Buddy.
Where to buy: Amazon for $149.99.
EcoFlow Delta Mini
Here’s another gadget that I never go camping without. You know what often sucks about tent camping? You don’t have electricity. If you’re lucky, you might have an inverter in your car, but I’ve never found that to be a good solution for tent camping.
The EcoFlow Delta Mini gives you 882Wh of capacity, a max output of 1,400W (1,800W boost), and outlets for up to 12 devices. This will not be able to power a space heater for very long, but it can power a coffee maker, power tools, or even a toaster. Keeping this in mind, it’s a fantastic way to get residential-style power in the middle of nowhere. Also, you can charge it in a number of ways, from solar panels that plug into the back to even the 12V socket in your car.
Where to buy: From EcoFlow for $749.
Intex Pillow Top Air Mattress With Headboard
Here’s one that you don’t necessarily need, but one you’ll be thankful to have if your body no longer likes sleeping on the ground. I jokingly like to say that an air mattress is for when you want to sleep on the ground, but not right now. Sheryl and I have tried a number of air mattresses, and they rarely make it a night without needing some help.
Well, here’s one that’s finally working for us. We’ve found the Intex able to stay up through the night, sometimes even keeping inflated through two nights. Additional things that I like are the integrated air pump (runs at just 50 Watts!) and the headboard. I thought that the headboard was just a gimmick, but after sleeping in the bed I loved it. In fact, I’ve never had a better night’s sleep than when we paired this bed to the Coleman tent.
Where to buy: Amazon for $162.
Ozark Trail 52-Quart Cooler
This neat cooler is nearly a Yeti cooler, but not for a Yeti price. So, you may be wondering why would you buy a cooler like this when you can buy those little red ones dirt cheap from anywhere? The party trick of these coolers is that they keep ice as ice for a very long time. You may have to refill the ice in one of those little red coolers daily, sometimes twice daily. But one of these can keep ice for perhaps a whole weekend. It’s not a game changer, but it gives you one less thing to worry about.
This cooler is easy to drain and is easy to handle. It’s made from one-piece, roto-molded plastic and has a stainless steel locking hoop to keep animals out of your goodies. There really isn’t much to say about this little guy other than it just works. I wouldn’t say that it’s a must-have, but it does make the quality of camping a lot better than those cheap coolers from the general store.
Where to buy: Walmart for $114.
Dometic Go Water Jug And Faucet
Having running water at your camp isn’t just something for comfort when cooking, drinking, or washing up, but sometimes necessary. I wrote about this pairing recently and my wife, Sheryl, explained how having an autoimmune disease makes running camp water necessary. Sheryl and I do not have one of these setups but we definitely want one. The responses to our post were great, with some people offering cheaper alternatives that require just a little DIY to get what Dometic offers out of the box. Essentially, these cheaper ideas are electric pumps meant for large water jugs, but shoved into whatever water source you have.
So I’ll offer you both. The Dometic Go system pairs an 11-liter water jug with a battery-operated faucet. The faucet can either sit on top of the jug or anywhere you can get it to stick. Thus, it also works with just about any water source. If tinkering isn’t your thing, this is the ticket.
Otherwise, Amazon is full of cheap large jug water pumps. Since they’re designed to fit a jug opening, you may have to modify the one you get to work with your application.
Where to buy: The Dometic Go water jug and faucet for $170 from Dometic’s site.
A water jug pump for $16.99 on Amazon.
Mountain Hardwear Bishop Pass 30 Sleeping Bag
Sometimes you can’t carry an entire air mattress and a bedding set with you, and that’s fine. Thankfully, there are options for getting some comfortable sleep on the go. Last year, I went on a three-day off-road camping trip through some of the best that Utah has to offer. My vehicle for that trip was a Can-Am Commander side-by-side, and my gear was limited to a tent, sleeping pad, pillow, and sleeping bag. The highlight of this gear for me was the sleeping bag. The pillow that I bought kept slipping out from under my head, and the sleeping pad was too small for my big frame. But this sleeping bag? It was my rock.
This sleeping bag is rated for 30 degree temperatures, though has been tested down as low as 19 degrees. It comes with 650-fill-power fluorine-free down. That down is said to be certified to the Responsible Down Standard, which means that the down didn’t come from animals abused with force-feeding or plucking. I can confirm that this sleeping bag is comfy, even at below 40-degree temps without a heater. Add in that propane heater and I bet you’ll be cooking in there.
Where to buy: These can be found at Mountain Hardwear with a left-hand closure (men’s) or a right-hand closure (women’s). Prices start at $176.25.
Ivation Portable Outdoor Shower
Here’s another one that I don’t have, but want to try. Having that aforementioned faucet would be great for washing hands and cleaning up after accidents, but not so much for a shower. This is where this device comes in. There are tons of outdoor showers on the market, but this one is tantalizing because of its low cost. You just need a bucket or some other water source, this outdoor shower head, and boom, you can take a shower anywhere.
This product does have some noted flaws like a short hose and the pickup side of the device is quite thick. But it’s also a fraction of the price of other outdoor showers.
Where to buy: Amazon for $34.99.
That’s it for this year! Hopefully, you now have a gift or a few for yourself or a loved one. If you have your own suggestions for camping gifts, I’ve love to read them below!